Soviets Unviel AN 124 - History

Soviets Unviel AN 124 - History

The Soviets unveiled in 1982 the giant AN-124 transport. On July 26, 1985 the plane took off with a payload of 377,473 lbs. this exceed the record set by the C-5a by 53%

The Avro Arrow: The Groundbreaking Aircraft Canada Will Never Forget

The Avro Arrow is a frustrating and tragic story about a world-class aircraft that was simply too ambitious for the nation that undertook the challenge of making it.

The aircraft spawned from the era shortly after WWII, when the West was expecting a war with the Soviets and believed an attack would come from long-range, high-altitude bombers.

They began constructing jet interceptors that could quickly reach and shoot down these incoming bombers. The Avro Arrow was Canada’s proposed interceptor.

17 words that DEFINED the Soviet Union

After the 1917 Revolution, the new government set a course for optimizing living conditions. There was no more private property, the state presided over all real estate. Large apartments, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg, were transformed into communal living quarters - or kommunalkas. Families would only receive one room (large ones were split into smaller ones) for all their members and their belongings. The rest of the space was for common use.

However, common bathrooms, toilets and halls were more than just a forced compromise in a gigantic country with limited living arrangements. The issue was about new accommodation for workers old and new - for the Soviet person as a whole, who never places personal needs above the needs of the many.

Communal apartments exist to this day and, what&rsquos more, are still in fashion as the most affordable mode of living.


Prisoners at the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal

The Soviets constantly grew their prisoner ranks, using them as manual labor at digs, mines, fells and for railway construction. These labor camps steadily increased in number, in line with the increasing severity of repressive measures, so it was eventually decided to unify them into a system. And so, the GULAG was born - short for &ldquoglavnoe upravlenie lageryami&rdquo (&ldquoHeadquarters of Camps&rdquo).

Throughout its history, the GULAG penitentiary system produced over 30,000 prisoner camps. They differed in their pursuits, with some working toward economic goals and others operating a more production-based regime. The living conditions were different everywhere as a result. However, the GULAG system was structured in such a way that prisoners could not forge any lasting contacts - no one would be held in one facility for too long and were rotated on a shift basis.

According to the GULAG Historical Museum, more than 20 million prisoners went through the system in the 1920s-1950s. Over one million of them died as a result.

3. Pioner

&ldquoPious&rdquo communists were raised to be that way since infancy. They would then become pionery - &ldquopioneers&rdquo. The V.I. Lenin All Soviet Pioneer Organization accepted children aged 9-14. They would recite their pledge of allegiance and become inseparable from their red tie, which they had to have on at all times as a marker of membership.

The first pioneers appeared back in 1922 and membership conditions were stricter for a while, as it was an elite institution. That aspect of life evaporated shortly and membership in the Pioneers became - if not mandatory, then at the very least, very desirable for every Soviet child. Collecting scrap metal and paper, and performing all manner of other community service, as well as participation in various military-sports events and an excellent academic record - that is what was expected of a pioneer. The group had their own salute: the right hand would be raised slightly higher than the head, to indicate that the pioneer valued the common good above personal gain. The call of &ldquoBe ready!&rdquo would be responded to with &ldquoAlways ready!&rdquo The specifics of what that readiness was for was only known to the Communist Party - the pioneer was expected simply to blindly follow.

4. &lsquoKopeika&rsquo

The VAZ 2101 was the most popular mass-produced Soivet car, known affectionately as the kopeika - or the kopek, the minor currency of Russia and the former USSR. It was also the most affordable car. For many, the kopeika was the first (and only) they&rsquod ever owned. It still elicits nostalgia in a great number of Russians.

The first six kopeikas rolled off the conveyor belt in 1970. Soviet constructors used the Italian-made FIAT-124 as a prototype, adapting it to Russian roads and requirements. The kopeika had a number of versions. There was the race mod, then a mod for the police, a station wagon - and even an electric car!

