Was there any terrorism in the Soviet Union?

Was there any terrorism in the Soviet Union?

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Did terrorist attacks ever occur within the borders of the USSR?

By this, I do not mean:

  • terrorist acts committed by the USSR against its own people
  • terrorists abroad sponsored by the USSR
  • acts of terror committed within Bolshevik/Soviet territory during the Russian Civil War or World War 2

Edit: for the purpose of this question, a terrorist attack is an attempt to kill people for a political reason, by somebody other than the government.

Russian wiki has decently good article on terrorist attacks in Russia, including ones which took place in USSR.

  • 1927 The bomb in Leningrad Communist University; 1 killed, 26 wounded; done by white emigrants terroristic organization Russian Common-Military Union
  • 1934 Kirov's murder
  • 1942 Stalin assasination attempt (actually killer shoot at Mikoyan's car by mistake)
  • 1947 Bombing house in Lvov; 10 killed; done by Ukrainian nationalist, member of Ukrainian Socialist-Radical Party
  • 1967 Bombing attempt in the Red Square (no reliable info on victims)
  • 1968 Shooting in Kursk; 13 killed, 11 wounded
  • 1969 Brezhnev assasination attempt
  • 1971 Bombing bus in Krasnodar; 10 killed; done by psycho due to "misanthropy"
  • 1973 bomb explosion near Lenin mausoleum; 3 killed (including suicide bomber), 4 wounded; terrorist was not identified
  • 1977 the series of three bombings in Moscow (incl. Moscow subway); 29 killed; done by armenian nationalists
  • 1990 Gorbachev assasination attempt

Also numerous (more than 15) taking hostages and plane hijackings, mostly non-politically motivated, including 1973 Tu-104 plane crash due to terrorist's bomb detonation (all 81 died).

I found the article about the bombings by Armenian nationalists: 1977 Moscow bombings (Wikipedia).

  • It was a series of three explosions in Moscow subway and at two grocery stores in downtown Moscow (7 dead, abt. 40 injured).

I also found this page: Террористические акты в СССР: проблема с давней историей (Beggin' pardon for any possible mistranslations) with more details:

  • 1970 (other sources cite 1955): Arkhangelsk - a lone gunman with an automatic rifle killed several local party officials
  • 1970: Brazinska's father and son hijacked a plane, killed a flight attendant, wounded two of the crew, landed in Turkey, ended up in the United States
  • 1975: Georgia (a USSR republic): three explosions close to official buildings, perpetrator executed.
  • 1979: somewhere near Moscow: three politically motivated explosions

Assassination attempts:

  • 1942: Saveliy Dmitriev: attempted assassination of Joseph Stalin (turned out he mistook another party official for JS)
  • 1969: Viktor Ilyin: Brezhnev assassination attempt
  • 1990: Alexandr Schmonov: Gorbatchev assassination attempt

Other translated pages also cite:

  • 1970: an attempt by 16 Soviet Jews to hijack a plane from Leningrad.
  • Post-WWII (into the 1950's): insurgencies in Ukraine and the Baltics, with numerous nasty killings and reprisals
  • 1950-1980s: various small-scale killings of party officials by groups of Chechens.

Unfortunately I can't recall specific details but while visiting a museum of Ukrainian Nationalism in the city of Lviv in the 1990s I remember seeing a huge map covering an entire wall showing acts of terrorism allegedly committed by Ukrainian nationalists all across the Soviet Union -- there were a LOT of them and of course mostly within the territory of Ukraine, but by no means all, some even in the far reaches of Siberia, and occurring over the full lifetime of the USSR, although mostly prior to the 1970s.

Yes, there was some terrorism in the USSR.

  • As you know, Kirov has been assassinated.

  • Many people were accused during Stalin's era in conspiring in making terrorist acts or assassinations, it is difficult to say how much of it was true.

  • After the war there were some rebels in Western Ukraine, they uses terrorist tactics (such as killing the school teachers etc).

  • There were some people who allegedly attempted to shoot on Soviet leaders during public speeches (including Brezhnev). This was apparently inspired by the assassination of Kennedy.

  • In the 1970s a problem emerged with plane hijackers. They usually threatened to blow up the plane and demanded a landing abroad. It was usually a way to emigrate to other countries and the hijackers rarely had real bombs and weapons.

