Geography of Europe Blog #4 Posted on April 8, 2015 by saorsa2014 Usual rules – due by Sunday 12th – midnight Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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Russia has completely changed in the last twenty years geographically as well as politically. It went from being united under the Soviet Union to losing many of its fellow states that were apart of Russia under the Soviet Union which made Russia smaller. These pictures all depict the breakup of the Soviet Union and the major changes that have been going on since. Ukraine broke away from Russia and declared itself independent which was a huge problem for Russia and they still are trying to get it back. Russia already is not in the best shape because as mentioned in class, their life expectancy is extremely low compared to the rest of the world and this is due to prostitution and a very poor health care system. The Soviet Union is one of the biggest organizations that the United States has battled with. The Soviet Union was declared a republic run by communism and was very powerful until all of its states started to want to be independent and break away from the Soviet Union.
The picture for the blog in the top right corner was issued during the time that all of the states were ready to move on and be recognized for their independence of being their own country. The bottom left hand corner is a picture of modern day Russia and the fellow countries that touch it currently and it just goes to show Russia standing alone and no longer being connected to the other countries such as Ukraine that were once former states united under the Soviet Union. The picture above it is a very powerful image of a military man holding the Soviet Union Flag but the emblem has been cut out. That was a huge indicator that the Soviet Union had truly lost and was at the end of its reign. The newspaper image of the New York Times in the bottom right corner is an article about the official end of the Soviet Union and discussed the major questions the world was having about what was going to happen to Russia and how were things going to run since the fall of the Soviets.
The top left picture is an image of the KGB founder being taken down by the public who were angered by Communism. It was known as the Soviet secret police. The founders name was Felix Dzerzhinsky. The statue has not and probably will never return. Many people thought that things would change once the Soviet Union went away officially after the Treaty of Alma on December 3rd 1991. People wanted Russia to be able to be run by what some hoped would be a democracy. On the contrary, the opposite happened. As discussed in class, Russia is run by an oligarchy today. It is technically considered a democracy that has elections but all of them are fixed by the men in charge who want nationalist’s elected. To get what they want they constantly lie to their people and tell them the bad things that happen around them is caused by the outside such as the “the west, foreigners, and gay people”. There has been hardly any improvement that has been made since the fall of the Soviet Union and if anything, things are looking more and more like they are being run by Nazis instead of a democracy like what the people wanted.
Geography of Europe
Blog Post 4
The fall of the Soviet Union is one of the most important political events the world has ever seen. It represented a definitive end to the drawn out Cold War and the failure of communism, and the whole world would change its policies and perspectives because of the new imbalance of power. It had even stronger consequences for the republics that made up the USSR, as they each had to decide their new role in the world in relation to Russia and their other neighbors. In Russia itself, major issues had to be addressed and people had to decide how to proceed in the aftermath of communist. This series of images shows the fall of the Soviet Union through pictures from Russia, a map of the former USSR countries, and American media coverage.
The photograph in the top left shows the removal of “Iron Felix”, a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the man who created and directed the Cheka, or Soviet secret police, after the revolution and during the Russian Civil War. The Cheka evolved into the infamous KGB; and Dzerzhinsky’s statue was built in front of the KGB headquarters, which can be seen in the background of the photo. Because of the secret police business, Dzerzhinsky is a very controversial figure. He and his organization were responsible for the Red Terror and thousands of killings. In 1992 after the Soviet Union fell, his huge statue was removed from the square where it stood in Moscow. The removal of the statue is important because it demonstrates how the Russian people want to move on from the more brutal parts of their past.
The photograph in the center left shows a rally in some Soviet city at the time of the Soviet Union’s fall. A soldier holds out the red flag of the USSR with the Soviet hammer and sickle torn out of it, symbolizing the official death of the Soviet Union. Moving down the next picture – a map of the former Soviet countries – it is easy to see the gravity of the political changes set in motion by the Soviet Union’s collapse. The “Stan” countries in central Asia were suddenly released from Russian control, and in most cases reverted back to tribal governments as they had had before the Russians came. On the western border, the allegiances of former Soviet nations were tested with the decision: Europe or Russia? The Baltic States immediately applied for membership in the European Union, while Belorussia remained tied to Russia. Ukraine was almost literally split down the middle on the issue, and the problems caused by that divide have grown to violent proportions in recent months.
