Boycott after Boycott

When I think about the Olympic Games, I think of a world wide sporting event that has gone one since the late 1800s (and even earlier in Ancient Greece). I think of it as a time where rival nations can come together and compete in a way that shows respect for all nations. This was not always the case though, and even now I do have to admit it isn’t always the fairy tale picture that I make up in my head. I can wish though!

This is a political cartoon representing the 1980 Summer Olympics

(here is a link to a video about how American althetes felt about the boycott in 1980)

The 1980’s Olympic Games held more than just a friendly rival between countries wanting to win various gold metals for their country. The Summer Olympic Games of 1980 were held in Moscow, this decision would alter the number of countries that would participate due to previous events during the late 1970s. On December 25, 1979 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. “The war, fueled by and fueler of Cold War anxieties, operated on the law of unintended consequences.”. When discussing the result of the invasion on Afghanistan,  Gregory L. Freeze stated that it was “catastrophic: the Soviet Union found itself snared in  a military quagmire that consumed vast resources, cost enormous casualties and had a devastating effect on the Soviet Union’s international position,”(Freeze, 446). This invasion caused an uproar by the United States and other nations. When the 1980’s Olympic Games took place in Moscow, the United States and 55 other nations held a boycott and did not participate. The invasion of Afghanistan led them to these decisions.

This picture was taken in 1988 when the Soviets were about to pull out of Afghanistan.

These boycotts made the International Olympic Committee outraged. In The Current Digest of the Russian Press, there was an article published in May of 1980 called the “Olympic Solidarity”. This document reflected the opinions and decisions made from the meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board and leaders from different international sports federation. The main conclusion from the meeting was that the “Games in Moscow will be one of the most important events in world sports, and no dirty intrigues by the “boycott instigators” can prevent this.” The document also stated that “Another very important event was the unanimous adoption, by the meeting of leaders of international sports federations, of a resolution vigorously condemning attempts to boycott the Olympics, which are being undertaken for selfish political ends.” The committees thought these boycotts effected the athletes the most, and deprived them of opportunities. The International Olympic Committee and the other international sports federations stood behind the Soviet Union and wanted to protect it against anything. Although the United States and 55 other countries did not participate, the Moscow Olympics in 1980 were still a success. Venues were filled to near capacity and over five million tickets were sold. “The boycott thus failed to cast a pall over the 1980 Olympics, although it did deepen the atmosphere of Cold War.” It is quite humorous that four years later the Soviet Union and other Communist nations boycotted the Summer in Lost Angeles for “security reasons”.


This map shows Olympic boycotts from 1976 to 1984


Cover Image Found:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a history. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.


In 1945 at a gulag labor camp near the village of Bezymianka. The workers pictured above helped support and construct the  airplane industry during WWII.

During the war and years before, the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps also known as the GULAC held millions of prisoners. Gulag’s were the main punishing system for the Soviet Union. They held all different types of people including rapists, murders, thieves, political prisoners and many innocent men and women convicted for petty smaller crimes. Gulag’s weren’t prisons but were labor camps that forced prisoners to work excruciating hours, in horrific climate conditions and unbearable labor intensive jobs.

Picture of prisoners in a Gulag camp in 1932 working on the White Sea Baltic Sean Canal.

This all changed after the war. “One of the key elements of “destalinization” was the release of prisoners from camps administered by the GULAG”. On March 27, 1953 Stalin’s first post action granted amnesty by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR which freed a variety of different prisoners. “The edict covered persons sentenced for up to five years, those convicted of economic and military crimes regardless of their terms of imprisonment, women with children under 10 years of age or who were pregnant, juveniles up to age 18, men over 55 years of age and women over 50 years of age, and convicts suffering from incurable diseases.” Within three months of the amnesty decree over 1.5 million prisoners were released. The decree also stated that crime has decreased and that there “is no longer necessary to retain in places of custody persons who have committed offenses representing no great danger to the state”. The part that is most shocking is although some men and women were in gulag’s for legitimate reasons others were in for crimes as innocent as arriving late to work three times or telling a joke about the communist party.

Once freed, prisoners had an extremely hard time integrating into the soviet society. The torture and pain these prisoners faced in the gulag’s could not just be forgotten. Men, women and children saw punishment and physical mistreatment that most people could not image. This made it difficult to forget andwe4e forgive the government and adapt back into society. “Though many went on to live peaceful lives, they stood as living testament to the injustices of the state. Survivors had seen the worst that life could offer, instilling some with an unquenchable courage and need to speak forthrightly.” Afterwards some were brave to tell their stories through books, poetry and songs.

