Topical Essay

The history of Russia is extremely important.  How did it become what it is today?  From the before the Russian revolution in 1917, communism became a driving force in the Russian existence.  The cultural background in Russia also played an important role informing what the country is today.  The new leaders such as Lenin, who introduced Marxism to the Russian society, often viewed capitalism as evil.  The Russians also prided themselves in their army.  With the emphasis placed on the military, the economy under communism has struggled immensely.  These traits will eventually lead to the downfall of Communist Russia.            

The Russian population came forth from a mixed heritage, mainly Slavic.  The language and tools of the early Russians is often related to agricultural work, thus it emphasizes their way of life.  The growth of towns and villages bring a rise economically socially and politically, which changed the lives of the Slavs from a rural people to a more not so much urban people but less rural people.  Class distinction was beginning to develop amongst the people as wealth from these villages and the enterprises in them

            In the beginning not all people were under strict control of the Czar, also, not all that were under the Czar were Russian.  The Russian culture was very diverse due to colonization.  It is not uncommon for someone at this time to be a Finn, Slav, or other race.  Russians are not a race, but an ethnic group of mixed background. 

              Some leaders of Russia can be praised for their good work.  One of these great leaders in particular was Peter the Great.  From 1682 till 1721 he was the Czar of Russia, and from 1721 till 1725, he was emperor of all of Russia.  His westernization of Russia was looked at by some as a blessing, and by others as a curse.  Many believed that if they were to follow their own world, and views that Russia would have been better off, that they did not need the outside world.  Peter saw it as necessary and proceeded to push for western ideas.

            Communism is a word more commonly associated with the Russians than any other nation.  Russia has not always been a communist nation.  Only recently in the pages of history has the Red flag flown over the Russian Empire.  Marxism emphasized the proletariat, or worker in the government.  The revolution of 1917 put communism into place in Russia under the lead of Lenin.  The theory of the Communist party was not founded of force, and domination, but on the fact that it was supposed to be a strongly disciplined selective group.  The party was to be limited to working class, and poor peasant workers.  Members were schooled in the communist belief, and were expected to spread the word no matter how difficult, or threatening the situation may be.  Any member who was using his powers for self-propulsion or enrichment was to be removed from the party.  The communist party was trying to promote the worker, and better treatment of the working and working poor.  This was the theory of the communist party, but it didn’t actually work out that way.  Lenin and Stalin both proved that.  It seemed that anybody that was opposed to the communist party was removed instead of those trying to promote themselves.  More emphasis was placed on the Army of Russia, than it’s people.    

            Russia’s army has not always been a powerful one.  In the early years, the army was not even capable of defending itself, let alone the land area of Russia.  Numbers were down, and the people that they did have were very disorganized.  For the most part they were just a band of factory workers put together by the Bolsheviks to help them into power.  An actual army was formed to help defend the Russian Communist Party.  The Red Army, as it was called, was assembled into a large military force.  The building of this army seemed good, but in the long run, it hurt the Russians.  With a majority of spending going toward military expenses, the public suffered.  The Communist party that was supposed to be helping the worker was actually slowly cutting its throat. 

            Russia has typically been known for their poor economy due to communism.  The value of the ruble seems to have been on a constant decline throughout the 20th century.  In class, Dr. Zbiek said that if a Russian was walking down the street, and there was a line, especially a long line that they should stand in it, because if the line is that long, there must be something worthwhile at the other end.  It is not imaginable in this country to have to wait in line for a necessity.  Only in times of war has there been rations on items in the US.  For the Russians it was an everyday occurrence.  Sure they most all had jobs under the communist reign, but what they got paid, and the limited quantity of supplies, It is hardly worth the effort.

            Religion is important to the Russian society.  A mix between a dominant Russian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic in some areas, as well as Moslem religions to name the major ones.  The Russian Orthodox Church has played an important role of the development of Russia as well.  For more than 1000 years, this church has stood through countless czars.  Aside from being the centers for spirituality, they also were originally the great educational centers of Russia.  The monasteries would record major historical events of the people, and their nation.  During the 20th century, the church ran into a bit of a halt.  Considering that they were still part of old Russia, after the revolt in of 1917, many of the bishops were forced into hiding, or faced execution.    

