Miners Strike Again

1991.  BOP, South Africa.  Miners meet during a wildcate strike.

Picture Source: http://stansburyforum.com/making-sense-of-marikana/

The Miners’ Strike in 1989, which demanded an end to the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, was followed by another strike in 1991, which differed in a number of ways. “Whereas in 1989 the miners were wary of provoking repression, in 1991 they boldly called for Gorbachev’s resignation, the dismantling of the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Soviet, and the transfer of mines and their assets to respective republican governments.” The strike began after a failure from the Soviet government to increase wages. Even after Gorbachev announced that he would double the miners’ wages, they still remained unsatisfied and dismissed this change as inadequate and irrelevant.

According to an article in the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, “On Feb. 28, the Ukraine Council of Ministers instructed banks to use a coefficient of 1.42 in paying money into the miners’ consumption fund, which will make it possible for workers in the coal industry to earn an average of 500 rubles a month. […] Nevertheless, the republic government’s measure failed to avert a strike by miners in the western Donets Basin.”

In an interview with some members of the strike committee, the interviewees explained the differences between the 1991 strike and the 1989 strike. When asked what are the functions of the strike committee, Mikhail Krylov replied, “Previous strikes, which were purely economic in nature, showed us that economics alone can’t solve the problem and that was why we put forward political demands.” Also, in the Manifesto of the Donbass International Movement, the miners wrote out their hopes for freedom, stability, justice, and development.

The strike of 1991 was more organized and larger than the strike of 1989. According to a post in the LA Times, “this was also the first major coal miners’ strike that will last more than one day since a massive coal miners’ strike thrust the country into its first major labor crisis during the summer of 1989. Half of the Soviet Union’s coal production was temporarily shut down when 500,000 miners went on strike in western Siberia and the Donetsk Basin of southern Ukraine. They resumed work only after the government promised to fulfill their demands for better working conditions and pay.” The miners were able to learn from the strike in 1989 and came to terms with the demands that they felt needed to be met.

In late April of 1991, Gorbachev announced an agreement between himself and nine republican presidents. “Covering a broad range of issues, the agreement called for an end to political strikes, specifically the miners’ strike, and ‘the introduction of a special regime of work in the basic branches of industry.'” The April 26 all-Union strike action turned out to be far less impressive than the strike leaders had hoped. Miners eventually drifted back to work.










Dissent in the 1970’s

soviet rally

Photo source: http://www.haaretz.com/st/c/prod/eng/25yrs_russ_img/

The 1970’s marked the emergence of a movement in defense of human rights. The main voice for the movement was the Chronicle of Current Events. This journal consisted of political programmatic materials, and it allowed the editors to share their hardships and the human rights violations they had been subject to. Dissidence also took a variety of other forms, including public protests and demonstrations, open letters to Soviet leaders, and the production and circulation of manuscript copies (samizdat) of banned works of literature, social and political commentary (i.e. Chronicle of Current Events). In an article from the Current Digest of the Russian Press, the author argues that the Soviet Union was diligently working to ratify the covenants that would eliminate the violations of these rights. However, journal articles from the Chronicle of Current Events and other like sources would argue otherwise.

There were other movements going on simultaneously, including the Jewish movement, which was the product of official anti-religious repression and an anti-Israeli foreign policy. It wasn’t until all of these movements had arisen, however, that the government had realized their failure to assimilate minorities due to a lack of qualified teachers in minority elementary schools and the failure of linguistic Russification.

Soviet authorities attempted to repress these currents and activities by propaganda that discredited dissidents and their claims, confiscation of dissident literature, removal of dissidents from their jobs, prosecution and incarceration in mental institutions and prison, banishment to a provincial city or outlying region, or enforced exile with removal of Soviet citizenship.



23.3 Hunger Strikes by Political Prisoners

Freeze text, pg. 446-448




Third World Friendships


Photo source: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/russia-circa-1962-post-stamp-printed-545221597

Th above photo represents “peace among all people,” and important aspect for the Soviet Union in the 1960’s.

