Soviet Union

former country in Eurasia (1922–1991)
(Redirected from Soviet Russia)

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, abbreviated to USSR and SU or shortened to the Soviet Union, was a Marxist–Leninist state on the Eurasian continent that existed between 1922 and 1991. It was governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital. A union of multiple subnational Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. It collapsed after nationalist and economic pressure under Mikhail Gorbachev and was dissolved in 1991, being succeeded by the Russian Federation.

An unbreakable union of free republics,
Great Russia has sealed forever.
Long live, the creation by the people's will,
The united, mighty Soviet Union!
Be glorified, our free Fatherland,
Reliable stronghold of the people's friendship!
Banner of the Soviets, the banner of the people,
May it lead from victory to victory!
~ National Anthem of the Soviet Union
In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated.
~ George Orwell
Without Russia [Soviet Union], the German bloodhounds would have already achieved their goal, or would achive it very soon... We and our children owe a great debt of gratitude to the Russian people for having experienced such immense losses and suffering. [Soviet Union's] conduct of the war has made obvious her great achievement in all industrial and technical fields... and in the limitless sacrifice and exemplary self-denial of every single individual, I see proof of a strong and universal will to defend what they have won... finally, a fact of particular importance to us Jews. In Russia the equality of all national and cultural groups is not merely nominal but is actually practiced. ~ Albert Einstein
We must maintain and strengthen the union of socialist republics. Of this there can be no doubt. This measure is necessary for us and it is necessary for the world communist proletariat in its struggle against the world bourgeoisie and its defence against bourgeois intrigues. ~ Vladimir Lenin
Fifteen years ago, there was this country called the Soviet Union... They're not there anymore. That's a good thing. ~ Tom Clancy
The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe... ~ Vladimir Putin
Any kind of civil rights movement in the Soviet Union would have been ruthlessly smashed. Obviously. There would have been nothing left of it in no time at all. Most people would never even hear about it. ~ Michael J. Totten
The Evil Empire is no more. ~ Ann Coulter
In Russia, all you have to do to get a house is to be born in the Soviet Union. You are entitled to housing. ~ Nikita Khrushchev

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  • The Soviet Union was able to generate rapid growth even under extractive institutions because the Bolsheviks built a powerful centralized state and used it to allocate resources toward industry. But as in all instances of growth under extractive institutions, this experience did not feature technological change and was not sustained. Growth first slowed down and then totally collapsed. Though ephemeral, this type of growth still illustrates how extractive institutions can stimulate economic activity.
    • Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012)
  • The Soviet people have boundless trust in their Communist Party, they trust it because for the party there have never been and are no other interests than the vital interests of the Soviet people. To justify this trust means to go ahead along the road of Communist construction, to work for the further progress of our socialist homeland.
  • The Soviet state has successfully overcome many trials, including crucial ones, during the six and a half decades of its existence. Those who encroached on the integrity of our state, its independence and our system found themselves on the garbage heap of history. It is high time that everyone to whom this applies understood that we shall be able to insure the security of our country, the security of our friends and allies under any circumstances. The Soviet people can rest assured that our country's defense capability is being maintained at such a level that it would not be advisable for anyone to stage a trial of strength. On our part, we do not seek a trial of strength. The very thought of it is alien to us.
  • You know, I never planned to leave. I was not extremely patriotic about Mother Russia. You know, I played their game, pretending, of course. You have to deal with, you know, party people, KGB... Horrifying.
  • The compound of bigness and communism made Soviet Russia very much an ogre in the 1920s and accentuated her isolation from the rest of the world. In turn the Soviet's acute sense of isolation, the sense of living in a perilous world and, above all, the bitter memory of foreign intervention between 1918 and 1920, made her, in self-defence, more authoritarian in her internal policies, and spurred the campaign to regiment and unify her people and fortify her economy, thus conferring on the word 'communism' an additional wrapping of terror. This sense of isolation must have also intensified the Soviet Union's desire to extend her territory and her sphere of influence in eastern Europe, and she seized the opportunity which came at the end of the Second World War.
  • The rush of events in the Soviet Union, Germany, eastern Europe and China in the late 1980s and the very early 1990s had no parallel in modern history. During the last thousand years no other formidable empire in a time of comparative peace had been dissolved so quickly, so unexpectedly, as the Soviet Union.
  • The world situation has worsened with the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The spartan lifestyle that had been imposed in the Soviet Empire means that today, the peoples of that region are the only white remnant that has been uncontaminated by “the ethical syphilis of Hollywood,” and hence the frenetic manner by which “the enemy of Europe” attempts to contaminate these regions — some of whose states, such as Hungary, consciously resist it. “The Enemy of Europe” is now the world-enemy.
  • A persuasive way of understanding the collapse of Communism in Europe and the Soviet Union is to think of nineteenth- or twentieth-century slum clearance. For in many respects the Soviet Empire was a slum of continental proportions. Beyond the grotesque architectural assertions of an alien ideology, public housing – almost all housing – consisted of anomic and primitive concrete barracks where the smells of cabbage, damp and low-grade tobacco combined. Rivers and lakes were polluted by chemicals, with the Pleisse river in East Germany alternately turning first red then yellow.
    • Michael Burleigh Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, From the Great War to the War on Terror, New York: NY, HarperCollins Publishers (2007) p. 415
  • The tremors in the Soviet world continue. The hard earth there has not yet settled. Perhaps what is happening will change our world forever and perhaps not. A prudent skepticism is in order, and so is hope. But, either way, we're in an unprecedented position to change the nature of our relationship—not by pre-emptive concession but by keeping our strength, not by yielding up defense systems with nothing won in return but by hard, cool engagement in the tug and pull of diplomacy.