The TIME Magazine and New York Times newspaper on the right side of the images demonstrate how captivated the rest of the world was by the Soviet Union’s collapse. The West watched Russia very closely trying to figure out how the world would take shape in the aftermath of the USSR. The fall of the Soviet Union has changed the world in very important ways that are still evolving in their implications to the Russian people and their neighbors, as well as to the rest of the world.
Absolutely! The fall of the Soviet Union did impact the whole world, not just Europe. It was a breakthrough and a moment in time that changed so many peoples lives which is why it will always be remembered and something that will forever be talked about because it allowed people to live a more free life. I agree with you that it is something people in Russia are still adapting to and learning how to live under different circumstances as well as new leaders.
The nearly seventy-five year existence of the Soviet Union came to a close in December of 1991. Although the initial American response towards the USSR was that of non-recognition, that is until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. The Soviets bore the brunt of the brutality against the Nazi war machine; the fighting on the Eastern front was vastly more destructive than in France and elsewhere in the West. As the war drew to a close, however, the once all-important allies, with Great Britain and the United States on one side, and the Soviet Union on the other, began shifting towards an aggressive competition of post-war influence in Europe, and, indeed, the world. The Cold War that resulted had profound and lasting effects on the global climate, but especially in the U.S and Europe. Marshall Plan Funds played an important role in the initial attempts at trade and customs unions arising in Europe that would later evolve into the European Union. The semi-autonomous states that fell under the purview of the Soviet Union did not enjoy the benefits that the democratic states of the European Union did. The Cold War also had lasting effects on European and American culture, as the rock and roll movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s emanated from the counter culture movement that was averse to East-West conflict.
The totalitarian and oppressive regime that characterized the Soviet Union, however, was not sustainable over time. The Soviets found themselves overextended in regional conflicts, especially in Afghanistan, by the late 1970’s. A flourishing economy in Europe, partly as a result of the European Recovery Act, or Marshall Plan, contributed to a strategy of outspending the Soviet military machine, thus bleeding the already suffering economy of the USSR dry.
Giving way to a certain sense of pragmatism, Premier Mikhail Gorbachev enacted programs of Perestroika and Glasnost. The Cold War museum website defines Perestroika as, “the reconstruction of the political and economic system established by the Communist Party.” The site goes on to explain that Glasnost refers to “openness.” These policies precipitated the improvement of Soviet relations with Europe, and eventually the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
The transition for Russia and the former Soviet-bloc states following the dissolution of the USSR was one marred by hardship and strife. Power vacuums were filled in by corruption, and democracy has proven to be a failure in Russia, where a corporatist oligarchy controls the world’s largest nation. While Russia has a litany of factions ranging from the far left to the far right, the political leadership of the country has stamped out any serious threats to its power.
For all of the drawbacks of the Soviet Union, it was at least able to maintain some sense of stability. For many, economic conditions since dissolution have worsened. States like Ukraine hang in the balance between having closer ties to Europe, or retaining traditional ties to Russia. .One common thread strings together the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation; the existence of strong, centralized leadership.
Reblogged this on Neverending Wanderlust and commented:
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was undoubtedly one of the most important geopolitical events of the twentieth century. Not only did it end the Cold War, but it also brought the world from a two-superpower system to a one-superpower system, which has had many long-lasting effects. The fall of the Soviet Union did not happen overnight, however. A chain of events beginning with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, also known as the Soviet Union’s Vietnam, set the USSR on the path to its ultimate demise.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the very end of the 1970s in order to support the newly installed Afghan communist regime. Like the US in Vietnam, the USSR wanted to support a government that shared its ideology against an opposition force that did not. Also like the US, the USSR stayed in Afghanistan for a long time and lost many soldiers. During this period, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as leader of the Soviet Union and quickly began implementing major reform policies within the Soviet Union’s domestic and foreign politics. Gorbachev implemented the reforms of glasnost and perestroika at home, pulled out of Afghanistan, and fostered closer ties with Western leaders and states.
