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The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. The name is a translation of the Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, tr. Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, abbreviated СССР, SSSR. The common short name is Soviet Union, from Советский Союз, Sovetskiy Soyuz. A soviet is a council, the theoretical basis for the socialist society of the USSR.
The country emerged as a superpower after the Second World War, rivaling the West, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. A series of proxy conflicts and decolonization wars occurring from the 1950s to the 1980s caused the decline of the superpower status of the United Kingdom and France, leaving the United States and the Soviet Union the two warring powers vying for international influence.
Russian Civil War
During the Russian Civil War, the White Russians fought against the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin. The Bolsheviks would enjoy the support of the masses and some defectors of the Russian Army who sympathized with the citizens. The West was initially hostile to the Soviets, sending troops to support the White Russians. These mainly withdrew by the end of 1918. Emerging victorious, the Soviet Union was established in 1922 under the leadership of Lenin. His death in 1924 saw a power struggled between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. Lenin saw Trotsky as his successor, nonetheless, Stalin took power in the 1930s, who had Trotsky assassinated in 1940 in Mexico. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union was an unstable nation marked by property seizure, manual labor, and starvation. Many that opposed Stalin's rule were executed or sent to various gulags in Siberia. In 1933, diplomatic relations with the United States were established. One of the first acts of the newly established relations was the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers that died in the Allied intervention of the Russian Civil War.
Second World War
From May 11, 1939 to September 16, 1939, the Red Army engaged a border conflict with the Imperial Japanese Army in Khalkin Gol in the Khalka River, Mongol People's Republic. In September 1939, the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact commonly known as the Nazi-Soviet pact. Following Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, the Soviets invaded days later in their partition of the country. In November 1939, the USSR invaded eastern Finland in an attempt to recover lost territory from before. The Finnish counterattacked ferociously with guerrilla warfare, severely impeding the Soviet advance. In what is known as the Winter War, the brief conflict ended in March 1940 under the Moscow Peace Treaty, which states that cession of the Gulf of Finland islands, Karelian Isthmus, Ladoga Karelia, Salla, and Rybachy Peninsula, and lease of Hanko to the Soviet Union.
On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler betrays the Nazi-Soviet Pact and commences Operation Barbarossa: the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union. Nazi forces quickly thundered from Poland and entered Eastern Europe virtually unopposed, as the Red Army was disorganized and under equipped due to Stalin's purges in the 1930s. The Wermacht was divided into Army Group North, Army Group Center, and Army Group South. Each Army group was to captured three key Soviet cities: Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad, respectively. Since the Red Army was constantly rerouted from one defensive position to the other, the thought of Nazi victory in the USSR was looming. The Wermacht sacked Leningrad, putting the city under siege. As they approached Moscow, the Red Army held into defensive positions, aided by the harsh winter of 1941. By December 5, 1941, the Red Army successfully drives the Germans away from the city's outskirts. Two days later, the United States would enter World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Under the orders of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Lend-Lease Act was signed, providing the USSR, the UK, and the Republic of China with aid and war material. U.S. supplies would pass through Alaska into the Russian Far East. In August 1942, the Wermacht attacked Stalingrad, heavily damaging the city. A intense house-to-house fighting ensued, finally resulting in Soviet victory in February 3, 1943. The Soviets were then pushing the Germans out of the USSR. In July 1943, the Soviets won on the large tank battle at Kursk, providing a decisive victory. By 1944, the Red Army was thundering through Eastern Europe.
In April 1945, the Red Army enters Germany from the East, crushing through the defenders of Seelow Heights. Once there, the path to Berlin was open. The city was captured on May 2, 1945; Adolf Hitler committed suicide two days before. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. The country was then occupied by the USSR in the East and the Western Allies in the West, along with the capital of Berlin similarly divided with the allied victors.
Three months later, on August 9, 1945 (the same day the U.S. drops the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki), the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Korea and Manchuria, easily defeating meager Japanese forces stationed there. The Red Navy would also land in the Kuril and Sakhalin Islands, occupying it. Japan then unconditionally surrendered on August 15, 1945 or V-J Day. Official surrender was signed on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.