  • Some people in the West now express anxiety over the fact that the Soviet Union has still further outstripped the United States of America in the “space race.” Some people say that the United States is two years behind, others mention five years. Of course, it is pleasure for us that our country is ahead in the exploration of outer space. But we Soviet people do not regard our space research as an end in itself, as some kind of “race.” In the great and serious cause of the exploration and development of outer space, the spirit of frantic gamblers is alien to us. We see in this cause part and parcel of the tremendous constructive work the Soviet people are doing in conformity with the general line of our party in all spheres of the economy, science and culture, in the name of man, for the sake of man.
  • The general line of our party worked out by its 20th, 21st and 22d congresses is a Leninist line. It was, is and will be the only immutable line in the entire domestic and foreign policy of the Communist party and the Soviet state. The party sees its supreme duty in serving the people, in strengthening the might of our Socialist country, adding to its glory and prestige, consistently and unswervingly implementing the great ideas of Marxism-Leninism.
  • Comrades, our country is a vast Communist construction project. The scope of our work is great. But the tasks facing us in all spheres of life are even more majestic. The development of our economy, science and culture, the strengthening of the defenses of our Socialist power, serves the cause of peace and security of all peoples. Our successes make all mankind confident that the forces of peace and reason are gaining in strength, that the Soviet people are blazing the true way to the triumph of universal peace and progress.
  • The Soviet people are perhaps second to none when it comes to knowing what war means. In World War II we won a victory of world historic significance. But in that war over 20 million Soviet citizens died, 70,000 of our towns and villages were devastated, and one third of our national wealth was destroyed. The war wounds have now been healed. Today the Soviet Union is a mightier and more prosperous country than ever before. But we remember the lessons of the war only too well, and that is why the peoples of the Soviet Union value peace so highly; that is why they strongly approve the peace policy of our Party and Government.
  • Our path has not been an easy one. Our people are proud that in a historically short period of time, after the victory of the Socialist Revolution, backward Russia transformed itself into a major industrial power and achieved outstanding successes in science and culture. We take pride in having built a new society — a most stable and confidently developing society — which has assured all our citizens of social justice and has made the values of modern civilization the property of all the people. We are proud that dozens of previously oppressed nations and nationalities in our country have become genuinely equal, and that in our close-knit family of nations they are developing their economy and culture. We have great plans for the future. We want to raise considerably the living standards of the Soviet people. We want to make new advances in education and medicine. We want to make our villages and towns more comfortable to live in and more beautiful. We have drafted programs to develop the remote areas of Siberia, the North and the Far East, with their immense natural resources. And every Soviet individual is deeply conscious of the fact that the realization of those plans requires peace and peaceful cooperation with other nations.
  • We bow our heads in respect for those Soviet women who displayed exceptional courage in the severe time of war. Never before but during the days of the war the grandeur of spirit and the invincible will of our Soviet women, their selfless dedication, loyalty and affection to their Homeland, their boundless persistence in work and their heroism on the front manifested themselves with such strength.
    • Leonid Brezhnev, reported in IE IU Kastelli, V karǐni zdiǐsnenoǐ mriǐ (1979) p. 54
  • Soviet people are better off materially and richer spiritually.
    • Leonid Brezhnev, as quoted in Our Friends Speak: Greetings to the 25th CPSU Congress (1976), p. 268
  • The rout of fascism, in which the Soviet Union played the decisive role, generated a mighty tide of socio-political changes which swept across the globe.
    • Leonid Brezhnev, as quoted in Selected Speeches and Writings (1980) edited by Mikhail Andreevich Suslov.
  • Like so many empires before it, the Soviet Union eventually imploded and fragmented, falling victim not so much to a direct military defeat as to disintegration accelerated by economic and social strains.
  • As a great socialist power the Soviet Union is fully aware of its responsibility to the peoples for preserving and strengthening peace. We are open to peaceful, mutually beneficial cooperation with states on all continents. We are for the peaceful settlement of all disputable international problems through serious, equal, and constructive talks.
  • Across the world academics still clung to the words and ideas of Marx and Engels and even Lenin. Fools. There were even those who said that Communism had been tried in the wrong country; that Russia had been too far backward to make those wonderful ideas work.
  • The Soviet Union is dead and gone and replaced by the Russian Federation, which is a country we can be friends with now, thank God — and we want the Russians to prosper, and should help the Russians prosper in every way we can within reason... Fifteen years ago, there was this country called the Soviet Union that had over 10,000 nuclear warheads pointed at us... they're not there anymore. That's a good thing.
  • In the Soviet Union it was illegal to take a photograph of a train station. Look what happened to them. They tried to classify everything. The more information available to the average person, the greater the synergy that develops from it.
    • Tom Clancy, as quoted in Vonnegut and Clancy on Technology, by David H. Freedman and Sarah Schafer.
  • Many whose allegiance went to the Soviet Union may well be seen as traitors to their countries, and to the democratic culture. But their profounder fault was more basic still. Seeing themselves as independent brains, making their choices as thinking beings, they ignored their own criteria. They did not examine the multifarious evidence, already available in the 1930s, on the realities of the Communist regimes. That is to say, they were traitors to the human mind, to thought itself.
    • Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (2000), W.W. Norton & Company, p. 118
  • Few [Western] historians seem to regard Soviet Russia's reconquest of Ukraine or the Caucasus as anything other than an internal 'Russian' event. It is still more unfortunate that the creation of the Soviet Union, which began in December 1922, is often thought to have involved a mere change of name. In this way the lengthy process of decomposition of the [Russian] Empire, and the five-year labours of the Bolsheviks to replace it, can be passed over in silence.