5. Dissident

Academician Andrey Sakharov

The word comes from the Latin word dissidence (&ldquoto disagree&rdquo, &ldquoto stand apart&rdquo). The name was first given to Soviet opposition in the 1960s, which used nonviolent means to demand that the Soviet rule observed the laws enshrined in the Constitution. The dissidents fought for freedom of speech, the freedom to gather and free movement, fair elections, the release of political prisoners and basic human rights in general. Their aim wasn&rsquot to seize power - there wasn&rsquot even a proposed plan of reforming it if they had. In the 1960s-1980s, the number of people that aroused the KGB&rsquos interest and were &lsquoinvited for a chat&rsquo stood at half a million people. But that&rsquos only the official statistic. The actual number is unknown, since most of these people weren&rsquot politically active and merely had banned literature in their possession, for instance. There were also those who self-published.

The naysayers were persecuted, given prison sentences, sometimes sent to GULAG (see pt. 2) labor camps - or even placed in psychiatric wards, as well as stripped of citizenship and exiled to other countries. The movement fizzled out by the late 1980s, as the country was taking its first steps toward democratic reform.

6. Samizdat

This word was used to imply the above-mentioned self-published literature, brochures and audio tapes. Samizdat (from the words &ldquoself-published&rdquo) was the only way to circumvent censorship. Sometimes, it was a book that was stuck in pre-publishing limbo, with the author wanting to publish it before the censors were finished with it. People also self-published Bibles - not that the Bible was illegal, but demand greatly exceeded supply. Samizdat used to be written using typewriters, most often in state typographies, behind closed doors - which was very dangerous, given that there was a paper count. Just one copy of a self-published book could make the rounds hundreds of times. This is how Valery Grossman&rsquos book &lsquoIt&rsquos All Flowing&rsquo was read by 200 people (the exact number is known, since these were all people Grossman knew personally).

7. Brutalism

Victor Velikzhanin, Vitaly Sozinov/TASS

Brutalism is, perhaps, the least unambiguous of all modernist architectural styles: Europe seems to gradually be targeting it for demolition, due to associations with communism and just the overall &lsquobrutal&rsquo look. But even modern Russia still finds use for these metal and concrete monsters.

Brutalism had many adepts in the USSR. A real explosion of the style occurred all over the country in the 1950s-1970s. The structures were especially convenient as administrative buildings, as they allowed for increased segmentation. The block forms and simple textures were ideal for the period&rsquos needs, with gigantism also a notable highlight of the Soviet construction style. Graphical representations of various scientific and technical achievements would often adorn the facades. One only has to look at the The State Scientific Center for Robotics in St. Petersburg, with the name later amended to also include &ldquoTechnical Cybernetics&rdquo.

8. BAM

A team of workers at the construction of the BAM.

The Baikal-Amur Mainline - or BAM - can rightfully be considered the embodiment of the grandeur of Soviet mega-construction aspirations. Projects targeting complex infrastructural needs would often last years and were ideologically bolstered and considered the pride and achievement of the socialist-communist regime. Sadly, completing those projects would often come at a tragic cost. And BAM was an absolute record holder in that regard!

In 1932, the Party decided to lay a total of 4,287 km of track through 11 rivers and various unreachable territories, all the way to Russia&rsquos Far East. Incredibly, the government&rsquos timeline for the project was a mere 3.5 years. The unrealistic plan fell through and, as a result, work was only completed decades later, in 1989, just two years before the fall of the USSR.

The initial construction was being done by prison inmates, who had to work in subhuman conditions, sleeping under open skies for a year and a half, with daily food rations totaling just 400 grams of bread. Whenever deaths occurred, new inmates would arrive. Later on, the entire country was put to work completing BAM, which became &ldquothe communist dream&rdquo - for dream&rsquos sake. As it turned out, when it was launched in the early 2000s, the railroad was underused, only incurring losses as a result.

9. Leniniana

The cult of Vladimir Lenin was phenomenal in scope. Every Soviet city had a prospekt (a long street), a square or a collective farming union named after the father of the Revolution. And, of course, there were the monuments. By 1991, the USSR had 14,290 of them.

In art, this type of worship was dubbed &lsquoLeniniana&rsquo. Between 1910-1980, this form of expression contained a multitude of different images of the leader - the Lenin Museum alone contains 470 paintings of him. There were strict rules that every sculpture and artwork had to abide by. And it was only in the era of social art and postmodernism that people began straying outside of those boundaries.

