Submitted by George Callaghan…
I am a convinced anti-communist but as a fair minded person I cannot help but marvel at the achievements of the USSR. Consider the seemingly insurmountable problems confronting Russia in October 1917. The First World War was still ongoing, the country was teetering on the brink of internecine civil war, 70% of the population was illiterate, the transport network was dysfunctional, there were severe food shortages in the cities and the army was mutinous. As the Russian Civil War broke out several foreign countries intervened to assist the Whites against the Red.
The Russian Civil War was as savage as only civil wars can be. When the dust settled the Soviet Union was founded in December 1922. The Communist Party strove to bring about a total transformation of society. Almost every country was hostile. Most foreign governments refused to recognize the Soviet Government as legitimate. Despite these unpromising circumstances the USSR attained some remarkable achievements.
Many professional class people fled the country after 1917. This made the government’s ambitious goals even harder to achieve. The USSR soon began the mass production of doctors. Health improved dramatically. The USSR was the first country to have a female majority medical profession.
Within twenty years the USSR had all but abolished illiteracy. The USSR was the most feminist country on earth. Women were admitted to all educational courses and all careers. Women were allowed to join the army and serve in combat roles. The USSR had risen from a very low industrial base at the time of its foundation to have the second largest industrial output in the world by 1945.
The Soviet victory in the Second World War is surely the immortal accomplishment that we should all cherish. It was a triumph bought at a price so dear that it defies contemplation. The unimaginable suffering of the Soviet people does not garner sufficient recognition abroad.
The USSR continued to struggle against racism and religious prejudice. The Soviet people were committed to battling against reactionaries and obscurantists.
The cultural accomplishments of the USSR are not sufficiently appreciated in the West. Architecture, music, ballet, literature and film all thrived. Not many people will know that there was even a Soviet fashion industry.
Stalinist neo-classical architecture is handsome and practical. You may know of Shostakovich and Kharchatian. Muslim Magomed and Uzeir Hajibeyov are two Azerbaijani composers from this era.
The USSR was known for promoting sport and entertainment. The Soviet medal haul was deeply impressive.
Mosfilm cinema produced scores of enthralling and heartwarming films. One of these won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1979.
There were some very negative aspects to the USSR. Stalin’s cruel repressions caused immeasurable suffering. The state planned economy was inefficient. Excessive ideological rigidity meant that Stalin would not acknowledge that his wrongheaded policies were causing famine.
It is the people of the USSR that I admire and not the government. That point cannot be emphasized enough. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) made many grave errors. It is hard to remember how it all began. It grew out of the trades union movement. Its objectives were ending privation and bringing about an equitable settlement.
The USSR was dissolved in 1991. By that time almost everyone could speak at least basic Russian. Gender equality was stronger in the USSR.