The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated NKVD, was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union. Established in 1917 as NKVD of Russian SFSR, the agency was tasked with conducting regular police work and overseeing the country's prisons and labor camps, it was disbanded in 1930, with its functions being dispersed among other agencies, only to be reinstated as an all-union ministry in 1934. The functions of the OGPU were transferred to the NKVD in 1934, giving it a monopoly over law enforcement activities that lasted until the end of World War II. During this period, the NKVD included both ordinary public order activities, as well as secret police activities; the NKVD is known for its role in political repression and for carrying out the Great Purge under Joseph Stalin. It was led by Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrentiy Beria; the NKVD undertook mass extrajudicial executions of untold numbers of citizens, conceived and administered the Gulag system of forced labour camps. Their agents were responsible for the repression of the wealthier peasantry, as well as the mass deportations of entire nationalities to uninhabited regions of the country.
They oversaw the protection of Soviet borders and espionage, enforced Soviet policy in communist movements and puppet governments in other countries, most notably the repression and massacres in Poland. In March 1946 all People's Commissariats were renamed to Ministries, the NKVD became the Ministry of Internal Affairs. After the Russian February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government dissolved the Tsarist police and set up the People's Militsiya; the subsequent Russian October Revolution of 1917 saw a seizure of state power led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who established a new Bolshevik regime, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. The Provisional Government's Ministry of Internal Affairs under Georgy Lvov and under Nikolai Avksentiev and Alexei Nikitin, turned into NKVD under a People's Commissar. However, the NKVD apparatus was overwhelmed by duties inherited from MVD, such as the supervision of the local governments and firefighting, the Workers' and Peasants' Militsiya staffed by proletarians was inexperienced and unqualified.
Realizing that it was left with no capable security force, the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR established a secret political police, the Cheka, led by Felix Dzerzhinsky. It gained the right to undertake quick non-judicial trials and executions, if, deemed necessary in order to "protect the Russian Socialist-Communist revolution"; the Cheka was reorganized in 1922 as the State Political Directorate, or GPU, of the NKVD of the RSFSR. In 1922 the USSR formed, with the RSFSR as its largest member; the GPU became the OGPU, under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR. The NKVD of the RSFSR retained control of the militsiya, various other responsibilities. In 1934 the NKVD of the RSFSR was transformed into an all-union security force, the NKVD, the OGPU was incorporated into the NKVD as the Main Directorate for State Security; as a result, the NKVD took over control of all detention facilities as well as the regular police. At various times, the NKVD had the following Chief Directorates, abbreviated as "ГУ"– Главное управление, Glavnoye upravleniye.
ГУГБ – государственной безопасности, of State Security ГУРКМ– рабоче-крестьянской милиции, of Workers and Peasants Militsiya ГУПВО– пограничной и внутренней охраны, of Border and Internal Guards ГУПО– пожарной охраны, of Firefighting Services ГУШосДор– шоссейных дорог, of Highways ГУЖД– железных дорог, of Railways ГУЛаг– Главное управление исправительно-трудовых лагерей и колоний, ГЭУ – экономическое, of Economics ГТУ – транспортное, of Transport ГУВПИ – военнопленных и интернированных, of POWs and interned persons Until the reorganization begun by Nikolai Yezhov with a purge of the regional political police in the autumn of 1936 and formalized by a May 1939 directive of the All-Union NKVD by which all appointments to the local political police were controlled from the center, there was frequent tension between centralized control of local units and the collusion of those units with local and regional party elements resulting in the thwarting of Moscow's plans. Following its establishment in 1934, the NKVD underwent many organizational changes.
During Yezhov's time in office, the Great Purge reached its height from the years 1937 and 1938 alone, at least 1.3 million were arrested and 681,692 were executed for'crimes against the state'. The Gulag population swelled by 685,201 under Yezhov, nearly tripling in size in just two years, with
3rd Guards Tank Army
The 3rd Guards Tank Army was a tank army established by the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. The 3rd Tank Army was created in 1942 and fought in the southern areas of the Soviet Union and Poland in Germany and Czechoslovakia until the defeat of Germany in 1945. Postwar, the army served as occupation troops in East Germany, went through several name changes, was deactivated in 1969; the 3rd Tank Army was formed as part of the Reserve of the Supreme High Command on the basis of the 58th Army in the Moscow Military District in May 1942. It was placed under the command of Lieutenant General Prokofy Romanenko, its initial composition was 12th and 15th Tank Corps, one motor rifle division, two rifle divisions. As part of the Soviet Western Front, the 3rd Tank Army counter-attacked the German Second Panzer Army in August 1942. Soon afterwards, in September 1942, Romanenko handed over to Colonel General Pavel Rybalko, who held command of the Army for the remainder of the war. Committed to the fighting for Kharkov in March 1943 as part of the Voronezh Front, the 3rd Tank Army was subsequently encircled and destroyed by German forces.
