The first testing of a Hydrogen Bomb was conducted in 1952 by the United States of America in Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific, during Operation Ivy. Not to be outdone the Soviet Union then tested their own version of the Hydrogen bomb on August 12, 1953. This back and forth of weapon and scientific advancements is one that is seen repeatedly throughout the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. We all recall leaning about the Space Race in school between these two countries and that is one perfect example of this. After World War II the Soviet Union was in position to be one of the few nations that could rise out of the ashes of World War II and be a super power. The only thing standing in its way was the United States. These two powerful countries embarked on a never ending contest of one-uping each other.
As mentioned previously the space race is a prime example of this. Another example is in weapons technology and proficiency. The country with the best weapons would be the clearly more powerful nation of the two. This lead to rapid testing and development of new and different weapons. In the early 50s the hydrogen bomb was introduced to the world. The Soviets creation and detonation of this weapon followed with the theme of “needing to be the best” or “proving that they are a powerful nation.” These where some of the challenges that the Soviets faced following World War II. Proving that they one weaponry and technology that was equal to, if not better, than the United States was one way, and a rather successful one, to achieve this goal.
Video of first bomb test: Atomic Archive. “First Soviet Hydrogen Bomb Test (1953).” YouTube. June 25, 2011. Accessed March 31, 2018. https://youtu.be/r0dUIq8gHgc.
The Katyn Forest Massacre was one of many great atrocities carried out during World War II. Shortly after Poland had be divided between the Soviets and the Nazi’s, in 1939, the mass executions of over 4,000 Polish officers was carried out in 1940. This massacre was carried out in the Katyn Forest, hence the name, near Smolensk, just across the boarder in neighboring Russia. These mass graves were discovered by the Nazi’s in 1943 after the invasion of the USSR which had began in June of 1941. The Soviet vehemently denied any such occurrence of this massacre until under president Gorbachev admitted of the massacres ordered under Stalin and carried out by the NKVD. Official documents released to the Polish government from Russia in 1992 have given us the number of 4,443 officers that were murdered in the Katyn Forest Massacre.
While this was an absolutely disgusting act it helped solidify the Western portion of Poland to be under Soviet control. Under the Soviet leadership another 16,000 total were also executed in various other sites. By doing this it crippled an polish military remnants and rendering military resistance against the Soviets to virtually none. By doing this the protective barrier against the Nazi’s was established, although it wouldn’t last for long.
For further pictures from the Nazi’s when the sites were discovered check here.
For the trailer to the movie Katyn, a Polish movie based off the massacre, check here.
One common theme that can be seen throughout Russian and Soviet history is the over arching feeling that they have something to prove to the western world. Whether that be that they are just as modern and advanced if not more so, or that they are also a power to be reckoned with in the global stage. In the late 1920s and early 1930s this was not an exception. For the Soviets this could be accomplished in many different ways. Two examples are the ‘new Soviet man’ campaign that was run and the increased emphasis on exploration.
The new soviet campaign was run by the Soviets in an attempt for social revolution, to change how the soviets appeared as a collective. This was done through attempts to deal with the countries chronic alcohol problems, improvements in the criminal justice system, and steps to improve the nations public health and sanitation (Freeze 330-31). Doing things such as improving criminal justice systems and public health would help make the Soviet state look more modern and less backwards, a feeing they have fought repeatedly throughout their country’s history.
Another way to prove yourself as a modern and powerful country to places people have rarely gone before. A perfect example of this is going to the polar regions. Polar exploration was a focus of western press and the Soviets jumping on it made perfect sense. In 1928 the Soviets were involved in the rescue of a dirigible expedition led by an Italian Umberto Nobile. The aircraft crashed, killing 17 and leaving 7 stranded. Another example is the icebreaker Cheliuskin’s expedition in 1934. The expedition led to great strides in understanding life in the freezing Arctic. This voyage also ended in rescue when ice managed to crush the hull of the ship and leave her and its crew stranded. This lead to another rescue mission. These missions and others show the Soviets strides towards become like other nations and eliminating the connotation of them being an inferior or backwards country.
The Brest Litvosk Treaty was signed in the modern day city of Brest, which is located just across the Polish border with Belarus. At the time of signing though the city, then named the Brest Litvosk, was located deeply behind the German lines during World War I. While the official armistice (signing pictured above, photographed by Bundesarchiv, Bild) between the two countries at war was called for on Dec. 2, 1917, the treaty itself was not formally issued until March 3rd of the following year. This is the treaty which took Russia out of the first World War and was a major stepping stone for the eventual revolution to come.
The treaty itself laid quite a steep price for the Russian withdraw of from the war. Some of the provisions include a large loss of Russian territory, the demobilization of the Russian army, return of all Russian warships to their ports, release of all POWs, and the recognition of Persia and Afghanistan as free and independent states just to name a few of the requirements in the treaty. These are of course only some of the provisions, the entirety of the treaty can be read here.
The Brest Litvosk Treaty played a large importance in the Russian revolutions in 1917. For Russia to be able to even have a revolution in the first place they needed to be pulled out of the the war to focus on that. That is what this treaty accomplished. After withdrawing from the war the revolution was able to finally, and fully, take shape. After this withdrawal lines were further drawn between the Soviets, who’s previous platform was to pull Russia out of the war, and the provisional government with remnants of the tsarists’ and other members ranking in the nobility. The showdown was set, and the outcome would have a unknowingly massive effect on the future.
This is one of the many photos taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii for Tsar Nicholas the II. This one, in particular, was taken in the Ural Mountains, near the settlement of Kamensk-Uralskii, in 1909. This time, 1909, was at the beginning of the bulk of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photography for the Tsar, which had commissioned him to travel and photograph the country at the time.
This picture is titled as “Fisherman on the Iset’ River”. It depicts an older man fishing into the Iset’ River which runs nearby the settlement of Kamensk-Uralskii. The rivers name Iset’, meaning “much fish” in local Vogul language, derives from lake Iset’ which is the rivers origin. Lake Iset’ is located Northwest of Ekaterinburg and the river flows 600 km from there until it joins the Tobol River which flows across the border into Kazakstan.
The fisherman has two lines in the water and is wearing a worn in hat, no shoes, and has a large white beard. Prokudin-Gorskii himself was an avid sportsman so besides the tranquility and serenity that this image possess, that likely played into the choice Prokudin-Gorskii made to photograph this scene. In the background and across the river a birch tree can be seen. Fighting its way out of the eroded sedimentary rocks carved and shaped by the river’s path many years ago. One could point to the struggle of this tree, growing out of the harsh conditions which exist around it but seemingly thriving, as a reflection of the Russian people and the Russian empire themselves. Struggle to grow and survive in the harsh conditions that surround them. Physically with the climate but also economically and politically under the rule of the autocracy. Yet they are still managing to continue forward and live. Growing out of the past and into the future as Russia continued its transition into fighting for the status of a power in Europe, and to be no longer seen as “inferior” by the West.
This image is just but one of the many taken by Prokudin-Gorskii, and but only one of many taken in the Ural mountains region where he made several trips over the years of 1909 to 1912. Each photograph tells a different and unique story about Russian life and gives a snapshot of what it was like to live in that period of time.