One Step Ahead

Recruiting poster in 1943 of Irakli Toidze for the movie “For the Motherland”

Soviet war time brought a unique artistic freedom to the Soviet film and cinema industry. During the war there were over 100 Soviet films produced and half of them had a plot surrounded around the war. The most interesting thing was how many films told the stories of the partisans. The role of women and stories of their lives flooded the box offices. The picture above is from one of the most “canonical movie of the war years came in 1943: Fridrikh Ermler’s She Defends the Motherland (Ona zashchishchaet rodinu, released in the U.S. as No Greater Love).” This movie along with many that had female leads during the war, represented women as self sacrificing, confident, calm and driven. In the movie She Defends the Motherland, Prasha Lukianov lost her husband in the war and her baby son by Germans invading her village. “Pasha quickly emerges from her nearly catatonic state to reassume her leadership role with the surviving villagers, forming a partisan band. As Comrade P., Pasha picks up an ax to lead her followers into hand-to-hand combat with the Germans.” Her leadership went far beyond just supporting her local village and its people. As a woman she accomplished the unthinkable, she kidnapped Germans, attacked convoys and became a nightmare for the occupying German armies in her village. This fictional story of Pasha shows a small representation of how the lives of women in the Soviet Union during WWII actually looked like.

A group of Soviet female snippers marching during their training for WWII

What some westerners might not understand or imagine is how involved Soviet women were, not just on the home front, but in the physical battle of the war. “Women were much more intimately involved in their country’s defense and frontline combat than the woman of any other combating society in World War II or the Great Patriotic War as it was called in the USSR.” Specifically, Soviet women fought the Germans in “direct combat roles that included bomber pilots, tankers, machine gunners, infanteers, and grenadiers.”

Not only did these women help on the battlefront and in the war physically they also helped to redefine and challenge social roles. Years prior to the war between 1907-1917, the fight for women’s rights increased tremendously. This movement was led by the League of Women’s Equal Rights, the largest feminist group during the time. Rights they fought for included “women’s education and social welfare, as well as equal rights, such as suffrage, inheritance, and passport restrictions.” In 1917 women were also given the right to vote which was a few years before women in America could. Russia throughout its history seemed a step a head of the western world when it came to the evolution of women’s roles in society, including women in film and on the big screen.


Age of Terror


The above image is a Russian anti-religious propaganda image from 1929 that is titled “On Easter Nobody Skips Work”. Other propaganda was used during this time to dimension the Church and what they stood for. This all took place because in 1929 the Russian government implemented more restrictions towards the Christian church. “The state stiffened the restrictions it had placed on the church in 1918 with a new law on religious organizations issued in 1929, giving the church little room to act, and reinforcing the restrictions by stiff penalties,” (17 Moments). The war on the church took off in the early 1920s but it is significant to note that in 1929 during the Cultural Revolution the discrimination turned from hierarchy to local establishments.

Activist took their hate on the church to action during the late 1920s. “Particularly ferocious was the attack on church property, which saw ancient churches converted into warehouses, and sacred objects melted down for their metals,”( 17 moments). This caused churches to close which caused villagers to have rage and anger towards the government. Police and government officials would specifically target church bells and use them for industrial projects like the picture below.


The government not only destroyed church properties but they made it difficult for workers to attend church on Sunday’s by issuing machinery to operate on Sundays and a implementing a new work week schedule that required work on Sunday’s (linked is a video of the new uninterrupted work weeks). This idea was called Nepreryvka. “Introduction of the nepreryvka required cultural organizations, educational institutions, shops, baths, laundries, and other facilities to adjust to the staggered schedule”.  Not only were Christians targeted by their work schedules but church closings and new government implications led to so much worse. The Russian Orthodox Church were targeted the most during the 1920s and 1930s. “Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited.” Within in 10 years of the wide spread church closings started in 1929, only 500 of 50,00 churches were still open in Russia (Anti-religious Campaigns). The result of the early 1920s restrictions against the church and the later issues of 1929, led masses of churches to close and greater violence against Christians in Russia.



“Anti-religious Campaigns.” Anti-religious Campaigns. August 31, 2016. Accessed February 26, 2017.

Geldern, James von Von. “Churches Closed.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. August 27, 2015. Accessed February 26, 2017. (image 1) (image 2) (video link)



The 10th Party Congress


Lenin, Trotsky and Voroshilov with Delegates of the 10th Congress of the Russian Communist Party in 1921.

“During the closing months of the civil war, the population increasingly demanded that the state produce tangible improvements to justify the sacrifices made in the name of revolution…Even the most ideological Bolshevik could not deny the gravity of the situation” (Freeze 308). This described the state of Russia leading up to the 10th Party of Congress in March 1921. A week before, there was a massive rebellion on the Kronstadt naval base caused by soldiers and sailors. This caused problems for the state and survival of the Communist party. The 10th Party Congress played a huge role in controlling and avoiding anti-Bolshevik uprising. The state knew that changes needed to be made and “the turning point came in 1921 when the Tenth Congress endorsed the controversial New Economic Policy (NEP),” (Freeze 308).

Picture of men from the Kronstadt rebellion

The changes and resolutions formed at the Congress had great impact politically and economically not only for the Party but the Soviet society as well. The NEP’s main goal was to create a new foundation that would allow for peaceful transition to socialism. This also included the integration of generated investment capital for industrialization and better system of regulating production and supply distribution. Congress also used Lenin’s stance on “The Substitution of a Tax in Kind for the Surplus Grain Appropriation System” which allowed peasants to participate in unrestricted trade which “paved the way of the New Economic Policy” (17 Moments).