The Army's remnants were reorganised as the 57th Army. The army was reformed as the 3rd Guards Tank Army in May 1943, including the 9th Mechanised Corps & 12th & 15th Tank Corps. In 1943, the army took part in the Orel offensive and, assigned to the Voronezh and First Ukrainian Fronts, played a leading role in the liberation of Left Bank Ukraine. During the Orel offensive the 12th and 15th Tank Corps became the 6th and 7th Guards Tank Corps, respectively; the army was among the first Soviet troops to reach the Dnieper River in October 1943. In 1944, it fought in the Lvov-Sandomierz offensive operations; the army subsequently fought in southern Poland, in the Battle of Berlin. It overran the OKH command post at Zossen, headquarters for German Eastern Front operations, on April 21, 1945; the army drove on Prague, entering that city on May 9. Soon after the end of the war, the 6th and 7th Guards Tank Corps were converted into tank divisions with the same numbers, the 9th Mechanized Corps into the 9th Mechanized Division.
By 1946, the army had been re-designated as the 3rd Guards Mechanized Army and was headquartered in Luckenwalde, East Germany, as part of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. The 3rd Guards Mechanized Army was one of several Soviet armies used in the suppression of the 1953 uprising in East Germany, moving the 6th Guards Tank Division into Dessau and Wittenberg as well as the 9th Mechanized Division into Lübben and Spremberg. On 29 April 1957, the 3rd Guards Mechanized Army became the 18th Guards Army. At the same time the 14th Guards Mechanized Division became the 14th Guards Motor Rifle Division. In 1958, the 82nd Motor Rifle Division, the former 9th Mechanized Corps, was withdrawn to Slavuta in the Carpathian Military District, where it disbanded. Up to 1964 it had preserved two formations which had served with it during World War II: the 6th and 7th Guards Tank Divisions. In August 1964, the headquarters of the 18th Guards Army was relocated to Alma-Ata, where it became the operational group of the Turkestan Military District.
The 6th and 7th Guards Tank Divisions and the 14th Guards Motor Rifle Division were transferred to other units within the GSFG. The operational group was converted back into the 18th Army on 4 March 1969, but was used to activate the headquarters of the Central Asian Military District on 24 June; the 3rd Tank Army was commanded by the following officers: Lieutenant General Prokofy Romanenko Major General Pavel Rybalko The 3rd Guards Tank Army, 3rd Guards Mechanized Army, 18th Guards Army were commanded by the following officers: Lieutenant General Pavel Rybalko Lieutenant General Vasily Mitrofanov Lieutenant General Vasily Butkov Lieutenant General Viktor Obukhov Major General Sergey Sokolov Major General Georgy Anishchik Beloborodov, Afanasy, ed.. Военные кадры Советского государства в Великой Отечественной войне 1941 – 1945 гг. Moscow: Voenizdat. Bonn, Keith E. Slaughterhouse. Bedford: Aberjona Press, 2005. ISBN 0-9717650-9-X. Feskov, V. I.. I.. A.. A.. Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской.
Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306. Glantz, David M. Companion to Colossus Reborn. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005. ISBN 0-7006-1359-5. Poirier, Robert G. and Conner, Albert Z. The Red Army Order of Battle in the Great Patriotic War. Novato: Presidio Press, 1985. ISBN 0-89141-237-9. Shein, Dmitry. Танки ведет Рыбалко. Боевой путь 3-й Гвардейской танковой армии. Красная армия. Элитные войска. Moscow: Yauza/Eksmo. ISBN 978-5-699-20010-8. Zvartsev, Alexander, ed.. 3-я гвардейская танковая. Боевой путь 3-й гвардейской танк
East Prussian Offensive
The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945; the Battle of Königsberg was a major part of the offensive. The East Prussian Offensive is known to German historians as the Second East Prussian Offensive; the First East Prussian Offensive, took place from 16–27 October 1944, was carried out by the 3rd Belorussian Front under General I. D. Chernyakhovsky as part of the Memel Offensive of the 1st Baltic Front; the Soviet forces took heavy casualties while penetrating 30–60 km into east-northern part of Poland, the offensive was postponed until greater reserves could be gathered. The main thrust of the offensive was to be conducted by the 3rd Belorussian Front under Ivan Chernyakhovsky, his forces were tasked with driving westwards towards Königsberg, against the defensive positions of the 3rd Panzer Army and 4th Army, the northern armies of General Georg-Hans Reinhardt's Army Group Centre.