After WWI, there was a tremendous out-migration in Eastern Europe that negatively effected Russia.  The sub-standard living conditions due to the concentration of funds on military expenses were a main contributing factor.  People left the country to go to better places of living.  Some made it to different countries in eastern Europe, and others continued on into the United States.  With a vast part of the population leaving for a better life in a new world, the Russian economy would suffer more than it already was. 

            Russia’s amount of nuclear weapons makes them a power to be reckoned with.  The Cold War, and arms race forced them to supply themselves with a world-destroying armory.  Much of the money spent on the military could have been used to supply services and goods for the public.  Instead the driving force was to have the best army, not the best population.  A slight problem may have eventually arisen from this mess of an economy.  With a lack of funds for basic necessities, and a majority of the money going to war supplies, eventually the aforementioned out-migration would lead to a shrinking army that would not be able to defend itself once again.   

With Russia’s tremendous land area, the resources are great.  The only problem with gathering these resources is the difficulty of accessibility.  The great distance between the actual sites and the cities for processing caused more trouble than it was worth.  Cities like Syktyrkar, which is located in central Russia, were founded to bring the cities closer to these resources. 

            In the 20th century specifically, capitalism is on the rise in Russia.  Beginning with Gorbachev, and perestroika, and further on down the road with Boris Yeltsin, and his reforms capitalism is making a strong stand in Russia.  The Russian people are both accepting, and resentful towards capitalism.  The new people like the idea of free market, and personal growth, but those who grew up with Communism are accustomed to the ways, and almost afraid of change it seems.  Although waiting in lines for items is not good, the idea of no competition to force prices up may seem better for them. 

            The Russian society from its beginning to the present day has seen many troubled times as well as periods of well-being.  It’s a tragic past for the most part because the hard times have outweighed the good.  Political change is a way of life, even though some tsars have reigned for many years.  The people of Russia are the ones hurt the most by the economic hardship, and near famine situations.  Any political leader that can appeal to the people obviously will be able to come in to power.  Lenin was able to appeal to the people, and once into power abused it.  What the people thought was going to be a great revolution nearly brought an end to many lives.  Despite the difficulty and misfortune faced by a nation, it has still remained strong for centuries.   

for some useful links see

Cold War Resources. April 2009 Surveillance-Video.Co: Do-It-Yourself Surveillance. <> Accessed 15 July 2009.

Annotated Bibliography


Rose Brady, KAPITALIZM.  New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999

            A personal compilation of the effects of capitalism in New Russia.  Contains interviews conducted by Brady while going through Russia (1992-1998).  Included are various tables, and statistical information pertaining to the decline and adaptation of the rubles well as the increase in wages earned by the Russian population.


Tad Szulc, The Invasion of Czechoslovakia.  New York: Franklin Watts, Inc. 1974

            Explains the importance of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the reasons for it, and its implications.  Gives chronological report of events leading up to invasion.  Former journalist with the New York Times he has reported from over 40 countries.  Other works include Czechoslovakia since World War II, and The Winds of Revolution. 


W. Gordon East, The Soviet Union.  Princeton, New Jersey: D. Van Nostrand Company,             Inc. 1963

            Professor of Geography, of the University of London, as well as chairman of the Department of Geography at Birkbeck College outlines Soviet land, and disbursement of the people in this land.  Showing the growth of the principality of Moscow into the Great Russian Empire, and later the collapse of this same Empire.  Discussing the Soviet agricultural problem, and industrial past.  Also covers the expansion of the U.S.S.R. as a result of WWII.  There are maps of former Soviet Union as well as statistical information on climate, industry, and constituent republics of the U.S.S.R.


Victor Alexandrov, The Kremlin. Great Britain: The Blackfriars Press ltd. 1963

            Tells of the legend of the Kremlin showing the Russian history through the lives of the various Czars that inhabited it. Illustrating the rise of St. Petersburg, the entrance of Stalin, the death of Lenin, and even Churchill's interesting rendezvous with the Russians.


