Taking you through AQA A2 History of the Soviet Union in as little time and as little pain as possible... see you on results day!


16 June 2010, AM

28 April 2013

An update!

Hello, wonderful people.

I know that I set this account up three years ago to help me with my A-levels, but lately I've had a slew of emails thanking me for the resource and asking for help.

I thought it best to post an update here.

The work I put in to this blog got me an A grade A-level, so the resources you are using are good! I hope they continue to help.

I am currently in my final year of university, and am now a specialist in African history. I am, once again (!), blogging my finals revision at http://africanhistoryblog.wordpress.com.

If you have any further queries, please email the above address. I can't be much help with specifics, but I know I can help with general exam tips.

The email address listed now forwards to my personal address, and I will try to reply to everything as I know how stressful this time of year is for year 13 students!

The best of luck!

- Amy (The History Girl)

13 June 2010

Essay Plan: Stalin's War Leadership

This question is on the specification paper, and so there is a good chance that an alternate (eg the economy's significance) will come up on the actual paper, 2010.

"Stalin's leadership was the most significant reason for the Soviet victory over Germany in the 1941-1945 war" - assess the validity of this statement

Pearson states that "as a highly centralised dictatorship, Joseph Stalin almost certainly played a pivotal part in every aspect of the Soviet war effort", suggesting that Stalin's leadership was crucial to the war effort, and that the USSR would not have been as strong were it not for him. Although this is certainly true, many other factors did contribute to the war victory, including the merits of the Soviet economy under Gosplan, and the GKO (general defence council) which was established in Stalin's absence early in the war, as well as the infamous Soviet winter of 1941. Despite this, however, many historians agree that the USSR would not have been so likely to win the Great Patriotic War were it not for Stalin's efforts.

- Establishment of Stavka - PEARSON: "At a critical moment he proved himself to be resolute and decisive"
- Order No 270, Aug 1941, "all deserters will be shot and their families imprisoned"
- allowing military leaders to flourish
- turning the war into one of attrition, to his advantage, eg at Stalingrad - DOCKRILL: "Stalingrad marked the beginning of the end for Germany"
- Propaganda

- PEARSON: "Stalin's first, most fatal error was not to allow his troops to mobilise in time before impending Nazi disaster"
- absence at start of war - debated as to whether this really happened
- military purge, 1937
- responsible for many fatal flaws such as Seige of Leningrad

- HARRISON: "If WW2 was a test then the Soviet Economy passed it" - & Overy's correlation argument (years when economy failed (1942-3) war effort failed; as economy improved, war effort did, too)
- Winter argument, 1941

- was critical to the war effort, and arguably the most important reason

Ta-da! My fifth essay plan of the say (I did two on paper before I ran out of paper... oops?)

I need a life/a break...

- HistGrrl x
- GKO est in his absence

Essay Plan: Nationalism

This question isn't specifically about a longer period of time, such as the thematic questions tend to be, but it's important, I think, to address both long and short term issues when answering it.

To what extent was the failure of the Soviet leadership to address the potential threat from nationalism early enough responsible for the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991?

Although most historians agree that a considerable number of factors contributed to the break-up of the USSR in 1991, most state that the explosion of tensions within the nationalities were the major trigger for this. National tension had existed within the USSR since its very creation, with Ward stating that Lenin's greatest error was to allow republics to maintain their own names and governments rather than uniting them under one, central government, as this allowed for national movements to continue beneath the surface from 1917, so that when economic and political pressures became too much, as they did under Gorbachev, the nationalist threats all rose at once, creating serious problems for the government in Moscow. As Laver states, "the nationalities problem was a time-bomb waiting to explode".

- 1940 secession of Baltic States to USSR means that national tension especially strong
- Comparative openness under Khrushchev lead many to expect better & this tension continued to grow (eg Hungary, which was first Eastern Bloc nation to open its borders, 1988)
- major problems begin under Brezhnev - LAVER: "Letting sleeping dogs lie"
- LAVER: "If there was a nationalities problem then Brezhnev did not solve it"
- Helsinki groups
- Glasnost created greater problems with raised expectations
- BRESLAUR: "Gorbachev's greatest error was not to reconcile the results of glasnost with the rise of nationalism in the USSR"
- Ukraine's secession out of USSR seen as the moment at which the USSR finally knew it would collapse
- benefit of hindsight - WARD's comment that no one saw it coming

- MARPLES: "Gorbachev failed to recognise that Yeltsin and the radicals were the future"
- failures of perestroika = collapsing economy
- failure to make any decent decision about the economy
- allowing the Eastern Bloc to secede
- concentration on foreign policy
- August coup
- rise of other political parties
- political uncertainty and reshuffle of party organs etc

- had nationalism been combatted sooner, the USSR may not have collapsed when it did
- however other fundamental problems made the collapse inevitable, as Laver suggests

Last time I tried this essay, I singularly failed to understand it. I think this plan is kinda good, though, so YAY! :)


- HistGrrl x

Light Relief - Neda Speaks

This is hardly light relief, but it needs to be spoken about.

