The Chernobyl Plant Surpassed the 5 Year Energy Plan in 5 Milliseconds

The Chernobyl Meltdown is recognized as one of the worst man-made disasters in history. Over half of Europe was affected by the radiation cloud produced from the nuclear power plant. It took Soviet Premier Gorbachev weeks to even release a statement about the explosion and the damage it caused. Details about the disaster were difficult to determine early on as the Soviet government controlled what information was released. As the scope of the damage became clear, the Soviet satellite states became very displeased with the Russian government over their handling of the situation. Chernobyl would become another reason for the soured relations between Russia and the rest of the Eastern Bloc.
On April 26th, 1986 a power surge in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in northern Ukraine, caused a reactor to explode and leak a massive cloud of radiation into the atmosphere. This cloud would spread until it covered a substantial part of Europe. Western nations did not fully become aware of the disaster until, “monitoring devices in Sweden were picking up significant traces of radioactivity.” (Siegelbaum). Thousands of people within close proximity of the plant were immediately evacuated due to the radiation. Pripyat, a city with a population of 50,000, was turned into a ghost town over night and remains uninhabited to this day. The area around Chernobyl is still fenced off and under quarantine due to the lingering radiation. An accident of this scale was unprecedented at the time, and served to sour relations between Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe.
As one can expect, many people in Ukraine and Belarus were not happy with the Kremlin’s handling of the accident. The Chernobyl plant was close to the boarder of Belarus and much of its radiation was blown into the country. Ukraine in particular had a bone to pick with the Kremlin as many saw this as the latest in a series of events where they drew the short straw. There had been a growing resentment in Ukraine towards Russia’s treatment of the country. In particular the major grievances were, “the famine of 1932-1933 and brutal repression of Ukrainian nationalists after the Second World War.” (Siegelbaum). This disaster was just another reason why many within Ukraine wished to break ties with Russia and become its own autonomous state. These damaged relations with its neighbors sent the Soviet government even closer to its downfall.
The Chernobyl disaster caused a greater rift to grow between Russia and its satellite states. Its massive size and scope effected countless people across many countries. Many were dissatisfied with the Kremlin’s response and management of the situation. This resentment would only grow until many Eastern Bloc states pushed for less ties with Russia. Even to this day, the world is still scared from the events in Chernobyl.

Oleinkirk, Boris. Trial By Chernobyl. The Current Digest of the Russian Press,
No. 46, Vol.38, Minneapolis, December 17, 1986, page(s): 15-15

Sieglebaum, Lewis. Khrushchev’s Secret Speech. Seventeen Moments in
Soviet History.

Taylor, Alan. The Chernobyl Disaster: 25 Years Ago. The Atlantic. March 21,

Fight Night: Bear vs. Dragon

Rising tensions between China and the Soviet Union boiled over in the late 1960s. Over the past decade relations between the two communist powers soured and led to a series of border skirmishes in 1969. Although initially the Soviet government and Communist government of China were friendly with one another, they took a turn after the Soviets refused to provide China with support for a nuclear weapons program. This, coupled with territory claims along the border, sparked an environment of antagonism between the two states beginning in the late 1950s. China would go on to insult the Soviet government, attacking their, “peaceful coexistence with the capitalists.” It was not long until outright hostility broke out along the Chinese-Russian border at Damanskii Island.
In early March of 1969, 200 Chinese soldiers attacked a Soviet Border unit on Damanskii Island. Several Soviet border guards were killed, but they were able to drive back the Chinese forces. Given the nature of the attack the Soviets saw this as the Chinese military gauging the strength of the Soviet’s border forces. With this action the Soviet government said that all responsibility for this attack, ” lies with the government of the Chinese People’s Republic.” Over the course of the following months, more border raids would take place until negotiations concluded in October. Despite the relative peace the Soviets would still strengthen their border forces and Pacific fleet. The threat of a possible Chinese invasion would be ever prevalent in the minds of Soviet leadership during this time.
This period of open hostility between the Soviet Union and China is interesting for several reasons. One would think that the two strongest communist governments would seek to be allies rather than enemies, but that was not the case. Many Russians saw the Chinese as, “latter-day descendants of the Mongol hordes,” who were a threat rather than potential ally. Despite this, the main cause for the hostility was the Soviet’s refusal to share nuclear weapons, which the Chinese government was greatly displeased by. They would continue to insult the actions of the Soviet government as they continued with their reforms, and the Soviets would insult the Chinese government in kind. This rift would continue even after the violence subsided. As such, China and the Soviet Union would never become full allies during the Cold War.


Sieglebaum, Lewis. The Chinese Border. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

The Current Digest of the Russian Press,  No. 9,  Vol.21, March  19, 1969, page(s): 17-18

When Communists Collide.

