Travel Guides: Russia
Russia is the largest country in the world, measuring 10,000 kilometers from west to east, on the two continents that host it: Europe and Asia.
Russia has more borders than any other country in the world: in south it has borders with North Korea, then with China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea. Then, in the southwest, it has borders with Ukraine and to the west with Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, the Gulf of Finland, Finland and Norway. To the north, Russia is bordered by the Seas Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi, and all are an extent of the Arctic Ocean. In the east, it borders the Pacific Ocean: the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan and the Bering Sea. Russia is a country of contrasts – a vast territory, rich with many natural resources (especially oil and gas), in which many are extremely wealthy and many die of hunger.
Although the economy began to recover after 1998, the country is still dominated by a corrupt and uncertain landscape, colored with luxurious casinos, political propaganda, gangsters and organized crime groups. Tourism is not directly affected by the chaos and corruption of the country but it’s better to be cautious during a trip to Russia. Russia is a beautiful country with an imperial appearance in Moscow and St. Petersburg and spectacular scenery in Siberia. Russia or the Russian Federation is the country with the largest area in the world, almost twice larger than Canada, which is the second country in the world as surface. Russia extends on the European and Asian continents being close to U.S., Canada, Armenia, Turkey and Japan. Many of the monuments and sights of Russia have been submitted over time on the UNESCO heritage list.
The historic old town of St. Petersburg, the Kremlin, Red Square in Moscow, the historic complex, cultural and natural on the Solovetki islands in the White Sea, Lake Baikal, Altai Mountains of gold and historical and architectural ensemble of the Kazan Kremlin are just a few of them. Russia is indeed a land of superlatives: the largest country of the world, the largest reserves of natural gas and two oil-producing countries of the world, the longest railroads, the busiest subway system and one of the oldest, large and deep lakes, Baikal. Russia and the seaside resorts and snow-covered domes of the Kremlin and its cathedral reflect the power and mysticism of this Northern nation. Generosity, good humor and hospitality of the inhabitants compensate the cold climate. Those who survived the despots, from Ivan the Terrible to Stalin, were careful to keep away from missing at home and lining their pantry with jams, pickles and desserts.
The rough years have taught the people well and today’s students know more about Russian language and financial markets than many of their western colleagues. For many, Russia is represented by two main cities – Moscow and St. Petersburg. These destinations are the soul of the former imperial Russia. In Moscow you can visit the old churches and traditional fortress of Kremlin and St. Petersburg in the main waiting attractions of the country. But many others are also seen in Russia, a country that spans 11 time zones and two continents. On this land are lakes, rivers and forests teeming with life, the highest peak in Europe and fear-inspiring volcanoes. The country’s climate varies from humid continental in most of European Russia, sub-arctic and arctic in Siberia in the far north.
Leaving aside the communist conformism, today Russia is a diverse nation full of vitality. Old traditions with new strengths emerge. Ancient monuments and cathedrals, neglected during communism, are rebuilt and restored markets are full of activity, and arts and literature regain their creative power. International visitors are increasingly attracted to this great country with hospitable people, a magnificent cultural, ethnic and natural diversity, endless land, beautiful forests, mountains, cities and bright leisurely pace of life in villages and withdrawn towns. Main attractions: The main point of attraction of Moscow is Red Square and Kremlin, surrounded by a red brick fortress with 20 towers. On its territory was also the Uspensky Cathedral, which contains three of the oldest Russian icons. Visit St. Basil’s Cathedral built in 1555-1560, which is located at the entrance to the Red Square. Rooftops colored onion-shaped are the main symbols of Russia. It is said that after they went to finish the masterpiece, the church architects have been blinded by Ivan the Terrible, to ensure the uniqueness of the church.
Lenin’s mausoleum is open to the public most of the days. Search the input queue in Red Square. Visit the ancient cities, with great architectural and spiritual importance, known as the Golden Circle and which lies north-east of Moscow. The city has a wealth of citadels, monasteries, cathedrals and fortresses. Visit the most beautiful city of Russia, St. Petersburg. It lies on 42 islands in the Neva River delta and has a more Western character than Moscow. Peter the Great built the city in 1703 and remained the capital of Tsarist Russia for 200 years. Admire the neo-classical ensemble of Palace Square and Winter Palace, the main attractions of St. Petersburg. In the palace is also the world famous Hermitage Museum. Its collections include everything from ancient Egypt to Picasso.