J. Lowenhardt, J.R. Ozinga, and E. van Ree, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Politburo.  New York:  St. Martins Press, 1992

            Lowenhardt, of Leiden U in the Netherlands Ozinga, of Oakland U In Michigan, and van Ree of the U of Amsterdam came together illustrating the history of the politburo, and it's effects on Russia.  It is easily understood because of its organization being broken down from its start, evolution by leaders, and present status at the time of print.  A list of terminology is also in the book to aid those unfamiliar to the subject.  There are also many lists and tables illustrating the effects of the Politburo on Russia. 


Henri Troyat, Alexander of Russia.  New York: E.P Dutton, Inc.1982

            A biography of the man who lead the way for Russia in conquering Napoleon.  Shows Russia's involvement though the life of Alexander.  Contains a chronological look at events in his life, as well as significant occurrences in other countries. 


Sidney Harcave, Russia a History.  Philadelphia, and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1964

            Harcave a Professor of History at SUNY Harpur College provides us with an overview of Russian history stemming from Slavonic ancestry prior to 862, all the way to post Stalin times (1956).  Touching on such issues as the development of the Russian Empire, Russia during the French Revolution, The Intelligentsia, various revolutions, and the civil war from 1918-1921.  Containing maps of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Empire.  Each Part has a chronological overview, which allows you to know what is going to be covered.


Boreham, Gordon F, "Gorbachev's Legacy," Canadian Banker Mar/Apr92, Vol.99 Issue 2, p17.

            Talks about the legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev in the History of Russia, its economics, and the effects of communism socially.  Gorbachev's misunderstanding that an economic recovery would require a political, and social reconstruction.


"Split Personality," Canada & the World Backgrounder, Oct 97, Vol. 63 Issue 2, P23.

            Discusses Russian history, and foreign relations up until 1997.  Their efforts in Asia, Former relations with European nations.  States the difficulty in seeing which way Russia will go due to fragile political system. 


Kossman, Nina, "The Russian Revolution," Cricket, Apr96, Vol. 23 Issue 8, P52.

            A brief article that shows what happened after the revolution of 1917.  Also gives insight to the formation of the U.S.S.R.  Post WWII effects as well.  



A Chronology of Russian History, (

            Contains a chronology of Russian History and in depth links to various events in Russian history from the year 860 onward, encompassing the age of Peter the Great, The Soviet period, and even the break up of the Soviet Union.  Recently updated to keep up with the ever-changing society.


Warren H Carroll, Ph.D., The Faith in Russian History,  (http://www/


            Carroll a Professor of History at Christendom College discusses the effects of Christianity in the history of Russia.  Russian churches being transformed into hospitals, also covers issues of “Bloody Sunday”, the Gulag prison camps.  The victory of faith over communism is also discussed in this article.


Readings in Russian History, (

            Contains links in a chronological order from Ancient Eurasia covering medieval Russia, The house of Rurik, the founding of the City of Kiev, the Mongols in Russia, Ivan the Terrible, the Romonavos, and Russian history up until 1918.  Although a majority takes place prior to the 20th century, it all affects the current day standings of modern Russia.


Slavophilia, (

            Many links to Russian historical sights ranging from Russian folklore to Russia today.  Touches on issues of womens’ history in Russia, and many of the revolutions which have occurred in the history of Russia.


The Slavic Research Center Ethnolinguistic Minorities in Russia Internet Resources,  Hokkaido University, (

            Links to various sites, which discuss issues as Jews in Russia, an in depth looks at Siberia, which is broken down into a general topic, then Eastern, and Western Siberia.  Also has links to defense policy of the past, Human Rights, and religional influence.


Russian History and Culture Web Links, (

Provides links to various sites that contain information on Russian history.  Some take a very narrow angle such as one, which discusses Churches of Moscow, and others take a broader angel such as a link to Russian science and technology.