From the north, on Chernyakhovsky's right flank, General Hovhannes Bagramyan's 1st Baltic Front would attack the positions of the 3rd Panzer Army on the Neman, as well as crushing its small bridgehead at Memel. Chernyakhovsky's left flank would be supported by the 2nd Belorussian Front of Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, ordered to push north-west to the Vistula, through the lines of the 2nd Army, thereby sealing off the whole of East Prussia; the Soviet offensive began on 13 January with a heavy preparatory bombardment. At first, the Red Army made disappointing progress. Over the next five days, the Soviets managed to advance only a further 20 km, at the cost of high casualties. After two weeks of severe fighting, the Red Army began making steady progress, although again, this came at the price of high losses. Over the next few days, the 3rd Panzer Army of General Erhard Raus was destroyed or withdrew into Königsberg, while General Friedrich Hossbach′s 4th Army began to find itself outflanked.
Against fierce resistance, Rokossovsky attacked across the Narew on 14 January. This sudden change of direction caught Hossbach by surprise. On 24 January, Rokossovsky's leading tank units had reached the shore of the Vistula Lagoon, severing land communications with the rest of German armed forces for the entire 4th Army along with several divisions of the 2nd Army which were now trapped in a pocket centered on East Prussia. On the same day, Hossbach began to pull his units back from the fortified town of Lötzen—a center of the East Prussian defence system—and through a series of forced marches attempted to break out westward. In the meantime, Chernyakhovsky had succeeded in rolling up the defences from the East, pushing the remnants of the 3rd Panzer Army into Königsberg and Samland. On 28 January, Bagramyan's forces captured Memel. With the remnants of Army Group Centre contained, Soviet forces could concentrate on reducing the German forces in Pomerania and eliminating any possible threat to the northern flank of their eventual advance on Berlin.
Reinhardt and Hossbach—who had attempted to break out of East Prussia and save their troops—were relieved of command, the Army Group was placed under the command of General Lothar Rendulic. Reinhardt gave up his command with the words "There is nothing more to say". Raus and the staff of the destroyed 3rd Panzer Army were assigned to a new formation; the defending forces, in the meantime, were besieged in three pockets by Chernyakhovsky's armies: Some 15 divisions of the 4th Army had become encircled on the shore of the Vistula Lagoon in what became known as the Heiligenbeil Pocket. After bitter fighting, these units were overcome on 29 March; the remnants of 3rd Panzer Army—placed under 4th Army's command—became isolated in the Siege of Königsberg. The city was taken by the Soviets—after massive casualties on both sides—on 9 April. After this point the remaining German forces around the Bight of Danzig were reorganised into Armee Ostpreußen under the overall command of Dietrich von Saucken; the third group of German forces—the XXVIII Army Corps or Armeeabteilung Samland under General Hans Gollnick—occupied the Samland Peninsula, where the port of Pillau was retained as the last effective evacuation point for the area.
The last elements were cleared from Pillau on 25 April in the Samland Offensive. After this time, German forces continued to resist on the Vistula Spit, the long sandbar enclosing the Vistula Lagoon, until the end of the war. Evacuation of East Prussia Battle of Königsberg Prussian Nights Vistula–Oder Offensive Operation Hannibal, the evacuation effort by the Kriegsmarine East Pomeranian Offensive, the parallel Soviet offensives in Pomerania Strategic operations of the Red Army in World War II Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-670-88695-5 Duffy, Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-22829-8 Glantz, David M..
