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I'm looking for information on people who were unable to work because of schizophrenia or other major mental illness. Does anyone know what happened to them in the USSR?
People who were declared handicapped because of some medical condition received some pension (material help from the state) and other benefits. There were several categories depending on severity of handicap. Those who could and wanted to work also worked. There were co-operatives of handicapped people who could do certain simple kinds of work.
This applied to all sort of illness, including mental illness, including schizophrenia. Those who were considered dangerous were confined to mental hospitals.
Source: I knew several of such people. They were not permanently confined in asylums, just hospitalized for short time of treatment.
EDIT. Another aspect of this matter is that some normal people who criticized the regime were declared insane and confined in mental hospitals against their will. But this is another matter, probably not related to the question. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13217951.100-soviet-union-admits-to-abuses-of-psychiatry/
The Worst Part Of The USSR Isn't What You Think
Everyone who grew up in the United States during the 1980s knew two things: The Americans were the good guys, and the Soviets were the bad guys. It was a different story if you were in Russia, but you know, over here we knew that those missiles were trained on us, we were supposed to jump under our desks when the nuclear strike happened (like that would accomplish absolutely anything), and also communism was evil. As far as we were concerned, the whole "threatening the United States with total annihilation" was like the worst thing that the USSR ever did.
Well, granted, that was pretty bad. But threatening millions of people with total annihilation is nothing compared to actually annihilating people, or imprisoning or institutionalizing people for stupid reasons, or torturing people, or trying to cross breed people with chimpanzees — there are a lot of much, much worse things a nation can do and the Soviet Union did most of them. So here it is, all the stuff that's way, way worse than the worst thing you thought you knew about the USSR.
New treaty unveiled
Valentin Pavlov in the Supreme Soviet, 14 January 1991 © For many outside observers, the crisis in the Union stemmed directly from a lack of faith in communism as an ideology. Once there was no longer a historic battle between communism and capitalism, the ties that bound the Union together, with its 15 different republics, began to loosen. Communism had always overridden nationality but now, with many ceasing to be communists, there was an ideological vacuum: issues of nationality rose to the fore.
At that last Cabinet meeting Gorbachev told his largely conservative Cabinet not to be overly concerned he had the situation under control. If it worsened, he would be ready to take immediate action and implement secret plans for a state of emergency, drawn up some months before. Reassured, they all went on holiday. But two weeks later, according to them, they received the shock of their lives.
On the morning of 15 August, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov received a revised text of Gorbachev's new Union treaty. This was to be a landmark agreement, involving the devolution of power, which would redefine the relationship with all the Soviet republics for the future. According to Pavlov, the text had changed substantially to the one he had last seen and which the Supreme Soviet, the Union's highest law-making body, had approved. He called together his Cabinet colleagues, circulated the draft and, because the treaty would be signed in just a few days' time, he decided to leak it to the press.
. the ties that bound the Union together, with its 15 different republics, began to loosen.
At the highest levels of the Soviet government there was turmoil. Most of the senior ministers and officials were traditional communists who believed in the Union and believed that the text spelt the death of the Union as they knew it. Instead of being the best solution to separatism, to them the treaty now seemed like a disaster. It seemed that the independence movement, championed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, had won. Their response was immediate. As Gorbachev had personally led these negotiations, some of which had taken place behind closed doors, they had to talk to him and get him to change his mind.
4 The KGB Used Castration To Negotiate A Hostage Release
In 1985, members of the pro-Iranian Islamist group Hezbollah kidnapped four Russian diplomatic attaches, in order to force Moscow to pressure Syria to stop killing Shia Muslims in Lebanon. Understanding Middle Eastern politics is like tracking gossip in high school: Stacy said that Mike said that Chad didn't know that Eric-
Whatever. Just nod and go along with it.
As you'd expect from the country that gave us "Cannibal Island," Russia's response was basically the speech from Taken: Not only will your demands not be met, but you only have a few seconds to apologize before the killing starts. Hezbollah unwisely called Russia's bluff and killed one of the attaches, a man by the name of Arkady Katkov. That's when Russia went a bit Neesony.
The KGB decided to fight fire with fire and did some kidnapping of their own, finding and kidnapping a relative of Hezbollah's Shia leader. Here's how you'd expect the scenario to unfold: Having obtained serious leverage, the KGB demands the release of the Russian hostages in exchange for the safety of their own hostage. That's a pretty hardcore tactic, but it's nowhere near Russian-core. Instead of a careful game of threats and negotiation, the KGB just pre-emptively castrated their hostage, then sent his severed genitals to Hezbollah, along with an entirely superfluous photograph of the man being shot in the head.