  • Nothing better illustrated the realities of the Soviet collapse than the fate of Sergei Krikalyev, a Soviet cosmonaut who was fired into space in May 1991. He was still circling the earth at the end of the year for want of a decision to bring him back. He had left a Soviet Union that was still a superpower; he would return to a world from which the Soviet Union had disappeared. His controllers at the Baikonur Space Centre found themselves in the independent republic of Kazakhstan.
  • The most obvious fact of the Soviet collapse is that it happened through natural causes. The Soviet Union was not, like ancient Rome, invaded by barbarians or, like the Polish Commonwealth, partitioned by rapacious neighbours, or, like the Habsburg Empire, overwhelmed by the strains of a great war. It was not, like the Nazi Reich, defeated in a fight to the death. It died because it had to, because the grotesque organs of its internal structure were incapable of providing the essentials of life. In a nuclear age, it could not, like its tsarist predecessor, solve its internal problems by expansion. Nor could it suck more benefit from the nations whom it had captured. It could not tolerate the partnership with China which once promised a global future for communism; it could not stand the oxygen of reform; so it imploded. It was struck down by the political equivalent of a coronary, more massive than anything that history affords.
  • Let me examine the alleged "distinction from capitalism" characteristic of the Soviet Union and see whether it isn't a distinction from a certain stage of capitalism rather than from capitalism as a whole. The determining factor in analyzing the class nature of a society is not whether the means of production are the private property of the capitalist class or are state-owned, but whether the means of production ... are monopolized and alienated from the direct producers. The Soviet Government occupies in relation to the whole economic system the position which a capitalist occupies in relation to a single enterprise. ... "Bureaucratic state socialism" is an irrational expression behind which there exists the real economic relation of state-capitalist-exploiter to the propertyless exploited.
    • Raya Dunayevskaya, "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a Capitalist Society" (1941), in Russia: From Proletarian Revolution to State-Capitalist Counter-Revolution, p. 210
  • The Soviet Union was a socialist state with the aspiration to build a better, fairer, and more prosperous society than capitalism could. It inspired generations of leftists all over the world and disappointed as many of them over the decades. It promised a superior level of welfare but seldom delivered it. Instead, its second major trait often won out: The USSR was also a police state, which devoted much of its resources to preparation and execution of warfare.
    • Mark Edele, The Soviet Union: A Short History (2018)
  • Without Russia [Soviet Union], the German bloodhounds would have already achieved their goal, or would achive it very soon... We and our children owe a great debt of gratitude to the Russian people for having experienced such immense losses and suffering. [Soviet Union's] conduct of the war has made obvious her great achievement in all industrial and technical fields... and in the limitless sacrifice and exemplary self-denial of every single individual, I see proof of a strong and universal will to defend what they have won... finally, a fact of particular importance to us Jews. In Russia the equality of all national and cultural groups is not merely nominal but is actually practiced.
  • The massive military machines and ambitions of the Soviet-Communist bloc still create uneasiness in the world. All of us are aware of the continuing reliance of the Soviet Communists on military force, of the power of their weapons, of their present resistance to realistic armament limitation, and of their continuing effort to dominate or intimidate free nations on their periphery. Their steadily growing power includes an increasing strength in nuclear weapons. This power, combined with the proclaimed intentions of the Communist leaders to communize the world, is the threat confronting us today.
  • Khrushchev had rashly promised that the country would achieve full communism by 1980. The more cautious Brezhnev shelved this in favour of ‘developed socialism’, an anodyne formulation that stood, in effect, for the economic and political system that already existed in the Soviet Union. But that was fine by the majority of Soviet citizens. They wanted more consumer goods for themselves, not communally shared goods, as would be delivered under the Communist model. It was a post-revolutionary moment, with the Revolution firmly consigned to history.
  • The Marxist prediction that capitalism would ultimately collapse and be replaced by socialism (Khrushchev’s tactless ‘We will bury you!’) had been a comfort to Soviet Communists as they struggled against Russia’s historical ‘backwardness’ to make a modern, industrialised, urbanised society. They made it, more or less, by the beginning of the 1980s. Soviet power and status was recognised throughout the world. ‘Soviet man’ became a recognisable animal, with close relatives in the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, more problematic relatives in China and North Korea, and admirers in the Third World. Then, in one of the most spectacular unpredicted ‘accidents’ of modern history, it was Soviet ‘socialism’ that collapsed, giving way to what the Russians called the ‘wild capitalism’ of the 1990s. An array of fifteen new successor states, including the Russian Federation, emerged blinking into the light of freedom – all, including the Russians, loudly complaining that in the old days of the Soviet Union they had been victims of exploitation.
  • Huge amounts of blood were shed to make and maintain the Soviet Union. Some of it was the blood of idealists, some of thugs and careerists, but most of it was the blood of ordinary people whose main concern was survival.
  • But then I thought of the tremendous responsibility of being the first to accomplish what generations of people had dreamed of, the first to show man the way into space... Can you think of a task more difficult that the one assigned to me. It is not responsibility to a single person, or dozens of people, or even a collective. It is responsibility to all Soviet people, to all mankind, to its present and its future. And if I am nevertheless venturing on this flight, it is because I am a Communist, because I draw strength from unexampled exploits performed by my compatriots, Soviet men and women. I know that I shall muster all my will power the better to do the job. Realising its importance, I will do all I can to carry out the assignment of the Communist Party and the Soviet people. Am I happy to be starting on a space flight? Of course I am. In all times and all eras man's greatest joy has been to take part in new discoveries. I would like to dedicate this first space flight to the people of communism, a society which our Soviet people are already entering, and which, I am confident, all men on earth will enter.
