Why was the USSR a superpower?


What is a Superpower?

An extremely powerful nation, especially one capable of infulencing international events and the acts and policies of less powerful nations

1 of 7

Political Factors

Alliance between big three- Russia, America and Britain- even before fall of Berlin, plan to continue war in which America and Britain fought Russia

1946, Alliance in 'two camps'- Eastern Europe and Soviet Union under Socialism, Western Europe and USA- Capitalism and Democracy

Tehran and Yalta conference agrred that once Nazis fell, Europe would be split in two

Russia could legitimately except to have neighbouring states that sympathised communism, 'spheres of influence'

Yalta, February 1945, joint agreement, 'Allied Declaration on Liberated Europe'- establish democratic regimes in territories they occupied

Stalin misinterperated 'Spheres of influence'- no room for western democracy

Stalin ordered Red Army into Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria to establish communist government

Parties were kept loyal through regular purges, from Moscow

2 of 7

Political Factors Continued...

Stalin established 'People's Democracies', following a Stainist model

Regular elections- people vote for communist party, top of each party stood for Politburo- opposition suppressed with Terror and Propaganda

Trade agreements drawn up between Russia and other eastern states

1949, 'Eastern Block' emerged, countries in this were not truly independent, controlled by Moscow, forced to act to give most benefit to USSR

February 1946, Stalin claimed the world was of two camps, this division lead to a lack of trust between the east and the west

Thus during the 'Cold War' the two sides continually spied on each other

The 'Cold War' allowed Stalin to maintain control, gave him pretext to demand full co-operation of communist leader, security aganist a common enemy

3 of 7

Economic Factors

Russia and America, economic forces of the post-war world

Anticipating military conflict from west, economy was geared for war

This was essential to new projects- underline soviet power during the cold war came from the development of nuclear weapons and ballistics

Fourth five year plan priority on heavy industry as production had decreased during WW2
Steel 1945- 45% of 1940's levels
Pig Iron 1945- 26% of 1940's levels

Military reconstruction- threat of USA and allies, thus allocating 7.4 billion roubles for defense spending compared to 5.7 billion in 1940

Total industrial production 1952 doubled that of 1940

4 of 7

Economic Factors Continued...

Steel production 1950- 49% above 1940's levels
Coal 1950- 57% higher than 1940's levels
Cement 1950- 75% higher                                          Exceeded targets 
Glass 1950- 90% higher                                                     of FoFYP
Electricity 1950- 87% higher than 1940's levels

Focus on industry and military, again living standards suffered
1946-51- conditions were worst than 1930
Housing- 50% of accomodation was destroyed during WW2, the rest were poorly maintained- 90% of central heating did not work

Regime deliberatly kept prices high and wages low to encourage women to stay in labour

Fourth FYP designed to protect soivet citizens from invasion rather than address hardship

5 of 7

Military Factors

American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski changed warfare

Soviet bomb project led by atomic scientist, Igor Kurchatov, quickly caught up

Large part of Russia's control over the Eastern Bloc helped, as East Germany and Czechoslovakia had large deposits of Uranium

Stalinist economy ideally suited to task of weapons production

Gosplan could divert vast resources to department of nuclear weapons

Physicists were helped by spies, who could access American and British Nuclear secrets

6 of 7

Military Factors Continued...

Continual propaganda emphasised the importance of the project in terms of world peace and defense of the motherland

Scientists were willing to give up there lives to spped up research

Beria- NKVD head was put in charge of project- majority of scientists were never purged

RDS-1 was the first atomic bomb- tested 1949 in remote Kazakhstan- American had taken six years, Russia had taken less than four

By 1953, development of the hydrogen bomb, codename 'layercake' tested in Kazakhstan, proved to be 10 times more powerful 
It showed that Russia and America were equal in military technology

Soviet nuclear success, guareenteed survival of socialism, creating stalemate between the world's two super powers

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Russia - 19th and 20th century resources »