The Great Terror

The Great Terror, a retrospective term which historians have borrowed from the French Revolution, refers to the paroxysm of state-organized bloodshed that overwhelmed the Communist Party and Soviet society during the years 1936-38. Also known as the Great Purges or Ezhovshchina (after the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, Nikolai Ezhov, who oversaw the process before himself becoming one of its casualties), it has been a major subject of debate concerning its origins, extent, and consequences. Recent archival-based research has resolved some issues, but there remains much that is elusive about the Terror. For the sake of clarity, it is worth noting that the Soviet government did not describe the arrests and executions of party and state personnel as terror but rather as part of its response to alleged terrorist plots and actions.

The Great Terror was punctuated by three elaborately staged show trials of former high-ranking Communists. In July-August 1936 Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, and fourteen others were convicted of having organized a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center that allegedly had been formed in 1932 and was held responsible for the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934. Still dissatisfied with the efforts of the police to investigate and liquidate such nefarious plots, Stalin replaced Genrikh Iagoda with Ezhov as head of the NKVD in September 1936. A second show trial followed in January 1937 with Iurii Piatakov and other leading figures in the industrialization drive as the chief defendants. At a plenary session of the party’s Central Committee in February-March 1937, Nikolai Bukharin and Aleksei Rykov, the most prominent party members associated with the so-called Rightist deviation of the late 1920s and early 1930s, were accused of having collaborated with the Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorists as well as with foreign intelligence agencies. They along with Iagoda and others eventually were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in March 1938.

Between the second and third show trials, the upper echelons of the Red Army were decimated by arrests and summary executions, and the same fate befell provincial party secretaries, party and state personnel among the national minorities, industrial managers, and other officials. The process fed upon itself, as the accused under severe physical and psychological pressure from their interrogators, named names and confessed to outlandish crimes. Millions of others became involved in the frenzied search for “enemies of the people.” In addition, the Politbiuro ordered Ezhov on July 3, 1937 to conduct “mass operations” to round up recidivist criminals, ex-kulaks, and other “anti-Soviet elements” who were prosecuted by three-person tribunals. Ezhov actually established quotas in each district for the number of arrests. His projected totals of 177,500 exiled and 72,950 executed were eventually exceeded.

What had begun as bloody retribution against the defeated political opposition developed as a self-induced pathology within the body politic. Its psychic consequences among the survivors were long-lasting and incalculable.

Were there any elections in the USSR?

It&rsquos somewhat surprising that the Soviet one-party system had elections at all. But it did. Since the new Soviet constitution, adopted in 1936, had established a legislative body called the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, people were supposed to vote its members into office every four years.

And election day would often resemble a public holiday marked by mass celebrations.

Music, deficit goods and festivities

Akin to other states, where political power was monopolized, the turnout of the Soviet elections was always exceptional: near 100%. Those who participated in the Soviet elections say there was no pressure to attend. Instead, people went to vote voluntarily, because they considered demonstrating their faith in the system their duty, but also because they were subtly incentivized to attend by the authorities.

Prior to elections, authorities always launched campaigns aimed to increase the turnout. Newspapers printed announcements of upcoming elections to inform people of the date. Soviet newspapers also flooded people with rather boring reports about preparations for elections.

Agitational posters also incentivized people to cast a vote.

Voters also received personal notes that appealed to comrades&rsquo consciousness:

Judging by the massive turnout, the strategy worked. People would come to cast a vote together with family members and friends and often staged group photos to memorize the remarkable day. The environment at the voting stations was usually festive.

The elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in 1958.

Music played and people would even dance at some of the voting stations.

Artists perform for the voters at the polling stations in Georgian SSR, March 4, 1984.

&ldquoWe always went to vote first thing in the morning, because at the voting stations, you could buy deficit goods like oranges, cake, pastries and also some rare books that were otherwise impossible to buy and these were quickly sold out,&rdquo remembers Alexandra Goryushina, an 83-year-old woman who participated in Soviet elections.

&lsquoSacred duty&rsquo

Although the festive environment and deficit goods did their share in luring people to the voting stations, the prevailing majority of the Soviet citizens believed it was their duty to vote, as every vote at the non-alternative elections automatically became a vote of confidence in the validity of the communist system.

Elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in a reindeer-breeding state farm, June 15,1975.

&ldquoPeople were coming to voting stations regardless of the opportunity to buy deficit [products and goods]. Some people wanted sausage, some didn&rsquot. But everyone thought it was necessary to vote. It was a sacred [duty],&rdquo said Nikolay Bobrov who has participated in Soviet elections since 1971.

March 4, 1984. Workers of Tumanovskiy Collective Farm of Arzamas district of Gorky region go to the elections.

Even if someone did not like the idea of voting for already pre-approved candidates that faced no competition while running for an elected office, peer pressure forced them to cast a vote anyhow.