Please share it, and spread the word.

- HistGrrl x

Essay Plan: Opposition to Brezhnev

To what extent did the Brezhnev regime succeed in silencing opposition to its policies?

Opposition to the policies of the Brezhnev regime came from both inside and outside of the USSR, and, although Laver states that there was "no evidence of widespread dissatisfaction" amongst the Soviet people at this time, the growth of opposition in the form of dissidence, national revolts, and international tension was recognised as highly significant, and was, for the most part, successfully silent. However, the international dimension served to undo all the work done to silence such views from within the USSR, as the BBC Russian service kept citizens aware of opposition in all its forms, leading some to speculate that it was this opposition which eventually lead to the eventual national riots and emergence of other 'political parties' under Gorbachev.

- Sinyavskey and Daniel - lead to 1967 KGB unit "against ideological diversions"; imprisonment of all dissidents; tighter control over culture and social policy
- 1965 Red Square Protest - lead to the above
- Helsinki Groups - protesting peacefully for human rights; little effect
- Jewish Emigration; silenced by allowing it to happen
- Czechslovakia 1968 - successfully silenced, sent a warning to other nationalities
- worries of Islamic Fundamentalism - silenced through war in Afghanistan
- most people continued to conform; apathy the dominant political force

- writer contacted foreign journalists
- BBC Russian Service
- Boycott of Moscow Olympics sends a signal to the Russian people

- successful within the USSR, but lack of success in the rest of the world counter-balanced this by allowing people to continue to see resistance

Essay Plan: Effects of War

Asses the economic and social costs to the Soviet people of the Great Patriotic War of 1941 to 1945, in the years to Stalin's death in 1953.

Revisionist historians agree that, despite the devastation left in the wake of the Great Patriotic War, it did have a great strengthening effect on the Soviet people, having unified them against a common enemy and brought them together for so long. Although the lives and resources lost to the war effort were significant and almost certainly detrimental to the recovery of the USSR to Stalin's death in 1953, the economic "miracle", as Nove terms is, serves almost completely to nullify this. Social conditions, however, did not undergo the same miraculous recover, with the Cold War and paranoia on Stalin's part causing the grip over the population to tighten and social restrictions to become more all-encompassing than before. Thus, the social costs of the war may outweigh economic recovery, because of their more direct effects on the lives of the Soviet People.


- agriculture - scorches Earth
- industry lost resources in move East
- loss of workers
- focus on arms
- tighter control than ever before

- "remarkable"
- 1950 statistics up on 1940
- resources and trading partners gained from Eastern Bloc
- quantitative
- industry = :)
- NOVE: "agriculture, in Stalin's final years, was characterised by excessive centralisation of decisions, insufficient investment, extremely low prices and ill-judged intentions"


- 20 000 000 people dead
- Zhadnovshchina
- anti-cosmopolitanism
- Soviet nationalism
- loss of individual identity
- orthodox church rejected again
- living conditions still pretty dire
- Cold War isolationism
- LYNCH: "Paranoia had a large part to play in the Soviet politics of the time"

- not really...


- economic costs were not too terrible and were easily recovered
- social costs were dire and never were solved until Khrushchev's arrival, when they were addressed
- social costs outweigh economic recovery in their effects on the Soviet people

Essay Plan: Social Conditions

I HATE SOCIAL CONDITIONS. Thought you should know.

Did the condition of the Soviet people improve or deteriorate during the era of Brezhnev and Gorbachev?

When Brezhnev took power in the USSR in 1964, the Soviet people had better rights and personal freedoms than ever before because of the comparative liberalism of Khrushchev's regime. However, living conditions in this period, and the treatment of suspect nationalities, for example, were not good, having not improved significantly since Stalin's day. Thus, the changes under Brezhnev and Gorbachev can be seen to have created definite improvements, leading to higher expectations from the Soviet people in the areas left unsolved, leading to one of the major causes of the fall of the USSR in 1991.


- divorce, contraception, abortion
- 50% more fruit, veg, meat and fish eaten
- equal pay in almost all professions
- Jewish emigration

- tighter cultural control
- 1967 KGB wing against "ideological diversion"
- alcoholism
- poverty
- position of women

BUT the regime tried to tackle the latter three problems with large-scale propaganda campaigns (see www.sovietposter.blogspot.com).


- Andropov's education and anti-alcoholism policies

- no time to make real change


- Glasnost raised expectation
- improvements in medical care
- campaign against alcoholism

- raised expectations
- LAVER: "Glasnost proved a double-edged sword for Gorbachev"
- no improvements in role of women

- improved in many areas but lead to unrealistic expectations from population

Hope this helps :) Questions?

- HistGrrl x