In the 1960’s, the Soviet Union began to expand its influence in what was then (and now) referred to as the Third World. The areas of influence included parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, many of which were struggling to achieve, or had just recently achieved, independence from colonial rule. A very important dimension of this Soviet influence, however, was the establishment in 1960 of the University of the Friendship of Peoples just outside of Moscow. This university attracted students from over eighty developing countries, promising free tuition, accommodation, and medical care, plus a modest stipend. Initially, the university received over 28,000 applications.

For many Moscow natives, this was their first encounter with exotic peoples from other parts of the world. However, there were unpleasant incidents derived from Muscovites’ racism and mutual incomprehension. Overall, however, the Soviet Union was dedicated to solidifying its peaceful relations with these countries. In late 1960, Prince Norodom Sihanouk visited Moscow. In his speech to address the Soviet public, the Prince said, “I feel compelled to conclude this long speech by expressing our satisfaction at the fact that the great Soviet Union with conviction defends peaceful coexistence between countries with different regimes and ideologies.” This was an important part in Soviet history an could be considered one of the significant steps forward in the post-Stalin era.







The Khrushchev Economy


The late 1950’s were a time of extraordinary high rates of growth in the industrial and agricultural sectors. The annual GNP increased from 5 percent (1951-1955) to 5.9 percent (1956-1960). Labour productivity rose 62 percent and the industrial sector experienced a total growth of 80 percent.

Agriculture became the new focus of development. Khrushchev proposed to increase investment in the agriculture sector through the ‘Virgin Lands’ programme, which would provide a copious amount of new arable land. From this, the average annual output increased significantly, and Khrushchev eventually cut back on agriculture investments not the assumption that the virgin lands would sustain large harvests.

Khrushchev also took important steps to improve the general well-being of the population. He decriminalized absenteeism and turnover, made reductions in wage differentials, and established a minimum wage. In Khrushchev’s Minimum Wage Decision, he claimed that is was “for the purpose of further improvement of the material well-being of the workers.”

Khrushchev also increased social services, housing, and educational opportunities. He created an improved response to the housing shortage and also ‘democratized’ the educational system by abolishing school and university tuition fees.

Among other achievements during this time was the launch of Sputnik, the first earth-orbiting artificial satellite. It earned the Soviet Union considerable prestige and the Soviet Union work towards a victory in the “space race” against the United States.

Photo source: http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/labor-reforms/labor-reforms-images/

Other sources:

Freeze text, pg. 423-426



Victory for the Soviets


The “Great Patriotic War,” otherwise known as World War II,  was a difficult time for both the USSR and Germany. Both states were limited in resources and struggled to maintain a satisfied audience of citizens as well as successfully maintain their armies due to lack of food and advanced weaponry.

The Battle of Stalingrad turned the tide of the war and initiated the beginning of the Soviet’s move towards Berlin. During this battle, “the main object of the Nazi offensive in the summer of 1942 were the oil fields of Baku, the seizure of which would have deprived the Red Army of its principal fuel supply.”(Siegelbaum) The Soviets, however, came out of the battle victorious after trapping approximately 250,000 of the enemy, most of which would eventually starve or freeze to death. Although the war would last another two years following the Battle of Stalingrad, its outcome was an accurate indicator of the outcome of the Great Patriotic War itself.

According to William Fuller, “to understand how the Soviet Union managed to prevail in its war with Nazi Germany it is no less important to consider the reasons for German failure as the reasons for Soviet success.” (Freeze 383) There are main reasons for which the Soviets prevailed: First, German strategy for the invasion of the Soviet Union was based on erroneous intelligence. German intelligence underestimated the advanced nature of the scale and productivity of the Soviet war economy. The Nazi’s genocidal tendencies detracted them from fully investing all of their resources into the war. Second, the extreme centralization of the Soviet dictatorship eventually proved to be an asset. This authority allowed the state to mobilize people and resources necessary to prosecute total war. Third, the Soviets outproduced the Germans. Despite having less resources, the Soviets manufactured twice the number of weapons. Fourth, one should not disregard Stalin’s positive contributions as a leader during this time. For many Soviets, he became a symbol of national unity. He improved as a strategist. Lastly, without the contributions of the peoples of the Soviet Union, victory would not have been achieved at all. Without the efforts of the peoples who facilitated the increase in manufacturing, plowed the fields to provide more food for the army, and also the people who served in the military themselves, a Soviet victory would have been unlikely.



picture: http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/great-patriotic-war.html

Fuller, William C., JR. Russia: A History. Ed. Gregory L. Freeze. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “The Nazi Tide Stops.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.