Let yourself be impressed by the Yusupov Palace, built for the Romanov family. Its rooms are decorated in a sumptuous style of the nineteenth century. The concert hall is now a venue for events and exhibitions. There is an exhibition of wax statues in memory of Rasputin, who was killed in the palace. The Grand Boulevard Neva (Nevsky Prospekt) dominated by spiral building is a city of St Petersburg’s main thoroughfares, lined by opulent buildings – Kazar cathedral, the Church of Shed Blood. Visit the excellent collection of czarist palaces on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. Peterhof is the former summer residence of Peter the Great and is famous for its beautiful waterfalls and fountains. The Catherine the Great Palace at Tsarskoye Selo was built for Peter the Great’s wife.
Admire the wonderful wildlife of Russia. Kursche Spit is a beautiful sandy peninsula that extends over 100 km along the coast; it is habitat to many plants and animals. Near Vladivostok, Ussuriysk taiga is a unique habitat for plants from pre-glacial period, and for animals such as tigers, leopards, buffalo and bears. Take a trip to the glorious history in the city of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, located at the confluence of the Volga and Don rivers. Museum Victoria celebrates the victory against the Nazis; the whole city is a monument to the battle that lasted a year. There are also tours of the battlefields. Discover the isolated Siberia, an area of over 12.8 million sq km, which includes vast stretches of taiga, a million lakes, 53,000 rivers and a vast natural resource wealth. Visit the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal. Water purity is maintained by millions of crabs, which provides a favorable habitat for a wide variety of fish.
Experience a traditional Russian steam bath. You have at your disposal from family business to luxury places in big cities. Go skiing in the Caucasus and the Far East peninsula of Kamchatka. Ski Cross is popular in Karelia, on two of the largest lakes in Europe. Relax on a beach on the Russian Riviera, Sochi or around the Black Sea. Take trips to the Caucasus, where the highest peak in Europe is located – Mount Elbrus with 5.642 m. The entire region, from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, is the most beautiful in Russia. Moscow is the capital and largest port city in Russia. This is the most important economic, political and cultural center of the country. On its territory are more than 70 major educational institutions including the State University, about 700 scientific institutions, many museums, art galleries, historical monuments, parks, churches and cathedrals.
Kuskovo estate, formerly owned by nobles of Moscow, was built for receptions and festivities organized by them. It owns a residential palace, Grotto, Sera, an Italian palace and a museum that holds impressive collections of ceramics and glass ceramics dating from antiquity. Red Square is one of the most famous markets in the world, fascinating because of the royal atmosphere. Kremlin fortress hosts four cathedrals, three palaces, two museums and the residence of the country’s president. St. Petersburg, known in the past as Petrograd and Leningrad, is located in the north-west Russia and the eastern Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea. The city was once capital of Russian Empire and now is the second largest city in Russia, the fourth largest in Europe and most important port in the country.
St. Petersburg impresses with its spectacular architecture, with long straight avenues, decorated with iron fences, monuments and decorative sculptures that are found everywhere. Called the Venice of the North, it has over 300 bridges, canals and piers of granite. It is recognized as a city of palaces, most notably the Winter Palace, a huge building with dazzlingly luxurious interiors, which currently hosts the Hermitage Museum. Stroganov Palace currently houses the Wax Museum, the Palace Vorontov military school, the Summer Palace being the oldest, being rather a modest house and the Menshikov Palace, where it currently operates in St. Petersburg the State University. Other sights of the city are: St. Isaac Cathedral, the largest domes in the world, Kazan Cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica copy of the Vatican, bloody Savior Church, an impressive monument that marks the spot where Tsar Alexander II was killed.
Nizhny Novogorod, is the economic and cultural center of the Volga-Vyatka region and the administrative center of Nizhny Novogorod region. The most representative picture of city are the Kremlin walls and towers of red brick and the main sights of the city are: the Cathedral of the Archangel, a place of worship built on the old monastery caves, Annunciation Monastery surrounded by walls of a fortress, with a five-domed cathedral, Art Museums, History and Culture. The largest city of Novosibirsk is Siberia. Its historical centers are Tobolsk, Tomsk and Omsk. Novosibirsk holds the record for the lowest temperature of -71.2 degrees Celsius. Volgograd, known as Taritin, is located on the west bank of the river Volga. It owns one of the main railway networks connecting the Moscow with the Donbass region of Ukraine and Siberia to Caucasus.
