97 votes
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Did the Soviets excel in one area of weaponry during World War II?

I can think of a list of things which either excelled at the time or were feats not matched in the whole war. The T-34 and IS tank lines. Not just the tanks themselves, but also focusing on two ...
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90 votes

How did the USSR manage to innovate in an environment characterized by government censorship and high bureaucracy?

The USSR didn't tend to go in for economic competition, but it made good use of intellectual competition and competition for prestige. It was also relatively good at creating organisations that did a ...
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77 votes

Why did the Soviet Union name their strongest bomb Tsar Bomba?

The official designation for that particular device was the RDS-220. The nickname Tsar Bomba was an appellation applied by the West, rather than the designers of the bomb (who - according to the site ...
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74 votes
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Did Stalin kill all Soviet officers involved in the Winter War?

Wikipedia article on the Winter War The 3 top Soviet officers (apart from Stalin): Kliment Voroshilov: died 2 December 1969. Semyon Timoshenko: died 31 March 1970. Kirill Meretskov: died 30 December ...
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60 votes
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Given their reputation for fighting to the last man in the Pacific, why did 700,000 Japanese troops surrender in Manchuria?

Because the Japanese Government surrendered on 15 August. Naturally, the Japanese military was ordered to lay down their arms. For Manchuria this meant the much-reduced Kwantung Army, which ...
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59 votes

Why did the Soviet Union have multiple airplane manufacturers?

I can't speak to the specifics of the Soviet Union, but I want to address the opening assumption of the question. Generally, Communism believed in economic central planning, with each field being ...
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59 votes
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Why was the Cold War carried out over the whole world instead of between Siberia and Alaska?

Location of Conflicts This is because fundamentally, the Cold War was about which ideology would dominate the world. Both sides wanted to export their ideology, or perhaps more importantly, stop each ...
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54 votes

Was the Wehrmacht a mechanized army?

You are correct. Parts of the Wehrmacht were mechanized, but the vast majority was foot infantry with horse drawn logistics. Most soldiers walked towards Moscow, and back. World War II German ...
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53 votes

Did the Soviet army intentionally send troops (e.g. penal battalions) running over minefields?

There are a few recorded instances of Soviet penal troops being intentionally sent over mines, at least according to survivors: It is hard to judge whether there was a deliberate sacrifice of ...
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  • 3,639
52 votes
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In the Soviet Union, why was the Cheka renamed so many times?

The secret police was key to the Soviet government (so-called Chekism), so its structure changed frequently in response to state political needs. CheKa: The "Emergency Commission" was formed in 1917, ...
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  • 4,510
52 votes
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Why did the Germans forbid the possession of pet pigeons in Rostov-on-Don in 1941?

The Germans were concerned that carrier pigeons would be used to communicate with Soviet forces. Carrier pigeons were used extensively during both World Wars. From the Rostov-on-Don tourism website: ...
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51 votes
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During the breakup of the Soviet Union, on what basis was citizenship granted or withheld for each of the fifteen new republics?

This question gets really complicated really fast. After the breakup, each of the former Soviet republics established its own set of laws, and then these laws were rewritten multiple times. The region ...
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51 votes

Why did the Soviet Union out-pace the US during the space-race?

It was more of a back-and-forth. You can build a narrative of one side out-pacing the other if you cherry-pick firsts, but their capabilities were very close. The timeline of first achievements is ...
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49 votes
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What are the text and subtext of this 1949 Soviet cartoon?

Although the whole anti-"rootless cosmopolitan" campaign is now widely accepted as being antisemitic in nature, at the time it was framed as being directed against people who "lack patriotism and ...
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48 votes
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Why did the Soviet Union close its borders and restrict travel abroad?

The answers to 1, 2 are very simple. The Soviet Union presented itself as a "communist paradise." That is, a country where life was better than in capitalist countries. This was the main ...
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48 votes
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What did Germany do in World War II about the different rail gauge in the Soviet Union?