&ldquoMy father, for example, did not like elections very much, but he went to vote [nonetheless],&rdquo said Bobrov.

Uncontested candidates

There was no opposition in the USSR. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the only legitimate political force in the country. All citizens were expected to support it and any opposition to the party line was regarded as a sign of untrustworthy dissent.

A candidate to the Supreme Soviet addresses Soviet people.

Most of the candidates ran on the CPSU&rsquos platform, yet there were also formally independent candidates. Nonetheless, those also ran in alliance with the CPSU candidates and not against them.

In each electoral district there was only one candidate who ran on the platform of what was known as the &ldquounbreakable bloc of Communists and non-party members&rdquo.

Leningrad. Elections to the Supreme Soviet. March 1, 1984.

One was allowed to vote against the only candidate available, but to do so, a person had to use a polling booth, while a vote for the uncontested candidate could be cast by submitting a blank ballot (a process that didn&rsquot require stepping in a polling booth).

Most people simply cast a blank ballot and those who entered polling booths were eyed with suspicion as potential dissidents.

Only after Mikhail Gorbachev introduced democratization measures in the Soviet political system by establishing a new legislative body, known as the Congress of People's Deputies in 1989, did the Soviet people have a taste of a competitive election process.

Click here to learn how Russian women won the right to vote.

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How Santa Survived the Soviet Era


There are versions of the character widely known as Santa Claus throughout northern, central, and eastern Europe—all large, bearded men who arrive with winter to bring gifts to children. Russia is not exempt from this, but the Russian version, Ded Moroz, which translates roughly as “Grandfather Frost,” has a particularly strange, convoluted history.

Ded Moroz today is about what you would expect. He has a long white beard, wears a fur-lined hat, has an animal-towed sleigh, and delivers presents to well-behaved children when it is cold outside. But Ded Moroz’s last hundred years have been violent, political, and full of massive social upheaval. This, for Santa, you would not expect. As a result, his status is unlike that of any of his holiday peers around the world. For one thing, he isn’t even necessarily associated with Christmas.

Santa Claus is one of several manifestations of a particular wintertime character, probably originating with the pagan, pre-Christian Germanic and Norse god Odin. Odin was a fearsome bearded figure, rode a flying horse, and was often associated with the Christmas predecessor holiday Yuletide. In fact, one of Odin’s names translates as “Yule Father.” As Christianity swept through the colder parts of Europe, many Yule traditions became Christmas traditions, and Odin’s image blended with stories of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek bishop also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker for his many miracles.

Snegurochka and Ded Moroz crossing a Moscow street in 1968. Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

From there the character evolved into distinct but similar forms. There’s Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, Joulupukki in Finland, Mikulás in Hungary, and several more. Over time some have faded away and shaded into the more international Santa Claus. Ded Moroz was the Russian form of the bearded wintertime gifter.

Christmas was a major holiday under the tsars, though not as important as Easter. It wasn’t really a festival exactly, but more of a somber religious holiday marked by fasting and long church services in Old Church Slavonic (which, by the 19th century, hardly anyone could understand). The Russian Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries was religiously diverse, but in most of what is now Russia and Belarus, if you were Christian, you were probably Eastern Orthodox. The Eastern Orthodox Church used, and sometimes still uses, a totally different calendar than the rest of the Russian Empire—the Julian one, which is 13 days behind the more common Gregorian calendar. This means that in Orthodox communities, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations would actually take place on January 6 and 7, out of step with the rest of the Christian world.

Ded Moroz emerged around the late 19th century. One of the first major cultural introductions of the character was in the 1873 play The Snow Maiden, by Alexander Ostrovsky, one of the most important playwrights in Russian history. Ostrovsky was often a political writer, and The Snow Maiden is an odd entry in his oeuvre. It’s a fairytale, based in part on obscure and largely forgotten pre-Christian pagan mythology, and designed to promote a different kind of Russian patriotism than the Imperial government’s brand. The play was published—not necessarily a given for Ostrovsky, who had many of his plays censored or banned—and eventually rewritten as an opera, which was performed many times.

Costume designs for Ded Moroz from Alexander Ostrovsky’s The Snow Maiden (left) and the Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov opera based on it (right). Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images Public domain

The play included the notable characters of Snegurochka (the titular maiden) and her grandfather, Ded Moroz. He was based on a very old and mostly forgotten character in Russian mythology, an elemental snow demon. Demons of his breed aren’t necessarily bad guys. Ded Moroz was actually a good omen, because he was associated with particularly brutal winters, which, in Russian superstition, mean a good harvest the following year. By the time of Ostrovsky’s play, Ded Moroz and the other pagan demons were thousands of years old and had not had a place in the contemporary Russian Empire.

