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   June 18
 Survival Guide
Soviet Union (1920-50s)
In December 1922 the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics was proclaimed; Moscow became capital of the new state. Within a very short time the Bolsheviks had shown that they cared about democracy and civil rights as much as the tsar, ignoring the existing Constitution, establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat (in fact the dictatorship of the Communist Party), and setting up one of the most frightening and blood-thirsty secret services in the world history, the CheKa (the ancestor of KGB).

The first person to govern the Soviet Union was Vladimir Lenin. Being a charismatic speaker, he managed to captivate millions of souls with his obsessive communistic ideas. For many decades Lenin was almost God to Russians; the entire nation went crazy: songs were written about Lenin, thousands of monuments to him were erected all over the country and icons were replaced with Lenin's portraits.

After Lenin's death in 1924, Iosif Stalin took his position as General Secretary of the Communist party. A real paranoiac and sadist, Stalin gradually removed all his enemies and possible rivals. Most of his comrades-in-arms ended up in prisons, labour camps or were simply executed. Several waves of purges brought millions of innocent people to labour camps, where most of them died of inhuman treatment and starvation.

Meanwhile in the countryside the collectivisation of agriculture began. Peasants were obliged to give up their land and property to collective farms and work for them for a small salary or even for no salary. People were forced to give up all corn that they had; that caused famine in 1931-32, when more than 10 million starved to death.

Stalin's regime encouraged denunciation and spying. People were afraid to speak in their own houses, always waiting for a neighbour to overhear something and tell the CheKa. Secret agents could come in the night and take anyone with them without explanation; people arrested by the CheKa were mourned as murdered victims.

The Great Patriotic War (1941-1945)

Stalin put too much into his dirty business dismissing more than three quarters of army officers. The Great Dictator got the chance to regret it when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. In 1939 a secret Non-Aggression Pact was signed by Germany and the Soviet Union therefore the Soviets were caught by surprise by the summer invasion. While the country tried to summon up its powers, the Germans advanced rapidly and by December of 1941 they were already near Moscow. But Hitler, just as Napoleon 130 years before, underestimated the harshness of Moscow winter and outstanding courage of Russian soldiers. After a famous battle, partly ruined, Moscow escaped destruction. So did Leningrad (former St.Petersburg) but it paid a horrible price: the city was besieged for more than 900 days; almost no food supplies were left and people were dying of hunger in the streets. More than two thirds of city's population never saw the end of the siege.

In 1943 after the battle of Stalingrad it was already clear that the victory of the Soviet Union was only a matter of time. In 1945 victorious Soviet Army occupied Berlin and on May 8 Germany signed capitulation. The war of 1941-1945, which caused death of more than 20 million Russian people, is known in the history of Russia as the Great Patriotic War.

But while the whole world celebrated the victory over the Nazis, Stalin got the wheel of repressions going again, as he wanted to get rid of those who had seen what it was like in so called capitalistic world. The terror lasted until his death in 1953.

These new times brought new major changes to Moscow architecture: in 1935 the General plan of the Moscow reconstruction was accepted. Its aim was to change the appearance of Moscow according to the new political doctrine. At the same time tens of churches and cathedrals were being destroyed; new times brought new religion: the belief in Soviet "bright future".
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