Stalin overestimated the efficacy of the Finnish Communist Party and underestimated the canniness of Finnish politicians. Starting in leverage high grade military equipment from the Germans which allowed the Finnish forces to stage a fighting retreat from Karelia in 1944. Thus in mid-1944, the Finns and the Soviets were fighting in the same ground as the Winter War. Both the Kremlin and the Red Army’s leadership were much more interested in maintaining the drive into Eastern Europe than refighting what had been a dark chapter in Soviet military history.
Urho Kekkonen, a Finnish parliamentarian and later Prime Minister, said in a 1944 radio broadcast “the Soviet Union must stand to gain a bigger advantage from an independent Finland clinging to life than from a broken Finland doomed to a dependent existence.” The cornerstone of Soviet-Finnish relations was the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed with the USSR in April 1948. The Treaty guaranteed that Finland would aid the Soviets against “Germany or its allies” and fostered a series of networks and political connections between the Soviets and the Finns. The Soviets initially expected the Finnish Communist Party (SKP) to make electoral gains, but the existing Finnish political establishment adroitly managed to sideline them. The Treaty and the Finnish compliance with it did not give the SKP any major issues with which to attack the existing governments. Successive Soviet governments wanted the Treaty to be expanded and pull the Finns closer into the orbit of the Soviet sphere, but the Finns were able to strategically drag their feet. For example, the language “Germany or its allies” meant that Finns were able to justify not wanting to take defense steps against NATO Norway and Denmark. At the same time, the Finns also mastered the art of not appearing to be undermining the larger issue of Soviet security; they would give way over key debates like radar stations its early warning network.
The success of the Finns looks quite intelligent and unexpected from the vantage point of 2014, it’s important to keep in mind that during the Cold War the West was quite apprehensive the Finnish policies of accommodation. “Finlandization” became a pejorative term within Western Cold War discourse and a shorthand for making concessions to gain at best temporary freedoms from the USSR.
Jakobson, Max. Finnish Neutrality; A Study of Finnish Foreign Policy Since the Second World War. New York: Praeger, 1969.
Jussila, Osmo, Seppo Hentilä, and Jukka Nevakivi. From Grand Duchy to a Modern State: a Political History of Finland since 1809. London: Hurst & Company, 1999.
Luostarinen, Heikki. “Finnish Russophobia: The story of an enemy image.” Journal of Peace Research 26, no. 2 (1989): 123-137.
Rentola, Kimmo. “From half-adversary to half-ally: Finland in Soviet policy, 1953-58.” Cold War History 1, no. 1 (2000): 75-102.
Fanny Duberly who travelled along with British troops throughout the Crimean War, is seen here with her husband Captain Henry Duberly in Crimea; 1855
Frances Isabella (“Fanny”) Duberly (27 September 1829 – January 1903) was an English soldier’s wife who published a journal of her experiences on campaign in the Crimean War and the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Her husband, Captain Henry Duberly, was paymaster to the 8th Royal Irish Hussars, part of the British light cavalry that took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. Duberley’s journal of her time in the Crimea was published as Journal Kept During the Russian War. It not only includes eye-witness accounts, but is also a record of gossip and rumours circulating in the British Army.
Duberly’s adventures did not always sit well with society. She was pointedly snubbed at the Royal review of her husband’s regiment after the war. The journal she published after the war had originally been intended to have a dedication to Queen Victoria, but this was refused, much to her dismay. Nonetheless she was popular with the troops (who nicknamed her “Mrs. Jubilee”) and many people in England. Her published journal met with some success and prints of a photo of her taken by Roger Fenton sold quite well. (Wikipedia)
An interesting article about her in The Telegraph: She wanted to cause a stir… and she did.
“Viktor Bulla’s photograph of hundreds of children wearing gas masks was not meant to be ghoulish, a commentary on war or lost innocence, but rather exemplified a reason for pride—the country was blessed with well-trained, well-equipped and obviously courageous young fighters.”