The educated classes loved The Snow Maiden, and interest in its characters, especially Snegurochka (who was created by Ostrovsky) and Ded Moroz, grew. “It was a development from the better-educated strata, in the cities, who were aware of how much joy the Santa Claus, tree, and presents gave to the kids,” says Vladimir Solonari, a historian at the University of Central Florida who was born and raised in Moldova. Suddenly there was a ready-made, deeply Russian version of Santa Claus, and the less-religious Christians began to use him in Christmas celebrations in essentially the same way that Santa Claus and his kin were used elsewhere.

He rewards good children with presents, and brings celebration and good tidings. He wears a big, fur-lined coat, though Ded Moroz’s is often an icy blue or patterned white, along with traditional felt valenki boots. He also carries a magical staff, though it’s not clear what he does with it. His flying sleigh is technically a troika, pulled by three horses, with no reindeer in sight. Ded Moroz is usually accompanied by Snegurochka, his granddaughter, and she is always dressed in white or very pale blue. She is sort of Ded Moroz’s helper, more of a partner than the elf-employees of Santa. He doesn’t live at the North Pole a few northern sites lay claim to being is hometown.

The Young Communist League held an anti-religion demonstration in Moscow in 1923 (left). Propaganda, such as this 1928 Anti–Ded Moroz cartoon from Ukraine, reflected the Soviet distrust of religion (right). The caption roughly translates to “Go away from our style of celebration.” Sovfoto / Universal Images Group via Getty Images Public Domain

The Eastern Orthodox Church wasn’t very into Ded Moroz, because he wasn’t a Christian figure, but was rather a resurrected pagan remnant who did not square with the stricter observance of Christmas. But by the early 20th century, his popularity and that of his granddaughter had grown. Then they faced a struggle that no other Santa Claus type has ever had to endure.

Among the stated goals of the Communist Revolution of 1917 was to abolish organized religion and establish atheism throughout the Soviet Union. “It was remarkably effective,” says Catherine Wanner, a historian and anthropologist at Penn State who works on religion in the Soviet Union. “I’m not certain they produced atheists, but they certainly got rid of overt religious celebrations.” Attacks against organized Christianity came in several brutal waves throughout Soviet history. Priests were thrown in camps or simply executed, churches were destroyed, and the ruling powers bombarded the country with pro-science—or, more accurately, anti-religious—propaganda. One example: There were patrols at one time that actually looked in windows for Christmas trees. If they saw one, that family was in serious trouble.

The brutality and singular focus of the attack on organized religion produced a culture, especially in the cities and larger towns, of complete terror at the idea of practicing religion. But, starting with a 1935 letter from a prominent Soviet politician, the idea of some kind of wintertime holiday began to take hold. By 1950, it had been firmly established. It was not Christmas, of course. The wintertime Soviet holiday would be “Novy God,” or “New Year.”

These holidays are treated separately in most places today, but in the Soviet Union, most of what had previously been associated with Christmas grew to become associated with Novy God. For the last four or five decades of the Soviet Union, everyone had a Novy God tree, and Ded Moroz made an appearance. It was not—for a while, at least—as consumerist as Christmas. It was more like Thanksgiving: national, secular, marked by feasting and family.

A vintage Soviet postcard depicts Ded Moroz riding a rocket. Courtesy Katya Zykova

In this context, Ded Moroz’s pre-Christian roots were an asset. The Soviet leadership never said this explicitly, but it seems likely that they permitted and even encouraged Ded Moroz because he was, theoretically, Russian, born and bred. Depictions of Ded Moroz changed with the times during the Soviet era. For the Space Race, he was sometimes shown driving a spaceship rather than a troika. At other times he was depicted as a muscular, hard-working, semi-shirtless emblem of Communist industry.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, religious practice became legal again. But that put those who were theoretically Christian in a very weird position with regard to Christmas. They were able to celebrate Christmas, but they had never done it before. In fact, their parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents had likely never celebrated Christmas. And Christianity in Russia still largely means the Eastern Orthodox Church, which carries its own complicated baggage.

The modern Russian government, which does not enjoy universal popularity in Russia, is heavily associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Not everyone finds it appealing to celebrate a holiday that’s supported by both the Church and the Putin government. “Actual attendance at church is very low in Russia,” says Wanner. “It’s not to say that religion isn’t important or that the Church isn’t important, but attendance is low.”