Russian and Eastern European History, Department of History Tennessee Technological University, (

            A site composed of links relating to Russian History.  Moscow trials of 1963, WWII through Russian eyes, how has change effected the former USSR.  Also included are more modern issues in Russia. 


Chernobyl Children Project USA, (

            Lists facts and statistics of the aftermath of the Chernobyl incident on April 26, 1986, as well as links to learn more about the actual explosion.


Powell, Mark.  The Kremlin Palaces, (

            Gives a description of the Palaces of the Kremlin, also has links to the Red Square, The Arsenal, and an Amory museum.  These palaces are an integral part of Russian History.  Powell is a Graduate student in the Dpt. Of Slavic languages at the U of Texas at Austin, doing his undergraduate work at BYU.


Cold War: Post war Estrangement (

            This site gives information on the cold war, addressing possible global problems, the Iron Curtain, and the Soviet decline into the Third World.

  10 topics


Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik party.  He could be considered the father of Marxism in Russia.  Born in April 1870 in Simbirsk, the son of a school inspector was headed for higher education.  Schooling in Kazan, and St. Petersburg were his academic background.  In the fall of 1895 he set up the “Union for the liberation of the working class”.  This union would eventually become the Bolshevik party.  A halt was placed on this union by the fact that Lenin was exiled in 1897 to Siberia for 3 years.

            In April of 1917 after being arrested by the Austrian police in 1914, Lenin put the motion in to the red ocean.  Finally by March 1918, combining with Party Central Committee and the Soviet Government, he moved to Moscow, which became the Capital of Russia.  While in control, Lenin worked out plans for the construction of a socialistic society in Russia.  This new economic plan devised by Lenin, which emphasized the worker or proletariat.  Of course with the nation in shambles after Nicholas II the population would be accepting to anybody that promised to help them.  Lenin was this man.      


Internet Links      

            This site provides a biographical sketch of Lenin.  Describing events in his life briefly to enlighten the man of common knowledge into the complex life that this man made for himself.

            Site shows a biographical sketch of Lenin broken down into segments of his life, from Birth to Exile to Revolutionary leader, and everything in between.  There are also links from this site to others that relate to the Russian Revolution in 1917. 




On April 26, 1986, the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl suffered a horrible disaster.  Sure the efficiency of nuclear power plants to produce energy is un-matched, but the dangers that lurk with having poorly staffed, and maintained reactors can be worldly devastating.  The effects of this melt down were felt locally and worldwide.  The explosion caused fires, which destroyed the area.  Also sending radioactive material up into the air.  This radioactive material is responsible for causing cancer in those in the surrounding area.  One of the most common is that of the thyroid cancer 

Some effects are still turning up almost 20 years after the explosion.  The hardest hit are the rural areas of Russia.  The fertile soil of these rural areas was contaminated, and no longer able to be used.  When the people were evacuated from this area, they were not guaranteed permanent housing at the new locations.  In January of 1987, people were beginning to move back to their homes, only older people though.  No children were allowed to return to the evacuated areas.  It is catastrophes like this that make it debatable that modern technology is beneficial to the world.   



Internet links:

            A site that is broken down into sections with links to various aspects of the accident.  An introduction, the accident itself, effects across the nation, and the world, as well as the reports on Chernobyl today.  

            Provides information about the actual accident, its effects locally, Nationally, and over time.  There is a time line of what occurred on those two days in April 1986.  This sight also goes more in depth than the previous.   




Communism was a way of life for the Russians in the 20th century.  Lenin introduced Marxist socialism to Russia, in 1917 when the Congress of Soviets assumes power over Russia.  The Bolsheviks believed that they were just acting as agents of history, that only Karl Marx had predicted with any grain of truth.  Socialism or communism cannot be achieved all at once.    The proletariat basically must overthrow the capitalist society.  One of the main points of communism is the theory that factories, banks, machines and land must be controlled by the state.  The workers will no longer vary in payment.  Each will according to his ability contributes to the whole, and each according to his need may take from the whole.  Some private production may be seen here, but eventually it will all fade.  The Party was not to be founded on force alone, but more a combination of leadership, examples, persuasion and compulsion.  A system like this sounds good at first, but as we see through out the 20th century not only in Russia, but nations like Vietnam, it will not last forever.