Throughout 1990 and 1991, the Soviet Union began to fall apart. As the Time cover shows, countries within the USSR began to demand independence. Some of them were able to successfully break away and establish themselves as independent countries. In August 1991, communists in Moscow staged a failed coup in an attempt to stop Gorbachev’s liberalizing reform policies. The top left image shows people in Moscow taking down a statue after the failed coup.
In December 1991, the Soviet Union finally came to an end. Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine established the Commonwealth of Independent States early in the month, declaring that the Soviet Union was “ceasing its existence.” A few weeks later, most of the Soviet republics joined the CIS at Alma Ata. The map in the bottom left shows the successor states of the Soviet Union. Before the New Year, only one superpower was left in the world, and geopolitics would be permanently altered. The red Soviet flag (shown with the hammer and sickle cut out in the middle-left image) was replaced by the Russian tricolor.
Three of the former Soviet republics quickly pivoted away from Russia and towards Europe. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania began the process of accession to the European Union, and joined in 2004 as part of the Ten. Ukraine has tried to get closer to both Europe and Russia, which has caused considerable conflict in the past year, including the Russian annexation of Crimea and the shooting down of flight MH17.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has enjoyed much more power than any of the other CIS members, although it is much less powerful than the Soviet Union was. Until recently, Russia’s economy had been growing quite robustly, and it was included in the BRICS group of strong developing economies. However, Russia now faces an economic crisis due to the ruble’s value collapsing. Going forward, Russia must try to stabilize its economy instead of grandstanding on the global stage.
The fall of the Soviet Union sent shockwaves throughout the political community. Politically it was important because it was not expected. Geographically it was particularly important because it resulted in the breakup of the union and creation of a handful of states. Thirteen states formed after the fall of the Soviet Union including Moldova, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. This is what the map of the countries in the bottom left shows.
The photo of Time magazine and the New York Times both document the fall and dissolution of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev was a moderate Communist who wanted reform. This reform ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. The nail in the coffin for the Soviet Republic came with the Treaty of Alma on December 3rd of 1991. The picture of the soldier holding the Soviet flag with the sickle and the hammer cut out are pretty telling. People in the Soviet Union were ready for change. They were tired of the corruption and brutality of the Soviet rule.
The tight grip over the people in the many years of the Soviet Union and now modern day Russia have fanned the flames of independence and anti-Russian movements. These movements are alive and well today. There are a plethora of separatist movements. The most notable is Chechnya. The strange thing about Chechnya is that they’re separatist faction was actually backed by the United States until September 11th 2001 when they were labeled a terrorist organization.
I am not sure who the statue in the top left is of but I think it may be of Stalin. During the Cold War era the Communist Soviet Union was ruled with an iron fist by people like Stalin, Lenin and the leaders of the KGB. Citizens of the Soviet Union were never truly free. After the Soviet Union fell the citizens of Russia are once again not truly free. They live under what is called an oligarchy. The “democracy” of Russia is dominated by a rich elite group of nationalists. This elite group seized power of the country when the former soviet republic put the once nationalized industries up for sale to the highest bidder. The new owners of these industries became instant millionaires because of Russia’s extreme mineral wealth. Their new found wealth gained them the control of the country.
The state of Russia should make western nations very nervous. Russian nationalism is most definitely a cause for concern. Russia’s recent action to the west in Ukraine seems to be eerily similar to the actions of Nazi Germany in Austria and Czechoslovakia. Nazi Germany cloaked their intentions under the nationalist ploy of uniting ethnic Germans under one nation. This seems to be what Russia is also trying to show itself as doing. Russia has also made recent headlines for its exclusionist policies towards its own citizens yet another similarity between the two dangerous nations. With Russia’s wealth of natural resources it could be a very dangerous opponent if intervention in the nations nationalist agenda is required.