Repeated defeats of the Russian army in World War I and the bad situation of the main cities of the Russian Empire in 1917 led to the socialist revolution and the end of the Romanov dynasty that ruled Russia for about 300 years. Communists led by Lenin seized power and formed the USSR, under Stalin’s authoritarian leadership, became the second major world power alongside US. Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (1985 – 1991) introduced “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism. Finally, the initiative has led to the splitting of the USSR in 15 independent republics (1991). Since then, Russia has been struggling in an effort to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the Communist system.
Area: Total: 17,075,200 sq km, Land: 16,995,800 sq km, Water: 79,400 sq km. Climate: Humid continental in southern European Russia; sub-arctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar area, ranging from quiet winters along the Black Sea coast in Siberia, very difficult, ranging from very hot summers in the cool steppe along the Arctic Ocean coast. Extreme points: The deepest point: Caspian Sea -28 m, Highest point: Gora Elbrus 5633 m. Population: 144,526,278 (July 2003 estimate). Age structure: Between 0 and 14 years: 16% (male 11,815,360; female 11,335,715), 15-64 years: 70.4% (male 49,399,322; female 52,367,194), over 65 years: 13.6% (male 6,394,411; female 13,214,276) (2003 estimate). Ethnic groups: 81% Russians, Tatars 4%, Ukrainian 3%, Belarus 0.8%, Moldavian 0.7%, other ethnicities (1989). Religion: Orthodox, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants. Languages spoken: Russian. Capital: Moscow. Independence Day: June 12 (the day of free Russians). Coin: Russian ruble (RUR). Means of communication: Phone: 30 million (1998), Mobile: 19 million (2003), TV stations. Internet country code: .ru, Internet users: 18 million (2002 estimate), Airports: 2,743 (2002 estimate).
More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia is seeking further to build a functioning market economy and achieving higher economic growth. After the dissolution of the USSR, the first signs of economic recovery have emerged in Russia in 1997, showing the influences of the market economy. However, that year, the Asian financial crisis culminated in August in Russia, with the ruble devaluation. There followed increasing public debt and lower living standards for most of the population. The following year, 1998, the recession has continued. In 1999, the economy began to recover. This recovery was driven by a weak ruble, which boosted exports and imports. In 1999-2005, GDP growth was about 6.7%, mainly due to higher oil prices, continued weak ruble policy, and industrial production growth. Currently, Russia has a huge trade surplus, due to protectionist barriers to imports and local corruption that prevent small and medium enterprises to import foreign products without Russian mediation of local firms.
The country’s economic development was extremely uneven: the Moscow region contributes one third of gross domestic product, while the region is concentrated in only a tenth of the population. The recent recovery of the country’s economy due to increased oil prices, together with renewed government efforts in 2000 and 2001 for carrying out the structural reforms have increased the confidence of investors and businessmen in Russia’s chances in the second decade of transition. Russia remained deeply dependent on exports of raw materials, particularly oil, natural gas, metals and timber, which provide 80% of total exports, leaving the country vulnerable to world market price changes. In recent years, increased greatly the domestic demand for consumer goods, about 12% annually in 2000-2005, which demonstrates the strengthening of the internal market. Gross domestic product is approaching € 1,200 million in 2004, making Russia’s economy to the new economy in the world and fifth in Europe.
If the annual rate of growth continues as now, Russia’s economy is expected to reach the second position in Europe after Germany’s, in a few years. On 1 April 2006, Russia’s international reserves had reached $ 206 billion and there were forecasts for growth of this stock at $ 230-280 billion by the end of the year and $ 300-400 billion at the end of 2007. The biggest challenge that lies ahead is how the Russian government can be encouraged and developed small and medium enterprises, in a young and free banking system functionality, dominated by Russian oligarchs. Many local banks are owned by the oligarchs, who often use bank funds to finance only their own business. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and World Bank have attempted to start normal banking practices through capital investment and dividends, but success was limited. The problems include the Russian economy and uneven development of regions of the country.