(From “Propaganda and Dreams: Photographing the 1930s in the USSR and the US” by Leah Bendavid-Val)
While the USSR itself ceased to exist, many communist politicians either remained in power or continued to play an active role in their country’s politics. The revolutions were made possible not because of external forces (the US didn’t defeat communism, as it is often claimed) but because the communist party began to lose faith in itself.
Anti-communist and anti-party movements were not entirely uncommon in the USSR, but engaging in public demonstrations carried with it severe risks. In 1956, Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary to crush the opposition movement when it became clear that Imre Nagy, a communist himself, could no longer be trusted to rule the communist party. When he declared Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union mercilessly crushed the Hungarian dissidents. Mass bloodshed was avoided at Nagy’s insistence that the Hungarian people not fight their invaders, knowing perfectly well that there was little chance of victory. Similar events were to be repeated in Prague in 1968 when Alexander Dubček sought to relax party control over public life through democratic reforms including freedom of press. While more successful than the Hungarian revolution, the Prague Spring, ultimately met the same fate as the Warsaw Pact invaded in August. Similarly, bloodshed was spared only through the insistence by Dubček that Czechoslovaks not resist their invaders.
Although the revolutions in each country of Eastern Europe took on a different quality, there was one characteristic that defined them all: they were all non-violent. Beginning with the Polish workers’ union Solidarity and later emulated by Civic Forum (Czech) and Public Against Violence (Slovak) all communist opposition from then on took a strictly non-violent approach believing that, and with good reason, any violence committed by the opposition movements would only play into the communists’ party’s hands. On the other hand, any violent response to the democratic movements now sweeping Eastern Europe would only serve to discredit the communist parties further. Had the Soviets wanted to crush these democratic movements, there is little doubt as to whether they would be successful or not. The violent repression of the Prague Spring was still vivid in the minds of many.
There are two significant differences in the political climate within which the democratic movements of the 1980s were taking place and between those that took place before them and both had to do with the communist parties themselves. Faced with unprecedented protests and a call for democracy, communist officials simply did not understand how to address the protestors. That the revolutions were successful at all, ironically, can be attributed to a series of political and strategic blunders made by communist party officials. In Poland, for example, to address a series of devastating labour strikes, the Polish communist party, for the first time in the history of the USSR, formally recognized Solidarity (the Polish workers’ union mentioned earlier). In the span of just one year, Solidarity membership had reached 9.5 million members. Witnessing its popularity and fearing for its hold on power, the polish communist party attempted to outlaw Solidarity in the 1980s through the declaration of martial law. This would be characteristic of all revolutions in Eastern Europe: the communist party would relax their control over public life only to try and regain that same control later on through greater oppression which only served to discredit further still the communist regimes.
By the late 1980s it was clear in Poland and elsewhere that the communist party had no real sense of how to address their countries’ increasingly unsustainable economic situation or the growing public unrest. In 1989, the communist party having lost all credibility agreed to sit down with Solidarity to discuss the problems now facing Poland.
Among the agreements reached at the negotiations between the communist party and Solidarity was the creation of a new elected assembly. Elections were held just two months after the round-table talks between Solidarity and the party. Although the elections to the Parliamentary Assembly were rigged to retain a communist majority, the Senate elections were to untouched. Surprisingly, though in retrospect not unexpected, Solidarity won 99 of the 100 seats in the senate and all the seats it was allowed to the Parliamentary Assembly. The communist party itself was left in an impossible situation with the only options being to accept the vote and lose power, or to ignore the vote and resign. They chose the latter, at Gorbachev’s insistence, and communist rule in Poland officially ended.
That Gorbachev himself made clear that the Polish communist party had to accept the vote is significant. It was clear that Gorbachev had no intention of upholding the USSR’s official doctrine of quelling opposition through military intervention. Indeed, stating that the growing democratic movements in Eastern Europe were “a matter for the people themselves” signified to the protestors that Russia would not intervene. This minor and seemingly innocuous remark gave the democratic movements the confidence they needed to effectively bring communist rule to an end.
