Author: Andy Young

What was the Yalta Conference?

The Yalta Conference was a meeting between the Soviet, US and British heads of state, held from 4-11 February 1945. Recognising that the defeat of Nazi Germany was inevitable, Joseph Stalin, Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met to discuss how post-war Europe would be organised – most notably the partition of Germany. The agreements – not all of which were honoured – shaped European politics for the next five decades. Background to the Yalta Conference By early 1945 Allied forces had encircled Germany. In the West, Northern France and Belgium had largely been liberated. To the South, Rome had been captured, and to the East, the Soviet armies had rumbled through Poland, finally capturing Warsaw in January 1945. It was clear that Nazi Germany would ultimately be defeated – the question was what to do next? It was agreed that the leaders of the three Allied Powers should hold a second meeting (the first, the Tehran Conference, had been held in 1943) to discuss how Europe should be structured after the war, how Germany should be treated, and whether the Soviet Union should enter the Pacific War against Japan. Roosevelt had initially wanted to hold the conference in a neutral venue somewhere in the Mediterranean. Stalin, arguing that he had been advised by his doctors not to travel, opposed this plan. Eventually it was agreed that the conference...

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Oleg of Novgorod

Oleg of Novgorod, also known as Oleg Veshchy (Oleg the Prophet) was a Varangian prince. He is widely recognised as the founder and first ruler of Kievan Rus. Founder of Kievan Rus According to the Primary Chronicle, Oleg succeeded Rurik the Varangian as leader of Novgorod in 879. An aggressive leader, he quickly moved to expand his realm southwards, and took control of Kiev and a number of other cities along the Dnieper river. Recognising the strategic location of Kiev, Oleg made the city his capital and founded the kingdom of Kievan Rus. Oleg continued to expand his kingdom in the following years, using military force to secure territory and favourable trade concessions. In less than a decade he conquered not only Kiev, but the Drevlians, the Polians, the Severians, the Vyatichs and the Radimichs. Oleg Attacks Constantinople Oleg was clearly a dynamic and visionary leader. Having quickly secured his base, his next priority was to secure favourable trade routes. To that end, in 907, he launched an audacious raid on Constantinople, capital of Byzantium. Making full use of the Dnieper River, Oleg built 2,000 longboats and used them to transport his 80,000 men to Constantinople. On reaching the city, the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise sensibly closed the city gates and prepared to defend against the northern invaders. At this point, Oleg’s pulled off a tactical masterstroke...

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Kievan Rus

Kievan Rus was the first organised state on present-day Russian territory. It is widely regarded as the spiritual predecessor to today’s Russian state. A medieval European state, Kievan Rus was founded in 882AD by Prince Oleg. It was made up of a number of co-operating principalities, with it’s capital in Kiev. Spread across territory from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South, it prospered because it controlled all of the major Eastern European trade routes. Kievan Rus’ power and influence waned during the 12th and 13th centuries and, against a backdrop of internal disputes, it was overrun by the Mongol invasion of Rus in the early 13th century. Foundation of Kievan Rus Kievan Rus can be traced back to the arrival of Rurik, a Norse Varangian Chieftan, and his brothers Sineus and Truvor. Together, they established themselves as leaders of Novgorod, Beloozero and Izborsk. On the death of his brothers, Rurik took over as leader of all three regions. The reason for their arrival is disputed. Some believe that the account given in the Primary Chronicle is correct. This more or less contemporary document records that the divided tribesmen of the region invited Rurik and his brothers to assume leadership and restore order. “They said to themselves, “Our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule...

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Peter the Great timeline

This article outlines a brief Peter the Great timeline, highlighting some of the key moments in the life of one of Russia’s most notorious leaders. 09 June 1672 – Peter is born The future Peter the Great was born Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov in Moscow to Alexis I of Russia and his mother Nataliya Naryshkina. Peter was the 14th of Alexis’ 16 children and therefore an unlikely heir to the Russian throne. 29 January 1676 – Peter’s father dies Alexis I died in January 1676 sparking off a chain of events that would eventually see Peter installed as Peter I of Russia. For the time being however, the crown passed to his sickly half brother, the new Feodor III. 07 May 1682 – Feodor dies Feodor’s many illnesses saw him eventually succumb at the tender age of 20, but there was one final male heir blocking Peter’s path to the crown. 25 June 1682 – Peter and Ivan are crowned Peter’s half brother Ivan was next in line and was sickly like Feodor but unlike his predecessor, the boy who was to become Ivan V, was also of infirm mind. As a result, he was jointly crowned along with the new Peter I of Russia. The act was to bring an end to the Moscow Uprising and Ivan’s puppet reign served as an appeasement. 08 February 1696 – Peter assumes...

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Soviet Cars

When you think of some of the classic vehicles to emerge from the Soviet era it’s easy to build an image of a lumbering stereotype; a kind of dull, functional car that looked and felt extremely similar to other models. While that may be true to some extent – it has to be said that most Soviet car models weren’t exactly exciting – there was much more to Soviet car production than this. Their design reflects a fusion of Western car design and something truly Soviet, and it’s clear that cars made in the Soviet Union are real collectors items today, and will hold an enduring fascination. In this article, we’ll roundup some of the major Soviet car manufacturers and models, taking you on a tour through the Lada, the Volga, the Zil and the Mosckvich. Lada The Lada is perhaps the most iconic of Soviet car brands in the world, and is still made today by Russia’s AvtoVaz car manufacturer. Lada is actually the brand name used for export, though – at home in the USSR it was known as a Zhiguli. The Lada/Zhiguli came about through a collaboration between AvtoVaz and Italian car-maker Fiat. The aim was to produce a reliable car that could be produced cheaply enough to be accessible by ordinary Soviet citizens, rather than the more expensive to produce models that were restricted to...

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