When it came to political reforms , the Party faced “contradictory pressures” which led them to be slow to enforce and make changes. Lenin had strong opinions towards the formation of the Workers Opposition  and other factions. “Lenin argued that factionalism and criticism from within was hurting the party, encouraging dissent and rebellion and providing ammunition for counter-revolutionaries and foreign enemies,”(Alpha History). Lenin instead wanted to have party unity where factionalism was forbidden.

The 10th Party Congress occurred during a critical time in the formation of the new Soviet Russia. It was the first congress after the Civil War. After the Kronstadt uprising, Lenin would do all he could economically to save the Party. The rebellion was when Lenin realized the need to help satisfy the middle class peasantry.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia a History, 3rd Edition (Image 1) (Image 2)


Not All of Us are for the Revoltuion


“1905 was a watershed in the history of the late imperial Russia.”(Freeze 252). During this time there was radical political and social changes across  Russia. There were different elements of the revolution including peasant and worker up-rise, along with military rebellions. Instead of focusing on those against the Russian Empire during the 1905 Revolution, this blog post will focus on those for it, the nationalist. The nationalist goal during the Revolution were to unify the Empire. They tended to be a group of elite and wealthy loyalist. Nationalist were not completely on board for the new westernization that was sweeping across the Empire. They were afraid that the Revolution and what peasants and the working class were fighting for would disrupt tradition and their social order. Nationalist opposed the idea of spreading democracy and political power to the masses and general people of Russia.

The idea of nationalist and conservatism can be easily overshadowed by the new reforms and pressure the government had by the lower classes. They necessarily were not out protesting for change or for new rights because the majority of nationalist had the rights that peasants were fighting for. Conservatives did not completely opposed rights for peasants and the working class but what they believed it was more important that one had loyalty to both the autocracy and representative institutions.


One of the biggest changes during the Revolution of 1905 was the issue of the October Manifest which “ended the unlimited autocracy in Russia and ushered in an era of constitutional monarchy.” (October Manifesto Britannica). The Nationalist view point of the October Manifest was that it was necessary to avoid violence but they did not completely desire or agree with it. October Manifest created a representative legislative body also known as the Duma. The Duma was created so the people’s voices would be heard more in the government. What is ironic is that before the first Duma meeting, Tsar Nicholas II, the Emperor of Russia at the time, implemented the Fundamental Laws. These laws did not allow the Duma to have say in state budget or state ministers. The Duma actually had little ability to make effective legislative changes that would help the people. With this being said the nationalist and loyalist loved Tsar and agreed with everything he did.

The nationalist brought great set backs to the reforms and what the people were fighting for during The Revolution of 1905. It was not until the rise of World War I and  after the March Revolution of 1917, that the Duma was redesigned as the Provisional Government and when Tsar Nicholas the II resigned from being Emperor. This period of loyalty to the empire that Tsar had ruled had finally come to an end.

Click to access russian-political-parties-in-1905.pdf

Russia a History, by Gregory L. Freeze


From Railways to Revolution


The photograph above was taken by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. It was a photo of the Headquarters of the Urals Railway Administration building in the City of Perm in 1909. Railroads were first introduced in Russia in the 1830s. By 1951 Russia had its first commercial railway that went from St. Petersburg to Moscow. By 1866 the country had over 5,100 km in railway network. In 1866 the Russian government set up an expansion plan that required railway companies to get authorized and become apart of the government expansion plan  before continuing railway plans and production. This plan helped increased domestic production, especially steal rail factories that had produced hundreds of thousands of steel tons by 1899.

As the decades went on and as the century was coming to an end, Russia focused on an international railway through Siberia to the Pacific. This line was called the Trans-Siberian line and was designed to help protect Russia against foreign powers and would allow for greater immigration. Tsar Alexander III and Sergei Witte were the mass minds of this project. “He [Witte] saw the railway as part of a bigger scheme involving emigration and economic development and coordinated railway construction with other projects such as building a line from the Urals for metal products and re-equipping waterways crossing the route to deliver materials.” This project was difficult and had multiple interruptions but by 1911 the Trans-Siberian line was up and running.


Leading up to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917, the government had growing concerns about the railways. The railways were losing money even though traffic was increasing. Along with decreased income, the railways in the early 1900s also brought corruptions and a rise in supply cartels. The government also saw benefits from the railways which included the transportation of goods and supplies including coal, grain, flour and timber. Russia also had more railways in 1913 than Great Britain which was important leading up to the first World War because it made Russia an important industrial power within the world.

The railways had a big contribution to the hundreds of thousands of peasants that were now living in cities that were built around the railways. These people were living in horrendous living circumstances. The people were beginning an up rise against the government. The railways were not the main cause for the 1905 Revolution but did have a great influence on it. Issues addressed in the 1905 Revolution include food shortages, worker strikes and a military uprising. According to Gregory L. Freeze the same issues continued to the quick fall of the Romanov in 1917. “Mobilization of manpower, industries, and transportation inevitably caused disruptions in the production and distribution of food with dire consequences at the front and at home” (Freeze 172). These were issues that Freeze said also contributed to the uprising in 1917.

1900s trans siberian railway line of russia 

Russia, A History by Gregory L. Freeze (3rd Edition)