Intensify the Soviet Offensive in the City and Village, by K.S. Eliseev (1929) / Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik
The industrialization debate of the mid-1920s was a key turning point in the history of the Soviet Union, and more broadly, of socialism. For better or for worse, the outcome of the debate over the pace of industrialization, sources of investment, pricing and wages policies, and other related matters would determine the Soviet Union’s answer to the question of how to overcome “backwardness” in the modern era, serving for much of the rest of the world as the only real alternative to a capitalist framework of development. The debate, which in many respects overlapped with the controversies surrounding the party’s policy towards the peasantry, began in 1923 and for all intents and purposes was over by the autumn of 1927.
All participants in the debate accepted the notion that industrialization was a desirable end both on national security grounds as well as for the more ideologically inspired purpose of overcoming contradictions between town and countryside. They differed, however, on the timetable for achieving the goal, the kind of industry to be developed, and the means for doing so. So long as there was underutilized capacity in industry, the debate over how to expand industrial production and the sources of capital to make it possible tended towards the theoretical. In this sense, Evgenii Preobrazhenskii’s “fundamental law of socialist accumulation” which required the state-owned industrial sector to squeeze surpluses from small-scale privately owned agriculture via “non-equivalent exchanges” (i.e., taxation, credit restrictions, and a pricing policy that favored industrial goods) stood at one end of the spectrum. At the other was Nikolai Bukharin’s organic metaphor of “growing into socialism” by strengthening the link (smychka) between town and country and the doctrine of “socialism in one country” which both he and Stalin defended. More compatible with the initial thrust of the New Economic Policy and the party’s “face the countryside” strategy of the mid-1920s, Bukharin’s position was essentially the party’s line. Preobrazhenskii’s was identified with the Left Opposition and its “super-industrialization” strategy deemed by the rest of the party leadership as excessively risky.
AMO Factory: Truck Assembly (1926) / Moscow: Krasnaia gazeta
Towards the end of 1925, though, the upper limits of industrial recovery were in sight. As Stalin announced to the fourteenth party congress in December 1925, “The main thing in industry is that it has already approached the limit of pre-war standards further steps in industry involve developing it on a new technical foundation, utilizing new capital equipment and embarking on the new construction of factories.” A policy of industrialization which emphasized the importance of producing means of production was duly approved by the congress and reiterated by the central committee in April 1926. Still, much remained to be worked out in terms of defining levels of investment and growth possibilities. This task fell to the State Planning Commission (Gosplan) which was dominated by economists who were overwhelmingly not members of the party. They employed two approaches: the “genetic” according to which certain objective “regularities” of the pre-war economy were extrapolated to forecast future possibilities, and the “teleological” which altered proportions in the economy in the interests of maximum growth, in effect, making the market adapt to the state rather than the reverse. Both went into successive drafts of the five-year plan that the party’s central committee debated and sent back for (upward) revision. Politics thus became entwined with economic planning. Once the Left had been defeated, the emphasis on increasing levels of investment in “heavy” (producer goods) industry became more politically attractive. The logic of this shift in the party line towards increasing the tempo of industrialization was to step up pressure against the peasantry (disguised as anti-kulak measures) which soon translated into the all-out campaign for collectivization and the abandonment of NEP.
3 Psychoneurological Dispensaries and Outpatient Treatment
Psychopharmaceuticals arrived in the USSR at a time when the Communist Party was publicly claiming that it would prioritise the basic needs of Soviet citizens, pivoting away from Stalin’s narrow focus on heavy industry and giving more attention to the construction of housing, the production of consumer goods and the general improvement of quality of life. Public health officials announced plans to improve hospitals and care, particularly the psychiatric system. In July 1954, the USSR Council of Ministers issued an order instructing the Ministry of Health to increase construction of psychiatric hospitals and neuropsychiatric dispensaries in the 1955–60 period. Footnote 93 The goal of this reform was clearly stated: ‘in contrast to past psychiatric hospitals, Soviet psychoneurological hospitals set before themselves the task of the treatment, not confinement, of patients’. Footnote 94 In February 1956, the USSR Ministry of Health formally issued a five-year plan to increase the number of Soviet hospitals by 28%, giving priority to psychiatric beds, which were to be increased 49.8%. Footnote 95 Aminazine had just been approved for industrial production, and public health officials saw it as a technological solution to the problem of overcrowding in the psychiatric system. Not only could patients be checked out more quickly, their treatment could now largely be done ‘in the community’. As one Soviet psychiatrist noted at a 1955 clinical conference, ‘here it is possible to pose the question of supporting therapy in ambulatory practice’. Footnote 96 Aminazine would allow for more efficient management of hospitals while simultaneously realising one of the ideological goals of early Soviet public health officials: a comprehensive system of community-based psychiatry where psychiatric hospitals played only a supporting role.
