25 Perplexing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The USSR

Many of us learned about the Soviet Union through heavily propagandistic Hollywood films (a la Rambo III and Rocky IV), where the Soviets were portrayed as evil, mechanical robots with no human feelings whatsoever. However, the truth about America’s greatest rivalry was vastly different. Being one of the world’s two superpowers for most of the second half of the twentieth century, the USSR went head-to-head with the United States in a series of fields from technology to science, military power to sports, and politics to culture. By the mid-1950s, the Cold War had worked its way into the fabric of everyday life in both countries, fueled by the arms race and the growing threat of nuclear war, wide-ranging espionage, the Space Race, the Korean War, and the clash between two different governing and socioeconomic systems. The Soviet Union became the first country to send a satellite (Sputnik), an animal (Laika), a man (Yuri Gagarin), and a woman (Valentina Tereshkova) into space, taking an early lead in the Space Race, but the United States finished stronger by putting a man on the moon (Neil Armstrong). These are 25 Perplexing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The USSR.


Despite the Cold War between the two countries, the Soviet Union won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film on three different occasions: War and Peace (1968), Dersu Uzala (1975), Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (1980). However, many Soviet directors were more concerned with artistic success than with economic. This contributed to the creation of a large number of more philosophical and poetical films with some of the most well-known being those of Andrei Tarkovsky, one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century.

Mirror (film)Source: Wikipedia, Image: pinterest.com

Laika, arguably the most famous dog of the twentieth century and the first animal launched into orbit, was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. Soviet scientists considered that a dog like Laika would be ideal for their mission since she had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger on the unfriendly streets of the capital.

LaikaSource: history.nasa.gov, Image: Wikipedia


Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, which began on June 22, 1941. Nearly ninety-five percent of all German Army casualties occurred from 1941 to 1944 during Operation Barbarossa.

Operation BarbarossaSource: history.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org

The Soviets liberated Auschwitz, the largest killing center and concentration camp, in January 1945. Actually, the USSR liberated more concentration camps than the rest of the Allies combined.

AuschwitzSource: Wikipedia, Image: pixabay.com


The staples in Soviet passports corroded, while the United States used stainless steel. According to KGB files, hundreds of American agents were caught because their fake “Soviet” passports had the wrong staples and were of poor quality.

Soviet passportSource: chicagotribune.com, Image: Wikipedia

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