Soviet Union Facts for Kids

  • After the Romanov monarchy was overthrown, Russia became the Soviet Union.
  • The Soviet Union was a socialist country with Lenin as its leader.
  • The USSR occupied one-sixth of the land on Earth.
  • The Soviet Union fell in 1991.

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was one of the world’s largest countries. It was made up of more than 100 different nationalities. The majority of the population were East Slavs, or Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians.

The USSR, or United Socialist Soviet Republic, was made up of 15 countries:

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan

Soviet Union: Lenin and the Bolsheviks

In the winter of 1917, there was a lot of snow and cold weather in Russia. There were food shortages for workers and peasants.

On February 22, a work stoppage occurred at a factory. Workers in 50 factories went on strike the next day in solidarity.

In many workplaces, the women were at the forefront of their strikes. This became known as International Women’s Day. From the factory to where they lived and worked, protestors made their way.

The commanders forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. He did what they said and abdicated. Soviet leaders formed a Provisional Government to take care of the country.

The Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, returned to Russia from his exile.

Lenin thought it was time for the soviets to take overpower. He decided that the war should stop, land should be given to peasants, and banks should be nationalised.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov better known for his alias Lenin

Lenin thought that the party needed to change its name. He wanted it to be called the Communist Party now that they were going for a more radical idea.

The Revolution of October 1917

The uprising started on October 24. Prime Minister Kerenskii left the city, sensing trouble.

Men loyal to the government seized buildings of two Bolshevik newspapers. Also, troops were sent to take over telephone and telegraph offices and protect the Winter Palace.

Then the ship Aurora shot at the Winter Palace. Other ships went down the Neva River and captured military points. By nightfall, the city was under the control of Lenin and the bolsheviks.

A long and bloody war happened. The Red Army, backed by the Bolsheviks, beat the White Army.

The Red Army was made up of people on the side of communism. They spent the next few years trying to maintain their rule against widespread popular opposition.

The Bolsheviks used ruthless methods to suppress their enemies. They ruled with terror, and only a few people were in the group.

In a period called the Red Terror, people were killed by Bolsheviks. They were called Cheka. They killed supporters of the tsar and wealthy people in Russia.

A pact was signed in 1922. The Soviet Union, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia were established as the United Soviet Socialist Republics. Lenin’s new Communist party took power after seizing government control.

Socialism in Soviet Union

The Bolsheviks were against owning private property. This means that the government took over most industries and banks in November 1917. This meant that the government took them over for themselves.

Some people had too much land, and others did not have enough. So to fix this problem, the government said that all land was social property. The peasants got to take the land from the nobles, and in cities, Bolsheviks enforced that houses be divided according to family size.

Bolsheviks banned the use of titles like “count” and “prince.” To show that the new rule was in place, they made new uniforms for military officers and officials.

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia and moved to Russia. He became the leader of Russia when Lenin died in 1924.

The dictator who ruled by terror killed millions of people. He transformed the Soviet Union from an agrarian society to an industrial and military superpower during his reign until he died in 1953.

Stalin made a plan to make the Soviet Union rich. The first plan was for agriculture and industry. The later plans were for the military.

Stalin made all of the peasants join collective farms. The ones who owned land and livestock were forced to give up their property, which was taken away from them. Hundreds of thousands of higher-income farmers called kulaks were also killed, and their property was taken away from them.

Under Stalin, the party elite made decisions without asking the people. Communists thought that they would make farms more productive by putting them together. But, this was not true.

Stalin believed that the state’s interests were more important than those of an individual. He wanted to build socialism using forced collectivisation and industrialisation, which caused much suffering and people to die.

The 1930s was a scary time for the people of Russia. Millions of innocent people died. Stalin wanted to be in total control and wanted to make sure he could not be overthrown.

Sooner or later, the Great Terror ended. By then, Stalin had made sure that he controlled everything in Soviet society, not letting even a little local initiative happen.

Stalin felt threatened by people who were educated or religious. He also wanted to move people from other countries to Siberia.

The Cold War

After World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States and Great Britain broke apart.

The Soviet Union in 1948 made countries friendly to communism. America and Britain were afraid of the spread of communism.

Canada, the United States, and their European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The alliance between Western bloc countries was a show of force against the USSR and its allies.

The Soviet Union made a new alliance with Eastern bloc countries called the Warsaw Pact. This was because of NATO.

In the Cold War, people in different groups fought. They fought on the political, economic, and propaganda fronts. The fight continued until 1991, when the Soviet Union fell.

Stalin’s successors persecuted dissidents, though they used police terror more sparingly to do what they wanted. The successors still wanted people to be afraid of them even if they didn’t use the same amount of violence. They relaxed some political controls and introduced economic incentives so that people would believe they were being kind.

Read about the Cold War

The USSR and East-Central Europe

The Soviet Union overran Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and the eastern German states after World War II. The Soviet Union wanted to create governments in Eastern Europe that were friendly.

Soviet soldiers helped put Communist dictatorships in power in Romania and Bulgaria when the war was still happening.

In Yugoslavia and Albania, communist dictatorships came. But they were not in the Soviet Union.

In 1949, Germany was split into two countries. The Communist German Democratic Republic was established in the Soviet, German occupation zone.

East European countries were ruled by communism. They depended on Russia to help them. More than a million Red Army soldiers stayed in Eastern Europe after the war.

Winston Churchill then said the “Iron Curtain” speech. These are his words:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” 

The Space Race

Laika was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth

The Soviet military showed a keen interest in rockets. They sponsored a research centre, the Gas Dynamics Laboratory, and Another facility in Moscow, the Reaction Propulsion Laboratory.

Sputnik II went up on November 3, 1957. It was carrying the dog Laika. In 1958, the United States sent its first satellite.

Then the Soviet Union sent the first man who went to space in 1961. His name was Yuri Gagarin. He orbited the Earth on one whole time. It took him two hours to go around our planet in his spacecraft. 

People in the United States were not sure that the Soviet Union had better technology. A few weeks after Gagarin’s flight, the United States sent Alan Shepard into space. But Shepard did not orbit the earth.

The Soviet Union was the first country to send a woman into space and have someone do a spacewalk. Russia also landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in 1966.

On July 20, 1969, two American astronauts landed on the Moon for the first time. The United States was the first country to do this.

The Soviet Union was the first country to build a space station. Thus, the space race ended when the Berlin Wall collapsed.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev tried to fix the situation by making some changes. But his changes were not as good as they could have been because he didn’t change some things, like the police and the party.

The Soviet Union was held together by the Communist leadership. But they lost power later. Then the Soviet Union collapsed.

The End of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union ceased to be when Mikhail S. Gorbachev resigned. This meant that there would be a new “Commonwealth of Independent States.”

The hammer and the sickle flag was lowered, and the Russian flag with white, blue, and red stripes went up.


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