Internet links:

            This web site contains links to areas of Communist Russia, the Bourgeois, and Proletarians, as well as socialist and Communist Literature

A page dedicated to Marxism, contains a link to the Communist Manifesto, other works by Marx.  Some pictures here of Trotsky, Lenin, and Marx.



Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev was born March 2, 1931.  He was educated at the Moscow State University, where he graduated with a degree in law.  He joined the Communist party in 1952.  From 1955 to1958, he was the secretary of the Stavropol City Committee of Komsomol.  In 1971, he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CCCP).  Serving from 1978 to 1985 as a secretary on a committee responsible for agriculture in the Soviet Union. 

Chairman for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Soviet of the Union in 1984-85. From 1985 to 1990 he was a Member in the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, serving as its President (1989-1990). He served as President of the USSR in 1990-1991.  Currently he is the head of the Gorbachev foundation since 1992, The Green Cross International since 1993, and the Civic Forum Movement since April 1996.  


Internet Links:

Both provide a biographical background of Gorbachev, his accomplishments, and links to find out additional information.

The Cold War

The Cold War was absolutely one of the most important political events of the 20th century.  When else had the entire world waited and held it’s breath every night while it slept, hoping to wake up to a life the next morning.  The threat of a total eradication of the earth was always lingering.  For almost 40 years this scare went on, and could still exist today, although through treaties, and civil nations the threat is lessened, and almost non-existent.  The cold war is over, since  1991.  The threat of being bombed previously rested only on political relations.  If the capitalists angered the communists, or the other way around, life, as we know it, would have been all over.  This nuclear arms race caused trouble in Russia because the amount of money being put in could not be matched by the amount of money going to it’s workers.  Thus straying away from communism and slowly losing the publics support.

The Harvard Project of Cold war studies also provides an interesting look at the cold war. Links from there lead to in-depth study of the cold war and its effects.    



5 Year Plans (1928)

In 1924, Lenin died.  Stalin stepped into power in Russia.  Upon stepping into power he introduced a 5-year plan, which he wanted to bring Russia up to speed with the rest of the world.  Since most of Russia’s economy functioned around agriculture, Stalin wanted to join together the farms in a collectivization of a sense.  At first the resistance by the kulaks, or peasants was rigid, but the end of the 1930’s Russia owned 99% of the land that was farmed as a collective farm. 

            Industry was also included in this 5 years plan.  Every year, the industries that were taken over by the government had to produce a certain amount.  They had to reach a goal determined by the government.  Punishment for not meeting these goals set forth was severe.  The managers of the factories could have been executed for not meeting the goals.  This strict work ethic, or lack of ethics, actually helped Russia prospers during the great depression economically.  Increasing their actual net worth from 24.4 to 96.3 billion rubles.  

Internet Links:

            Gives a quick overview of the 5-year plans.  It addresses the war against the Kulaks, a statistical analysis of the Russian Economy at the time, and a comparison of where they should have been to where they actually were.

            This page provides a time line of events in Russian history including, but not limited to the 5 year Plans.


The Red Square, and the Kremlin

When a person thinks of Russia, the first thing most of us think of is Red.  Be it the Red flag, red that symbolizes communism, or most commonly Red Square.  Every news blurb that we see somehow incorporates Red Square either through the marches there, St. Basils Cathedral, or the Kremlin.  These are symbols of Russia.  Red square was not named for the communist party that has inhabited it for the past century, but can be linked to the Czarist days of Russia.  Known as the Torg, it was a market place for those to buy goods, and produce. 

            Red square is home to one of the most widely known Russian landmarks.  The Kremlin.  The Kremlin has been home to various Czars such as Ivan the Terrible, and Nicholas I to name a few.  The Kremlin is very important to Russia, as is Red square.  This has been the center of Russian government for many years.

Internet Links:

                Provides a historical overview of the Kremlin.  Maps of external features such as the various palaces.

