THE SOVIET UNION (1922–1991), also called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was established with the 1917 October Revolution and with the ensuing civil war between the Bolsheviks (Russian communists) and the counterrevolutionary forces gathered in the White Army. The end of the civil war in 1922 witnessed the birth of the world's first communist state, a truly momentous achievement for the left.

Throughout the 1930s, the Soviet Union was considered a source of inspiration and leadership for communist and socialist parties throughout the world. Yet, the utopia of a classless society and the other lofty principles that the Soviet experiment set out to achieve were never really realized. In their place, Soviet leaders constructed a progressively bureaucratized and totalitarian regime, which could only be kept ...

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