Today, Russia has what’s called a “holiday marathon.” It starts with the Gregorian calendar Christmas on December 25, passes through Novy God, which remains a much bigger holiday, and finishes with Christmas as it appears on the Julian calendar, on January 7. It’s sort of exhausting, but Novy God still stands out as the most important single date. Gift-giving largely happens then, and when you wish someone the tidings of the season, you say “С Новым Годом,” or “Happy New Year.”

A New Year celebration at the Kremlin in 1978, featuring Ded Moroz and his granddaughter Snegurochka. TASS/Getty Images

“The vast majority of people living in these countries [Russia, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine] still perceive the New Year as a much more important holiday than Christmas and most of those claiming to celebrate Christmas view it merely as an occasion to launch a party that usually lacks any religious content or even the sentimental sweetness typical of Christmas celebrations in the West,” says Alexander Statiev, a historian at the University of Waterloo who focuses on the Soviet Union.

Through it all, there is Ded Moroz and his granddaughter Snegurochka. They appear in seasonal cartoons, on greeting cards, in advertisements. People dress up as these characters for celebrations of various sorts. There are many classic Ded Moroz movies, which people watch every year, the equivalent of A Charlie Brown Christmas or Home Alone.

Ded Moroz is an unusual Santa-type for a bunch of reasons—his blue outfits, his traveling companion, his magical staff. But what’s most unusual about him is that he isn’t even really a Christmas figure at all. Happy New Year!

Has Chechnya ever been independent?

Chechnya has experienced several brief periods of de facto independence. In January 1921, four years after the Russian Revolution, Chechnya joined Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, and Ingushetia to form the Mountain Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. But the following year, the Soviet Union seized control of Chechnya and turned it into a Soviet province called the Chechen Autonomous Oblast. In January 1934, Soviet officials merged the Chechen Autonomous Oblast with the neighboring Ingush Autonomous Oblast, largely to dilute each region’s ethnic identity.

During World War II, as German forces moved into the Soviet Union and toward the North Caucasus, many ethnic minority groups subject to Soviet and Russian rule for generations seized on the opportunity presented by the war to try and break free. German forces never reached Chechnya, but Chechen nationalist Khasan Israilov led a revolt against Soviet rule which lasted from 1940 to 1944. After Soviet troops crushed the rebellion, Stalin accused the Chechens of collaborating with Nazi invaders. In 1944, Stalin disbanded the Chechen-Ingush republic altogether and forcibly deported the entire Chechen population to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Chechens were not allowed to return to their homeland until 1957, when Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, restored the province amid de-Stalinization.

11 - Communism, Violence and Terror

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There is a large amount of literature on the subject in many languages. Numerous people, Soviet citizens and foreigners alike, inside and outside the Soviet Union, suffered terror. Millions of people perished, but millions did survive and some of them have left their accounts. The best-known work is written by one of them, Solzhenitsyn , Alexander . His famous trilogy The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation ( New York : Harper & Row , 1974 –78) draws on his own and countless others’ reminiscences and accounts. Kuromiya , Hiroaki ’s The Voices of the Dead: Stalin’s Great Terror in the 1930s ( New Haven : Yale University Press , 2007 ) seeks to retrieve the lost voices of the executed . The most comprehensive and judicious scholarly treatment of terror under Soviet communism is Werth , Nicolas , “ A State Against its People: Violence, Repression, and Terror in the Soviet Union ,” in Courtois , Stéphane , Werth , Nicolas , Panné , Jean-Louis , Paczkowski , Andrzej , Bartošek , Karel and Margolin , Jean-Lois , The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression , trans. Murphy , Jonathan and Kramer , Mark ( Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press , 1999 ) . Some important documents related to the Great Terror are translated in Getty , J. A. and Naumov , O. V. , The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932–1939 ( New Haven : Yale University Press , 1999 ) . A concise account of Stalin’s terror as genocide is Naimark , Norman M. , Stalin’s Genocide ( Princeton : Princeton University Press , 2010 ) . The most extensive oral testimonies of the Holodomor of 1932–33 are assembled in Mace , James E. and Heretz , Leonid (eds.), Oral History Project of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine , 3 vols. ( Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office , 1990 ).

Statistical data are always incomplete and can be misleading. The most useful analysis of statistical data on Soviet terror are Wheatcroft , Stephen G. , “ Great Terror in Historical Perspective: The Records of the Statistical Department of the Investigative Organs of OGPU/NKVD ,” in Harris , James (ed.), The Anatomy of Terror: Political Violence Under Stalin ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2013 ), 287 – 305 , and Ellman , Michael , “ Soviet Repression Statistics: Some Comments ,” Europe-Asia Studies 54 , 7 ( 2002 ), 1151–72 .