Soviet psychiatrists were not alone in seeing the new psychopharmacology as a solution to problems of overcrowded asylums. In the 1940s and 1950s, American psychiatric hospitals were widely criticised for their inhumane conditions. American popular culture depicted psychiatric treatments as punitive, damaging and unscientific, and asylums were ‘The Shame of the States’, to quote the title of one of the most famous exposés of the time. Footnote 97 The Community Mental Health Act of 1963, signed into law by President Kennedy, was based on the idea that, with the help of Chlorpromazine, patients could live outside psychiatric hospitals and be treated in Community Mental Health Centers. Federal funding to these centres encouraged the massive ‘deinstitutionalisation’ of the American psychiatric system in the 1960s and 1970s. The number of psychiatric hospital beds in the United States fell from a high of 559 000 in 1955 to 338 000 in 1970, then continued to decline to 107 000 in 1988. Footnote 98
Soviet psychiatrists hailed the Community Mental Health Centres as a progressive step for the United States, Footnote 99 but in the Soviet Union itself the number of psychiatric hospital beds did not follow the same pattern of decline. Instead the USSR added more beds, growing from 197 000 in 1955 to 267,900 in 1970 and 312,600 in 1975. By 1990, when American deinstitutionalisation was complete, the Soviet Union boasted 349,800 psychiatric beds. Footnote 100 Writing in the 1980s, historian David Joravsky referred to this Soviet build-up of psychiatric hospitals as an ‘ironic process’, in which the USSR adopted an antiquated approach to the problems of modernity just as the rest of the world figured out a better, more sophisticated solution. Footnote 101 While Soviet adherence to an old asylum paradigm may have played some role, the ideological underpinnings of the Soviet psychiatric system and its position within the centrally planned economy were more important. In the Soviet central-planning system, health officials evaluated quality and success using metrics like the number of available hospital beds and square metres per patient. Psychiatrists jockeyed with other medical disciplines to get a part of scarce budgetary resources. For Soviet psychiatrists to advocate a decrease in the number of psychiatric beds would have been almost unthinkable. However, the logic of the plan was not the only factor involved. Since the revolution, Soviet psychiatrists had built their professional ethos around the goal of reforming the old asylums, turning them into psychiatric hospitals that were treatment-oriented places of healing. This vision of modern psychiatry called for the creation of a network of ‘psychoneurological dispensaries’ that would work to foster mental health in the community and provide long-term supporting care for chronic patients. The plans announced by the USSR Ministry of Health in 1954, 1956 and 1960 all envisioned increasing the number of psychiatric hospitals and psychoneurological dispensaries in order to make this modernised system a reality.
The first neuropsychiatric dispensaries had been opened in Moscow in the 1920s. Footnote 102 As with most early Soviet schemes for social transformation, this plan foundered on the realities of Soviet life: there were virtually no resources for health care in general, much less for preventative psychiatry there were very few trained psychiatrists the country was almost entirely rural and the leadership of the country had no interest in allowing ‘mental hygiene’ experts to dictate working conditions to the factory managers and Party bosses responsible for carrying out the Five-Year Plans. Therefore, the early Soviet vision for a comprehensive neuropsychiatric system with neuropsychiatric dispensaries at its core failed to become a reality. Footnote 103
Some neuropsychiatric dispensaries continued to function, however, and the ideal of a non-hospital psychiatry remained part of official rhetoric. In 1940, there were 56 dispensaries in the USSR by 1955 that number had risen to 111, and by 1960 it was 157. (About half of these – 82 – were in the RSFSR.) Footnote 104 The system suffered from serious problems, as internal inspections and reports consistently revealed. Buildings were small and understaffed and often lacked resources to provide daytime workshops or supervision for patients. Large swathes of the rural Soviet Union had no access to psychoneurological dispensaries and had to rely on local polyclinics or general hospitals for psychiatric care. Footnote 105 But despite their very serious shortcomings, the psychoneurological dispensaries provided an important complement to the system of psychiatric hospitals. The psychoneurological dispensaries enabled psychiatric hospitals to check patients out knowing that they would have continuing supportive therapy in the place where they lived. The psychoneurological dispensaries also took on limited but real functions as first-line psychiatric clinics in major Soviet cities, providing short-term in-patient treatment and observation, conducting examinations of mental competence for the military and for courts and providing such services as speech therapy. Footnote 106
Aminazine did not change the fundamental nature of this system. Rather, it reinforced Soviet public health officials’ belief in the fundamental soundness of the Soviet model of an integrated psychiatric network and returned dispensaries to the centre of attention as the crucial component that made the new psychopharmacological treatments actually work. Dispensaries were given responsibility for keeping track of patients who were on ‘supporting therapy’, sending ‘social care nurses’ to do home visits and providing the medicine itself. Footnote 107 In early trials of ‘supporting therapy’, some patients relapsed because they started drinking while at home or because they stopped taking their medicine. Footnote 108 These patients needed to visit a doctor regularly for medical examinations and laboratory tests, and they needed a nurse or social worker to check in on them at home. These providers needed to be trained to recognise signs of relapse into psychiatric disease as well as signs of medical complications like Parkinsonism, hyperkinesia, sleeplessness and liver dysfunction. Training courses needed to be held to make sure that personnel had this specialised knowledge. An early study (conducted once again by someone who worked under Snezhnevskii) found excellent results: with the help of Aminazine, patients were able to maintain the recoveries that had begun in psychiatric hospitals. In many patients the results had actually improved over time. Crucially, the author found that when symptoms began to recur, he was able to use Aminazine to prevent a full relapse without having to send the patient to a psychiatric hospital for in-patient treatment. Footnote 109