While Moscow is growing explosively as a capital region, living in the metropolitan area approaching that of most developed European countries, most of the country, particularly in rural areas and minority populations in Asia, remained strong behind. Economic development is noticeable in several other cities such as St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Ecaterinburg, as well as adjacent rural areas. Encouraging foreign investment is also a challenge, due to legal barriers, cultural, linguistic and political peculiarities of some of the country areas. Lately there have been significant investments in large European investors, encouraged by low prices for land and labor, as well as higher growth rates than the rest of Europe. High levels of education and civility of the majority of the population, including women and minorities, secular attitude, mobile class structure, very good integration of minorities in the current main cultural places in Russia are much better than most other so-called developing countries and even better than some highly developed countries.
Until now, the country has benefited from rising oil prices and natural gas and was able to pay most of the huge external old debts. Equitable redistribution of income from exports of raw materials to other sectors is still a big problem. However, since 2003 the importance of natural resource exports began to decline in the economic balance, while the internal market has strengthened over stimulated massive constructions and growth of demand for various goods and services. The arrest of wealthy businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of fraud and corruption, organized in connection with the sea during the term privatization President Boris Yeltsin, has led many investors to fear for the stability of the Russian economy. Most of the huge fortunes made in Russia are due to purchase of state industries at very low prices or received favorable concessions from the government.
Other countries have expressed concern about selective application of the law against certain businessmen, although government actions have been positively received by most of the impoverished Russians. In addition, several large international companies are investing in Russia. According to IMF statistics, in Russia have been directly invested nearly 26 billion dollars in 2001-2004, of which U.S. $ 11.7 billion in 2004 alone. Despite its extent, Russia is only the eighth country in terms of number of inhabitants. During the Soviet Union, Russia was the dominant republic of the union. Nowadays, Russia is an independent country and an influential member in the CIS. By 1991, the country was called officially, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and after the collapse of the USSR is seen as the successor of the defunct Soviet Union in international affairs.
Most of the territory, population and industrial production of the Soviet Union – one of the two superpowers of the world, remained in Russia. After the Soviet collapse, Russia’s role on the world stage was greatly diminished compared with that of the USSR. In October 2005, official statistics showed that the population has dropped by more than half a million people, reaching a total of 143 million people. Russian Federation is composed of several federal entities – a total of 88 constituent parts. These are: 21 federal republics, which enjoy a high degree of autonomy within the federation, in most domestic policy matters and generally correspond to Russia’s ethnic minorities; 48 oblasts (regions); 7 Kraina (provinces); 9 okruguri (districts) that are autonomous; an oblast (region) that is independent. In addition, there are two federal cities – Moscow and St. Petersburg. Recently were added seven large federal districts, four in Europe and three in Asia, above divisions and national level.
Russia is composed of 88 subjects. These subjects have equal federal rights in the sense that they have equal representation – two delegates each – in the Russian Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament). However, the subjects enjoy varying degrees of autonomy. Okrugurs (districts) are autonomous, although federal law topics are also part of other federal subjects. Chukotka Autonomous Okrug is the only exception to this rule. The Russian Federation stretches over most of northern Eurasian super-continent. Although the region is a good part of the arctic and sub-arctic areas, there is less population, economic activity and physical variety than in other countries. Large expanses of the south of these regions contain a wide variety of scenery and climate types. The greater part of Russian land in this area has a continental climate and the Arctic.
Russia is the coldest country in the world. The average annual temperature is -5.5 ° C (22 ° F). For comparison, the average annual temperature in Iceland is 1.2 ° C (34 ° F) and the corresponding in Sweden is 4 ° C (39 ° F), though it must be said that the great variety of climates within Russia makes such comparisons less than edifying. Most of the country consists of vast plains, both in the European part and in the Asian, the latter being known by the generic name of Siberia. These plains are predominantly steppe in the south and the northern plains are covered with forests and tundra on the north coast. Permafrost (areas of Siberia and Far East) occupies more than half of Russian territory. Mountain ranges are found along the southern border, as are the Caucasus Mountains (Mount Elbrus, 5.633 m, the highest peak in Russia and Europe), Altai Mountains, Verhoiansk mountains and volcanoes of the Kamchatka Peninsula. In the central Ural Mountains are a mountain range that stretches from north to south and is conventionally divided into two continents, Eurasia, the European and Asian.