The most detailed, albeit not comprehensive, account of the Great Terror is Binner , Rolf , Bonwetsch , Bernd and Junge , Marc , Massenmord und Lagerhaft. Die andere Geschichte des Großen Terrors ( Berlin : Akademie Verlag , 2009 ) , which attributes the Great Terror to internal and social factors. By contrast, Khlevniuk , Oleg , “ The Objectives of the Great Terror, 1937–1938 ,” in Cooper , Julian , Perrie , Maureen and Rees , E. A. (eds.), Soviet History, 1917–53: Essays in Honour of R. W. Davies ( New York : St. Martin’s Press , 1995 ), 158–76 , sees the Great Terror as a response to the threat of war. For the export of the Great Terror to Asia (Mongolia and Xinjiang), see Kuromiya , Hiroaki , “ Stalin’s Great Terror and the Asian Nexus ,” Europe-Asia Studies , 66 , 5 ( 2014 ), 775–93 .

There is also a voluminous literature on the Gulag. Apart from Solzhenitsyn , Oleg V. Khlevniuk , , The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror , trans. Staklo , Vadim ( New Haven : Yale University Press , 2004 ) , and Viola , Lynne , The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2007 ) , are the most updated accounts based on declassified archival documents .

One of the most revealing accounts left by Soviet leaders directly involved in the terror under Stalin , is Molotov Remembers: Inside Kremlin Politics – Conversations with Felix Chuev , edited with an introduction and notes by Resis , Albert ( Chicago : Dee , 1993 ).

Has Chechnya ever been independent?

Chechnya has experienced several brief periods of de facto independence. In January 1921, four years after the Russian Revolution, Chechnya joined Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, and Ingushetia to form the Mountain Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. But the following year, the Soviet Union seized control of Chechnya and turned it into a Soviet province called the Chechen Autonomous Oblast. In January 1934, Soviet officials merged the Chechen Autonomous Oblast with the neighboring Ingush Autonomous Oblast, largely to dilute each region’s ethnic identity.

During World War II, as German forces moved into the Soviet Union and toward the North Caucasus, many ethnic minority groups subject to Soviet and Russian rule for generations seized on the opportunity presented by the war to try and break free. German forces never reached Chechnya, but Chechen nationalist Khasan Israilov led a revolt against Soviet rule which lasted from 1940 to 1944. After Soviet troops crushed the rebellion, Stalin accused the Chechens of collaborating with Nazi invaders. In 1944, Stalin disbanded the Chechen-Ingush republic altogether and forcibly deported the entire Chechen population to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Chechens were not allowed to return to their homeland until 1957, when Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, restored the province amid de-Stalinization.


  • Technology became a much bigger issue as the US and Germany competed for dominance on all fronts.
    • Von Braun never defected to the US and remained as a leader of the German Space Program.
    • There is an even greater space programme than OTL, with Lunar settlements being constructed
    • Sergey Korolyov became the Von Braun of America after fleeing the Soviet Union as the Nazis conquered it. This was the case for many Soviet Scientists and is what lead to the US still being competitive in the space race.
    • With Germany retaining much of their computer scientists, a Computer Race emerges in the 1970s. The first desktop computer is developed in 1978 in the US.
    • The US makes the M-47 (AK-47) the standard issue rifle of the US military in 1949. Germany (much like the US in OTL) tries, but is never able to match the sure genius of the M-47. Instead, Germany develops high-tech assault rifles, culminating in the STG-88, a caseless assault rifle firing 33mm bullets.

    The US M-47 Assault Rifle, famed for its reliability.

    The German STG-88, the world's most advanced Assault Rifle.

    Cultural differences from OTL

    • There was never a second Red Scare, instead, a brown scare about fascism was and still is prevalent.
    • A new form of music arose in America: Russian Rap. This originated in California, where Russian refugees in the diaspora settled.
    • Computers were used earlier due to the scientific race between the Germans and the Americans, and by the mid-70s, a primitive form of Usenet was prevalent and by the 90s, broadband was commonplace across the FWA
    • Sci-fi also had a great boost. Star Trek lasted into the 70s, with the Next Generation Lasting from 1986 to 1996. Voyager and Deep Space Nine were merged and ran until 2004. Enterprise is still running.
    • There is a greater concern for the environment in the US, with the Americans and Canadians initiating Project Eden as a massive reserve for endangered species in the world in 1987.

