An on-line archive of primary source materials on Soviet history.

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History contains a rich archive of texts, images, maps and audio and video materials from the Soviet era (1917-1991). The materials are arranged by year and by subject, are fully searchable, and are translated into English. Students, educators, and scholars will find fascinating materials about Soviet propaganda, politics, economics, society, crime, literature, art, dissidents and hundreds of other topics. more

Soviet history, like few others, has a beginning and an end. Born in a surge of optimism on October 25, 1917, and dissolving in chaos on December 8, 1991, the Soviet experiment gave the world vivid examples of collective endeavor and civic self-destruction. The Bolsheviks seized power in a crumbling empire, split by deep class divisions and ruined by years of war. They empowered the lower classes to govern, integrated ethnic minorities into state power, gave women rights unknown in other countries, and offered universal education and opportunities for self-improvement. These same Bolsheviks and their successors were also responsible for some of the bloodiest state crimes the world has known. They imprisoned political opponents and dissident thinkers, instigated purges and a terror in which millions perished, and exiled entire ethnic groups. Ultimately, the economic machine created by the Bolsheviks, which had allowed the country to grow rapidly into an industrial giant, led to the impoverishment of the Soviet people.

Debates have raged for years over whether the Soviet legacy was best characterized by its successes or its crimes. Was Lenin's revolution one of history's great events, later perverted by Stalin; or was the October Revolution, which rejected God, dispossessed large segments of the population, and made the entire people subject to the state, flawed from the moment of inception? Rather than answering the question, we hope with this web site to help students and readers understand the more complicated truth, that at all moments of its history, the Soviet Union offered experiences of great good and great evil. Soviet citizens were forced to understand them as a whole. The object of this web site is to give users a sense of what this total experience was like, using the original words of the participants. We have selected from Soviet history seventeen moments - following the title of a beloved spy series of the seventies - almost at random but not entirely.

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Recent Updates


1991: Eltsin and Russian Sovereignty

2014-09-12 06:17:26 Lewis Siegelbaum

Hacker Sandilau

How to use this site


Search for subjects by year or by theme. To search for subjects by year, click on a year of interest to reveal a list of subjects for that year. To search for subjects by theme, click on a theme of interest to reveal a list of related subjects.

Clicking on a subject will reveal an overview of the subject and links to texts, images, videos, music, maps and related websites. To access the over 1000 primary source texts on this website, users need to register with a user name and password.


Seventeen Moments in Soviet History is located at MATRIX, the Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online. Seventeen Moments has been supported through generous funding from the NEH and Macalester College, and received the 2006 MERLOT Classic award for history websites.