The fall of the Soviet Union and its subsequent dissolution into the Commonwealth of Independent States and Russia surely counts as one of the most significant events in recent history. I find it particularly interesting from an economic standpoint, where I cannot help but be quite intrigued at the radical comparison between the USSR’s economy and the rest of the modern world today. In the end, it is entirely plausible that the most important contributing variables to Soviet decline were not related to military failure (although Afghanistan certainly contributed) or directly to external pressures (although certainly the international conditions wrought by the Cold War in general certainly aided and abetted the eventual collapse of the USSR). Instead, I would argue that the primary component to the collapse of the Soviet system of government was economic in nature.
There are undeniably many fine advantages to a economic system such as persisted in the USSR for so many years. Negligible unemployment, strong job security, and a stable income were all much easier to come by then they would be presently in an economic system such as modern western capitalism. On the other hand, however, the relentless quotas and targets for production set by the massive Soviet economic apparatus and its notorious five-year plans led to massive corruption and the reporting of a plethora of false figures, leading to progressive imbalance across the system. This would contribute to one of the more interesting arguments against the communist system and in favor of capitalism that I have yet encountered.
Citing a quote by Grigory Yavlinsky, who was later a close ally of Gorbachev’s who was initially sent to look into flagging productivity in Soviet mining operations, who said that “The Soviet system is not working because the workers are not working”, Dr. Watkins of San Jose State University argues that capitalism benefits from the workers having a stronger incentive to work hard, given that if they perform well enough at their job it is assumed that they will move up the socioeconomic ladder in some fashion, be it through a raise, summary application to a different job, higher social status at work, etc. These benefits to working hard are not particularly evident on any sort of significant scale in the Stalinist economy, which, Yavlinsky argues, led to massive decreases in worker productivity across the board in the all-important Soviet industrial bases.
I would argue that not only did the Soviet workers supposedly suffer decreases in productivity due to a lack of opportunities for advancement, but also that they did not work as hard given their admittedly strong job security. Granted, even the small act of not working as hard as you could in a country where Stalin killed millions of his own citizens for rather fishy reasons was no doubt not the most carefree of maneuvers, but still, I feel that the aforementioned state of Soviet job security and unemployment rates would no doubt encourage slacking off in workers who perceived that they would not be punished. I feel like the aforementioned factors, along with many others I am sure I have missed, no doubt eventually led to Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika, which, combined with many other both internal and external factors served to topple the USSR.
When you look at Russia, you have to look at it a couple of times to get the full picture of what this place is. Russia at one point was not as small as it is today. Under the USSR there were areas of Eastern Europe that were still part of the mass known today as Russia. Many of these countries are now independent areas and have their own national identity that all of their people can gather around and call their own.
If you look at the image in the bottom of the blog post picture, you will see the map of Russia with all the countries that gained their independence for the USSR in a different color. These courtiers wanted to leave because they were not like everybody else and wanted to create their own national identity for the people that were calling that place home. But there were also many other reasons that the people wanted to leave this place. Russia was known for doing things a little different like having a secret police fore that was used to care out the duties of the people that were in power before the break up of the USSR.
Once the USSR had broken up, there were many things to decide for the people. With the fall of the USSR also came the fall of communism that was keeping all of the people from deciding things for them selves. It was interesting to know thought that even thought the Soviet Union was such a powerful “Country” they gave up their powers to the Russian people. This is not something that goes so smoothly in most parts of the world. You can still tell thought that the people were not happy with their past and were ready for a change. This can be seen in more than one of the pictures shown above. As for the image in the top right, it is saying that there is a cry for independence and this was not an unknown thing to the people living in the Union. As for the top left picture, they are removing the statue of a major figure of the time.