Shhhh… It’s a Secret (Speech)

On February 24th, 1956 Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered a Secret Speech to a closed session of the 20th Congress that set the course for the destalinization of the Soviet Union. No one knew Khrushchev had planned to give this speech, and no part of the session was made open to the public. However, the speech was copied and given to regional secretaries so they could inform their subordinates. Many were shocked by the speech as Khrushchev heavily criticized Stalin for the State’s troubles. By renouncing Stalin in such a way it lead to a movement to reform the Soviet Union and turn it away from Stalin’s vision.
Khrushchev’s focus in the speech was Stalin’s leadership and how he was responsible for many of the governments failures. He discusses the damage caused by the, “unwarranted arrest and execution of high-ranking loyal party members,” during the 1930s (Sieglebaum). Criticizing the Purges and how they left Russia vulnerable to attack from the Germans. The speech continues to talk about how Stalin’s leadership was responsible for the military failures of Russia during the war as well. He claimed that, “Stalin acted not through persuasion, explanation, and patient cooperation with people, but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion,” (Khrushchev). In this quote, Khrushchev attacks Stalin’s cult of personality, and goes on to say that anyone who disagreed with him was subject to execution or imprisonment. Khrushchev’s goal for this speech was to both denounce Stalin to enact reform while absolving the Party of any blame for the past twenty years.
Absolving the Party and its members of any blame made it more accepting, but it still met resistance after it was distributed. It can be heavily argued that the Party was not entirely blameless. Many of them, including Khrushchev, had played active roles in the failings Khrushchev refers to, such as famine and intellectual repression. The speech was also met with harsh resistance in some Eastern European states. In Poland, Stalinist and anti-Stalinist workers became deeply divided and caused massive unrest. Although the Secret Speech was meant to help push the Soviet Union forward, there were still those who wanted to uphold Stalin’s vision for the future.


Sieglebaum, Lewis. Khrushchev’s Secret Speech. Seventeen Moments in

Soviet History.

“Khrushchev’s Secret Speech – Nikita Khrushchev 1956.” Khrushchev’s Secret Speech – Nikita Khrushchev 1956. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

The 900 Day Siege of Leningrad

The siege of Leningrad was one of the longest sieges in World War II. It lasted from September of 1941 to January of 1944 when the Germans were finally pushed back. In this time the city was relentlessly shelled and starved by the invading German Army. Although many people were evacuated in the beginning, more were left in the city to help defend it. Those that stayed behind had to face air raids, artillery bombardments, and starvation for the next 900 days. It would not be until the siege’s second Winter that the Red Army was finally able to lift the siege.
After cutting deep into Soviet territory, the German Army’s North Group, led by General Ritter von Leeb, sought to bypass Leningrad to get to Moscow. In early September in 1941, “400,000 people-mostly children- had been evacuated from the city,” before it was surrounded (Geldern). Once the city was surrounded, the Germans cutoff all railways to deprive the two and a half million people in Leningrad of any supplies. Rather than push into the city and fight building to building, like in Stalingrad, the German army began to bombard Leningrad with artillery and air raids. Once Winter set in, the only way the city could get supplies was by truck over the frozen Lake Ladoga through a route known as the “road of life.” Thankfully, the Winter greatly effected the German army in its siege. In January of 1944, the Red Army was able to make a successful offensive and drive the Germans away from Leningrad.
The people of Leningrad had to face many hardships in order to survive the two and a half year siege. One of the biggest obstacles was starvation. Once the siege began rations were lowered to, “1/3 of the daily amount needed by an adult,” (Siege of Leningrad). It was not long until the Russians were forced to take drastic steps to stave off hunger. During the siege, it is unknown how many acts of cannibalism took place. Once Winter set in, fuel for heat was rapidly used up and staying warm became a struggle. However, with the coming of Winter the Lake froze over which offered a route for the Russians to get supplies, This route was not without danger, trucks would break down or get strafed by German planes. By the time the Siege was lifted, more Russians were killed from starvation and the Winter than from the German bombardment.
This was the longest siege of World War II, lasting almost two and a half years from September of 1941 to January of 1944. By the end of the siege almost one million Russians were killed from either starvation or from the German bombardment. Just like Stalingrad, the determination of the Russian people carried them through these hard times. The Siege of Leningrad would be remembered as one of the most trying times for the Russian resolve.


22 Remarkable and Rare Photos of the Siege of Leningrad

“The Siege of Leningrad, 1941 – 1944” EyeWitness to History, (2006).

von Geldern, James. 900 Days. Seventeen Moments of Soviet History.

The Assassination of Sergei Kirov and the Power of Rumor

December of 1934 marked a lethal turn in Stalin’s rule over the Soviet Union. The event in question was the assassination of First Secretary of the Leningrad Party Sergei Kirov on December 1st, 1934. Kirov was a popular member of the Politbiuro who was gaining more and more popularity until his untimely death. In the wake of this event, Stalin would implicate rival factions and people in order to secure his control over the state, beginning The Great Purges. Because of the unclear motive for the killing, Stalin was able to use rumors to implicate those who posed a threat to his power.