Russia has a very extensive coastline of over 37,000 km along the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific, as well as along some closed or semi-enclosed seas, such as the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The most important islands are Russian Novaya Zemlya and the Franz Josef, Novosibirsk Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. In Russia there are several of the largest rivers in length and / or debit the world. Among the most important lakes include Lake Baikal in Russia (the deepest lake, the largest volume of freshwater in the world), Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. The simplest description of the great expanse of Russia is continental, with extensive coastline and a number of adjacent islands and an exclave (at the corner of south-eastern Baltic Sea).
Borders and coastline, from north-east in counter-clockwise, are: borders with Norway and Finland; a short coastline on the Baltic Sea to the port of St. Petersburg from Finland to Estonia; borders with Estonia, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine; Black Sea coast of Ukraine to Georgia; borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan; Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan; borders with Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, China again and North Korea. Black Russian very broad access to all the world’s seas and maritime links with all nations and all straits: the north Pacific: Sea of Japan (to the west coast of Sakhalin), Ohoţk Sea (the Eastern shore of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands and
Bering Sea); Bering Strait (where Russian Ratmanov small island (Little Diomede) are separated by only a few miles of water belonging to Alaska, Big Diomede Island Big of the U.S.).
To the Arctic Ocean, which includes: United Ciukci (with Wrangel Island), Great Eastern Siberia (the Novosibirsk Islands), Laptev Sea, Kara Sea (Novaya Zemlya islands), Barents Sea (the islands of the Franz-Josef, the port of Murmansk, where the White Sea is deep into the continent forward). The enclave of Kaliningrad Region is constituted and has borders with: Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east, and has coastline on Baltic Sea. The Russian coast of Baltic Sea ports and the Black Sea to other seas less access than in the Pacific and Arctic Ocean, but not significant decreases. Baltic Sea ports provide an immediate access to nine other countries between mainland Russia and the exclave of Kaliningrad. The straits between Denmark and Sweden, the Baltic and North Sea are linked to the oceans in the north and west of the latter.
Black Sea ports offer immediate access to five other countries and through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits and the port of Istanbul liaises with the Mediterranean Sea and further through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar to the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Caspian Sea, the largest saltwater lake, is an enclosed, without access to oceans. Russian Federation spans on seven time zones. According to statistics available in 2005, Russia has 13 cities with over 1 million inhabitants: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Omsk, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Rostov on Don, Ufa, Volgograd and Perm. Despite the large number of citizens, Russia has a very low population density, due, above all, the enormous size of the country. Population density is highest in the European region of the country, in the Ural Mountains. The south-east Siberia, the Pacific coast (the so-called Russian Far East) is sparsely populated, the number of residents increased slightly to the south. Russian Federation is home to over 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples.
Russian cuisine was born from the vast and multicultural character of Russia. Foundations were laid by the peasant food of the territories with a harsh climate – a combination of fish, poultry, hunting, mushrooms, berries and honey. A table contains four kinds in Russia – appetizers (zakuski), the first kind (pervoye), dish (vtoroye) and dessert (sladkoe). The appetizers usually include fish, snacks and salads. Usually with the meal is served beer (pivo), or brandy vidka (konyak). National dishes are- dumplings with meat (pelmeni), pancakes (Blini) soup, black bread, meat pie or cabbage (piroshki), cabbage (golubsti), potato salad (Oliver) and various kinds of kebabs (shashlyk) from the Caucasus.
Both in Moscow and in St. Petersburg you will find a wide variety of restaurants, which offer dishes belonging to several nations, including China, Tibet and Italy. You can eat cheap and tasty food without resorting to international restaurant chains. The Russians have their own versions of fast food and even food names are in Russian, but you can indicate what you want after a photo. Unlike the rest of Europe, Russian cafes serve not only drinks, but many dishes. In public situations, the Russians are reserved and formal, but in more intimate frames they are friendly and honest. Russian surnames are formed from their father’s name. For example, the son of Paul is Pavlovich and his daughter is Pavlovna. Smiling is a habit almost nonexistent in Russia, both at ordinary people as well as staff providing public services. From here comes the misconception of people sober and tough.