10. Deficit

Siberians lining up outside a store

Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images/Getty Images

The Soviet economy, as many other spheres of life, was regulated by the government. It presided over the type, quantity and price of produce to be distributed across the country. The decisions were made in Moscow, with the government plan often resulting in a lack of even the most basic necessities (such as there being no toilet paper left in a whole city). Elena Osokina, a historian of the Soviet period, writes: &ldquoThe reproduction and worsening of the deficit was baked into the recipe of centralized distribution, which created interruptions and crises, and made the card system a chronic staple.&rdquo

Deficits (including a deficit of information) was indeed a chronic disease of the Soviet period. Everything was administered in doses. A situation materialized, whereby people as a whole had money, but had nothing to spend it on. In the 1970s-1980s, practically everything was in a deficit: there were long lines for everything from pantyhose to condensed milk to shoes, children&rsquos clothes and instant coffee.

These realities shaped the lifestyle and mindset of the Soviet citizen, who would always try to stock up on items and spent entire weekends and after-work hours standing in lines. This mode of living affected even public transportation. For instance, there were &ldquobaloney trains&rdquo, set up by authorities for populations living on the outskirts, so they could travel to bigger cities and line up for produce before a celebration or a state holiday (mostly for New Year).

11. Farttsovka

This phenomenon dates back to the 1970s-1980s, having emerged during the period of the deficit and a slightly opened Iron Curtain. It implies black market buying and reselling of deficit goods brought from abroad. The majority of the buyers of such goods in the early stages were fashionistas, who were in love with the American lifestyle and sought to get their hands on all manner of foreign goods at a time when the population couldn&rsquot have dreamed of international travel. With time, demand grew to encompass other segments of the population, including school children, seeking to make an impression on their classmates. The prices were astronomical: foreign brand jeans could cost up to 150 rubles, which amounted to an average monthly salary in the 1980s.

The business of reselling could land you an eight-year prison sentence. A piece of bubble gum, a vinyl record, jeans and cigarettes - it didn&rsquot matter what the goods in question were. Still, there were people willing to take the risks. Most of the time, it was thanks to having contact with foreigners: diplomats, taxi drivers, tour guides and so on. It was only at the dawn of the 1990s that the practice began to wane, when Soviet isolationism came to an end and people could travel the world.

12. Pyatiletka

Working in a Volgograd Tractor Factory

Dean Conger/Corbis/Getty Images/Getty Images

So-called &lsquofive-year plans&rsquo to bolster the economy were a priority for the country. They implied the following projects: construction of an X number of roads, factories and hydroelectric plants, increasing oil and coal production by 50 percent and so on. The plans were simultaneously a form of economic planning and socialist competition - the first pyatiletki were actually four years. One of the mottos used was &ldquoAchieve a five-year plan in four years!&rdquo calling for the country to work hard and complete the objectives ahead of time. And, for a time, it worked: By the end of the third pyatiletka, the predominantly agrarian country had become an industrial power.

However, since the late 1950s, the five-year pyatiletkas became semiletkas - or &lsquoseven-year plans&rsquo. The post-war development just couldn&rsquot catch up to what was on paper. But even the seven-year plans began to fail with time. Instead of the planned 70 percent economic growth, it would amount to just 15. Next came the eight-year plans. In the end, the only plans considered to have been a success were the first three pyatiletkas.

13. Chekist

Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky at his desk.

The word chekist comes from the abbreviation of the name of the first Soviet security agency - the VChK (&ldquothe all-Russian emergency commission&rdquo). It consisted of loyal bolsheviks, &ldquorevolution&rsquos gendermes&rdquo, who guarded the interests of the Party and fought the counter-revolution. The body appeared in 1917 and, within three years, the chekists already had power to shoot on sight any &ldquohostile agents, black market speculators, goons and hoodlums, counter-revolutionary propagandists and agitators and German spies&rdquo.

Soon, these &ldquodefenders of ideology&rdquo concentrated in their hands all of the government&rsquos powers of repression, having been given the ability to dispense justice as they saw fit, without a trial. Various sources put the number of those executed at between 50,000 and 140,000 - and that&rsquos just the official ones. Throughout the history of the Soviet regime, the organization changed its name multiple times (VChK, GPU, OGPU, NKVD, NKGB, MVD, MGB and KGB), but the word chekist remained unchanged, and continues to man any member of the Russian security service. Today, they belong to the FSB.