Judt, T. (2005). Postwar: A history of europe since 1945. London, England: Penguin Group.
Goldgeiger, J., & McFaul, M. (2003). Power and purpose: U.S. policy toward Russia after the cold war. Washington, D.C. : The Brookings Institution.
Bashkir switchman on the Trans-Siberian Railway near the town of Ust-Katav, Russian Empire; ca. 1910
Taken by color photography pioneer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. He had an interest in documenting early 20th Century Russia through photography, but also enjoyed photographing others as well.
(For more of his fantastic work, take a look at the Wikimedia Commons page about him.)
The Hungarian Second Army (Második Magyar Hadsereg) was one of three field armies (hadsereg) raised by the Kingdom of Hungary (Magyar Királyság) which saw action during World War II. All three armies were formed on March 1, 1940. The Second Army was the best-equipped Hungarian formation at the beginning of the war, but was virtually eliminated as an effective fighting unit by overwhelming Soviet force during the Battle of Stalingrad, suffering 84% casualties. Towards the end of the war, a reformed Second Army fought more successfully at the Battle of Debrecen, but, during the ensuing Siege of Budapest, it was destroyed completely and absorbed into the Hungarian Third Army.
Apparently the purpose was to conceal the road from a Russian watchtower which was located at the border.
The Airship Graf Zeppelin lands smoothly on the ice- strewn waters of a bay at the Frans Josef polar islands to deliver post to the Soviet icebreaker Malygin; ca. July 1931
Some more information on the Graf Zeppelin’s Arctic Flight.
Usually these pictures were propaganda and featured criminals, not political prisoners. Read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for a good description of “shock battalions” in the gulags. Note the plump faces and clothes on these prisoners.
Yuri Gagarin was chosen because he had a more Russian sounding name versus his competitor, Titov. Also, Titov was considered smarter so they wanted to have the smarter man live in case something went wrong. There are other factors that played into it as well, such as Gagarin’s ability to show off his “Sovietness,” and his natural PR skills. His physical appearance was far behind on the list of reasons he was chosen.
A photographer waited for the ISS to sync up with Gagarin flight at the right place and time of day and recorded the earth then synced it up with the actual audio (NASA has combined Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s audio from his historic flight with 1080p HD video from the ISS to simulate what Yuri experienced):
The Soviet space program accomplished great things:
- 1957: First satellite, Sputnik 1
- 1957: First animal in Earth orbit, the dog Laika on Sputnik 2
- 1959: First rocket ignition in Earth orbit, first man-made object to escape Earth’s gravity, Luna 1
- 1959: First data communications, or telemetry, to and from outer space, Luna 1.
- 1959: First man-made object to pass near the Moon, first man-made object in Heliocentric orbit, Luna 1
- 1959: First probe to impact the Moon, Luna 2
- 1959: First images of the moon’s far side, Luna 3
- 1960: First animals to safely return from Earth orbit, the dogs Belka and Strelka on Sputnik 5.
- 1961: First probe launched to Venus, Venera 1
- 1961: First person in space (International definition) and in Earth orbit, Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1, Vostok program
- 1961: First person to spend over 24 hours in space Gherman Titov, Vostok 2 (also first person to sleep in space).
- 1962: First dual manned spaceflight, Vostok 3 and Vostok 4
- 1962: First probe launched to Mars, Mars 1
- 1963: First woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, Vostok 6
- 1964: First multi-person crew (3), Voskhod 1
- 1965: First extra-vehicular activity (EVA), by Aleksei Leonov, Voskhod 2
- 1965: First probe to hit another planet of the Solar system (Venus), Venera 3
- 1966: First probe to make a soft landing on and transmit from the surface of the moon, Luna 9
- 1966: First probe in lunar orbit, Luna 10
- 1967: First unmanned rendezvous and docking, Cosmos 186/Cosmos 188.