    • Yuri Gagarin, statement made before the launch of the April 1961 Vostok 1 mission, as quoted in Soviet Man in Space (1961).
  • I could have gone on flying through space forever.
  • Democracy is the wholesome and pure air without which a socialist public organization cannot live a full-blooded life.
  • If the Russian word "perestroika" has easily entered the international lexicon, this is due to more than just interest in what is going on in the Soviet Union. Now the whole world needs restructuring, i.e. progressive development, a fundamental change.
  • Destiny so ruled that when I found myself at the helm of this state it already was clear that something was wrong in this country. We had a lot of everything - land, oil and gas, other natural resources - and there was intellect and talent in abundance. However, we were living much worse than people in the industrialized countries were living and we were increasingly lagging behind them. The reason was obvious even then. This country was suffocating in the shackles of the bureaucratic command system. Doomed to cater to ideology, and suffer and carry the onerous burden of the arms race, it found itself at the breaking point.
  • All the half-hearted reforms - and there have been a lot of them - fell through, one after another. This country was going nowhere and we couldn't possibly live the way we did. We had to change everything radically. It is for this reason that I have never had any regrets that I did not use the capacity of General Secretary just to reign in this country for several years. I would have considered it an irresponsible and immoral decision.
  • The reform of our enormous state indeed demanded decentralization and redistribution of powers between the centre and the regions. But the local elites tried to paint this need in the exaggerated colours of 'national survival'. It worked!
  • The Baltic republics, because of their history and other characteristics, could enjoy special status in the Union. However, the 'sovereignization' of Russia scuttled the search for a new formula for relations with the Baltic republics in a reformed Union. It caused a chain reaction, during which analogous enactments were passed by all of the Union republics and later autonomous republics. A 'parade of sovereignties' had begun. The only means of preventing the collapse of the Union was the preparation without delay of a new Union Treaty.
  • The Supreme Soviets of the Republics rejected the Treaty on the Union of Sovereign States, drafted by the USSR State Council under the guidance of the country's President, and swallowed the poisoned fruit of the Belovezh scheme instead. The intelligentsia remained silent. The media were thrown into disarray. My appeals to the deputies of the Supreme Soviet and to the people, my warning that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was fraught with dire consequences, went unheeded - society was bewildered and unable to appraise the crisis. Destructive forces in the country exploited the confusion, usurping the people's right to decide their own future. It was what I had feared most of all.
  • As I look back to the events of December 1991, each time I come to the conclusion that I had no right to act differently. To act counter to the decisions made by eleven republics, whose Supreme Soviets approved the Minsk agreement, would have meant to unleash a bloody slaughter, which might have developed into a global catastrophe.
  • The dissolution of the Union radically changed the situation in Europe and the world, disrupted the geopolitical balance, and undermined the possibility of carrying further many positive processes that were under way in world politics by the end of 1991. I am convinced that the world today would be living more peacefully if the Soviet Union - of course in a renewed and reformed version - had continued to exist.
  • Preservation, renewal, and reform of the Union was my main political and, if you will, moral task in my position as president of the USSR. I consider it my greatest sorrow and misfortune that I did not succeed in preserving the country as a single whole. All my efforts were focused on trying to preserve that unity. Incidentally, more and more statements are heard today, including some by participants in the Belovezh accord, that the "soft form of Union Gorbachev proposed" might have protected our nations and nationalities from painful experiences. But, as the saying goes, the train has already left the station.
  • In the end, the “model” that came into existence in the USSR was not socialist but totalitarian. This is a serious matter to be reflected on by all who seriously aspire to progress for the benefit of the human race.
  • To demonize all Soviet "leaders" at all levels, to portray them as unqualified villains and evildoers, unprincipled self-seeking scoundrels who were indifferent to the interests and needs of the people — that is a shallow and frivolous approach. Of course there were villains, quite a few of them. But most of those who came to power had the intention of serving the "toiling masses" from which they themselves had come. That the system rendered their aspirations useless, reduced their efforts to nothing, and ultimately snuffed out their finer impulses — that is a separate question.
  • The aims and ideals of the Soviet revolution inspired the patriotic enthusiasm of millions of people in the 1930s, during World War II, and in the postwar reconstruction period. This explains the Soviet Union's great leap forward, the achievement of a high level of industrial capacity in a very short time, the transformation of the Soviet Union into a major power in terms of science and culture. The historic victory in the Great Patriotic War against Nazism, which was a surprise not only for Hitler but also for the Western democracies is also explained by what we have said above. All this is true. But the historical truth is also that the regime and the system abused the faith of the people in these high ideals, turning them to its own advantage. Rule by the people, equality, justice, and the promise of a happy future — all these ideas were utilized for the sake of maintaining and strengthening totalitarianism.
  • The Soviet Union could have been preserved and should have been preserved. ... I wanted to decentralize the Soviet Union and give the maximum amount of rights to the republics as guaranteed under the constitution, while preserving in the center the most important functions such as defense, diplomacy, coordination.
  • As president, I fought for the unity of the country until the very end. I fought by political means – it is important to emphasize this – and I tried to win over Soviet citizens and my colleagues, the leaders of the Union republics. Even today, I believe that the integrity of the country could have been preserved and that a new Union was in everyone's interest. But the coup weakened my position, and the leadership of Russia, the largest republic of the USSR, under Boris Yeltsin decided to dissolve the Soviet Union instead. The country fell apart, the state collapsed.
  • The real influence of the events in the Soviet Union was to spread a lot of unease and anxiety in the African National Congress, because the Soviet Union had been the only country, really, that had stood by us all those years.
  • If I had to choose between life in the Soviet Union and life in the USA, I would certainly choose the Soviet Union.
