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Soviet Politics in Perspective: 2nd Edition
Vladimir Lenin. Nicholas II. Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, Russia entered a phase of internal crisis that in would culminate in revolution. Its causes were not so much economic or social as political and cultural. For the sake of…. While Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey all survived their crises of and found the will and stamina for one last year of war, Russia succumbed.
In three years of war Russia had mobilized roughly 10 percent of its entire population…. One of the turning points in the struggle for power was the attempt by Gen. Lavr Kornilov, who had been appointed commander in chief, to take control of Petrograd in August and wipe out the soviet. Aleksandr Kerensky, the prime…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox!
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. More About. Since its independence in , Ukraine has continued to pursue claims against Russia in foreign courts, seeking to recover its share of the foreign property that was owned by the USSR. The dissolution was followed by a severe drop in economic and social conditions in post-Soviet states ,   including a rapid increase in poverty,     crime,   corruption,   unemployment,  homelessness,   rates of disease,    demographic losses,  income inequality and the rise of an oligarchical class ,   along with decreases in calorie intake, life expectancy, adult literacy, and income.
In summing up the international ramifications of these events, Vladislav Zubok stated: "The collapse of the Soviet empire was an event of epochal geopolitical, military, ideological, and economic significance. The analysis of the succession of states for the 15 post-Soviet states is complex. The Russian Federation is seen as the legal continuator state and is for most purposes the heir to the Soviet Union.
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It retained ownership of all former Soviet embassy properties, as well as the old Soviet UN membership and permanent membership on the Security Council. There are additionally four states that claim independence from the other internationally recognized post-Soviet states but possess limited international recognition : Abkhazia , Nagorno-Karabakh , South Ossetia , and Transnistria. The Chechen separatist movement of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria lacks any international recognition.
During his rule, Stalin always made the final policy decisions. Operations were handled by the separate Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Communist leadership of the Soviet Union intensely debated foreign policy issues and change directions several times. Even after Stalin assumed dictatorial control in the late s, there were debates, and he frequently changed positions. During the country's early period, it was assumed that Communist revolutions would break out soon in every major industrial country, and it was the Soviet responsibility to assist them.
The Comintern was the weapon of choice. A few revolutions did break out, but they were quickly suppressed the longest lasting one was in Hungary —the Hungarian Soviet Republic —lasted only from 21 March to 1 August The Russian Bolsheviks were in no position to give any help.
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By , Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin realized that capitalism had stabilized itself in Europe and there would not be any widespread revolutions anytime soon. It became the duty of the Russian Bolsheviks to protect what they had in Russia, and avoid military confrontations that might destroy their bridgehead. Russia was now a pariah state, along with Germany. The two came to terms in with the Treaty of Rapallo that settled long-standing grievances.
At the same time, the two countries secretly set up training programs for the illegal German army and air force operations at hidden camps in the USSR. Moscow eventually stopped threatening other states, and instead worked to open peaceful relationships in terms of trade, and diplomatic recognition. The United Kingdom dismissed the warnings of Winston Churchill and a few others about a continuing communist threat, and opened trade relations and de facto diplomatic recognition in There was hope for a settlement of the pre-war tsarist debts, but it was repeatedly postponed.
Formal recognition came when the new Labor Party came to power in Henry Ford opened large-scale business relations with the Soviets in the late s, hoping that it would lead to long-term peace. Finally, in , the United States officially recognized the USSR, a decision backed by the public opinion and especially by US business interests that expected an opening of a new profitable market. In the late s and early s, Stalin ordered Communist parties across the world to strongly oppose non-communist political parties, labor unions or other organizations on the left.
Stalin reversed himself in with the Popular Front program that called on all Communist parties to join together with all anti-Fascist political, labor, and organizational forces that were opposed to fascism , especially of the Nazi variety. There were three power hierarchies in the Soviet Union: the legislature represented by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union , the government represented by the Council of Ministers , and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union CPSU , the only legal party and the final policymaker in the country.
In turn, the Central Committee voted for a Politburo called the Presidium between — , Secretariat and the General Secretary First Secretary from to , the de facto highest office in the Soviet Union. The Communist Party maintained its dominance over the state mainly through its control over the system of appointments.
Of the party heads themselves, Stalin — and Khrushchev — were Premiers. Upon the forced retirement of Khrushchev, the party leader was prohibited from this kind of double membership,  but the later General Secretaries for at least some part of their tenure occupied the mostly ceremonial position of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet , the nominal head of state. The institutions at lower levels were overseen and at times supplanted by primary party organizations.
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However, in practice, the degree of control the party was able to exercise over the state bureaucracy, particularly after the death of Stalin, was far from total, with the bureaucracy pursuing different interests that were at times in conflict with the party. The Supreme Soviet successor of the Congress of Soviets and Central Executive Committee was nominally the highest state body for most of the Soviet history,  at first acting as a rubber stamp institution, approving and implementing all decisions made by the party.
However, its powers and functions were extended in the late s, s and s, including the creation of new state commissions and committees.
It gained additional powers relating to the approval of the Five-Year Plans and the government budget. Local authorities were organized likewise into party committees , local Soviets and executive committees. While the state system was nominally federal, the party was unitary. The state security police the KGB and its predecessor agencies played an important role in Soviet politics.
It was instrumental in the Great Purge ,  but was brought under strict party control after Stalin's death. Under Yuri Andropov , the KGB engaged in the suppression of political dissent and maintained an extensive network of informers, reasserting itself as a political actor to some extent independent of the party-state structure,  culminating in the anti-corruption campaign targeting high-ranking party officials in the late s and early s.
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The constitution , which was promulgated in , , and ,  did not limit state power. No formal separation of powers existed between the Party, Supreme Soviet and Council of Ministers  that represented executive and legislative branches of the government. The system was governed less by statute than by informal conventions, and no settled mechanism of leadership succession existed. Bitter and at times deadly power struggles took place in the Politburo after the deaths of Lenin  and Stalin,  as well as after Khrushchev's dismissal,  itself due to a decision by both the Politburo and the Central Committee.
Between and , facing considerable opposition, Mikhail Gorbachev enacted reforms shifting power away from the highest bodies of the party and making the Supreme Soviet less dependent on them. The Congress of People's Deputies was established, the majority of whose members were directly elected in competitive elections held on March The Congress now elected the Supreme Soviet, which became a full-time parliament, and much stronger than before. For the first time since the s, it refused to rubber stamp proposals from the party and Council of Ministers. On 19—21 August , a group of hardliners staged a coup attempt.
The coup failed, and the State Council of the Soviet Union became the highest organ of state power "in the period of transition". The judiciary was not independent of the other branches of government. The Supreme Court supervised the lower courts People's Court and applied the law as established by the constitution or as interpreted by the Supreme Soviet.
The Constitutional Oversight Committee reviewed the constitutionality of laws and acts.
The Soviet Union used the inquisitorial system of Roman law , where the judge, procurator , and defence attorney collaborate to establish the truth. Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania SSRs were also admitted into the union which was not recognized by most of the international community and was considered an illegal occupation. Karelia was split off from Russia as a Union Republic on March and was reabsorbed in Between July and September , there were 15 union republics see map below.
While nominally a union of equals, in practice the Soviet Union was dominated by Russians.