14. Peredovik

Alexander Ovchinnikov, Oleg Sizov/TASS

The Soviets tried to create a special type of human being - the &ldquoSoviet man&rdquo, which implied a number of moral and physical traits. Peredovik was one of the versions of such an ideal. The name was given to anyone who regularly outperformed at work, exceeding their quota. This voluntary sacrifice in the name of industrialization was valued far more than working conditions or the health of one individual. They were practically made a hero. Peredoviks took part in so-called socialist contests as they raced to complete and exceed their quotas to advance their position - something they&rsquod be rewarded for with a trip to a medical spa or move up in line for receiving an apartment from the state. This attitude was referred to as &ldquoloyalty to the Soviet state&rdquo.

What was valued even greater - but never rewarded, as it was considered to be a quality that every Soviet citizen must possess - was voluntary, unpaid work.

15. Subbotnik

Residents of the city at the Lenin communist subbotnik.

One of the forms of labor that was unpaid was (and still is sometimes) the Subbotnik - from the Russian word for &lsquoSaturday&rsquo, which is when they usually happened: every Soviet citizen would engage in cleanup work in spring or fall, taking care of the area around their building, school or university.

According to communist ideology, a decent man would not avoid this form of collective unpaid labor - just as they wouldn&rsquot avoid the May 1 parade. Anyone who didn&rsquot show up was swiftly branded as lazy and publicly derided for it. If the Party called on acts of labor heroism, one answered the call.

16. Kollektivizatsiya (kolkhozes)

Collectivization was another facet of Soviet utopianism - an idea that millions of people can work together in a state of bliss and agreement and with a common goal for the growth of a young country. Starting in 1927, collectivization abolished private property and individual peasant holdings it set up collective farms - or kolkhozes, which were unions of state farms. Kolkhoz workers didn&rsquot have a salary to speak of and lived only off of what their collective farm produced - strictly enough for their families, not more. Wealthy peasants, known as kulaks, were stripped of their properties and evicted.

By 1932, the entire country counted more than 200,000 such kolkhozes. The passport system was introduced the same year, but kolkhozniks weren&rsquot included in the reform, which deprived them of the opportunity to relocate to a city. For all intents and purposes, kollektivizatsiya was a mutated form of serfdom, chaining millions of people to a plot of land.

17. Sharashki

In the period of mass repressions, starting in the early 1930s, thousands of scientists, engineers and constructors found themselves behind bars. They didn&rsquot do their time in general pop, however - there were specialized sections of the GULAG system for them. They were referred to as sharashki, places that doubled as prison institutions for highly skilled labor (for instance, the atomic bomb was produced in such a place). The conditions there were more merciful than in labor camps somewhere in the taiga, largely due to the fact that there was no hard labor. Amazingly, you could earn your freedom by successfully completing a government project. This opened the door for a full pardon and rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, getting into one of those institutions required almost no effort. Fighter pilot Mikhail Gromov recalled: &ldquoArrests would take place because aircraft industry designers would write reports on each other - each one praised their own work and tried to sink his rival&rsquos.&rdquo Oftentimes, these specialist brigades would accomplish greater things locked up than their free comrades - and Soviet rule understood this: there was simply greater motivation when your release was on the line.

Notable sharashka inmates included Sergey Korolev - the father of Soviet cosmonautics, responsible for Yury Gagarin&rsquos 1961 space flight Vladimir Petlyakov, the constructor of the Pe-2, the most mass-produced Soviet bomber in history writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - who was educated as a mathematician and many others, who are known today as the pride of Soviet science.

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.


Central Asia was also the scene of major industrialization projects: building railways, factories, hydroelectric power stations and canals. Incidentally, local Stakhanovites invariably received recognition from Moscow &ndash in the form of bonuses or feature stories about them in national papers and magazines.

Kazakh builders of TURKSIB, one of the main construction projects of the first five-year plan of Stalin's industrialization. The railway connected Siberia with Kazakh and Kyrgyz republics 1930.

At the construction site of Toktogulskaya hydropower plant, Kyrgyz SSR 1975-1976.

Construction work on the Great Fergana Canal named in honor of Stalin. The 350 km canal made it possible to irrigate over 500,000 hectares of land in the Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Tajik republics 1939.

