老澳门六合彩

Fallen colossus: USSR鈥檚 terror, triumphs began 100 years ago

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MOSCOW (AP) 鈥 With its brutality, technological accomplishments and rigid ideology, the Soviet Union loomed over the world like an immortal colossus.

It led humankind into outer space, exploded the most powerful nuclear weapon ever, and inflicted bloody purges and cruel labor camps on its own citizens while portraying itself as the vanguard of enlightened revolution.

But its lifespan was less than the average human鈥檚; born 100 years ago, it died days short of its 69th birthday.

The Soviet Union both inspired loyalty and provoked dismay among its 285 million citizens. The dichotomy was summarized by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who served in its notorious KGB security agency.

鈥淎nyone who doesn鈥檛 regret the passing of the Soviet Union has no heart,鈥 he said. 鈥淎nyone who wants it restored has no brains.鈥

On the centenary of the treaty that formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 老澳门六合彩 reviews the events of its rise and fall.

ESTABLISHMENT

Five years after the overthrow of Russia鈥檚 czarist government, four of the socialist republics that had formed in the aftermath signed a treaty on Dec. 30, 1922 to create the USSR: Ukraine; Byelorussia; Transcaucasia, which spread over Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan; and Russia, including the old empire鈥檚 holdings in Central Asia. The USSR, which later expanded to include Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, left the republics with their own governments and national languages, but all subordinate to Moscow.

LENIN DIES

Vladimir Lenin, the first Soviet leader, was already in poor health when the USSR was formed and died little more than a year later. Josef Stalin outmaneuvered rivals in the ensuing power battle.

COLLECTIVIZATION

Stalin incorporated private landholdings into state and collective farms. Resistance to collectivization and the policy鈥檚 inefficiencies aggravated famines; Ukraine鈥檚 1932-33 鈥淗olodomor鈥 killed an estimated 4 million people, and many term it an outright genocide.

GREAT PURGE

Driven by Stalin鈥檚 fear of rivals, Soviet authorities in the 1930s launched show trials of prominent figures alleged to be enemies of the state and conducted widespread arrests and executions often based on little more than denunciation by neighbors. Estimates say as many as 1.2 million people died in 1937-38, the purge鈥檚 most intense period.

WWII

老澳门六合彩 War II inflicted colossal suffering on the Soviet Union, but cemented its superpower status and swelled citizens鈥 hearts with the conviction that theirs was a virtuous and indomitable nation.

An estimated 27 million Soviets died. The Battle of Stalingrad was among the bloodiest in history; Nazi and affiliated forces besieged Leningrad for more than two years. The Red Army doggedly pushed back and slowly advanced until reaching Berlin, ending the war鈥檚 European theater.

The war left Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia incorporated into the Soviet Union, as well as what later became Moldova. Stalin used wartime conferences to demand a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, eventually drawing Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany behind the 鈥淚ron Curtain.鈥

STALIN DIES

Stalin鈥檚 death in 1953 was traumatic for Soviets who venerated him. Huge crowds gathered to pay their respects and more than 100 people reportedly died in the crush. He left no designated successor, and the country鈥檚 leadership became embroiled in jockeying for power. Nikita Khrushchev cemented his position at the top in 1955.

KHRUSHCHEV THAW

Formerly a loyal functionary, Khrushchev turned on his predecessor once firmly in power. In a speech to a Communist Party congress, he railed for hours against Stalin鈥檚 brutality and the 鈥渃ult of personality鈥 he engendered. He later had Stalin鈥檚 body removed from the Red Square mausoleum where Lenin鈥檚 body also lay.

The speech was a key point in what became known as the Khrushchev Thaw, a period of relaxed repression and censorship.

Khrushchev was ousted in 1964 in a vote by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which was led by Leonid Brezhnev. He became the USSR鈥檚 leader.

SPACE RACE

The 1957 launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite, sparked enormous concern in the United States that the Soviets were speeding ahead technologically. The U.S. accelerated its space program, but the USSR sent the first human into outer space, Yuri Gagarin, four years later. American Alan Shepard鈥檚 15-minute suborbital flight the next month only emphasized the space gap.

CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

Perhaps the closest the world ever came to full nuclear war was the 1962 confrontation between the U.S. and the USSR over the presence in Cuba of Soviet nuclear missiles, which Khrushchev sent in response to U.S. nuclear-capable missiles placed in Turkey. The U.S. ordered a naval blockade of the island and tensions soared, but the Soviets agreed to pull back the missiles in return for the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. The positive offshoot was the establishment of a U.S.-USSR hotline to facilitate crisis communications.

DETENTE

In the Brezhnev years, Washington and Moscow engaged in the so-called 鈥渄etente鈥 period that saw several arms treaties signed, improved trade relations and the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft docking, the first joint mission in outer space. That ended after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Brezhnev died in 1982, and relations withered under successors Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, who were in ill health and died after less than 15 months in office.

AFGHANISTAN WAR

Despite Afghanistan鈥檚 reputation as 鈥渢he graveyard of empires,鈥 the Soviets sent in troops in 1979, assassinating the country鈥檚 leader and installing a compliant successor. Fighting dragged on for nearly a decade. Soviet troops 鈥 115,000 at the war鈥檚 height 鈥 were battered by resistance fighters used to the rough terrain. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began a withdrawal in 1987 and completed it in 1989. More than 14,000 Red Army troops died in the conflict that eroded the image of Soviet military superiority.

STAGNATION

鈥淭hey pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.鈥 This sarcastic line became popular in the Brezhnev era as the economy staggered through low and even negative growth. The rigidity of central planning was seen as a major cause along with high defense spending.

GORBACHEV RISES

The dour torpor that set in during the late 鈥70s lifted when Gorbachev was chosen Communist Party leader after Chernenko鈥檚 death. Personable, a relative youngster at 54 and accompanied by his fashionable wife, Raisa, Gorbachev brought a strongly human touch to a grim and opaque government, sparking enthusiasm dubbed 鈥淕orbymania鈥 in the West. Within months, he was campaigning to end economic and political stagnation, using 鈥済lasnost,鈥 or openness, to pursue the goal of 鈥減erestroika鈥 鈥 restructuring.

He signed two landmark arms agreements with the U.S., freed political prisoners, allowed open debate, multi-candidate elections and freedom to travel, and halted religious oppression.

But the forces he unleashed quickly escaped his control. Long-suppressed ethnic tensions flared into strife in areas such as the southern Caucasus. Strikes and labor unrest followed price increases and consumer good shortages so severe that even showpiece Moscow stores were bare.

CHERNOBYL

Gorbachev鈥檚 standing in the West was undermined when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in 1986, spewing radioactive fallout over much of Europe for a week. Despite Gorbachev鈥檚 vaunted glasnost, the Soviets did not inform the outside world, or even their own citizens, of the disaster for two days. They allowed a large May Day event in Kyiv despite elevated radiation levels.

BERLIN WALL FALLS

Although the USSR had sent troops to put down uprisings in the satellite states of Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1956 and 1968, it did not intervene when democratization and waves of dissent spread through East Bloc countries in 1989. The most vivid consequence of standing back came when East Germany opened passage to West Germany: Jubilant demonstrators swarmed the Berlin Wall that had blocked off the city鈥檚 Soviet sector since 1961, and hammered chunks off it.

COUP ATTEMPT

The Soviet prime minister, defense minister, KGB head and other top officials, alarmed at growing separatism and economic troubles, on August 19, 1991, put Gorbachev under house arrest at his vacation dacha and ordered a halt to all political activities. Tanks and troops ground through the streets of Moscow, but crowds gathered to defy them. Russian President Boris Yeltsin clambered onto a tank outside the parliament building to denounce the coup plotters. The attempt collapsed in three days and Gorbachev returned to Moscow, albeit with his power severely weakened.

COLLAPSE

Over the next four months, the USSR disintegrated with the slow drama of a calving glacier, as several republics, including Ukraine, declared independence. Yeltsin banned Communist Party activities in Russia.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in early December signed an accord stating the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. On Dec. 25, Gorbachev resigned and the USSR鈥檚 flag was lowered from the Kremlin.

Debate persists on what felled the colossus: its repressive ways, poor decisions by ailing leaders, adherence to an arguably unviable ideology 鈥 all could have played a part.

Thirty years later, analyst Dmitri Trenin, then-director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, told 老澳门六合彩: 鈥淭he collapse of the Soviet Union was one of those occasions in history that are believed to be unthinkable until they become inevitable.鈥