The overall answer is that the Soviets were not rich in railways and destroyed much of it as they retreated. The Germans anticipated this, and had railway commandos rebuild much of the Soviet trunk ...
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48 votes
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What was the liquor that was based on petrol which was produced in the USSR during the Second World War?

There is quite some strange quotation mixing up the interpretation. My version of that book reads: An ancient L.A.C. had been trying to fill his lighter from a large petrol tin. He does it by tilting ...
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47 votes

Why did the Soviet Union have multiple airplane manufacturers?

Company vs Design Bureau It's important to distinguish between a company and a design bureau. Organisations such as MiG (Mikoyan-and-Gurevich Design Bureau), Yakolev (JSC A.S. Yakovlev Design Bureau),...
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46 votes

Why did the Soviet Union name their strongest bomb Tsar Bomba?

In Russian Language the word "Tsar" has also another, non-literal meaning. Examples are: "Tsar-pushka" (king of the guns), the largest (in caliber) existing gun, and "Tsar-kolokol" (king of the bells)...
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45 votes

Were there often intra-USSR wars? If not, why not?

Yes, there were insurgencies, wars and inter-ethnic conflicts. Not often. First of all, the Yakut revolt which was part of the Russian civil war, lasted till June 16, 1923. The USSR was established on ...
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43 votes
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Why did Stalin keep the famine of 1932 a secret?

1932 There are two chief interpretations of the 1932 Soviet famine, or especially the more infamous Ukrainian component, the Holodomor. That the famine was at least partially caused or exacerbated by ...
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42 votes
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Why did Stalin and the Soviet leadership have Leon Trotsky assassinated?

Trotsky, as the leader of the Fourth International, was a direct competitor to Stalin as the Leader of the World Worker Movement. Stalin needed all the communists to be subservient to him, especially ...
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42 votes

Did the Soviet Union or its satellite states have any broadcast propaganda media for an international audience?

Yes. Ample supply. At least for print and radio. Newspapers and magazines Not really 'broadcast medium', but mentioned in the question: Many versions printed directly under the auspices of a communist ...
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  • 73.7k
41 votes

Why wasn’t the USSR “rebranded” communist?

The reason is that there are two different concepts that are named "communism". One is the final stage in the Marxist(-Leninist?) development model (after archaic/primitive classless ...
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40 votes
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Why was Kaliningrad placed under the Russian SFSR rather than the Lithuanian SSR?

Lithuania fell under Soviet occupation in 1940, but the Soviets were promptly evicted by Operation Barbarossa. So in practice, the Lithuanian SSR was established only in late 1944, after the Baltic ...
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40 votes
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Why did Jodrell Bank assist the Soviet Union to collect data from their spacecraft in the mid 1960's?

SHORT ANSWER Jodrell Bank's first 'coup', tracking Sputnik 1 in 1957 (without Soviet assistance), put it in the news and helped secure funding. It also led to a congratulatory telegram from the ...
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38 votes
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What did Yuri Gagarin do while waiting for his ride?

In 1991 Central Committee of the CPSU Archive released several documents related to Gagarin's flight. Amongst them was Gagarin's own after-action report to the government commission. Sadly, Russian ...
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38 votes

When planning Barbarossa, did Germany conceive of the Soviet migration of heavy industry?

I'm wondering if Hitler or others conceived of this possibility when they were planning Barbarossa? (Note: much of this is derived from Wikipedia, I don't have the referenced sources.) It seems they ...
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37 votes
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What was the internal Soviet reaction to the moon landing?

TL; DR: Landing on the moon was covered in the Soviet press, and was well known in the Soviet Union. It received much less attention than Soviet space missions, though. Just to add something factual ...
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37 votes

Which was the last major war in which horse mounted cavalry actually participated in active fighting?

During World War II, the USSR used nearly 200,000 horses in active cavalry fighting. The Russians' retention of large units of cavalry long after this ancient arm had been abandoned by other major ...
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