Collective farmers from the Tashkent Region set off for the construction site of the Chirchik Machine-building Plant, an industrial giant that produced literally everything, from bombs to tractors 1930s.

Stakhanovite Gemulin Geledzhiyeva from the Tajik Republic 1936.

A model train, Uzbek SSR 1930-1949.

Stakhanovite Maria Nasilbayeva, a worker at the Alma-Ata cotton mill, grew up in an orphanage. Her team fulfills the production plan by 200 percent. From the archive of Ogonyok magazine 1950.

German general’s diary reveals Hitler’s plans for Russia

On July 8, 1941, upon the German army’s invasion of Pskov, 180 miles from Leningrad, Russia, the chief of the German army general staff, General Franz Halder, records in his diary Hitler’s plans for Moscow and Leningrad: “To dispose fully of their population, which otherwise we shall have to feed during the winter.”

On June 22, the Germans had launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union, with over 3 million men. Enormous successes were enjoyed, thanks in large part to a disorganized and unsuspecting Russian army. By July 8, more than 280,000 Soviet prisoners had been taken and almost 2,600 tanks destroyed. The Axis power was already a couple of hundred miles inside Soviet territory. Stalin was in a panic, even executing generals who had failed to stave off the invaders.

Franz Halder, as chief of staff, had been keeping a diary of the day-to-day decision-making process. As Hitler became emboldened by his successes in Russia, Halder recorded that the 𠇏uhrer is firmly determined to level Moscow and Leningrad to the ground.” Halder also records Hitler’s underestimation of the Russian army’s numbers and the bitter infighting between factions within the military about strategy. Halder, among others, wanted to make straight for the capital, Moscow Hitler wanted to meet up with Field Marshal Wilhelm Leeb’s army group, which was making its way toward Leningrad. The advantage Hitler had against the Soviets would not last. Winter was approaching and so was the advantage such conditions would give the Russians.

Czech diplomat Jan Masaryk dies under strange circumstances

The communist-controlled government of Czechoslovakia reports that Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk has died by suicide. The story of the noncommunist Masaryk’s death was greeted with skepticism in the West.

Masaryk was born in 1886, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president. After World War I, he served as foreign minister in the new Czech government. Later he served as the Czech ambassador to Great Britain. During World War II, he once again took the position of foreign minister, this time with the Czech government-in-exile in London. After the war, Masaryk returned to Czechoslovakia to serve as foreign minister under President Eduard Benes. It was a tense time in Masaryk’s native country. The Soviet Union had occupied the nation during World War II and there were fears that the Soviets would try to install a communist government in Czechoslovakia, as it had in Poland, East Germany, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Masaryk, however, was skillful in dealing with the Soviets, assuring them that a democratic Czechoslovakia posed no security threat to Russia.

In 1947, though, Masaryk made a fatal mistake. When the United States unveiled the Marshall Plan—the multimillion-dollar aid program for postwar Europe—Masaryk indicated Czechoslovakia’s interest in participating. When he informed the Soviets, they absolutely refused to give their approval. This was quickly followed, in February 1948, by a communist coup in Czechoslovakia. President Benes was forced to accept a communist-dominated government. Masaryk was one of the few non-communists left in place. On March 10, 1948, the Czech government reported that Masaryk had committed suicide by jumping out of a third-story window at the Foreign Ministry.

A Historical Timeline of Afghanistan

The land that is now Afghanistan has a long history of domination by foreign conquerors and strife among internally warring factions. At the gateway between Asia and Europe, this land was conquered by Darius I of Babylonia circa 500 B.C., and Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 329 B.C., among others.

Mahmud of Ghazni, an 11th century conqueror who created an empire from Iran to India, is considered the greatest of Afghanistan’s conquerors.

Genghis Khan took over the territory in the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that the area was united as a single country. By 1870, after the area had been invaded by various Arab conquerors, Islam had taken root.

During the 19th century, Britain, looking to protect its Indian empire from Russia, attempted to annex Afghanistan, resulting in a series of British-Afghan Wars (1838-42, 1878-80, 1919-21).

The British, beleaguered in the wake of World War I, are defeated in the Third British-Afghan War (1919-21), and Afghanistan becomes an independent nation. Concerned that Afghanistan has fallen behind the rest of the world, Amir Amanullah Khan begins a rigorous campaign of socioeconomic reform.