Aminazine became so central to the work of the neuropsychiatric dispensaries that psychiatrists began to note with alarm that older methods, such as labour therapy, were no longer being used. Speaking at a 1958 conference, one neuropsychiatric dispensary director said, ‘It’s a problem that we, possessing such a tool [as Aminazine], forget about our old, tested methods of treatment, which also strengthen remission and pre-empt the onset of decompensation….’ Labour therapy in particular needed to be revived, he argued, but in combination with other, pre-Aminazine methods of supporting treatment: ‘with small doses of insulin, electrosleep, oxygen tents, with all methods available in ambulatory conditions’. Footnote 110 Like the staff at psychiatric hospitals, workers at Soviet neuropsychiatric dispensaries seem to have abandoned more complicated, time-consuming activities and opted instead for the simple practice of giving patients Aminazine. In 1963, the Soviet government mandated that Aminazine be provided free of charge to all patients with schizophrenia who were undergoing supporting or preventative treatment. Footnote 111 Aminazine was dispensed to patients primarily at the psychoneurological dispensaries, which now received special funds through local health departments. Footnote 112 Psychiatrists credited the change with helping ensure that patients no longer tried to economise on their medicine, and thus avoided gaps in treatment. They also noted that it enabled them to give larger doses, closer to the dosages given in hospitals. Footnote 113
Despite the construction of new psychiatric hospitals and the introduction of new drugs, the Soviet psychiatric system continued to suffer from chronic overcrowding. A 1961 report found that, if anything, the situation in 1960 was worse than it had been five years earlier. The problem was that much of the expansion had been achieved by crowding more patients into existing structures. A 1961 report acknowledged this, noting that ‘8 000–10 000 beds have been added each year, mainly by further crowding patients into existing institutions’. Footnote 114 The result was that most patients had only 0.5–1.5 square metres of space, even though the official ‘sanitary norm’ was 7 square metres per patient. ‘All the ancillary spaces (corridors, break rooms, cafeterias) are filled with patients,’ a psychiatrist reported. ‘Patients are often kept two to a bed, or on the floor.’ Fights were a constant problem, and the number of serious injuries to staff had increased ‘significantly’ since 1950. Footnote 115
These problems were discussed in the Collegium of the USSR Ministry of Health in May 1961. In their analysis of the problem, the participants saw the overcrowding of psychiatric hospitals as a problem of demand. Based on an internal analysis, they estimated that in-patient psychiatric treatment would be needed for 4–4.5 people per thousand each year, a figure which they noted very clearly ‘corresponds to the number of psychiatric beds provided for the population in the more developed capitalist countries: USA – $4.43/1,000$ Canada – 4.22 Switzerland – 4.03’. The population of the USSR in 1961 was 216.1 million, and the USSR Ministry of Health estimated, therefore, that the country’s real need was for ‘850–900 000 beds’. Footnote 116 The lack of beds, their report claimed, meant that ‘about 300 000 patients who need immediate hospitalisation, including socially dangerous people’, were instead going untreated, causing an increase in crime and making ‘the life of a certain part of the population more difficult and lowering the productivity of their labour’. Footnote 117 In a memorandum to the Council of Ministers, the USSR Ministry of Health proposed building enough new psychiatric hospitals by 1965 to bring the ratio up to 2 beds per 1 000 population, or 432 000 beds in total, and to guarantee a neuropsychiatric dispensary for every town with over 50 000 people. Footnote 118
This 1961 meeting clearly articulated a dedication to maintaining and expanding the early Soviet model for Soviet psychiatric medicine, a model in which a large network of therapeutic institutions worked hand-in-hand with community-based dispensaries. The actual number of psychiatric beds in the Soviet Union never came close to reaching the proposed target of 900 000, but construction was nonetheless significant: by 1965 the number of psychiatric beds had increased from 162 200 to 215 500. Footnote 119 This enabled psychiatric hospitals to cope both with population increase and with the accumulation of chronic patients, while attempting to check new patients out as quickly as possible. In 1963, a psychiatric hospital director in Moscow explained that to free up space in her hospital she was ‘shortening examination periods, beginning treatment earlier and transferring [patients] to ambulatory supporting therapy’. Footnote 120 What Aminazine helped facilitate in the Soviet Union, then, seems to have been a system in which psychiatric hospitals used Aminazine to move patients out of the door and into the jurisdiction of neuropsychiatric dispensaries. Publicly, Soviet psychiatrists claimed that this demonstrated the superiority of Soviet socialism. Privately, though, they were unsure. ‘I am afraid,’ the USSR’s head psychiatrist admitted, ‘that here very few remain in hospitals and we know why it’s very few: because we check them out.’ To which a colleague responded: ‘We kick them out.’ Footnote 121
Joseph Stalin’s Cult Of Personality
Joseph Stalin&rsquos rise to prominence began soon after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Although it was under the leadership of Lenin that the Soviet Union experienced its first wave of cultural, social, and political changes brought on by the revolution&rsquos aftermath, Stalin was continuously working behind the scenes (and sometimes in front of them) casting his influence where he could. He was at the forefront of changes happening in Russia and worked alongside Lenin and Trotsky as one of the seven members of the first Politburo, established in 1917 with the purpose of managing the Bolshevik Revolution.