    • Attributed to Graham Greene, Parade magazine (October 29, 1967), p. 2. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • In the 1960s the Soviet Union had little or no appeal to young people-Black or white-as a model of revolution or of a desirable socialist society. It seemed old, staid, repressive, even counter-revolutionary to young activists. The Cuban revolution, however, had an enormous appeal.
  • The Albanian people will throw themselves in to the flames for their true friends, and the Soviet Union is such a friend of the Albanian people. And these are not empty words. I am expressing here the sentiments of our people and of our Party, and let no one ever think that we love the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for the sake of some one's beautiful eyes or to please some individual, but because without the Soviet Union there would be no free life in the world today, fascism and capitalist terror would reign supreme. This is why we love and will always be loyal to the Soviet Union and to the Party of the great Lenin.
  • The Soviets have a - I was waiting for one. The Soviets have a neutral interest in survival. The Second World War we lost about a half-million; they lost about 22 million people. They understand death real well. The Soviets are alive tonight because we decided not to kill them. And we're alive because they decided not to kill us. We have no defense, it's simply deterrent. We are trusting each other without even talking with each other. Since we have the capacity to overkill them many times and they want to live, that's the basis of mutual interest - a mutual desire to live. We need leadership that will step in the gap. We can kill you, you can kill us. Now let's focus on the ways to live, a peace policy: trade, agriculture, technology, reduce the tensions and then the moneys that are now being used in capital in tested killer weapons can be used to make our societies more profitable and more abundant.
  • They say that the Soviet delegates smile. That smile is genuine. It is not artificial. We wish to live in peace, tranquility. But if anyone believes that our smiles involve abandonment of the teaching of Marx, Engels and Lenin he deceives himself poorly. Those who wait for that must wait until a shrimp learns to whistle.
    • Nikita Khrushchev, impromptu speech at a dinner for visiting East German dignitaries, Moscow (September 17, 1955), as reported by The New York Times (September 18, 1955), p. 19.
  • My arms are up to my elbows in blood. That is the most terrible thing that lies in my soul.
    • Nikita Khrushchev, reported in Melvyn P. Leffler (2007). For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. Macmillan, p. 496. ISBN 0809097176.
  • My letter to Castro concluded an episode of world history in which, bringing the world to the brink of atomic war, we won a Socialist Cuba. It's very consoling for me personally to know that our side acted correctly and that we did a great revolutionary deed by not letting American imperialism intimidate us. The Caribbean crisis was a triumph of Soviet foreign policy and a personal triumph in my own career as a statesman and as a member of the collective leadership. We achieved, I would say, a spectacular success without having to fire a single shot!
  • After two decades of building socialism in the USSR there is no reason for anybody to be a homosexual.
    • Nikolai Krylenko, on the law re-criminalizing homosexuality in 1936. Quoted in David Tuller, Cracks in the Iron Closet: Travels in Gay and Lesbian Russia, University of Chicago Press, 1996
  • One should not forget that back in the late 1930s, when more than 1 million political prisoners were held in Stalin's concentration camps, progressive Western intellectuals denied that such institutions could possibly exist under the benign rule of the Communist Party. In the late 1950s, when the number of political prisoners dropped 1,000 times, not a figure of speech, that is the number, over, the repressive nature of the Soviet Union suddenly became a common sense fact.
  • Complete equality of rights for all nations; the right of nations to self-determination; the unity of the workers of all nations—such is the national program that Marxism, the experience of the whole world, and the experience of Russia, teach the workers.
    • Vladimir Lenin, "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination", reported in Vladimir Lenin; Doug Lorimer (2002). Marxism & Nationalism. Resistance Books, p. 125. ISBN 1876646136.
  • ... we must maintain and strengthen the union of socialist republics. Of this there can be no doubt. This measure is necessary for us and it is necessary for the world communist proletariat in its struggle against the world bourgeoisie and its defence against bourgeois intrigues.
    • Vladimir Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, 1966, Vol. 36, pp. 605-11.
  • For everybody other than the fellow travellers who simply lied about it, the obvious truth about the Soviet Union was, and is, that its system was, and is, incapable of feeding its people, housing its people, healing its people, transporting its people (except, alas, to prisons and concentration camps), keeping its people informed, teaching its people, even entertaining its people, and above all incapable of trusting its people. It could not, and today still cannot, keep its people clothed, warm, clean, hopeful, industrious, healthy, comfortable, honest or sober. Moreover, the system of lying as a way of life meant that however merciless the rulers, the massive pillars of the system were hollow, and thus could not stand for ever.
    • Bernard Levin, "From Spark to Furnace", The Times, December 26, 1989.
Only in Russia is poetry respected – it gets people killed.
Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?
~ Osip Mandelstam
  • Only in Russia poetry is respected – it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?
  • Today in the Soviet Union there is no real legal basis for opposition: opposition (or "revisionism") is disloyalty; political and cultural activities are embraced by he establishment of the Communist Party, which is nationalistic, official and- on due occasion - coercive.
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union represents more than a geopolitical watershed; as time passes, historians will increasingly see it as the end of an intellectual era as well. Leninism is in worldwide retreat, with few serious defenders. But for most of this unhappy century a disappointingly large number of Western intellectuals viewed the Soviet system as a plausible alternative to the Western model. To be sure, few supported the vast crimes of Stalin, but many made careful, casuistic distinctions between his evil misrule and the alleged humanism of Lenin's original Bolshevism.
  • I was reading about life in the Soviet Union, looking for information about samizdat for novel research, and learned that people shared banned music by cutting old X-ray film into circles and making records out of them. They called them “ribs” or “bones.” I’m fascinated by the ways people under repressive regimes still manage to share information — and joy.