This is similar to what has happened in more present times with Hussein were they torn down his statue that was up in the middle of the town to show that the people are no longer a part of this place and are ripping apart the ties they had with these people. This picture however is a little less aggressive because they are moving the statue with a crane and not tarring it down like monsters. Also, the image of the man holding the ripped red flag is showing the flag without the hammer and sickle missing during a rally of some kind in a Russian village. All of these images come together in order to create am idea for you of what the people must have felt when they got to rally around their own ideas and were no longer help back by the power and instability of the Soviet area land. It’s not everyday that you can finally say that it is the time for you and your fellow countrymen to gather their new identity and move into the free world.
The reasons for “Soviet Disunion” displayed in the top right photo originated from the lack of stability in the region after the invasion of Afghanistan, which was hard on the military, economy and social structure. The post soviet states began to crumble in the 1980s and elections showed that more moderates were being elected. Out of the moderates elected, Gorbachev emerged as the leader who created reforms. The reforms attempted to translate more freedoms to the 15 semi autonomous republics under the Soviets. After years of being separated into different regions, a previously non-existent identity emerged, causing a surge for independence amongst the semi autonomous regions. The idea of the Soviet Union was previously the ideal that had bound the semi autonomous regions, and now they sought their own path to independence. The Treaty of Alma Ata therefore came as an end to the Soviet Union in 1991 (represented in the remaining pictures), which lead to the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, signed by 11 republics except Georgia and the Baltic States. The bottom left picture describes the now 15 independent countries that emerged following the Treaty of Alma Ata. Russia officially emerged as the main successor of the Soviet Union. Lithuania first declared independence in 1990 followed by Estonia and Latvia. The three Baltic states were the next to declare independence, and sought EU and NATO membership.
As Gorbachev issued the dismantling of the Soviet Union, he in fact reached the “breaking point” and resigned his position, handed over powers, and the Soviet flag was removed from the Kremlin. You can see in the photo on the left that the USSR flag is defamed.
Unfortunately disunity did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union, as territorial nationalism resurged in the post 1991 era. Russia was now a multi ethnic state, with Chechnya and Dagestan seeking independence in parallel to the other states who separated. Since Russia has a long history of expansionism, they developed a sense that Russians had a right to dominate the region and extend power farther. Therefore political tensions have risen as the Russian agenda seeks to assert its geopolitical hand by invading neighboring, ex Soviet states, under the name of common history and interests. In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia because historically and culturally, Northern Ossetia was Russian, and the Southern Georgians declared war on the Northern Ossetians. Russia saw itself as the historic leader of the culturally Russian people, and felt they had the ultimate right to step in. We currently see the same thing today as Russia has yet again tried to play a role in an ex Soviet, culturally Russian region of Ukraine. Kiev was historically a huge marker for Russian identity. At one point Kiev was the capital, and eventually transferred to Moscow and St. Petersburg as Russia expanded. Therefore, we can understand why Russia is claiming historical legitimacy for their support of rebels in Ukraine: they have a long history of expansionary efforts, and they have a historical tie to the land.
All five of the pictures on this blog post are related to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Two of the pictures are of contemporary publications documenting the event. The TIME magazine from 1990 is focused on the political climate of the Soviet Union before its dissolution, and the newspaper article from 1991 announces the end of the Soviet Union, shows the boundaries of the new states that were once part of the Soviet Union and discusses the newly formed Commonwealth of Individual States. The map in the bottom left depicts the current geography of the former U.S.S.R. The statue being overturned in the top-left photo is of Felix Dzerzhinskey, the head of the Soviet Union’s secret police, the Cheka (later known as the KGB; the Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopanosti)
The Soviet Union fell in December of 1991 with a rapidity no one had foreseen. After Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985, the political climate of the U.S.S.R began to change. Gorbachev pushed for reforms, relaxed the restrictions on speech and publication, and implemented a policy called “glasnost” which called for transparency in the government. Gorbachev also withdrew Russian troops from Afghanistan, and in 1990 he held the first multi-party presidential elections, and was elected president of the Soviet Union. Soon, previously banned books became available, American television stations began to be broadcast in Moscow, and western rock stars such as Billy Joel and Elton John toured in Russia. Later, As the atmosphere of the Soviet Union became more relaxed, more liberal, and more open to the west, the Baltic republics seized their chance to break away from the U.S.S.R. in 1991, and the rest of the Soviet Union came to an end in December of 1991.