Bolsheviks on Top!


picture source: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/23/tabletop-review-reds-the-russian-civil-war-1918-1921/

The Russian Civil War began in the winter of 1917/18.  By the spring of 1918, the Bolsheviks had extended their authority to the Russian heartland but could barely claim to have a firm grasp of power. Within the civil war, there were the “Reds” and the “Whites,” the “Reds” being the Bolsheviks and the “Whites” being those who were fighting against Bolshevik rule. There were many White generals that rose against the Red forces, namely General M. V. Alekseev, who created the Volunteer Army, and A. I. Denikin. After Denikin launched an offensive in the spring of 1919, he realized that the Red Army was growing more powerful by the hour.

The several Bolshevik victories, which, at first, seemed unlikely, were due to several factors. First, geography provided a great strategic advantage. Bolsheviks were better prepared to mobilize human and material resources, for their state administration capitalized on the personnel and organizations of preceding regimes. Second, ideology was very important in the Bolshevik victory. The government had policies, and, more important, provided a public discourse to rationalize these as essential for plebeian victory in a class war.

Bolshevik nationality policy also contributed to their success. The Bolsheviks recognized the volatility of the nationality question and promised national self-determination. The allies that formed against the Bolsheviks simply lacked the clear purpose and persistence necessary to stay the course. In the end the allies, having denied unconditional support to the Whites, gradually withdrew from the conflict.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. N.p.: Oxford UP, n.d. Print.

The October Manifesto


Photo link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Manifesto

Amidst the unrest and rebellion that was taking place in Russia during the early 1900’s, Nicholas II issued a manifesto, which promised an elected legislative body, certain civil and religious freedoms, the right to organize unions and political parties, and other rights that did not once exist for the working class. This manifesto, however, failed to put an immediate end to the revolution. Despite the failed efforts of Nicholas II, a new political party, named “the Union of 17 October,” arose from the continued unrest and rebellion. Its members, called “Octobrists,” vowed to cooperate with the government as long as they upheld the promises that they made in the Manifesto.

There were three groups of minorities that were particularly aggrieved by the events of 1905: The Poles, the Finns, and the Jews. These three groups of minorities played very active roles in 1905. Many Russian political groups, including the liberals and the Marxists, sympathized with these minorities and incorporated defense of their rights on some of their political platforms.

Even after the apparent “defeat” of the revolution after 1905, the government still felt as if they needed to uphold their promises. Therefore, in 1906, the government held elections or the lower house to grant rights of freedom of expression and assembly and the other rights they had previously promised. According to western historians, Russia formally acquired a “constitution” on April 26, 1906.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. N.p.: Oxford UP, n.d. Print.

Zlatoust Station


Photo link: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/5281/

Picture taken in 1909.

The late 19th century and early 20th century marked a transitional period for the Russian Empire. This picture of a developing railroad in the town of Zlatoust represents this transitional period as the Russian empire began the process of emancipating the serf class and move towards a period of reform and revolution. This time period in Soviet history, and, arguably, this picture, is important in understanding the era of change that Russia experienced and how it set the stage for such a revolutionary part in Soviet history. This was a time of political and economic modernization in which Russia transitioned from being a less-developed, agricultural society to an advanced and industrialized society.

It’s also important to understand what was going on in the rest of the world during this time of change. Just three years after this picture was taken, the citizens of China would see their last emperor and the Republic of China (Taiwan) would be created. Several other parts of Russia, not just Zlatoust, were also becoming more modernized and industrialized.  Zlatoust was becoming an industrial city, which is why this picture, I believe, best represents this time in Soviet History. This picture gives us a visualization of the transitional period in 20th century Russia, and also puts into perspective how, not only Russia, but other parts of the world, were changing at the time.