  • Moscow has changed. I was here in 1982, during the Brezhnev twilight, and things are better now. For instance, they've got litter. In 1982 there was nothing to litter with.
  • Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class. Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917. It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.
    • George Orwell, in the original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell : Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison
  • In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the last ten years, I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement.
  • Of course no one pretend that the triumph of freedom over despotism is an entirely sufficient explanation. The western powers defeated the Axis only in alliance with the Soviet dictatorship, which before 1941 they had shunned and vilified with only a little less vehemence than they reserved for Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the German onslaught and broke the back of German power. For years the western version of the war played down this uncomfortable fact, while exaggerating the successes of democratic war-making. Yet if the moral image of the war is muddied, the material explanation for victory seems unambiguous. Alliance between the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States created overwhelming superiority in manpower and resources.
  • The system of production developed in Russia is State socialism. It is organized production, with the State as universal employer, master of the entire production apparatus. The workers are master of the means of production no more than under Western capitalism. They receive their wages and are exploited by the State as the only mammoth capitalist. So the name State capitalism can be applied with precisely the same meaning. The entirety of the ruling and leading bureaucracy of officials is the actual owner of the factories, the possessing class.
  • The consolidation of State capitalism in Russia itself was the determining basis for the character of the Communist Party. Whilst in its foreign propaganda it continued to speak of communism and world revolution, decried capitalism, called upon the workers to join in the fight for freedom, the workers in Russia were a subjected and exploited class, living mostly in miserable working conditions, under a strong and oppressive dictatorial rule, without freedom of speech, of press, of association, more strongly enslaved than their brethren under Western capitalism. Thus an inherent falsehood must pervade politics and teachings of that party. ... The doctrine it taught under the name of Marxism was not the theory of the overthrow of highly developed capitalism by a highly developed working class, but its caricature. ... The Communist Party did not intend to make the workers independent fighters capable by their force of insight themselves to build their new world, but to make them obedient followers ready to put the party into power.
  • The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed; socialism doesn't work.
    • Rand Paul, as quoted in Kentucky Tonight (16 June 1998), KET.
  • Whether the Soviet Union was an empire or not—the debate on this still continues—it died the death of an empire, splitting along lines roughly defined by ethnic and linguistic boundaries.
    • Serhii Plokhy, The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (2014)
  • The humiliation Krushchev suffered at the hands of Kennedy during the [Cuban] missile crisis contributed to his removal from power in October 1964. The new Soviet leadership, headed by Leonid Brezhnev, was determined to avoid a repetition of the humiliation Krushchev had experienced. Beginning in early 1965, the Kremlin embarked on a massive expansion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal that would enable the Soviet Union to achieve nuclear parity with the United States by the end of the decade.
    • Ronald Powaski, The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991 (1998)
  • In my view, the composer, just as the poet, the sculptor or the painter, is in duty bound to serve Man, the people. He must beautify human life and defend it. He must be a citizen first and foremost, so that his art might consciously extol human life and lead man to a radiant future. Such is the immutable code of art as I see it.
    • Sergei Prokofiev, reported in S. Shlifstein; Rose Prokofieva (2000). Sergei Prokofiev: Autobiography, Articles, Reminiscences. The Minerva Group, Inc., p. 136. ISBN 0898751497.
  • Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy. Fourteen years ago, independently, without any pressure from outside, it made that decision in the interests of itself and interests of its people -- of its citizens. This is our final choice, and we have no way back. There can be no return to what we used to have before. And the guarantee for this is the choice of the Russian people, themselves. No, guarantees from outside cannot be provided. This is impossible. It would be impossible for Russia today. Any kind of turn towards totalitarianism for Russia would be impossible, due to the condition of the Russian society.
  • Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory.
  • Try to tell a Russian housewife, who trudges miles on foot in sub-zero weather in order to spend hours standing in line at a state store dispensing food rations, that America is defiled by shopping centers, expressways and family cars.
    • Ayn Rand, as quoted in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (1971).
  • Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation's troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie.
    • Ayn Rand, as quoted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966).
  • Tonight, I want to speak to the people of the Soviet Union, to tell them it's true that our governments have had serious differences, but our sons and daughters have never fought each other in war. And if we Americans have our way, they never will. People of the Soviet Union, there is only one sane policy, for your country and mine, to preserve our civilization in this modern age: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely? People of the Soviet, President Dwight Eisenhower, who fought by your side in World War II, said the essential struggle "is not merely man against man or nation against nation. It is man against war." Americans are people of peace. If your government wants peace, there will be peace. We can come together in faith and friendship to build a safer and far better world for our children and our children's children. And the whole world will rejoice. That is my message to you.
  • But life has a way of reminding you of big things through small incidents. Once, during the heady days of the Moscow summit, Nancy and I decided to break off from the entourage one afternoon to visit the shops on Arbat Street—that's a little street just off Moscow's main shopping area. Even though our visit was a surprise, every Russian there immediately recognized us and called out our names and reached for our hands. We were just about swept away by the warmth. You could almost feel the possibilities in all that joy. But within seconds, a KGB detail pushed their way toward us and began pushing and shoving the people in the crowd. It was an interesting moment. It reminded me that while the man on the street in the Soviet Union yearns for peace, the government is Communist. And those who run it are Communists, and that means we and they view such issues as freedom and human rights very differently. We must keep up our guard, but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust. My view is that President Gorbachev is different from previous Soviet leaders. I think he knows some of the things wrong with his society and is trying to fix them. We wish him well. And we'll continue to work to make sure that the Soviet Union that eventually emerges from this process is a less threatening one. What it all boils down to is this: I want the new closeness to continue. And it will, as long as we make it clear that we will continue to act in a certain way as long as they continue to act in a helpful manner. If and when they don't, at first pull your punches. If they persist, pull the plug. It's still trust but verify. It's still play, but cut the cards. It's still watch closely. And don't be afraid to see what you see.