The fall of the Soviet Union affected Russia in a variety of ways. After the fall of the Soviet Union industry and resources were no longer state-owned and –controlled, and suddenly became available to whoever had or could acquire the most money, which resulted in Russia becoming an oligarchy, essentially ruled by a few of the richest and most influential men in Russia, who use their wealth to sway elections towards candidates whose policies are favorable towards the oligarchs and contribute to keeping the oligarchs in power. With the loss of Ukraine, Russia lost valuable agricultural land, but it was also a psychological loss. The largest city in Ukraine, Kiev, was the historic center of Russia, before Russia began its eastward expansion in search of a warm-water port, and for most of its history, the Russian fondly referred to Ukraine as “little Russia.” Russian nationalism is strongly tied to territory, which explains why Russia is currently trying to regain Ukraine. The breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 separate states changed the demographics of Russia—what had once been an extremely diverse state is now dominated by ethnic Russians. Communities made up of other ethnicities on the borders of Russia have attempted to gain independence, but in each case Russia has responded extremely harshly, fearing that if a region on the border of Russia were to secede, ethnic communities in the interior of the country would also begin to declare independence, causing holes in the country. It will be interesting to see how russia deals with its problems in the long run.
The pictures refer to the fall of the Soviet Union and it´s consequences. Every country that was a former part of the Soviet Union deals with the independency in their own way. There are still more or less connections between the former member countries.
The Soviet Union existed from 30. December 1922 till it was dissolved through the Alma-Ata declaration on 3. December 1991 into 15 countries. The Soviet Union was a cultural and ethnical very diverse place. The picture in the bottom shows the countries which are formed through the break up. They are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some of the new formed countries like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan never existed before.
Because of the cold war and the 8 years of war in Afghanistan the Soviet Union was in an economic and political crisis. It was a centralistic governed single party state. Michail Gorbachev came to power and in 1990 he became president. He pushed for reforms and gave the semi- autonomous regions more freedom. The reforms and the greater liberation of the government of the regions pushed for the wish of complete independence. And this led to the dissolvent of the Soviet Union. During the break up the commonwealth of independence states was founded by Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Other countries joined after signing the Alma Alta declaration. Currently there are 9 members and 1 participant state (Ukraine).
As every country handled the separation differently, countries like Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia immediately tried to make connections with Western Europe and applied for membership in the European Union. Other countries like Azerbaijan and Armenia went to war with each other.
After the fall Russia did not wanted to decline any further. As other regions like Dagestan or Chechnya were also pushing for independence, but Russia denied it and instead invaded the areas. They were too afraid to start a domino effect and to lose more territory. Chechnya went into two wars, from 1994 till 1996 and 1999 till 2009 and is still a region with a lot of unsolved problems.
Still, 14 years after the separation into several independent states, Russia still has a high influence on many of those countries and has a regional dominance. They feel like they have a right to dominate the region. This influenced also the crisis the Ukraine. As a part of Ukraine want to connect with the west of Europe and the EU, the other part of the Ukraine are pro-Russian and want eventually reconnect with Russia.
Russia is still a very powerful country, run by oligarchs, who are supporting politician who favour them (At the moment this is Vladimir Putin who can not only lead a country, he can also ride a bear). The problem, why the EU and other European countries do not really intervene in Russian politics is the power of Russia. Especially in the case of Chechnya were many civilian population died, but also in the case of Ukraine it is hard to decide how to react for Europe. Russia supplies the greatest part of Europe with gas and they are heavily dependent. So the rest of Europe is afraid, if they would really upset Russia that they cut of the gas.