Russian territory is divided into 11 time zones: Kaliningrad – GMT + 2; Moscow, St. Petersburg, Astrakhan – GMT + 3; Izhevsk and Samara – GMT + 4; Perm, Ekaterinburg, Surgut – GMT + 5; Omsk and Novosibirsk – GMT + 6; Abakan, Norilsk, Tura – GMT + 7; Bratsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude – GMT + 8; Mirnyy, Tyndale, Yakutsk – GMT + 9; Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk – GMT + 10; Magadan, Chirskiy – GMT + 11; Anadyr, Petropavlosk-Kamchatskiy – GMT + 12. Russia’s Slavic ancestors first colonized the area north of the Black Sea. The culture of the people has been influenced by the Byzantine Empire. During the Mongol occupation (1240-1480), the Slavs were forced to pay tribute and taxes to Mongols, but they have not reached the Russian Orthodox Church leaders or princes. This period of occupation broke ties with the rest of Europe and is part of the reason why Russia has not been influenced by the Renaissance, Reformation and Industrial Revolution.
After several decades of struggle for power, in 1613 the nobility elected Michael Romanov as the new tsar. The Romanov dynasty born Tsar Peter I (1672-1725), better known as Peter the Great and considered the biggest Russian Tsar. During Domi Czarina Catherine the Great (1726-1796) Russia has increased substantially, with the conquered land. For centuries, serfdom was a way of life for Russian peasants who owned no land. Whenever an estate was sold, Serbian workers of that land became the property of those who were sold (the new landlord). After Russia defeated Napoleon’s army in 1812, Czar Alexander abolished serfdom in some areas near the Baltic Sea. In 1825, a group of army officers, called revolutionary, organized the first revolt against imperial leadership. Although the revolt failed, it was an example for future uprisings. In 1862, Czar Alexander II liberated Serbia in 1881 but was assassinated by terrorists. Industrialization led to an improvement in the economy, but the 1899 financial crisis, poor harvest and shameful defeat against Japan, led to the revolt of the working class.
In the early twentieth century, many Russians believed that the imperial government was unable to lead the country. In the World War I, the Bolsheviks led by Lenin seized power and ordered the execution of the entire royal family of Tsar Nicholas II. Soviet era lasted from 1917 to 1991. In the years 1920 to 1930, Stalin established a policy of terror and persecution in order to retain power. About 20 million Soviet citizens were killed by acts of violence or starvation. The Second World War had a great importance for the Russian people. About 27 million Russians died, half of whom were civilians or prisoners. After the war the Russian army was rebuilt quickly, competing with the United States, including on nuclear weapons. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian people for the first time had the opportunity to choose their leader democratically.
Soviet Union should have been a transnational state of workers free of nationalism. The concept of Russia as a separate national entity was therefore not increased at the beginning of the existence of the Soviet Union. Although Russian institutions and cities remained dominant, many non-Russians participated in the new leading bodies at all levels. One of these non-Russians was the Georgian Joseph Vissarionovic Stalin. After Lenin’s death (1924) was a brief struggle for power. Stalin was able to remove all pretenders to supreme power in the state and destroy all limits and balances of power established in the Soviet political system by the end of the decade being able to assume dictatorial powers. Leon Trotsky and the Bolsheviks were almost all veterans exiled or executed.
At the beginning of the fourth decade of last century, Stalin launched the Great Purge, a series of political repression on a scale never before seen. Millions of people or local bodies of power they suspected of disloyalty were executed or deported to labor camps of the Gulag of the most remote areas of Siberia. Stalin’s forced industrialization was the initiator of a country that until then had been primarily a rural society and the collectivization of Russian agriculture. In 1928, Stalin introduced the first Five Year Plan designed to modernize the Soviet economy. Most economic resources have been directed towards the development of heavy industry. In addition to modernizing civilian industries, many companies have been established to produce weapons and ammunition. To some extent, the plan worked, the Soviet Union managed to transform itself rapidly from agrarian economy to an industrial superpower, all in an unexpectedly rapid pace, the price of great human losses due to famine caused by collectivization, the planning and risky rush completion of the tasks proposed at any price, as well as poor job security policy.