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolizes an epochal change in the way people live. More important, it liberates the way people think. We see with new clarity that centralized government bureaucracies created in this century are not the wave of the future. Never again will people trust planners and paper shufflers more than they trust themselves. We all watched as the statue of Soviet hangman Feliks Dzherzhinsky was toppled in front of Moscow's KGB headquarters by the very people his evil empire sought to enslave. Its sightless eyes symbolized the moral blindness of totalitarians around the world. They could never see the indomitable spirit of people determined to be free from government control—free to build a better future with their own heads, hands, and hearts.
  • So, why did the USSR collapse? Because Gorbachev unleashed a process he couldn't control and never understood. Because hardliners tried to stop him. And because liberals decided it suited their purposes to smash the union and have an independent Russia. In short, almost everyone involved in politics at the time played a part. Pointing the finger at any individual group seems rather pointless. Ultimately, though, if you really want to find someone to blame, the true culprits were the Bolsheviks who built the Soviet system. The communist model was fatally flawed from the start. With hindsight, it seems clear that, sooner or later, it was bound to come crashing down.
  • I am completely at a loss to understand how it came about that some people who are both humane and intelligent could find something to admire in the vast slave camp produced by Stalin.
  • It is easy now, gazing over the smoldering ruins of the Soviet empire, to enumerate the fatal illusions of the Marxist system. Yet the irresistible utopian dream fired generations of reformers, revolutionaries and radicals here and abroad, helping spread Soviet influence to the far corners of the globe.
  • No single analysis has the monopoly of historical insight. But few have denied that the Soviet order was truly innovative: there had been nothing like it in world history. Fascism was in many ways a structural copy of it, albeit with a different set of ideological purposes. The totalitarian interpretation incurred criticism because it seemingly implied the end of history wherever communism was established. If a ruling elite achieved a position of such power, it was hard to imagine how change could be engineered. Dictatorship, terror and ideological monopoly were surely sufficient to keep totalitarianism in permanent dominion. Yet the totalitarian theory was only proposing an ‘ideal type’ of rule. No communist state was without its deviations from the perfect model. Opponents of the theory pointed out that even the USSR under Stalin fell short of a totally secure system of vertically imposed commands. Nor was the Soviet Union ever emptied of social, cultural and economic dissent from the policies of communist rulers. But enough was achieved in the pursuit of comprehensive political monopoly for the USSR – as well as most other communist states – to be rightly described as totalitarian.
  • I live in the USSR, work actively and count naturally on the worker and peasant spectator. If I am not comprehensible to them I should be deported.
  • In Russia we only had two TV channels. Channel One was propaganda. Channel Two consisted of a KGB officer telling you: Turn back at once to Channel One.
    • Yakov Smirnoff, reported in Bob Fenster (2005). Laugh Off: The Comedy Showdown Between Real Life And The Pros. Andrews McMeel Publishing, p. 101. ISBN 0740754688.
In 1944, investigator, proud of his faultless logic [...] told Babitsh: "Investigation and the process are merely juridical figuration, that can't change your destiny, which has been determined before. If it is necessary to shoot you, you'll be shot, even if you're completely innocent." ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
  • In 1944, investigator, proud of his faultless logic [...] told Babitsh: "Investigation and the process are merely juridical figuration, that can't change your destiny, which has been determined before. If it is necessary to shoot you, you'll be shot, even if you're completely innocent."
  • What the immigrant cannot help noticing is that America is a country where the poor live comparatively well. This fact was dramatized in the 1980s, when CBS television broadcast an anti-Reagan documentary, "People Like Us", which was intended to show the miseries of the poor during an American recession. The Soviet Union also broadcast the documentary, with a view to embarrassing the Reagan administration. But by the testimony of former Soviet leaders, it had the opposite effect. Ordinary people across the Soviet Union saw that the poorest Americans have television sets and microwave ovens and cars. They arrived at the same perception of America that I witnessed in a friend of mine from Bombay who has been unsuccessfully trying to move to the United States for nearly a decade. Finally I asked him, "Why are you so eager to come to America"? He replied, "Because I really want to live in a country where the poor people are fat."
    • Dinesh D'Souza, What's So Great About America (2003), Ch. 3: Becoming American.
  • We do not want a single foot of foreign territory; but we will not surrender a single inch of our territory to anyone.
    • Joseph Stalin, reported in Alex Forbath (ed) (1938). Europe Into the Abyss: Behind the Scenes of Secret Politics. Pallas Publishing Co., Ltd., p. 462.
  • I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of History will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy.
    • Joseph Stalin, said to Molotov in 1943, as quoted in Felix Chuev's 140 Conversations with Molotov Moscow, 1991.
  • We are here to remember the huge contribution of the men and women from the ranks of the Red Army who fought against Nazi Germany. We remember their courage and resolve, we remember the millions who risked and the many who lost their lives alongside their American, British and French allies as well as all the others, in order to free us all from the National Socialist tyranny. I profess my deep respect for their fight against – as Yehuda Bauer writes – "the worst regime that has ever disgraced this planet". I bow in sorrow before the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian victims – before all victims of the former Soviet Union.
  • At the war's end, the death toll of the peoples of the Soviet Union numbered some 27 million. Twenty-seven million people were killed, murdered, bludgeoned, starved or left to die as a result of forced labour by National Socialist Germany. Fourteen million of them were civilians. No one had to mourn more victims in this war than the peoples of the then Soviet Union. And yet these millions are not as deeply etched in our collective memory as their suffering and our responsibility demand. This war was a crime – a monstrous, criminal war of aggression and annihilation.
