Mind the Gap: The Moscow Metro

The Soviet Union began to develop a metro system to make an impression upon others that they are modernizing. I found it interesting that Nikita Khrushchev was the
Moscow Municipal Soviet chairman in charge of overseeing this project. Stalin used the project as a way to showcase the strength and progress of his administration. The first line of the subway opened in 1935. The Soviet Union began to mobilize quickly thereafter. During WWII, the metro system saved Muscovites from German bombs.

Building the Moscow Metro (mos.ru)

Con-Fusion After Chernobyl?

On April, 26, 1986 the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl experienced an explosion which led to a nuclear accident which left the area devastated. According to sources 38 people were killed instantly while up to 100,000 died from the effects of the leaked radiation. Perhaps most disturbing was the fact that if it were not for the acts of heroism from a few volunteers to rush into the plant to shut down the reactor, the casualties would’ve been much higher. Said volunteers had to build concrete enclosures around the plant.

The power plant in Chernobyl (enformable.com)

Aside from the billions of rubles in economic costs to contain and clean up the accident, it was a pivotal moment in the Gorbachev administration. Up til then, Gorbachev preached that the Kremlin would practice “glasnost” or “openness/ transparency” in its affairs. The Chernobyl incident saw Gorbachev practice glasnost by allowing international aid come in and help. On May 14, 1986 Gorbachev addressed the issue on TV. Journalists were also free to criticize the government and the Gorbachev administration began to assume more accountability than the leadership of years past.

Gorbachev addressing the USSR about the Chernobyl accident (ABC News)

Dizzy With Excess of Force; Yuri’s Triumph in the Age of Khrushchev

When Joseph Stalin faced a shortage of grains during his leadership, he turned to collectivization in order to increase grain procurement. The reason for adopting collectivization as an economic strategy was twofold: first, the systematic and industrialized state equipment was far more efficient than strip farming, second, it would be a direct attack on the “class alien” status the kulaks had constituted. Moreover, collectivization would give the state the capabilities needed to engulf the kulaks into the system—collectivization therefore led to dekulakization.

Anti-Kulak Propaganda was rampant. “We will keep out the Kulaks”

            Peasants where naturally skeptical of collectivization and many dekulaked themselves by selling their own land out of fear that the state would confiscate it anyway. In 1930, the Central Committee called for the collectivization of the majority of arable land and peasant farms in accordance to the First Five Year Plan (FFYP). The FFYP was such a large endeavor that it required thousands of workers to go out to villages and fight kulak resistance. Those who resisted were either sent to labor camps, deported, resettled, or killed. Stalin infamously stated that the collectivization process left the state officials “dizzy with success”.

            Nevertheless, peasants found ways to resist against collectivization by various means: they would slaughter their livestock, destroy farm property, and slowly carry out directives. These methods made it impossible for the state to meet its procurement quotas, and therefore the kolkhozes received no pay. It is estimated that at least five million died from famine.

The famous Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union saw the USSR sent Yuri Gagarin to space, making him the first human to do so. This was an era in which both super powers competed in all realms of life from mathematics, to chess, to athletics, to music. Gagarin’s feat was the pinnacle of Soviet achievement and it made Americans anxious from that day forward.

Yuri Gagarin: First Human in Space

Yuri’s accomplishment was part of a greater movement that had distanced itself from the authoritarian Stalinism of decades past. Yuri went to space in 1961 during Nikita Khrushchev’s administration.
Khrushchev had been leading the Soviet Union for 8 years at this point and his Secret Speech laid the foundation for his policies going forward.
Khrushchev denounced the cult-personality of Stalinism and went ahead and emptied the Gulags. The consequences of this De-Stalinization included concessions to Poland, a brutal repression in Hungary, and the opening of the Kremlin to foreigners. This coupled with his unprecedented trip to the United States, angered many in the USSR who still saw the US as the ultimate capitalist enemy of the Soviet way of life. However many forget that if it were not for Khrushchev’s aggressive push against Stalinization soon after Stalin’s death, the Thaw would’ve taken far longer than it did—which may have led to an American being the first man in space!

Khrushchev in Iowa

Zlatoust Arsenal and Russian Industrialization

Hello class! For my first blog post I will examine a photograph by Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii who traveled across the Soviet Union to document the Russian way of life through his photography. The photograph I have chosen to examine is from Prokudin-Gorskii’s visit to the town of Zlatoust in 1909. The photograph shows a collection of sabers and daggers assembled into a massive structure. This structure reminded me of the Iron Throne from HBO’s Game of Thrones. The town was known for the first cannons made of Russian steel.

“Weapons Cabinet in the Arsenal Museum of the Zlatoust Plant
Gorka iz oruzhʹi︠a︡ v Arsenalʹnom Muzei︠e︡ Zlatoustovskago zavoda

Before the late 19th Century, Russia realized it needed to industrialize in order to succeed. Zlatoust later became the center of finished metal production with a significant portion devoted to weaponry.

I wish I could learn how all of those sabers and daggers were collected. Were any of them used in the revolutions of the early 20th Century? What other weaponry can be found in that arsenal?

It was during this time that many agrarian revolutions were occurring. Four years before this picture was taken, the Russian Revolution of 1905 took place which emphasized the oppression the peasants felt during this shift towards industrialization. The state had tried to industrialize by raising taxes but that led to the famine of 1892. I wonder if the weapons produced in Zlatoust were used in the many revolutions of Prokudin-Gorskii’s time.

Zlatoust Today

Zlatoust is located in the present day Russian Federation.
Google Maps

Zlatoust was founded in 1754 and currently has a population of 166,885. The flying winged horse was the town’s favorite engraving in the sabers—the Pegasus soon became a symbol for the town.

This is the flag of Zlatoust. Notice the Pegasus which is the symbol of the town.

Zlatoust attractions include:

  • The bell tower with a chapel of St. John Chrysostom;
  • A ski resort located within the city limits with two ski slopes for beginners and a cafe;
  • Winged horse sculpture.



Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.