How the Soviet Navy Would Have Fought World War III
Over the course of the Cold War, the balance of forces between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union changed dramatically. At different points, a war would have played out in far different ways in the major theaters, including Central Europe, the Arctic, the North Atlantic, the... Read more
Georgy Zhukov’s Close Call With Stalin’s Killers
Beginning in 1936, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin set about deliberately murdering 700,000 people in the Great Purge, an act of mass killing that “constituted a form of rule” unto itself, as Stalin biographer Stephen Kotkin explained. The armed forces were not spared. The purges swept through the officer corps,... Read more
The Nuclear-War Tank Came at Exactly the Wrong Time
This story originally appeared on Oct. 9, 2016. In a war that never happened, formations of heavy and rather odd-looking Soviet tanks would have powered through atomic explosions in breakthrough attacks into West Germany. Enter the Object 279 tank, a curious oddity from the late 1950s which was obsolete — despite its... Read more
In 1979, Soviet Troops Were in Cuba … And Americans Were Terrified
In the fall of 1979, a furor erupted in the United States over the discovery of Soviet combat troops in Cuba. Scarcely remembered today, it was an episode of the Cold War that seemed like a very big deal at the time, so much so that it prompted U.S.... Read more
After the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov Pushed an Automatic Pistol
In the late 1940s, Mikhail Kalashnikov — the Russian gun-designer behind the then-new AK-47 assault rifle — produced an automatic handgun called the APK. Busy completing the AK-47, Kalashnikov reportedly lacked the time to truly refine the APK. In the end, the Red Army preferred Igor Stechkin’s own APS... Read more
Soviet Admirals Shunned Stalin’s Favorite Battlecruiser
The Soviet navy was not in great shape at the onset of the German invasion on June 22, 1941. Stalin had decimated the ranks of the naval officer corps, which greatly complicated planning, and the invasion forced many warship projects to a halt. The Soviets envisioned one of these... Read more
So You Want to Be a Soviet Navy Political Officer
The term “Soviet political officer” aboard a warship during the Cold War conjures up images of an iron-willed dogmatist — in the style of The Hunt for Red October — at odds with the military officers entrusted with running a ship at sea. In reality, the job wasn’t that... Read more
Coffee, Tea or Mach 3—Would You Like to Fly in a MiG-25 Business Jet?
This story originally appeared on April 3, 2014. The Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat was many things. An interceptor, reconnaissance aircraft and a fast, high-altitude, record-setting bogeyman that scared the pants off Western air forces in the 1970s. But a MiG-25 business jet? Coffee, tea or vodka served by an Aeroflot... Read more
The Soviet Cruiser ‘Kaganovich’ Navigated Political Purges
In 1938, the Soviet Navy laid down the Kaganovich, the fifth of six Kirov-class cruisers. Survivors of World War II, the Kirovs were responsible for mine-laying operations in the Baltic Sea and escorting troop ships reinforcing the besieged Black Sea port city of Sevastopol. The cruisers represented the Soviet... Read more
The United States Is Making the Soviet Union’s Mistakes
Jump into your time machine and let me transport you back to another age. It’s May 2001 and the Atlantic Monthly has just arrived in the mail. I’m tantalized by the cover article. “Russia is finished,” the magazine announces. The subtitle minces no words: “The unstoppable descent into social... Read more
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