  • They don't seem to realise that the submarines and missiles that the Russians are building could be destined to be used against us. Perhaps some people in the Labour Party think we are on the same side as the Russians! But just let's look at what the Russians are doing. She's ruled by a dictatorship of patient, far-sighted determined men who are rapidly making their country the foremost naval and military power in the world. They are not doing this solely for the sake of self-defence. A huge, largely land-locked country like Russia does not need to build the most powerful navy in the world just to guard its own frontiers. No. The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. The men in the Soviet politburo don't have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns. They know that they are a super power in only one sense—the military sense. They are a failure in human and economic terms. But let us make no mistake. The Russians calculate that their military strength will more than make up for their economic and social weakness. They are determined to use it in order to get what they want from us.
  • I knew that many things were wrong... I witnessed a great many injustices... But it was my revolutionary duty at the time not to criticize and not to help alien propaganda against [the Soviet Union], for at that time it was the only country where a revolution had been carried out and where Socialism had been built. I considered that propaganda should not be made against that country; that my duty was to make propaganda in my own country for Socialism.
    • Tito, as quoted in Jasper Ridley's Tito: A Biography (Constable and Company Ltd., 1994), p. 142.
  • Some years ago I read about a man who fled to the United States from the Soviet Union. Even after he was free in America he stayed up all night every night. He couldn’t sleep until he saw the sun rise. It was the only way he could be sure they would not come to get him that night.
  • The Islamic State is a blood-soaked totalitarian prison. But so was the Soviet Union, and it, too, inspired huge numbers of people all over the world to take up arms and violently create knock-offs, from Cuba and Vietnam to South Yemen and even Somalia and Ethiopia. We should never underestimate the appeal of a utopian fantasy in the human psyche even if it is drenched in blood. Some people who find these utopias stirring deny that they’re drenched in blood. Others make excuses. 'You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs'. Still others are attracted to these ideas and places because they’re drenched in blood. Jihadi John, the Kuwait-British man who beheaded a string of jumpsuit-clad journalists and aid workers on camera, is clearly some kind of psychopath. So are the ISIS fighters who serially rape their captured “war brides.” So is Lisa Borch, the 15-year old Danish girl who fell in love with an Islamist extremist and stabbed her mother to death with a kitchen knife. There’s an upside to the exodus, I suppose. Britain and the United States are better off without these people. If they didn’t run off to Syria, they’d be living down the street. We’d have fewer Jihadi Johns and more Lisa Borchs. Syria sure as hell isn’t better off with these people as “immigrants,” but they’ll eventually die there when the Islamic State, like every other monstrous utopian entity, either destroys itself from within or is destroyed from without by fed-up outsiders. When it finally happens, whether it’s next year or two decades from now, the British and American Muslim communities will be, on average, a little more politically moderate and sane than they are now.
  • Any kind of civil rights movement in the Soviet Union would have been ruthlessly smashed. Obviously. There would have been nothing left of it in no time at all. Most people would never even hear about it.
  • Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top of two wheels with a chain — at least in a poor country like Russia — and his vanity begins to swell out like his tires. In America it takes an automobile to produce this effect.
    • Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution (1930). See edition: Leon Trotsky; Max Eastman (1957). The History of the Russian Revolution. University of Michigan Press, p. 213.
  • I got very well acquainted with Joe Stalin, and I like old Joe! He is a decent fellow. But Joe is a prisoner of the Politburo.
    • Harry S. Truman, informal remarks, Eugene, Oregon (June 11, 1948); Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1948, p. 329. Truman refers to his meeting with Stalin at the Potsdam conference in July 1945.
  • Using the traditional demagoguery, which has been tried and tested over the years, the putschists blame all our current difficulties on the democrats and promise economic recovery and a better life, security and prosperity for the citizens of the USSR. What a hypocritical lie! Surely Pavlov is responsible for rocketing inflation and unprecedented price rises this year? Surely Yazov as leader of the most corrupt highest placed generals, is responsible for the poverty and lawlessness of our servicemen? Surely Pugo bears personal responsibility for the blood shed in the Baltic republics? Surely Starodubtsev, leader of the organization of Soviet land-owners is to blame, owing to the stance he assumed, for the abortive collection of last year’s bumper crops? And these are the people who promise to “restore order in the country!”
  • The Soviet Union could not exist without the image of the empire. The image of the empire could not exist without the image of force. The USSR ended the moment the first hammer pounded the Berlin Wall. Everything that was Soviet in people's heads — not all of them , but the most active and thinking parts of society — had by then receded.
  • We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Freedom is like that. It's like air. When you have it, you don't notice it.
  • The greatness of heroic victory over Fascist Germany is in the fact that the Soviet Union did not defend the socialist state alone, but that it selflessly fought to defend the internationalist proletarian goal- defeat the bulk of the Nazi armed forces and deliver the peoples of Europe from occupation. The Soviet people have not forgotten other peoples' contribution to the victory over the common enemy. Our army and people remember and value the courage of the Resistance fighters.
  • The Soviet Union is a peaceful country. The people's every goal serves the construction of Communism. They do not need war to attain their goal. But to protect the Soviet people's peaceful labour we must study our military experience in defending the socialist motherland, and make use of what will help us ensure the country's defences in the most effective way and train and rear our Armed Forces in the right spirit.
  • The Soviet economic crisis played a central and often underestimated role in the last three years of Soviet history. In conjunction with revelations of past communist crimes, it contributed to mass discontent and mobilization against central authority... The purposeful as well as unintended destruction of the Soviet economy, along with its finances, may be considered the best candidate as a principal cause of Soviet disintegration.

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