A celebration of Stalin&rsquos 70th birthday in the People&rsquos Republic of China. Wiki
By 1918, Stalin harnessed a great deal of persuasion over the Russian military. He used it carry out assassinations of counter-revolutionaries in order to protect Lenin and the Bolshevik cause. In 1924, following Lenin&rsquos death, he successfully consolidated power. Ideas about Stalin and Lenin&rsquos relationship became a useful tool of persuasion. Stalin was successfully able to cast himself as an extension of Lenin and his legacy.
In doing so, every idea, gesture, and statement Stalin made were implied to have at least in part come from Lenin, whose leadership Stalin characterized as &ldquoflawless.&rdquo The blending of identities endowed Stalin with capabilities similar to those granted to Roman Emperor Augustus.
In 12 BC, the Roman emperor Augustus was made Pontifex Maximus , a merging of the highest religious and highest political rank bestowed Augustus with immeasurable influence and power. Similarly, with the ghost of Lenin&rsquos legacy, Stalin armed himself with a crown of absolute power and an inability to be wrong. It was the first of many phases of metamorphosis that the persona of Stalin would undergo before becoming Russia&rsquos most loved and abominable cult figure.
During Stalin&rsquos reign, the press played a vital role in projecting his image. They began referring to him as the Father of Nations, while labeling him a &ldquogenius&rdquo, &ldquobeloved&rdquo, &ldquowise&rdquo, and &ldquoinspirational&rdquo. The press particularly liked to feature Stalin as a father figure, playing with children. It was a favored propaganda theme because it easily conjured a connection with the mass public that Stalin was a fearless and strong, but sensitive leader. Soviet propagandists purposely utilized elements associated with outside powers of influence to dissuade, manipulate, and weaken their base of loyalty.
Hitler’s Insane Invasion of Russia Forever Changed World History
What would have happened if Hitler had not invaded Russia? The dynamics of the Third Reich and Hitler meant that Germany would not remain passive.
Here's What You Need to Remember: Smashing Russia would also be the apocalyptic climax for what Hitler saw as an inevitable showdown with the cradle of communism. Or, he could have turned towards the Mediterranean and the Middle East
One of the most momentous decisions in history was Adolf Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.
Operation Barbarossa transformed Nazi Germany's war from a one-front struggle, against a weakened Britain and a still-neutral United States, into a two-front conflict. The Eastern Front absorbed as much as three-quarters of the German army and inflicted two-thirds of German casualties.
So what would have happened if Hitler had not invaded Russia? The dynamics of the Third Reich and Hitler meant that Germany would not remain passive. In fact, it is hard to imagine Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union not at war, though the question is when this would have happened.
One possibility was invading Britain in 1941, and thus either ending the European war or freeing up the Third Reich to fight a later one-front war in the East. Thus Operation Sealion, the proposed 1940 amphibious assault on southern England, would merely have been postponed a year. The problem is that the Kreigsmarine—the German navy—would still have been badly outnumbered by the Royal Navy, even with the addition of the new battleship Bismarck. The British would have enjoyed an additional year to reinforce the Royal Air Force and to rebuild the divisions battered during the Fall of France. Britain would also have been receiving Lend-Lease from the United States, which by September 1941 was almost a belligerent power that escorted convoys in the North Atlantic. A few months later, America did formally enter the conflict despite the Japanese advance in the Pacific, the United States would certainly have concentrated its growing strength on keeping Britain unconquered and in the war.
A more likely possibility is that Hitler could have chosen to move south instead of east. With most of Western Europe under his control after the summer of 1940, and Eastern Europe either subdued or allied with Germany, Hitler had a choice by mid-1941. He could either follow his instincts and ideology and move against the Soviet Union, with its rich resources and open spaces for Nazi colonists. Smashing Russia would also be the apocalyptic climax for what Hitler saw as an inevitable showdown with the cradle of communism.