December 1991 saw the dissolvent of the Soviet Union. The progressive reforms under Gorbachev were a large factor to the fall of the USSR. Many in the West believed democracy would soon take over and a Russian regime was a thing of the past. What many politicians, historians, and analyst overlooked was the multitude of ethnic tribes that now were split up into the fifteen Post-Soviet Russia states. Some of these tribes had had their own semi-autonomous governments for centuries, and some tribes were unfamiliar with having their own state. Nationalism quickly bred in this environment. Many new countries were formed during this period: Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Latvia to name a few. Several of these new countries almost immediately applied to the EU. Throughout Russia and the new Russian oligarchy was a wave of strong Russian nationalism that exists to this day. Determined to not lose Russian territory and integrity to further break offs of new states, Russia clamped down on uprisings. The Chechen wars was a brutal result of this political ideology.
The Soviet Union had the biggest effect on the political geography of Europe and the world since the early 20th Century. The fall of the Soviet Union created new lands, new people, and new identities starving for a voice/seat at the table. All five of these images included in this blog concern the union that had grown sour by the early 1980s. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and resulting proxy war with the US there within, caused the Russian people to begin to question the vitality, purpose, or even need for Soviet leadership. The peoples that comprised the Soviet Union no longer wanted to be represented by the Russian minority led government.
The two top images on the left concern the mass movements and protests during the decline and fall of the Soviet Union. The top left image is an image of the toppling of a Soviet Statue somewhere within the massive country. The Soviets were key on the construction of iconography and masonry of past “greats”, and these monuments were to idolize these Soviet “superheroes”. When the popular consensus was the people would no longer tolerate Soviet rule, these statues became easy targets. Masses of people could easily make a political statement with one swift action. The image that is second from the top left builds on this idea of making political statements. The Army has long been an iconic element in the Soviet’s arsenal, with many of their achievements coming through the way of military force. The image itself is quiet simple, yet powerful. A soldier stands with a Soviet flag, but with the hammer and sickle removed. The hammer and sickle signified the worker-peasant alliance that had given the Soviet the credence for their installation to power. Karl Marx, which influenced Soviet philosophy, theorized that working-class revolution was inevitable, and brought about social change. What is really interesting is that the Soviet Union was brought into existence through a working-class revolution, but was also toppled by this very form of social action.
The three remaining images concerns with the cultural, and political geographic results of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The lands that were under Soviet control were not predominantly ethnically Russian, but were a rather large eclectic bunch. Following the failures in Afghanistan, the people of the Soviet Union called for more moderate party members to lead the nation, which led to Gorbachev being elected. He attempted to provide the reforms to quell the calls for more independence and separation from the Soviet Union. He reforms were too late, and the Soviet Union fell apart. Part of the of the reason that the Soviet fell apart into so many people was due to the fact that it was hope to so many long standing cultural identities, but some these new countries were due in part to the Soviet political system. Some of the regions Chechnya and Dagestan had never been independent, but were allowed to act semi-autonomously in the Soviet Union, so when the USSR fell, they wanted to become their own nations. Obviously these two regions did not get this wish, but regions the Stans, Georgia, and Armenia did. The countries that existed after the fall of the USSR became the Commonwealth of Independent States. This acts as loose supranational organization of the former Soviet republics, with 9 active members, with Russia at the heart.
Russia has been at the heart of the geopolitical spotlight for more than 75 years, and due to current events, it seems apparent that Russia will remain there for the foreseeable future.
Though the New York Times asked, ‘What’s Being Born?’ in their post-Soviet Union issue, we now know the fallout from the end of the Cold War. The USSR’s break-up created several independent democracies that were given support by the West and welcomed into the European Union of capitalist economies. In a slight irony, it does not seem that the public notion at the time of the EU becoming a ‘tighter union’ really came to be as the group expanded its membership more quickly than it integrated.