Amanullah declares Afghanistan a monarchy, rather than an emirate, and proclaims himself king. He launches a series of modernization plans and attempts to limit the power of the Loya Jirga, the National Council. Critics, frustrated by Amanullah’s policies, take up arms in 1928 and by 1929, the king abdicates and leaves the country.

Zahir Shah becomes king. The new king brings a semblance of stability to the country and he rules for the next 40 years.

The United States formally recognizes Afghanistan.

Britain withdraws from India, creating the predominantly Hindu but secular state of India and the Islamic state of Pakistan. The nation of Pakistan includes a long, largely uncontrollable, border with Afghanistan.

The pro-Soviet Gen. Mohammed Daoud Khan, cousin of the king, becomes prime minister and looks to the communist nation for economic and military assistance. He also introduces a number of social reforms including allowing women a more public presence.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agrees to help Afghanistan, and the two countries become close allies.

As part of Daoud’s reforms, women are allowed to attend university and enter the workforce.

The Afghan Communist Party secretly forms. The group’s principal leaders are Babrak Karmal and Nur Mohammad Taraki.

Khan overthrows the last king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, in a military coup. Khan’s regime, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, comes to power. Khan abolishes the monarchy and names himself president. The Republic of Afghanistan is established with firm ties to the USSR.

Khan proposes a new constitution that grants women rights and works to modernize the largely communist state. He also cracks down on opponents, forcing many suspected of not supporting Khan out of the government.

Khan is killed in a communist coup. Nur Mohammad Taraki, one of the founding members of the Afghan Communist Party, takes control of the country as president, and Babrak Karmal is named deputy prime minister. They proclaim independence from Soviet influence, and declare their policies to be based on Islamic principles, Afghan nationalism and socioeconomic justice. Taraki signs a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. But a rivalry between Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, another influential communist leader, leads to fighting between the two sides.

At the same time, conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders who objected to social changes introduced by Khan begin an armed revolt in the countryside. In June, the guerrilla movement Mujahadeen is created to battle the Soviet-backed government.

American Ambassador Adolph Dubs is killed. The United States cuts off assistance to Afghanistan. A power struggle between Taraki and Deputy Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin begins. Taraki is killed on Sept. 14 in a confrontation with Amin supporters.

The USSR invades Afghanistan on Dec. 24 to bolster the faltering communist regime. On Dec. 27, Amin and many of his followers are executed. Deputy Prime Minister Babrak Karmal becomes prime minister. Widespread opposition to Karmal and the Soviets spawns violent public demonstrations.

By early 1980, the Mujahadeen rebels have united against Soviet invaders and the USSR-backed Afghan Army.

Some 2.8 million Afghans have fled from the war to Pakistan, and another 1.5 million have fled to Iran. Afghan guerrillas gain control of rural areas, and Soviet troops hold urban areas.

Although he claims to have traveled to Afghanistan immediately after the Soviet invasion, Saudi Islamist Osama bin Laden makes his first documented trip to Afghanistan to aid anti-Soviet fighters.

The United Nations investigates reported human rights violations in Afghanistan.

The Mujahadeen are receiving arms from the United States, Britain and China via Pakistan.

In September, Osama bin Laden and 15 other Islamists form the group al-Qaida, or “the base”, to continue their jihad, or holy war, against the Soviets and other who they say oppose their goal of a pure nation governed by Islam. With their belief that the Soviet’s faltering war in Afghanistan was directly attributable to their fighting, they claim victory in their first battle, but also begin to shift their focus to America, saying the remaining superpower is the main obstacle to the establishment of a state based on Islam.

The U.S., Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union sign peace accords in Geneva guaranteeing Afghan independence and the withdrawal of 100,000 Soviet troops. Following Soviet withdrawal, the Mujahadeen continue their resistance against the Soviet-backed regime of communist president Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, who had been elected president of the puppet Soviet state in 1986. Afghan guerrillas name Sibhatullah Mojadidi as head of their exiled government.