 Sergei Kirov was killed by a party apparatchik named Leonid Nikolaev in the Leningrad Party headquarters. Following the assassination, Nikolaev was immediately arrested and interrogated. It was not long until Stalin had claimed the Zionievites, along with other groups, were responsible for the assassination. However, because of the ambiguity of who ordered the killing, it may be possible that it was Stalin who planned the assassination. Kirov’s, “popularity in the party was eclipsing his own,”which was a threat to Stalin’s hold on the government. (Seiglebaum). In the aftermath of Kirov’s death, Stalin would use the opportunity to eliminate any competition for power.

The period known as The Great Purge greatly consisted of Stalin accusing rivals of treason as a way to get rid of them, and lasted for much of the 1930s. He used show trials as a means of publicly discrediting his opposition before executing or imprisoning them. By doing so Stalin could, “legitimize the physical annihilation of former leaders of the opposition,” and secure his power. (Freeze, 364). Because of the obscurity surrounding the motive due to Stalin’s control over public information, he could implicate and accuse many people within his government of treason. Kirov was quickly replaced by Andrei Zhdanov, a man who was very loyal to Stalin. This event in Soviet history demonstrates, “the power of rumor and legend in a society where reliable information is hard to come by.” (Seiglebaum). It is still unknown if Stalin is responsible for the killing, but the events that followed would help shape Stalin’s rule in the years to come.

Freeze, Gregory. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Pgs. 364-365

Shapoval, Yury. The Son IS Not Responsible For His Father. Or Is He?
The Day Newspaper. September 13, 2005. Web. March 12, 2017.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. The Kirov Affair. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

Kornilov, Russia’s (Almost) Napoleon

Support of the Bolsheviks had been growing leading up to the October Revolution in 1917. One event in this year did much to both empower the Revolutionists and weaken the Provisional Government. The event known as the Kornilov affair was a coup committed by General Lavr Kornilov, who sought take control of Russia by defeating the Bolsheviks and overthrowing the Provisional Government. Kornilov’s goal was to secure power and establish himself as the new ruler of Russia. Ultimately, his plan failed and the Bolsheviks only grew in power.
General Kornilov was made the mommander-in-chief of the Russian military after the Summer Offensive in 1917 by Alexander Kerenskii, the head of the Provisional Government. At the time he was a very popular figure within Russia for his principles in suppressing domestic disorder. However, Kornilov believed the Provisional Government was to weak to lead the Russian Empire, and he sought to place himself in charge in a similar way to Napoleon during his rise to power. Unfortunately for Korlinov, this would not come to pass as his attempted coup lost support and the Bolshevik’s Red Guard were able to outmaneuver his men. Kornilov was arrested by the Red Guard and his forces were disarmed. The tactics used by the Bolsheviks here would be a prelude to those in the October Revolution.
This botched coup would still be a crippling blow to the Provisional Government. They lost prestige and support despite Kornilov’s failure to achieve his goals. Kerenskii’s lost most of his authority and his supporters began deserting him. With this the stage was set for the Bolshevik’s inevitable take over.


Freeze, Gregory. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. Kornilov Affair. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

Same Song, Different Singer

Like many other revolutions the Revolution of 1905 had much build up towards it. One contributing event in particular was a day in January of 1905 known as Bloody Sunday. On that day, a protest led by a priest named Father Gregorii Gapon was violently put down by Russia soldiers outside of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. This type of situation is not uncommon in the history of political revolutions. Violence done by the military on its own citizens always fans the flames of revolution. By ending the protest the way they did, the Russian government only fueled the growing revolution in Russia.
This protest was organized by the Orthodox Priest Father Gapon who had founded the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers. This Assembly was meant to help Russian factory worker interests, and give them the chance to improve their working conditions. In December of 1904, several Assembly members were fired from the Putilov factory, and were not given a reason why. The reason for their termination was to limit the Assembly’s influence on the factories. As a result of this, Father Gapon and his followers led a massive strike and protest march to the Tsar’s Winter Palace in early January 1905. When they reached the Winter Palace however, the Tsar would not hear them out. Instead he allowed the military units guarding the palace to fire on the crowd to break up the protest. This action would immediately come back to haunt the Tsar as the news of soldiers firing on unarmed civilians carrying Orthodox Crosses and other icons gave the revolutionaries even more support. From that day on Russians would refer to this event as Bloody Sunday. As shown before throughout history, actions such as these only aid revolutionaries.
Violent government action towards its civilians has helped start revolutions many times in history. It serves as a way to create martyrs and draw support to the revolutionaries cause. One example is the Boston Massacre in 1770. Similar to Bloody Sunday, government soldiers fired on an unarmed crowd to break up a protest, and revolutionaries used the event to build more support for their cause. When citizens view government actions as unjust they become more willing to help fight that government. Another example are the executions of IRA leaders after the Easter Rising in Ireland. The public saw those men being executed without trial and began to give more support to the IRA. Actions like those done by the Russian Soldiers only give more credibility to Revolutionaries and their cause.


Freeze, Gregory. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Vladimirov, Ivan. Bloody Sunday. Shooting Workers Near The Winter Palace             January 9, 1905.