Or, he could have turned towards the Mediterranean and the Middle East, as his naval chief Admiral Erich Raeder preferred. In the real World War Two, Rommel's North African campaign was a sideshow to the main event in Russia. In the alternate scenario, North Africa becomes the main event.
One possibility would be to pressure Franco to drop Spanish neutrality and allow German troops to enter Spain and capture Gibraltar, thus sealing off the direct route from Britain to the Mediterranean (if Franco was stubborn, another possibility would be to invade Spain and then take Gibraltar anyway.) Another option would be to reinforce Rommel's Afrika Korps, drive across Libya and Egypt to capture the Suez Canal (which Rommel almost did in July 1942.) From there the Germans could advance on Middle Eastern oil fields, or should Germany attack Russia in 1942, move through the Caucuses in a pincer operation that would squeeze Russia from the west and south. Meanwhile, steel and other resources would have been switched from building tanks and other land armaments to building massive numbers of U-boats that would have strangled Britain's maritime lifeline.
Would this alternative German strategy have worked? A German Mediterranean option would have been very different than invading the Soviet Union. Instead of a huge Axis land army of 3 million men, the Mediterranean would have been a contest of ships and aircraft, supporting relatively small numbers of ground troops through the vast distances of the Middle East. With the Soviet Union remaining neutral (and continuing to ship resources to Germany under the Nazi-Soviet Pact,) Germany would have been able to concentrate the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean. German aircraft mauled the Royal Navy in 1941–42, even while supporting the campaign in Russia. The full weight of the Luftwaffe would have been devastating.
On the other hand, the logistics of a Middle Eastern offensive would have been daunting, due to the great distances and lack of Italian shipping capacity to transport fuel. Germany had an efficient air force and navy, but it was primarily a continental power whose strength rested on its army. Assuming that America entered the war in December 1941, then it is possible that the focal point of the European theater in 1942 would have been German–Italian air and naval forces supporting a reinforced Afrika Korps, versus British and American land, air, and naval forces defending or counterattacking in the Near East.
Which in turn raises another question: what if Hitler didn't cancel Operation Barbarossa, but rather postponed it until the summer of 1942? Assuming the Axis were successful in the Middle East, the Soviets would have faced a German–Italian expeditionary force advancing north through the Caucasus (perhaps Turkey would have joined the rising Axis tide.) Another year would also have given Germany more time to loot and exploit the resources of conquered Western Europe.
On the other hand, the Red Army in June of 1941 was caught terribly off-balance, still reeling and reorganizing from Stalin's purges. The extra year would have given the Soviets time to finish regrouping the Red Army as well as absorbing formidable new equipment such as the T-34 tank and Katyusha rocket launcher. Delaying Barbarossa until 1942, assuming Britain hadn't surrendered, would have meant that Germany would begin its attack on Russia while still needing to bolster its western defenses against the inevitable Anglo-American counterattack.
Superior German tactical and operational skills, as well as greater combat experience, would have given the Wehrmacht the edge in the opening days of Barbarossa 1942. Yet the catastrophic losses the Red Army suffered in 1941 would probably have been lower, leading to the possibility that Barbarossa delayed would have been a gift to the Soviets.
Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
This article first appeared in 2016 and is reprinted due to reader interest.
What Happened to the KGB When the Soviet Union Folded?
If you're passing the time by binge-watching episodes of the critically-acclaimed TV series "The Americans," you may have grown fascinated with the story of a married couple living in the Washington, D.C. suburbs during the 1980s, who struggle to protect a dark secret. They're actually operatives for the KGB, the Soviet spy agency that during the Cold War battled clandestinely with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and other Western nations' intelligence organizations. The KGB — a Russian acronym that stands for Committee for State Security — became infamous in those years, thanks to its prowess at stealing secrets and assassinating perceived enemies abroad, as well as crushing domestic dissent. In the process it provided subject material for numerous movies and literary thrillers by novelists such as John le Carré and Martin Cruz Smith.
Since the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist back in 1991, you might assume that the KGB vanished with it. Indeed, after the hammer-and-sickle flag on the Kremlin was replaced by the tricolor of the Russian Federation that nation's first president, Boris Yeltsin, dismantled the agency and dispersed its functions among various other parts of the new government. In reality, though, intelligence experts say the KGB never really went away. Instead, like spies often do, it simply has resurfaced with a different name, FSB, whose letters stand in Russian for Federal Security Service. And today, with a former KGB agent and FSB head named Vladimir Putin as the head of state, the organization once known as the KGB seems to have regained much of its old reach and power.
