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11 Lesser-Known Facts About the Soviet Union

soviet union facts

The reign of the Soviet Union saw a drastic transformation in multitudes of faculties ranging from science and agriculture. However, the state had been the most powerful advocate and promoter of the mainstream political thought of communism. A typical discussion on the long historic period can only cover things on a broader scale. This enables the possibility of missing out on small yet fascinating stories that largely remain unheard. To give you a taste of such instances, here is a list of 11 lesser-known facts about the Soviet Union.

1. Vulcan, a small town in West Virginia, was struggling with the problem of replacing a bridge. After being ignored by the West Virginian government, they asked the Soviet Union and East Germany for help. The Soviets appointed a journalist to investigate the matter. Based on that investigation, the state sanctioned paying for it just in a matter of an hour.

Vulcan Bridge
Image credit: Google via amusingplanet

The town near the border of Kentucky was running out of productive enterprises in the early 1960s. Vulcan’s mines became depleted and residents moved away. The state government lost track of its existence.

The town relied on a single suspension bridge, which ran across the river to connect it to Kentucky. The weak bridge lived up to everyone’s fears and collapsed in 1975. 

After their futile attempts with the West Virginian government, a 42-year-old representative wrote to the Soviet Embassy in Washington. He knew that the Soviets would not pass up the opportunity to humiliate the Americans.

A New York Russian journalist arranged for the survey and the bridge was ready to be built. Communists providing financial support to an American small community was surely going to be an explosive headline. The Soviets pledged $1.3 million to fund the Vulcan Bridge.

The state tried to compensate by responding that such things require planning and months to get the job done.

Nonetheless, the brand new, one-lane bridge was ready for use in just a couple of years. (Source)

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2. During the fall of Berlin, the Soviets forced a young SS soldier to play the piano. They warned him through sign language that if he stopped, he would be immediately executed. The soldier played for 22 hours straight until he collapsed in tears. Then the cold Soviets congratulated and shot him off.

Ss soldier
Image is used for representational purposes only.

The Soviets showed no signs of mercy towards the Germans they encountered during the Battle of Berlin.

When the Red Army of Soviets reached Auschwitz, the scenario was quite unbelievable for them. The torture that was then faced by the German soldiers was not less than a hell of unimaginable cruelty.

The victims were set free naked, but as live targets for shooting practice. Others played the game of “Achtung” in which they were forced to shout “Achtung.” They shouted until they stopped, only then to be devoured by packs of deadly dogs waiting for a feast. 

The Soviets had the singular objective of killing as many Germans as possible. The piano torture was just one of the thousand stories of inhuman brutal murders.

Things slipped out of hand when they raped daughters, mothers, and grandmothers, one after another, multiple times. (Source)

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3. The recovery of Cuba’s beautiful coral reef was directly correlated to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cubans were forced to resort to organic farming because Russia supplied all the synthetic fertilizers and assisted in their agriculture. This led to less chemical runoff in the oceans reviving the reefs.

Coral reef
Image credit: Shutterstock

In history, the Cuban reefs were made popular based on the accounts of a handful of divers. Tales were developed around the magical location, and they were glorified as highly spectacular.

The reason behind the degradation of the reefs remained unanswered for almost 50 years. The scientist Daria Siciliano led the CubaMar Project which finally discovered the reason.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 saw remarkable changes in the agricultural practices and policies of Cuba. High sugar production was one of the priorities of the USSR during their reign. Heavy usage of synthetic fertilizers also proved to be an important cause of the reefs’ decline.

Conservation of the natural oceanic treasure of the largest Island of the Caribbean since then is taken seriously. The reefs of Cuba are now heavily researched and preserved with the help of the American and Cuban governments. (Source)

4. McDonald’s ran a nationwide promotion during the 1984 Summer Olympics. They announced free products every single time a US athlete won a medal. The Soviet Union, a powerhouse team in those times, boycotted the event and let the US win most of the medals. The promotion proved to be a costly one for Mcdonald’s.

Along with the Soviets, East Germany and other communist countries also boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. This left very little competition for the US athletes, and the medals were destined to go in their pockets.

Americas won 174 medals including 83 gold, 61 silver, and 30 bronze.

Before the events started, the big fast-food chain, MacDonald’s had promised free Big Macs, French fries, and Cokes for every medal.

As a result, McD stores ran out of food. One of those was the restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area that ran out of hamburger buns.

Silvia Lagnado was the chain’s chief marketing officer at the moment. She responded by saying, “As a part of our global growth plan, we are reconsidering all aspects of our business.” (1, 2)

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5. The Soviet Union was the first and the only country to reach and explore the surface of Venus. Series of probes were developed and launched between the period of 1961 and 1984. The probes survived the extreme conditions of the planet only for about 23 to 120 minutes.

Venus
Venera 13, launched by the Soviets in 1981, captured this image of the surface of Venus. Image credit: Dr. Ksanfomality/Astronomicheskii Vestni via astronomy

The USSR and NASA of the US had to go through many failed probes before they could make any sense of the distant planet Venus. Program Venera was completely dedicated to learning about Venus.

The mission could only find success for the first time on 18 October 1967. On that day, Venera 4 became the first probe to send information to Earth after entering into Venus’ atmosphere.

Followed by this, Venera 7 on 15 December 1970, became the first spacecraft to land smoothly on Venus’ surface. It survived and transmitted information for 23 minutes before it vanished because of extreme heat and pressure.

Then came Venera 9; the first one to send back pictures from the surface of Venus.

Venera 13, the most successful one, was launched on 30 October, and it landed on 1 March 1982. The best part of this expedition was that it provided color images and sent data for about two hours. (1, 2)

Also read: 10 Amazing Pictures From History and the Backstories Behind Them

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