3rd Belorussian Front
The 3rd Belorussian Front was a Front of the Red Army during the Second World War. The 3rd Belorussian Front was created on April 24, 1944, from forces assigned to the Western Front. Over 381 days in combat, the 3rd Belorussian Front suffered 166,838 killed, 9,292 missing, 667,297 wounded and frostbitten personnel while advancing from the region some 50 kilometers southeast of Vitebsk in Russia to Königsberg in East Prussia. Operations the 3rd Belorussian Front took part in include the Belorussian Offensive Operation, the Baltic Offensive Operation, the East Prussian Offensive Operation. Although costly, the advance of the 3rd Belorussian Front was in great part victorious, with one of the few defeats occurring during the Gumbinnen Operation in October 1944. 3rd Belorussian Front was formally disbanded on August 15, 1945. Colonel General Ivan Chernyakhovsky Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky General Hovhannes Bagramyan
Operation Bagration was the codename for the Soviet 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, a military campaign fought between 23 June and 19 August 1944 in Soviet Byelorussia in the Eastern Front of World War II. The Soviet Union inflicted the biggest defeat in German military history by destroying 28 out of 34 divisions of Army Group Centre and shattered the German front line. On 23 June 1944, the Red Army attacked Army Group Centre in Byelorussia, with the objective of encircling and destroying its main component armies. By 28 June, the German Fourth Army had been destroyed, along with most of the Third Panzer and Ninth Armies; the Red Army exploited the collapse of the German front line to encircle German formations in the vicinity of Minsk in the Minsk Offensive and destroy them, with Minsk liberated on 4 July. With the end of effective German resistance in Byelorussia, the Soviet offensive continued further to Lithuania and Romania over the course of July and August; the Red Army used the Soviet deep battle and maskirovka strategies for the first time to a full extent, albeit with continuing heavy losses.
Operation Bagration diverted German mobile reserves to the central sectors, removing them from the Lublin-Brest and Lvov–Sandomierz areas, enabling the Soviets to undertake the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive and Lublin–Brest Offensive. This allowed the Red Army to reach the Vistula river and Warsaw, which in turn put Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlin, conforming to the concept of Soviet deep operations—striking deep into the enemy's strategic depths. Germany's Army Group Centre had proved tough to counter as the Soviet defeat in Operation Mars had shown, but by June 1944, despite shortening its front line, it had been exposed following the defeats of Army Group South in the battles that followed the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Kiev, the Crimean Offensive in the late summer and winter of 1943–44. In the north, Army Group North was pushed back, leaving Army Group Center's lines protruding towards the east and at risk of losing contact with neighbouring army groups; the German High Command expected the next Soviet offensive to fall against Army Group North Ukraine, while it lacked intelligence capabilities to divine the Soviet intentions.
The Wehrmacht had redeployed one-third of Army Group Centre's artillery, half of its tank destroyers, 88 per cent of tanks to the south. The entire operational reserve on the Eastern front was deployed to Model's sector. Army Group Centre only had a total of 580 tanks, tank destroyers, assault guns, they were opposed by over self-propelled guns. German lines were thinly held. Operation Bagration, in combination with the neighbouring Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive, launched a few weeks in Ukraine, allowed the Soviet Union to recapture Belorussia and Ukraine within its 1941 borders, advance into German East Prussia, but more the Lvov-Sandomierz operation allowed the Red Army to reach the outskirts of Warsaw after gaining control of Poland east of the Vistula river; the campaign enabled the next operation, the Vistula–Oder Offensive, to come within sight of the German capital. The Soviets were surprised at the success of the Belorussian operation which had nearly reached Warsaw; the Soviet advance encouraged the Warsaw uprising against the German occupation forces.
The battle has been described as the triumph of the Soviet theory of the "operational art" because of the complete coordination of all the strategic front movements and signals traffic to fool the enemy about the target of the offensive. The military tactical operations of the Red Army avoided the mobile reserves of the Wehrmacht and continually "wrong-footed" the German forces. Despite the massive forces involved, Soviet front commanders left their adversaries confused about the main axis of attack until it was too late; the Russian word maskirovka is equivalent to the English word camouflage, but it has broader application in military use. During World War II the term was used by Soviet commanders to describe measures to create deception with the goal of inflicting surprise on the Wehrmacht forces; the Oberkommando des Heeres expected the Soviets to launch a major Eastern Front offensive in the summer of 1944. The Stavka considered a number of options; the timetable of operations between June and August had been decided on by 28 April 1944.
The Stavka rejected an offensive in either the L'vov sector or the Yassy-Kishinev sectors owing to the presence of powerful enemy mobile forces equal in strength to the Soviet strategic fronts. Instead they suggested four options: an offensive into Romania and through the Carpathian Mountains, an offensive into the western Ukrainian SSR aimed at the Baltic coast, an attack into the Baltic, an offensive in the Belorussian SSR; the first two options were rejected as being too open to flank attack. The third option was rejected on the grounds; the only safe option was an offensive into Belorussia which would enable subsequent offensives from Ukraine into Poland and Romania. The Soviet and German High Commands recognised western Ukraine as a staging area for an offensive into Poland; the Soviets, aware that the enemy would anticipate this, engaged in a maskirovka campaign to catch the German armoured forces off guard by creating a crisis in Belorussia that would force the
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established after the 1917 October Revolution; the Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; the Red Army provided the largest land force in the Allied victory in the European theatre of World War II, its invasion of Manchuria assisted the unconditional surrender of Imperial Japan. During operations on the Eastern Front, it accounted for 75–80% of casualties the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS suffered during the war and captured the Nazi German capital, Berlin. In September 1917, Vladimir Lenin wrote: "There is only one way to prevent the restoration of the police, and, to create a people's militia and to fuse it with the army."