"Now, it's the favored tool of Putin," explains John Sipher. He's a CIA veteran who served in Moscow in the 1990s and later as deputy of the worldwide Russia program at CIA headquarters, where he worked on the arrest of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who spied for the Soviet Union and Russia. Since leaving the agency, he's become a widely published writer on intelligence issues, and is the co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment, a global production company that works with former intelligence officers to develop media projects such as TV series, films and podcasts.
A Brief History of the KGB
As Sipher explains it, the roots of the KGB and FSB go back to shortly after the creation of the Soviet Union. In December 1917, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin created a secret police agency called the Cheka. "They called themselves the punishing sword of the revolution," he says. "Their whole goal was to keep the leadership in power." Part of that mission involved arresting and imprisoning potential opponents, keeping the population under surveillance, and exerting censorship to keep opposing ideas from spreading. Additionally, the organization and its successors branched out into espionage and covert action outside of the USSR, to defend against and strike at the regime's external enemies.
Though the name of the organization has changed several times over the years, they've essentially been doing the same thing ever since, Sipher says. "Even intelligence officers in Russia today call themselves proud Chekists," he notes. "And Putin makes sure he's in Moscow on Dec. 8 for Cheka Day."
The organization developed cunning strategies and tactics to crush opposition. Early in the USSR's existence, for example, the ex-czarists, socialists and European anti-communists who wanted the regime to fail joined forces in an umbrella organization called the Monarchist Union of Central Russia. What they didn't realize, until too late, was that the union was a ruse — a honeypot set up by the Soviets themselves. "They created their own enemy, their own resistance movement," Sipher says. "So that they knew everybody. Eventually, they killed them all."
During World War II, Soviet spies were extraordinarily effective at worming their way into the Manhattan Project, the U.S. effort to develop the atomic bomb. "They knew more about the creation of the atomic bomb than [President Harry] Truman," Sipher says.
The spies' theft of secrets eventually enabled the Soviet Union to acquire the bomb more rapidly than its own scientists could have done, eliminating an advantage that might have given the U.S. the clear upper hand over Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
"Soviet atomic espionage was one of few instances where espionage directly changed world history," explains Calder Walton, a Research Fellow for the Intelligence Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and general editor of the multivolume "Cambridge History of Espionage and Intelligence.". Walton also is working on an upcoming book on the struggle between British, U.S. and Soviet intelligence during the Cold War.
In addition to spies who posed as diplomats posted to embassies, Sipher says the Soviets also deployed "illegals" – agents who took on new identities and disguised their national origin. After invading Finland during World War II, for example, Soviet officials searched through Finnish records for infants who had died at birth, and then stole their identities, using them to acquire additional documents and build what's called a "legend."
"This fake person would travel around the world, being a Finn, looking like a Finnish businessman," Sipher explains.
Soviet spies' effectiveness, however, was limited by their ability to convince Stalin that their information was more reliable than his assumptions. As Sipher details in this article in The Atlantic, the Soviet leader famously refused to heed a warning from ace Soviet spy Richard Sorge, who was working undercover as a German journalist in Japan, about the existence and timing of Hitler's plan to invade the Soviet Union in 1940.
In 1954, the Soviet intelligence agency officially was reorganized as the KGB, but it continued the same mission. Its 250,000 staffers – a vastly bigger workforce than any western Intelligence agency – handled sprawling overseas responsibilities, ranging from spying, electronic surveillance and codebreaking to disinformation campaigns against foreign enemies. But its most important job remained crushing anyone who might challenge communist leaders inside the Soviet Union.
"It is easy to think of it as an intelligence service, but that wasn't quite right," Walton explains. "It was really was a secret police. It had foreign intelligence capabilities, but its primary purpose was domestic repression. It was, from the outset, designed to be the sword and shield of the party, to smite its enemies at home and abroad, and defend the regime."
To squash any internal resistance, the KGB ran everything from the nation's force of border guards to the enormous Gulag, the system of forced labor camps that imprisoned millions of Russians.
"When one thinks of secret police knocking on the door in the middle of the night, that's the KGB," Walton says.
Over the decades, the KGB also continued to be successful at planting spies in high places, including veteran CIA officer Aldrich Ames, who pled guilty to espionage charges in 1994. But despite those successes, it had limited influence, the experts say. Stalin's tendency to execute officials who told him things he didn't want to hear had created a persistent culture in which nobody dared to speak truth to power. "The KGB provided essentially sycophantic intelligence in successive Soviet leaders," Walton says. "They would look to intelligence that confirmed their preexisting worldview."
But the KGB did break with one Soviet leader. After ascending to power in the mid-1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev and his reform policies didn't sit well with other Soviet officials. That led KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov to lead an attempted coup against Gorbachev, which he reportedly hatched during a meeting in a Moscow bathhouse, according to this 2011 New York Times account by journalist Victor Sebestyen. That plot failed, and the Soviet Union disintegrated.
