Soviet Union

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Contents

History

The Soviet Union was a country whose official name was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or U.S.S.R. It was created after World War I out of the remnants of the Russian Empire, and it was the first country in the world to be based on the economic principles of Karl Marx. The country paid a terrible price during World War II, as it bore the brunt of the burden in fighting against Germany, led by Adolf Hitler. After the war, the victorious Soviet Army occupied many countries of Eastern Europe (see the Warsaw Pact) and installed repressive pro-Soviet governments. That led to a fifty year standoff against the United States and its NATO allies during the Cold War. Finally, the nation dissolved in 1991, and each of its republics became sovereign nations. Russia occupies about 80% of the territory of the former Soviet Union, and is considered to be its sucessor.

Economics

The Soviet Union was sucessful in some areas; it developed a world-class educational system, and provided universal health care. It industrialized very quickly first by developing the heavy industry that it needed to win World War II, then by developing nuclear and aerospace technology that rivalled the United States during the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to fly into space and orbit the Earth.

However, the country's centrally planned economy was not able to keep up with developments in fast moving, decentralized industries like electronics, and eventually, the Soviet Union fell far behind western countries in technology. This was due largely to corruption that rapidly crept into the central planning committees (preventing reassignment of raw materials to those sectors that could use it more effectively) and the tendency of enterprises (the Soviet equivalent of corporations) to never produce more than their assigned quota and to keep their products essentially the same for as long as possible, since there was little reward for altering production lines and redesigning products. Consumer goods production never entirely took off either, largely due to the initial focus of the Five Year Plans on heavy industry, whose enterprises strongly guarded their assigned resources in the decades afterward. The increasing economic complexity in the late 20th century added to the troubles in the Soviet Union, creating a shortage economy as Gosplan (the planning agency) had to struggle to manage the sprawling nation's resources.

The Soviet Union contains many valuable minerals, especially Oil and Natural Gas. During the 1970s and early 1980s, it was able to earn money by selling these resources to the west, but falling prices severly damaged the country's finances.

Civil Liberties

Throughout its history, the rulers of the Soviet Union used despotic methods to supress dissent including mass starvation. They maintained a network of secret prisons, the Gulag Archipeligo, and the state security agency, the KGB, arrested and murdered millions of innocent citizens. Two leading dissidents were Andrei Sakarov and Alexsandr I. Solzhenitsyn.

Nuclear testing in the USSR began in 1949 at a site known as Polygon and continued until 1989. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, there were 456 tests, including 116 nuclear bombs tested above ground. The Polygon site officially closed on August 29, 1991.

These tests all took place in eastern Kazakhstan. No one bothered to evacuate the people living there. Local officials say there were hundreds of thousands of people, possibly as many as a million, who lived in the region during the nuclear testing.

The result has been every family with in 20 miles of old test site, have been affected by the radiation their problems ranging from cancers to impotency to birth defects and other deformities.[1]

Leaders

Former Soviet Repulics

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