- 1968: First living beings to reach the Moon (circumlunar flights) and return unharmed to Earth, Russian tortoises on Zond 5
- 1969: First docking between two manned craft in Earth orbit and exchange of crews, Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5
- 1970: First soil samples automatically extracted and returned to Earth from another celestial body, Luna 16
- 1970: First robotic space rover, Lunokhod 1 on the Moon.
- 1970: First data received from the surface of another planet of the Solar system (Venus), Venera 7
- 1971: First space station, Salyut 1
- 1971: First probe to impact the surface of Mars, Mars 2
- 1971: First probe to land on Mars, Mars 3
- 1975: First probe to orbit Venus, to make soft landing on Venus, first photos from surface of Venus, Venera 9
- 1980: First Hispanic and Black person in space, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez on Soyuz 38
- 1984: First woman to walk in space, Svetlana Savitskaya (Salyut 7 space station)
- 1986: First crew to visit two separate space stations (Mir and Salyut 7)
- 1986: First probes to deploy robotic balloons into Venus atmosphere and to return pictures of a comet during close flyby Vega 1, Vega 2
- 1986: First permanently manned space station, Mir, 1986–2001, with permanent presence on board (1989–1999)
- 1987: First crew to spend over one year in space, Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov on board of Soyuz TM-4 – Mir
The Soviet space program did face major problems in the 1960s. Their chief designer Sergei Korolev died in 1966 if I remember correctly and there was no similar genius to replace him. The Soviet N1 rocket which was supposed to be the equivalent to the Saturn V (the US moon rocket) never worked correctly and was a disaster. Because of the failure of the N1 the Soviets did not develop a rocket capable enough to deliver payloads beyond low orbit fast enough to catch up with the Apollo program. So, after 1969, the Soviets went a different way with their permanent space stations and were quite successful with it, more than the US.
The Soviets continued to send probes that landed on the surface of Mars and Venus. (You should look up the Vega program. They actually floated balloons in the atmosphere of Venus.) The USSR was the only country to operate semi-permanent space stations in near Earth orbit for decades, until the ISS was launched. Even today, they only way to send a person to the ISS is by using a Soviet/Russian designed Soyuz craft.
I highly recommend Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin for more information. There’s also been a wealth of declassified documents released from the former soviet archives in Russia regarding its space program.
Here’s a couple of pages from the book; (the one with Korolev is my favorite.):
And here are some more good sources and links. I find that a lot of Soviet stuff on some select English based media sites have a bad spin on it in their use of word-choices etc so I avoided the sensational sites and went for the more non-biased English ones or space expo ones.
This is a great documentary about lives of Soviet cosmonauts during that era:
A similar instance in USA history would be the Apollo 1.
Like Komarov, the astronauts of Apollo 1 also knew about how bad, unsafe, and grim their chances were. One of the photos down the page show them half-jokingly praying to a model of the Apollo 1. However, unlike Komarov, the Apollo 1 never made it past the atmosphere . It blew up due to cabin fire during a rehersal.
These were brave men. No matter ideology, nation, or time. They were men who dreamed about humanity amongst the stars. They went where no man set foot – some only in dream – and sprung humanity to the edges of our world. They were representatives, human representatives, of our pale blue dot.
May these brave representatives of our planet, rest in peace.
(While some Soviet space posters are outright political propaganda (socialism is our launchpad, sons of the revolution, etc.), most of them seem to be projecting a pride in the very real achievements of their space program and in/for the workers who built it, and to raise excitement about the space program. Most of the posters also don’t explicitly strike a contrast between the USSR and its rivals.)
*The United States also used propaganda to justify going to the moon… JFK basically told the american public that those dirty communists would use space to launch weapons at the US, so the US had to get there first.
“Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. ” – JFK
Propaganda posters of Soviet space program 1958-1963:
V. Viktorov, Moscow, 1957.