Though the KGB formally was disbanded by the new Russian government, its people basically kept doing the same jobs under new agency names. "The KGB ceased to exist in name but not in function and was quickly resurrected as the FSB and the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service)," says Walton.
"Yeltsin split it up, and there was the view it would change, but it never did," Sipher explains. A new chief was brought in by Yeltsin, supposedly to impose reforms, but he didn't last long. "We saw in the streets, the way people were treated by Russian intelligence that things hadn't changed."
The spy apparatus even provided Yeltsin's eventual successor. Putin, who had joined KGB in the mid-1970s after being enthralled by a movie thriller about a daring WWII Russian spy, managed to rise high enough in the organization that he finally got his first foreign posting – to Dresden, in then-communist East Germany – just before the Soviet Union's demise. His takeaway from that, as Sipher sees it, was that "when the Soviet state needed to be powerful and crack heads, it didn't and . and it fell apart."
Putin eventually resurfaced as the head of the new FSB under Yeltsin, whom he followed as Russian president in 2000. Under Putin, the pieces of the old KGB increasingly coalesced, leading to news reports that he was even considering formally merging other agencies with the FSB. Though that hasn't happened, the various parts of the Russian intelligence community — including GRU, the military intelligence agency – all operate in concert to support Putin's grip on power. "They all work for the Kremlin," Sipher explains.
Walton concurs. "It's really not transparent, the distinction between GRU and FSB and SVR," he says.
Current Activities of the Soviet FSB
Russian intelligence's effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election campaign – documented in the 2019 report issued by special counsel Robert Mueller – included tricks ranging from the release of stolen emails to using fake accounts to bombard Twitter and Facebook with messages intended to stir up discord among Americans. Russian operatives posed online, for example, as both Tea Party activists and Black Lives Matter protesters.
While many Americans were shocked by the notion that a foreign power would try to interfere in that fashion, Sipher says it's really just something out of the old KGB playbook. Back in the 1980s, he says, the FSB's predecessor waged a similar disinformation campaign, in which it planted stories in the international press that the Pentagon had created the AIDS virus to use against developing countries. What's different now is that technology speeds up the process. "Now, instead of taking four or five years to get the information out, they can use trolls and bots and pump out 100,000 things an hour to get it into our system," he says.
Walton lays out the history of Soviet-style "dezinformatsia" in elections in this article for the Brown Journal of World Affairs.
Similarly, Walton also notes the 2006 murder of former FSB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed by radioactive polonium-210 believed to have been slipped into his tea, and the apparent 2018 attempt to kill former Russian agent Sergei Skripal with nerve poison at his home in the U.K. Both incidents are reminiscent of past KGB efforts to assassinate defectors and other perceived opponents of the regime, he says
"There's a long history of the Kremlin assassinating people in most painful ways, to eliminate enemy but to also send a message," Walton says. One example is the 1940 assassination of former Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who was killed with an icepick in Mexico City. "Stalin was more obsessed with Trotsky than Hitler," he says.
But despite the Russians' recent clandestine successes, Walton and Sipher both caution against taking them for a sign of strength. "The U.S. presidential election was a highly successful operation, but you could argue that they overdid it and now everyone has heightened awareness as a result," Walton explains.
Just as the KGB did in the past, Putin's spies engage in asymmetric warfare because they're facing a stronger adversary. "At the end of the day, if the strong (country) chooses to push back, it is much stronger," Sipher says.
Stalin's paranoia was so great that even after the Soviet Union managed to plant Kim Philby and other members of the infamous Cambridge spy ring inside British intelligence, he wouldn't believe the information they revealed, Walton says. Instead, "Stalin dismissed it all, saying it was as deception plot," and even placed the double-agents under surveillance.
The Sad Story Of How This Soviet Aircraft Carrier Ended Up Rotting In A Landlocked Chinese Lagoon
The former Soviet Kiev class aircraft carrier Minsk is rusting away, seemingly abandoned, in the middle of a man-made lagoon some 50 miles northwest of the Chinese city of Shanghai. It's a visual that feels better suited to a movie or video game set in a cyberpunk dystopia or an Earth where nature has reclaimed areas in the aftermath of some kind of apocalypse. It looks to be a sad and lonely fate for the ship, which was already spared the scrapper's torch once by Chinese businessmen in the 1990s.
The ex-Minsk's present home sits just off the Yangtze River to one side of the Sutong Yangtze River Bridge in Nantong, China. Its immediate neighbors are farms and associated agricultural facilities. Looking at satellite imagery of the site, to the immediate north of the Lagoon, there is what looks to be a viewing platform with a walkway leading back to various structures and a tented pavilion. All of this looks to be part of equally abandoned work on a planned theme park that was to feature the aircraft carrier at its center, but which never opened.