    Political differences from OTL

    • The Democrats and Republicans became more hawkish, with Nazi Germany and the NSF being more belligerent in the Atlantic. This is mainly due to the large Russian communities in the US.
    • Amy Goodman never founded Democracy Now. Instead, she founded The Republic Today, which is a right wing radio show.
    • With Cuba annexed into the US and the infusion of Caribbean culture, there is a more liberal attitude towards Marijuana in the United States.

    Reagan’s Osama Connection

    Earlier this week, I cited recently declassified documents to show that Ronald Reagan did indeed play a major role in ending the Cold War. Now it’s time to note that a similar set of documents shows that Reagan also played a major role in bringing on the terrorist war that followed—specifically, in abetting the rise of Osama Bin Laden.

    Once again, the story concerns the fascinating relationship between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

    Gorbachev took the helm as the reform-minded general-secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985. Within months, he had decided privately to pull Soviet troops out of Afghanistan. One of his predecessors, Leonid Brezhnev, * had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and the move was proving a disaster. Tens of thousands of Soviet troops had died military morale was crumbling popular protest—unheard of, till then, in Communist Russia—was rising. Part of the Soviet failure in Afghanistan was due to the fact that the Reagan administration was feeding billions of dollars in arms to Afghanistan’s Islamic resistance. Reagan and, even more, his intensely ideological CIA director, William Casey, saw the battle for Afghanistan as a titanic struggle in the war between Eastern tyranny and Western freedom. (Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, had started assisting the resistance, but with not nearly the same largess or ambition.)

    At a Politburo meeting of Nov. 13, 1986, Gorbachev laid his position on the table: The war wasn’t working it had to be stopped:

    In early December, Gorbachev summoned President Najibullah, the puppet leader of Afghanistan, to give him the news: The Soviet troops would be leaving within 18 months after that, he was on his own.

    Two months later, on Feb. 23, 1987, Gorbachev assured the Politburo that the troops wouldn’t leave right away. He first had to foster a stable environment for the reigning government and to maintain a credible image with India, the Soviet Union’s main ally in the region. The exit strategy, he said, would be a negotiated deal with Washington: The Soviets pull out troops the Americans stop their arms shipments to the rebels.

    However, within days, Gorbachev learned to his surprise that Reagan had no interest in such a deal. In a conversation on Feb. 27 with Italy’s foreign minister, Giulio Andreotti, Gorbachev said, “We have information from very reliable sources … that the United States has set itself the goal of obstructing a settlement by any means,” in order “to present the Soviet Union in a bad light.” If this information is true, Gorbachev continued, the matter of a withdrawal “takes on a different light.”

    Without U.S. cooperation, Gorbachev couldn’t proceed with his plans to withdraw. Instead, he allowed his military commanders to escalate the conflict. In April, Soviet troops, supported by bombers and helicopters, attacked a new compound of Islamic fighters along the mountain passes of Jaji, near the Pakistani border. The leader of those fighters, many of them Arab volunteers, was Osama Bin Laden.

    In his magisterial book, Ghost Wars (possibly the best diplomatic history written in the past decade), Steve Coll recounts the fateful consequences:

    Had Gorbachev thought that Reagan was willing to strike a deal, the battle of Jaji would not have taken place—and the legend of Bin Laden might never have taken off.

    Reagan can’t be blamed for ignoring the threat of Osama Bin Laden. Not for another few years would any analyst see Bin Laden as a significant player in global terrorism not till the mid-1990s would his organization, al-Qaida, emerge as a significant force.

    However, Reagan—and those around him—can be blamed for ignoring the rise of Islamic militancy in Afghanistan and for failing to see Gorbachev’s offer to withdraw as an opportunity to clamp the danger. Certainly, the danger was, or should have been, clear. Only a few years had passed since the Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power in Iran—the shah toppled, the U.S. Embassy employees held hostage, the country turned over to the mullahs, the region suddenly destabilized. Reagan beat Jimmy Carter so decisively in the 1980 election in part because of the hostage crisis.

    Gorbachev had accepted that Afghanistan would become an Islamic country. But he assumed that Reagan, of all people, would have an interest in keeping it from becoming militantly, hostilely, Islamist.

    In September 1987, after the previous spring’s escalation failed to produce results, Soviet Foreign Minister Edvard Shevardnadze met with Secretary of State George Shultz to tell him that Gorbachev planned to pull out of Afghanistan soon. He asked Shultz for help in containing the spread of “Islamic fundamentalism.” Shultz had nothing to say. Most Reagan officials doubted Gorbachev would really withdraw, and they interpreted the warnings about Muslim radicals as a cover story for the Soviet Union’s military failure.