Provides information of the Kremlin in the past, and present.  Very insightful on the history of the Kremlin. 


Women Fighter Pilots

Women in Russia played an important part in the Great Patriotic War.  In America, the women were allowed and needed to work in the factories, and maybe as nurses during war times, but never in combat.  Russia had a bunch of women bombers, and fighter pilots.  Fighter Ace’s Lilya Litvyak, and Katya Budanova, had 12, and 11 German kills respectively.  In 1942, there were three regiments of women fighters.  The 586th Women's Fighter Regiment, the 587th Women's Day Bomber Regiment, and lastly, the 588th Women's Night Bomber Regiment, the famous "Night Witches”.  Although they were allowed to fight in the battles, sexism still prevailed.  Male pilots would not allow women to be their gunners, nor would they even get in a plane often times if they knew the mechanic was a woman.  These women pilots were so successful that 29 won titles of hero, while 23 of them belonged to the Night Witches regiment.  Women’s place in the military is traditionally a passive role, but these women took it to their own hands to help their mother country in winning the war.

Internet Link

The Pratt link is what caught my eye; it contains a brief story about the women pilots, and links to individual female pilots, as well as the Night Witches battalion.  Other links of interest on this page lead to aviation pages, and the usefulness of fighter planes in the war.  The second is a link dedicated especially to the Night Witches. 


Lev Semenovich Vygotsky, an Educational Psychologist was born in Orscha, Belorussia in 1896.  Because of his Jewish decent, he was accepted into the Medical School of Moscow University via a lottery because only a small percentage of the students admitted were allowed to be Jewish.  He graduated from the College in 1917, shortly before the revolution.  His interest was in psychology, and philosophy, but he also was quite knowledgeable in the area of Shakespeare. His contributions to educational psychology were only recently translated in 1962.  But the concepts he has brought forth have been the stepping-stones for many Educational Psychologists.  His theory of cognitive development, which is based on the child figuring out for himself, working from a scaffolding of ideas and concepts, is taught in all educational programs today.  The importance of this theory in learning is immense, and with out it, we would still be contemplating certain areas on how we really learn. 

Internet Links:


Links relate to Lev Vygotsky, the first is a link of his basic principles; the second is a model of his teaching theory.  The third is a basic biography, and the last is a review of a book.  They all offer insight towards this Russian Psychologist important to the 20th century.  Each page has links either to Vygotsky himself, or to something psychological in nature.  


Russian Orthodox Church

      More than 1000 years old, the Russian Orthodox Church has stood through the Czarist period, and withstood communist attack to remain in the Russian society.  During the 10th century the majestic churches we associate with it were being built. The great monasteries began to develop in the 11th century.  In 1051, St. Anthony founded the famous Monastery of the Caves in Kiev.  This monastery was to become the center of religious life in Old Russia.  

       Besides being the major Religious centers in Russia, the monasteries were also the major educational centers of Russia.  They would keep records and chronicles of all events that would occur in the lives of their people.  Without the keeping of these records much of what we do know of Russia at this time period would have been lost. 

     In the Synodal period from 1721 to 1917, the church tried to revamp itself.  The old churches were restored, and several new churches were built.  The attention paid to developing religious education, and also missions in provinces of Old Russia.  During this period of time Russian theologians also were making leaps and bounds in the fields of linguistics, sciences, and Oriental studies.

     Moving into the 20th century, the Russian Orthodox Church faced its strongest battle.  Demanded by the Soviet government to give valuables to aid the starving population of Russia.  A conflict between the church and state broke out.  New authorities saw this as a possibility to bring an end to the Church.  At the beginning of WWII the Church was nearly destroyed.  Bishops were forced to go underground, although many were imprisoned, where most of them never made it through. 

Internet Links:

    A link to the history of the Russian Orthodox Church.  Contains a historical background, the Church today, Recent decisions, and other Internet resources.  

            This site contains objective information from a mass history source about the Russian Orthodox Church.  Links include areas on Imperial Russia, the Persecution and Rebirth of the church, as well as the history of the church prior to the 20th century.



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