General: soviet union
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик; CCCP) was a one-party Socialist dictatorship founded in 1922 and dissolved in 1991. It was consolidated at the end of the Russian Civil War (1917–23) out of the Russian, Ukrainian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics, later occupying Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, Hertza, and eastern Poland under a 1939 non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. Later that year it invaded Finland to secure a land buffer for the city of Leningrad, leading to a bloody three-month war and the USSR's expulsion from the League of Nations.
The Soviet Union was originally led by Vladimir Lenin until his death in 1924, after which Joseph Stalin secured state leadership through political subterfuge and intimidation/elimination of his rivals. While the Soviets claimed to follow a communist philosophy named "Marxism–Leninism," in practice Stalin eschewed Lenin's belief in world revolution in favour of "Socialism in One Country," under which the USSR would be constructed as the international Communist vanguard through rapid industrialization under a centralized command economy.
Throughout the 1920s and 30s, political dissidents and suspected conspirators were arrested, deported, and/or executed to consolidate Party (and Stalin's) control; as part of the conversion of the agricultural sector into massive collective farms, resisting landholders were branded "kulaks" and ruthlessly punished, their grain supplies forcibly confiscated to sell on international markets. This provoked catastrophic famine in 1932–33 that Ukrainian historians argue constituted a genocide (Holodomor). Stalin also reversed Lenin's policy of national self-determination, persecuting minority cultures and deporting entire ethnic groups in order to enforce 'Russian-ness' in periphery territories.
In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Moscow officially joined the Allied Powers in World War II. The Eastern Front was the bloodiest during the war, exacerbated by Soviet scorched-earth retreat tactics and an extremely bitter winter in 1941–2; the German Army's retreat from the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943 marked the turning point in the European theatre as the Soviets began a steady counteroffensive west, ultimately seizing Berlin in May 1945. In August the same year, Moscow denounced its neutrality pact with Japan, and Soviet forces invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. This in conjunction with the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki spurred Emperor Hirohito to declare Japan's unconditional surrender on August 15.
Although the Soviets fought alongside the Allies, after the war the ideological rivalry between communism and capitalism reignited antipathy between Moscow and Western Europe/America, the latter of whom had sent expeditionary forces against the Bolsheviks during the Civil War. As part of the Yalta Conference in 1945, roughly every country east of Soviet-occupied Germany fell under Moscow's sphere of influence and was later incorporated into the Warsaw Pact, a counter-alliance to the emerging North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). With the United States and Soviet Union the world's emergent superpowers, global politics entered a "Cold War" as the hegemons competed to expand their military, economic, cultural and technological influence, resulting in massive arms buildups, nuclear weapons proliferation, the Space Race, and proxy wars to secure the allegiance of so-called Third World countries to either the socialist or capitalist cause.
Following Stalin's death in 1953, the totalitarian aspects of the Soviet government waned, and under his successor Nikita Khrushchev constraints on civil society were slightly eased and the infamous Gulag prison network gradually phased out, although political discourse remained heavily censured. The Cold War reached its most perilous flashpoint during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the United States instituted a naval blockade to disrupt Soviet attempts to deploy ballistic nuclear missiles to the island. The crisis resolved in a reciprocal agreement to nuclear de-escalation; however, while the Soviet withdrawal from Cuba was widely publicized, the American withdrawal from Turkey was not, leading Moscow to lose international face and the Politburo to sack Khrushchev in 1964. Khrushchev's willingness to seek "peaceful coexistence" with the West (read: refrain from world-ending nuclear war) was also seen as weakness by several other Socialist states, leading the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong to split from the Soviet bloc and promote itself as an alternative vanguard for international Communism.
Under Khrushchev's successor Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union reached détente with the West, signing several treaties that began nuclear disarmament. Brezhnev's tenure also saw economic stagnation and the ossification of the upper government under a conservative ruling clique. Following the mayfly presidencies of Andropov and Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev was named Premier in 1985, introducing dual policies of glasnost and perestroika (roughly, Openness and Reform) to ameliorate the Brezhnev-era faults through political and economic liberalization and the adoption of a more cooperative foreign policy intended to end the Cold War. Nationalist factions within the Soviet bloc seized on this opportunity to push for secession; Gorbachev's decision not to intervene militarily in satellite states led to peaceful revolutions throughout 1989 and the reunification of Germany in 1990. This was soon followed by sovereignty movements within the constituent Soviet Socialist Republics themselves; following a failed military coup-d'état in 1991 to overturn Gorbachev's policies and reassert central control, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of the effectively defunct Politburo, then as President of the USSR on December 25. The Soviet Union officially dissolved the following day.
Twentieth-century Russian empire where everyone was equally poor and called each other "Comrade" while getting drunk on vodka, either conspiring to take over the Free World or making self-deprecating jokes about waiting forever in line for sold-out goods.
- ak-47 – Soviet standard-issue assault rifle from 1949–1974, famous for its incredible durability, less prestigiously for its immense popularity amongst rebels and terrorists thanks to the international arms trade.
- ak-74 – Soviet assault rifle introduced in 1974 to replace the AK-47. It remains the standard-issue rifle of most post-Soviet successor states.
- animal_farm – Allegorical novel by British writer and disillusioned democratic socialist George Orwell satirizing the early history of the Soviet Union.
- cccp – Flags, banners, and related insignia using the Cyrillic acronym.
- communism – Socioeconomic ideology promoting a classless, stateless society of universal equality enacted through armed revolution against the capitalist system. "Marxism–Leninism" was the subset theory officially endorsed by the Soviet government; ironically, it was neither Marxist nor Leninist.
- socialism – Left-wing ideology promoting economic and social equality through public control of the economy and a broad social safety net; Communism's less radical forbear.
- hammer_and_sickle – Quintessential Soviet icon, popularly used by other countries' Communist parties.
- in_soviet_russia – Joke format popularly attributed to Soviet émigré Yakov Smirnoff satirizing the culture of state surveillance, but that has since been bastardized beyond recognition.
- joseph_stalin – Bolshevik revolutionary and leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 to his death in 1953, infamous for paranoid megalomania and the purging (execution) of the Old Bolsheviks and suspected political rivals.
- red_star – Commonly used for Soviet military insignia and vehicle decals.
- ushanka – Fur or felt hat with foldable earflaps. The design best-known today was introduced as Soviet winter military uniform circa 1940.
- vladimir_lenin – Marxist theorist, Russian revolutionary leader and founder of the Soviet Union. Tried to curb Stalin's influence in the Communist Party over fears his authoritarian tendencies would corrupt the revolution.