    By this time, Reagan and Gorbachev had gone some distance toward ending the Cold War. The dramatic moment would come the following spring, during the summit in Moscow, when Reagan declared that the U.S.S.R. was no longer an “evil empire.” At the same time, though, the U.S. national-security bureaucracy—and, in many ways, Reagan himself—continued to view the world through Cold War glasses.

    After the last Soviet troops departed, Afghanistan fell off the American radar screen. Over the next few years, Shevardnadze’s worst nightmares came true. The Taliban rose to power and in 1996 gave refuge to the—by then—much-hunted Bin Laden.

    Ten years earlier, had Reagan taken Gorbachev’s deal, Afghanistan probably still wouldn’t have emerged as the “friendly, neutral country” of Gorby’s dreams. Yet it might have been a neutral enough country to preclude a Taliban takeover. And if the Russian-Afghan war had ended earlier—if Reagan had embraced Gorbachev on the withdrawal, as he did that same autumn on the massive cutback of nuclear weapons—Osama Bin Laden today might not even be a footnote in history.

    Correction, June 11: Leonid Brezhnev was general-secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the time of the Afghanistan invasion, not Yuri Andropov as the article originally stated. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

    Foreign policy, 1928–40

    From 1928, in harmony with the increasing shift to the left at home, foreign and Comintern policy once again became radicalized, with the emphasis on the treason of the Social Democrats of the West.

    From 1933 to 1934 the context changed abruptly. Hitler’s accession to power in Germany had been facilitated by Moscow’s refusal to let the German Communist Party cooperate against him with the Social Democrats and others. In fact, Nazi rule was at first interpreted as a victory for the communists, in that capitalism had been driven to its last resource, of naked force, and must soon collapse. By mid-1934 it had become obvious that the whole conception was wrong.

    A new Comintern policy emerged, to be formalized at that body’s Seventh Congress in July–August 1935: to work toward a United Front of Communists and Socialists, soon broadened to a People’s Front of all “left” parties. At the same time in foreign policy Stalin turned to the bourgeois democracies as a counterweight to Germany. In September 1934 the U.S.S.R. joined the League of Nations. In May 1935 a Franco-Soviet treaty of mutual assistance was signed, and a Soviet-Czechoslovak treaty followed a few weeks later, though this treaty was only to take effect if France also came to the aid of the country under attack.

    In July 1936 came the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War against insurgents led by General Francisco Franco and heavily supported by Germany and Italy. The Soviets provided a few hundred tanks and aircraft and a few thousand military specialists, and in addition as many as 42,000 volunteers of the International Brigades were largely raised by the Comintern. Stalin’s followers also progressively took over the Spanish government, especially concerning themselves with hunting down local Trotskyites. When it was clear that the war was lost, Soviet support was withdrawn. But meanwhile the U.S.S.R. had established a further claim to the allegiance of the European left. This was enhanced when, in the autumn of 1938, France and Britain were instrumental in having Czechoslovakia accept the Munich Agreement, the first step to that country’s disintegration and annexation, while the U.S.S.R. appeared to be the sole, though cheated, defender of collective security.

    This was a misapprehension. It is now clear that Stalin had no intention of becoming involved militarily. And he had, in any case, for several years been sounding out the possibility of an alternative policy based on accommodation with Hitler. At first these approaches bore no fruit, but in his policy speech to the 18th Party Congress in March 1939, Stalin announced that the U.S.S.R. would not help “warmongers” who wanted others to “pull their chestnuts out of the fire,” and Maksim Litvinov, the spokesman for collective security, was removed as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs a few weeks later. Hitler, planning his attack on Poland, understood these signals and initiated serious contacts with Moscow.

    At the same time France and Britain had belatedly seen that the only effective policy against German expansion was as strong an alliance as possible, and they too now sought Soviet support. There was justifiable mistrust on both sides, and the Western powers handled the negotiations reluctantly and clumsily. But in any case the West was offering a pact that might or might not deter Hitler and that might lead to Soviet involvement in an uncertain war if it did not whereas Hitler’s offer was of a great increase in Soviet territory and, at least for the present, peace.

    The German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, arrived in Moscow on August 23, 1939, and the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was signed that evening. The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, and Soviet troops entered the eastern part of that country on September 17. Under the Secret Protocols of the Pact (as amended later in the month) the Soviet Union received western Ukraine and western Belorussia, together with the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Heavy pressure was now put on these latter three, and they were forced to accept Soviet garrisons under treaties signed in September and October. The treaties guaranteed that there would be no interference in their internal politics.


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