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Table of Contents
Officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR, the Soviet Union was formed in 1922 through a treaty between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia by the Communist leader, Vladimir Lenin. Before its collapse in 1991, the USSR grew and, at its height, controlled 15 Soviet Socialist Republics.
See the fact file below for more information on the Soviet Union or alternatively, you can download our 23-page The Soviet Union worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- After the Bolshevik triumph at the end of October, 1917, Lenin needed the support of the Russians as the nation was near collapse. Despite the lack of experience in running a government, Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolshevik Party were able to introduce new laws right after the revolution.
- Initially, the Bolsheviks showed support of the Constituent Assembly. However, with the return of Lenin in 1917, he distinguished the party from other socialist- and bourgeois-dominated bodies, including the Provisional Government and the Constituent Assembly.
- After the election, Lenin anonymously issued the Theses on the Constituent Assembly on December 26, 1917, in the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda. He argued that a republic of Soviets should not be composed of a Constituent Assembly with bourgeois members.
- On July 16, 1918, the last of the Russian royal family was sentenced to death. Many believed that the impromptu murder was planned by the Bolsheviks. All of Nicholas II’s family, his wife, and children were executed.
- In line with the promise of giving the Russian people peace, Bolshevik leader Lenin signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers composed of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
- On December 22, 1917, open talks between representatives took place in Brest-Litovsk (modern-day Belarus).
- On March 3, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed, and Russia was successful in exiting the war but faced humiliating territorial loss.
- Between 1918 and 1920, the Russian Civil War occurred in opposition to Lenin’s regime. Groups composed of militarists, monarchists, and some foreigners were collectively known as the Whites, while Lenin supporters were the Reds.
- After the Russian Civil War, the once small Bolshevik Party held total control of Russia. Moreover, Lenin recaptured several territories of the former Russian Empire and organized them into socialist republics all ruled by the Soviets.
- By 1922, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, commonly known as the USSR, was established by Lenin. After two years, each Republic delegated representatives to the Congress of Soviets and agreed with a constitution.
THE UNION OF THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS
- Aside from having a supreme governing body with the Central Executive Committee of the Congress, Russia became a Communist one-party state.
- In 1924, upon the death of Lenin, Joseph Stalin rose to power, defeating expected successor Leon Trotsky. Stalin ruled as a dictator and employed a series of brutal policies, including the Great Purge.
- From 1924 until Stalin’s death in 1953, the USSR changed from an agrarian society to an industrial and military nation.
- In order to transform the Soviet Union, Stalin led a series of Five-Year Plans which included collectivization of agriculture and rapid industrialization. The succeeding Five-Year Plans still included industrialization plus the massive production of armaments.
- Collectivization was Stalin’s policy, which initially encouraged the transformation of agriculture from private-capitalist to collective-socialist production.
- Collective farms were called kolkhoz and were composed of 50 to 100 families that replaced outmoded farms owned by the peasantry. Richer peasants known as the kulaks were excluded.
- In order to modernize agriculture, small farms were combined into one and machinery like tractors was used to boost productivity. All products were sold to the government and farmers received wages.
- In 1930, many peasants rebelled against Stalin’s policy of Collectivization. They burned farmland and killed domestic animals rather than selling to the state.
- The direct consequence was famine. After a year, Stalin doubled the policy; this worsened the famine. Stalin blamed the kulaks who were sent to gulags. By 1939, 99% of farmland was collectivized and 90% of all production went to the government.
- Dekulakization was Stalin’s response to the kulaks’ organized protests against Collectivization. There were also reports of kolkhoznik (collective farmers) attacked by non-collective neighbors.
- During the initial years of the Second World War, Stalin signed a nonaggression pact with Adolf Hitler with hopes that the Fuhrer would spare the USSR. However, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa against the USSR. In response, Stalin made an alliance with the U.S. and Britain.
- After the surrender of the Nazis, Stalin felt uncomfortable with his alliance. By 1948, he installed communist governments in Eastern Europe.
- As a result of Communist expansionism, the U.S. and Britain were threatened. In response, NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949.
- By 1955, the USSR and its allies in the Eastern bloc formed the Warsaw Pact which set the stage for the Cold War. The Cold War lasted until 1991, the same year of the union’s collapse.
- Upon the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev consolidated power and became the premier of the USSR.
- Under Khrushchev, tensions of the Cold War rose. He instigated the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, against U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
- Khrushchev became known for his de-Stalinization policy. Through a speech, he criticized Stalin’s regime. Among his policies included the release of political prisoners, loosening of censorship, and closing of gulags or labor camps.
- After the success of the Soviet’s Sputnik 1 and Yuri Gagarin’s mission, technological rivalry against the United States began with the Space Race.
THE USSR AND GORBACHEV
- After the costly space race and military conflicts in Berlin, Cuba, and Afghanistan, Mikhail Gorbachev inherited a stagnant economy and unstable political system.
- With the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s as the new Soviet leader, the USSR began to implement policies that aimed to restructure the Soviet economy and politics. By the time of Gorbachev’s succession, the USSR’s economy had stagnated and the nation was isolated from the West. Some of his initial policies included:
- Withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan
- Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty agreement with the U.S.
- The implementation of democratization in governance
- The introduction of reconstruction concepts including perestroika and glasnost
- Unrest in Eastern parts of Europe began in 1989. It included Poland, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The unrest in the late 1980s and early 1990s gave way to the rise of the idea of nationalism and nationalist movements. Such movements among former Soviet satellite states led to the declaration of independence from the central authority in Moscow.
- With the collapse of the Soviet Union, after 36 years, the military alliance known as the Warsaw Pact came to an end.
- By the late 1980s, anti-Soviet and anti-Communist movements began to proliferate across Eastern Europe. By 1990, East Germany left the coalition as reunification with West Germany proceeded.
- Meanwhile, Poland and Czechoslovakia also protested against the union due to political and economic instability. In March, 1991, Soviet military commanders finally renounced control over the Warsaw Pact forces.
Soviet Union Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Soviet Union across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use The Soviet Union worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR, which was formed in 1922 through a treaty between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia by the Communist leader, Vladimir Lenin. Before its collapse in 1991, the USSR grew and, at its height, controlled 15 Soviet Socialist Republics.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Soviet Union Facts
- Mapping the USSR
- From Lenin to Gorbachev
- Soviet Glossary
- Soviet Infographic
- The Cold War
- Soviet Pact and Facts
- Collectivization Bulletin
- Soviet Events
- The Man of Steel
- The Soviet Union and WWII
Frequently Asked Questions
How many countries was the Soviet Union?
The Soviet Union was one of the most powerful and influential states in the world for many years, eventually encompassing 15 republics. These republics were: Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
What country is the Soviet Union now?
After the Cold War, Russia is recognized as the successor state to the Soviet Union. Ukraine has said that it is the legal successor of both the Ukrainian SSR and the Soviet Union. There is still disagreement over who owns the assets that used to be owned by Communists.
What was the Soviet Union?
The Soviet Union was a country that occupied much of Eurasia and lasted from 1922-1991. It was officially a federation of 21 republics, but in reality, it had a centralized government and economy. The Communist Party governed the country with Moscow as its capital city, which was also the largest and most populous republic: the Russian SFSR.
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