The Mujahadeen and other rebel groups, with the aid of turncoat government troops, storm the capital, Kabul, and oust Najibullah from power. Ahmad Shah Masood, legendary guerrilla leader, leads the troops into the capital. The United Nations offers protection to Najibullah. The Mujahadeen, a group already beginning to fracture as warlords fight over the future of Afghanistan, form a largely Islamic state with professor Burhannudin Rabbani as president.

Newly formed Islamic militia, the Taliban, rises to power on promises of peace. Most Afghans, exhausted by years of drought, famine and war, approve of the Taliban for upholding traditional Islamic values. The Taliban outlaw cultivation of poppies for the opium trade, crack down on crime, and curtail the education and employment of women. Women are required to be fully veiled and are not allowed outside alone. Islamic law is enforced via public executions and amputations. The United States refuses to recognize the authority of the Taliban.

Continuing drought devastates farmers and makes many rural areas uninhabitable. More than 1 million Afghans flee to neighboring Pakistan, where they languish in squalid refugee camps.

The Taliban publicly executes Najibullah.

Ethnic groups in the north, under Masood’s Northern Alliance, and the south, aided in part by Hamid Karzai, continue to battle the Taliban for control of the country.

Following al-Qaida’s bombings of two American embassies in Africa, President Clinton orders cruise missile attacks against bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan. The attacks miss the Saudi and other leaders of the terrorist group.

By now considered an international terrorist, bin Laden is widely believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, where he is cultivating thousands of followers in terrorist training camps. The United States demands that bin Laden be extradited to stand trial for the embassy bombings. The Taliban decline to extradite him. The United Nations punishes Afghanistan with sanctions restricting trade and economic development.

Ignoring international protests, the Taliban carry out their threat to destroy Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, saying they are an affront to Islam.

Sept. 4, 2001

A month after arresting them, the Taliban put eight international aid workers on trial for spreading Christianity. Under Taliban rule, proselytizing is punishable by death. The group is held in various Afghan prisons for months and finally released Nov. 15.

Sept. 9, 2001

Masood, still head of the Northern Alliance and the nation’s top insurgent, is killed by assassins posing as journalists.

Sept. 11, 2001

Hijackers commandeer four commercial airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field, killing thousands. Days later, U.S. officials say bin Laden, the Saudi exile believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, is the prime suspect in the attack.

Following unanswered demands that the Taliban turn over bin Laden, U.S. and British forces launch airstrikes against targets in Afghanistan. American warplanes start to bomb Taliban targets and bases reportedly belonging to the al-Qaida network. The Taliban proclaim they are ready for jihad.

Nov. 13, 2001

After weeks of intense fighting with Taliban troops, the Northern Alliance enters Kabul. The retreating Taliban flee southward toward Kandahar.

Taliban fighters abandon their final stronghold in Kandahar as the militia group’s hold on Afghanistan continues to disintegrate. Two days later, Taliban leaders surrender the group’s final Afghan territory, the province of Zabul. The move leads the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press to declare “the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan has totally ended.”

Dec. 22, 2001

Hamid Karzai, a royalist and ethnic Pashtun, is sworn in as the leader of the interim government in Afghanistan. Karzai entered Afghanistan after living in exile for years in neighboring Pakistan. At the U.N.-sponsored conference to determine an interim government, Karzai already has the support of the United States and by the end of the conference is elected leader of the six-month government.

In June, the Loya Jirga, or grand council, elects U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai as interim leader. Karzai chooses the members of his government who will serve until 2004, when the government is required to organize elections.

Amid increased violence, NATO takes over security in Kabul in August. The effort is the security organization’s first-ever commitment outside of Europe.

January 2004

The Loya Jirga adopts a new constitution following input from nearly 500,000 Afghans, some of whom participate in public meetings in villages. The new constitution calls for a president and two vice presidents, but the office of prime minister is removed at the last minute. The official languages, according to the constitution, are Pashto and Dari. Also, the new constitution calls for equality for women.

October 2004

Presidential elections are held. More than 10.5 million Afghans register to vote and choose among 18 presidential candidates, including interim leader Karzai. Karzai is elected with 55 percent of the vote.

The nation holds its first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years. The peaceful vote leads to the parliament’s first meeting in December.

Amid continuing fighting between Taliban and al-Qaida fighters and the Afghan government forces, NATO expands its peacekeeping operation to the southern portion of the country. After the forces take over from American-led troops, Taliban fighters launch a bloody wave of suicide attacks and raids against the international troops.