At the time, the Imperial Russian Army had started to collapse. 23% of the male population of the Russian Empire were mobilized. The Tsarist general Nikolay Dukhonin estimated that there had been 2 million deserters, 1.8 million dead, 5 million wounded and 2 million prisoners. He estimated the remaining troops as numbering 10 million. While the Imperial Russian Army was being taken apart, "it became apparent that the rag-tag Red Guard units and elements of the imperial army who had gone over the side of the Bolsheviks were quite inadequate to the task of defending the new government against external foes." Therefore, the Council of People's Commissars decided to form the Red Army on 28 January 1918. They envisioned a body "formed from the class-conscious and best elements of the working classes." All citizens of the Russian republic aged 18 or older were eligible. Its role being the defense "of the Soviet authority, the creation of a basis for the transformation of the standing army into a force deriving its strength from a nation in arms, furthermore, the creation of a basis for the support of the coming Socialist Revolution in Europe."
Enlistment was conditional upon "guarantees being given by a military or civil committee functioning within the territory of the Soviet Power, or by party or trade union committees or, in extreme cases, by two persons belonging to one of the above organizations." In the event of an entire unit wanting to join the Red Army, a "collective guarantee and the affirmative vote of all its members would be necessary." Because the Red Army was composed of peasants, the families of those who served were guaranteed rations and assistance with farm work. Some peasants who remained at home yearned to join the Army. If they were turned away they would prepare care-packages. In some cases the money they earned would go towards tanks for the Army; the Council of People's Commissars appointed itself the supreme head of the Red Army, delegating command and administration of the army to the Commissariat for Military Affairs and the Special All-Russian College within this commissariat. Nikolai Krylenko was the supreme commander-in-chief, with Aleksandr Myasnikyan as deputy.
Nikolai Podvoisky became the commissar for Pavel Dybenko, commissar for the fleet. Proshyan, Steinberg were specified as people's commissars as well as Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich from the Bureau of Commissars. At a joint meeting of Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, held on 22 February 1918, Krylenko remarked: "We have no army; the demoralized soldiers are fleeing, panic-stricken, as soon as they see a German helmet appear on the horizon, abandoning their artillery and all war material to the triumphantly advancing enemy. The Red Guard units are brushed aside like flies. We have no power to stay the enemy; the Russian Civil War occurred in three periods: October 1917 – November 1918: From the Bolshevik Revolution to the First World War Armistice, developed from the Bolshevik government's nationalization of traditional Cossack lands in November 1917. This provoked the insurrection of General Alexey Maximovich Kaledin's Volunteer Army in the River Don region; the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk aggravated Russian internal politics.
The situation encouraged direct Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, in which twelve foreign countries supported anti-Bolshevik militias. A series of engagements resulted, amongst others, the Czechoslovak Legion, the Polish 5th Rifle Division, the pro-Bolshevik Red Latvian Riflemen. January 1919 – November 1919: Initially the White armies advanced: from the south, under General Anton Denikin; the Whites defeated the Red Army on each front. Leon Trotsky reformed and counterattacked: the Red Army repelled Admiral Kolchak's army in June, the armies of General Denikin and General Yudenich in October. By mid-Nove
The Soviet Union the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were centralized; the country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Minsk, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, it spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, steppes and mountains; the Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s.
Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country. Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, agreeing to non-aggression with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk; the territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union.
The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization; the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika, which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments; as part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by some republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation.
Gorbachev's power was diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union; the remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state. The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus; the country had the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, it was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
The word "Soviet" is derived from a Russian word сове́т meaning council, advice, harmony and all deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti, related to Slavic věst, English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or", or the Dutch weten. The word sovietnik means "councillor". A number of organizations in Russian history were called "council". For example, in the Russian Empire the State Council, which functioned from 1810 to 1917, was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905. During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia. Stalin resisted the proposal, but accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name of the newly proposed sta