Russia itself spans a huge distance across the north of the Europe and Asia continents. The ability to manage a slightly larger empire composed of subservient allies and controlled by proxies should not have been much of an issue, except for a problem. The USSR’s neighbor to the West, democratic (and/or constitutionally monarchical) Europe was an example to their eastern neighbors of the possibilities that could be gained, made, and enjoyed from a similar, capitalistic lifestyle. In maintaining their own borders rather than becoming a more ~unified group (*cough Schengan cough*), cultures, national identities, and pride remained segregated from what could have been a broader pool. Russia may have been historically diverse, however it had a long history of its borders, firmly implanting all within with the knowledge of who they were: Russian. In contrast, members of the USSR may have gained benefits from their membership, but their integration or encouragement to see the membership as a greater benefit than anything else that could be obtained (independence and/or then freedom to join the EU) was not successfully accomplished.
If Europe realized that taking care of the poor via healthcare was the best way to protect the upper class and the state from the mob, is it no surprise that those who remember the USSR most fondly often remember the healthcare system best of all? Maybe you were poor, but you weren’t starving and you weren’t dying. You had someone ensuring and assuring you that you were indeed cared for, and this was a powerful tool. Had the state kept the mob a bit happier, would there have been a ‘Soviet Disunion’? Where would that ‘happy’ balance have been? In retrospect, there would still have been a push for http://i.imgur.com/RXYFaxl.jpg
Capitalism involves a great deal of consumption, fueled by lust, greed, and braggadocio based on what you have and another does not or what someone has and you don’t. The East would still have wanted the things that the West had as they couldn’t compete in the most exciting market that was just beginning: electronics. Got the new Pacman? Many know the standard regarding Western blue jeans in the USSR particularly well. Their value in the area was immense as they were extremely difficult to come by from legitimate means.
Some of the USSR was not so entranced by the West though, or at least less so than countries which directly bordered capitalist, Western countries. They still seem to operate as ~subsidiaries of the great corporation of Russia, and albeit a ‘company’ with many problems, it has still endured unto now, though whether that will stand remains to be seen.
The Soviet Union fell in December of 1991, causing the division of the massive and diverse nation to be split into many smaller states. This was the start of a new era for Russia, that would affect development and new policies regarding trade, economy, resources, partnerships, and foreign policy.
Russia is rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas and their economy relies heavily on the exporting of these resources. The agriculture of Russia also is one of the better countries out of the many under the Soviet Union, which still causes a dependency on Russian resources even in freedom from the Soviet Union. The massive empire formed in 1917 and went through many reforms and wars, from the World Wars to the Cold War, with the intention of democracy being its foundation failed to be just that. It was mainly a single party state of communism, which in any single party state, the tension of citizens builds and demands change, in response to this, the government, at times oppressed and put fear into opposition. The west and the east struggled with power and philosophies as well as their own domestic politics. Within the Soviet Union there were many domestic issues and many ethnic groups under one state, this caused disunion and division. In 1991, fifteen states gained independence from the Soviet Union. Although they are independent, they are still interwoven in a complex history and governments, making for many young states striving for development and in some ways distancing themselves from Russia in order to gain even more independence and stability.
The current issue of Crimea and Ukraine is complex and has a long history, the people of Ukraine, are divided not only in opinion but of culture as well. The west is primarily pro Europe and has a unique Ukrainian culture embrace, whereas the East tends to associate more with Russia and even speak Russian and desire to be unified with Russia as it once was. The violence on both sides is horrific, each peace agreement seems to be ignored and fighting seems to continue as if no communication or terms of agreements have been met. Will this be a new stage for Russia? Will it return to the Soviet Union and the one party democracy? The Soviet Union fell and Russia became a new hope of something new and better for not just the people that gained independence from the Soviet Union but the people of Russia as well. The coming decisions and policies from Vladimir Putin will be key in defining what Russia will become in the next years and relations with world powers.