In 1936, the Soviet Union was in a simmering conflict with Nazi Germany, supporting the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, who fought against the Nationalists (supported by the Germans and Italians). Finally, Germany and the rest of the major European powers (Britain, France and Italy) signed in Munich (29 to 30 September 1938), by which Czechoslovakia was forced to cede the Southern land to Germany. Then, on 15 March 1939, Germany split Czechoslovakia with Poland and Hungary, the Soviet Union, bound by a treaty of mutual military assistance to Prague, failed to fulfill its obligations in any way by that alliance. Furthermore, possibly fearing a German attack against Russia, the Soviet Union began diplomatic maneuvers that make a house a future conflict. In 1939, after Poland refused to participate in any collective security measures with the Soviets, the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany.
The provisions of this secret pact, Poland was to be removed from the political map of the world, Russia will also occupy the Baltic countries and Bessarabia. On 17 September 1939, when the Wehrmacht was about 150 km from the western borders of the Soviet Red Army invaded eastern Poland, populated in part by ethnic Belarusian and Ukrainians. The following year the Soviet Union invaded Finland, (formerly a part of the Russian Empire period) in an attempt to remove an alleged threat to civilians. USSR tried to prevent a possible attack by the Finland on Germany, although both countries were on good terms at that time. The conflict, which today is known as the Winter War, had disappointing results; the Finns managed to successfully defend on the battlefield, but lost at the negotiating table at Karelia. Moreover, this conflict has revealed weaknesses in the military world (particularly the officer corps), scattered by the Stalinist purges.
On 17 June 1940, Red Army occupied the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the Government here has installed was new pro-Soviet. After elections were held in three countries, which have been permitted during the election campaign and candidates participating in the pro-communist, the new elected parliament has formally requested in August 1940, their countries to be admitted to the Soviet Union. On 26 June 1940, the Soviet Union presented an ultimatum to the Romanian government which claimed the cession of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina region that has taken four days later, after hastily withdrawing the Romanian army and administration. Germany and its European allies of the Axis (Italy, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Finland and Slovakia) have invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Although the Wehrmacht had a series of triumphs at the beginning of the Soviet war, the German armies were dismissed from Moscow, because, then, to be halted the German offensive in Stalingrad in 1943, where the Red Army won a sweeping victory. The battle of Stalingrad proved to be the turning point of war in USSR.
Since then, the Soviets have lost the initiative in the war, pushing the Germans back through the entire Eastern and Central Europe to Berlin, which won the Red Army in May 1945. During the war, the Soviet Union lost around 27 million people, including 18 million civilians, most of them being ethnic Russians. Although devastated by war, the Soviet Union managed to become a global conflict after the second global superpower. Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany and part of Berlin. Stalin installed communist governments loyal in all pro-Soviet satellite states. In the period immediately following the end of the war, the Soviet Union, first, the economy has recovered and then continued economic development through a process controlled exclusively by the center in Moscow. The Soviets demanded and received reparations important in Eastern Germany and from other countries, like Hungary, Finland, Italy or Romania.
Soviet Union consolidated its control over the so-called Eastern Bloc. United States, in turn, helped to restore democratic regimes in Western Europe (including Western Germany), and participated in the economic recovery of the area. The two superpowers began a struggle for dominance in the economic, political and ideological of the third world, in a conflict that became known as the Cold War, which has turned former enemies into allies in the War II. Stalin died in early 1953 and no one would seem to leave instructions regarding the person who ought to succeed the head of state and party. Relatives of former dictator decided to lead the union through collective political bodies, while the secret police Chief Lavrenty Beria tried to obtain a dictatorial control. General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, and several other leading politicians organized an anti-Beria alliance, managing head of the secret police arrest, his trial and execution in June 1953, later in the same year.
In this way, Khrushchev became the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union. At the time of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. Khrushchev’s reforms in agriculture and administration have proved unproductive, and foreign policy, particularly in China and the United States of America, proved to be a series of wrong choices (most notably the Sino-Soviet split and the Cuban missile crisis). After several trips made with anger and non-diplomatic, the United Nations and party colleagues have begun to regard as increasingly aggressive Khrushchev as an individual, redneck and dangerous for the USSR. The Soviet leadership removed Khrushchev from power in 1964.11