The Afghan government and NATO confirm that Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah was killed during a U.S.-led operation in southern Afghanistan.

The international community pledges more than $15 billion in aid to Afghanistan at a donors’ conference in Paris, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai promises to fight corruption in the government.

President Barack Obama names Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama announces a new strategy for the Afghanistan war that would dispatch more military and civilian trainers to the country, in addition to the 17,000 more combat troops he previously ordered. The strategy also includes assistance to Pakistan in its fight against militants.

President Barack Obama accepts Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as the top commander in Afghanistan, over critical comments he made in a Rolling Stone article, and nominates Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, as his replacement.

U.S. forces overtake a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 local time.

President Hamid Karzai calls for American forces to leave Afghan villages and pull back to their bases after a U.S. soldier kills 16 Afghan civilians inside their homes.

The Afghan army takes over all military and security operations from NATO forces.

Ashraf Ghani becomes president of Afghanistan in September after two rounds of voting, claims of election fraud and a power-sharing agreement with main rival Abdullah Abdullah.

In December, NATO officially ends its combat mission in Afghanistan. U.S.-led NATO troops remain to train and advise Afghan forces.

For more coverage of Afghanistan and other international news, visit our World page.

Left: Pigeons fly as a policeman guards residents praying outside the Shah-e Doh Shamshira mosque during the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr in Kabul on Aug. 30, 2011. Photo by Erik de Castro/Reuters

Book Excerpt: "What is Veiling?"

Muslim Women—we just can’t seem to catch a break. We’re oppressed, submissive, and forced into arranged marriages by big- bearded men.
Oh, and let’s not forget—we’re also all hiding explosives under our clothes. The truth is—like most women—we’re independent and opinionated. And the only things hiding under our clothes are hearts yearning for love.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Muslim women, even those—especially those—who have never met one.
—Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, introduction to Love Inshallah:The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women

What Is Veiling?

Islam did not invent veiling, nor is veiling a practice specific to Muslims. Rather, veiling is a tradition that has existed for thousands of years, both in and far beyond the Middle East, and well before Islam came into being in the early seventh century. Throughout history and around the world, veiling has been a custom associated with “women, men, and
sacred places, and objects."

Few Muslims and non- Muslims realize that Islam took on veiling practices already in place at the dawn of the seventh century around the Mediterranean Basin. Islam inherited them from the major empires and societies of the time along with many other customs and patriarchal
traditions related to the status of women. To understand the meaning of veiling in Islam today, one must recognize the important yet neglected history of veiling practices in the pre- Islamic period and appreciate the continuities and similarities among cultures and religious traditions.

Given that veiling has been practiced during the past two millennia by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim women, why does the veil continue to be associated primarily with Muslims, and how did it become one of the most visible signs of Islam as a religion? Why is it that when Muslim women wear a veil, many non-Muslims and some secular Muslims tend to assume that someone coerced these women to dress in that way?

Why do many people believe that veiled Muslim women are oppressed, ignorant, extremely pious, or politically militant? Why not view Muslim women in neutral terms, as women who choose or just happen to wear a headscarf? How did this piece of clothing become so emotionally and politically charged for both Muslims and non- Muslims?

My goal in What Is Veiling? is to offer an overview and an appreciation of the complex history and meanings of Muslim veiling. Addressing the questions posed above from the multiple perspectives necessary for understanding veiling will lead us to see that the practice has never had a singular meaning for all Muslims.

Throughout this book, I also aim to give voice to veiled Muslim women and to illuminate the variety of Muslim veiling practices in both Muslim- majority and Muslim- minority societies. I examine the main reasons why so many Muslim women choose to veil today and why others, in a handful of nations and only recently, have been forced to adopt a particular style of dress.

Above all, my goal in What Is Veiling? is to show that, even though veiling is one of the most visible signs of Islam, it is also its most debated and least understood practice.

Sahar Amer (Elisha Walker)

“Veiling” today is not simply a descriptive or neutral term. It is also a judgmental term, especially when associated with Islam. Muslim veiling is a notion that often evokes fear, anxiety, and a rising sense of threat, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, the onset of the war in Afghanistan, and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Veiling is a practice that foments heated debates among ordinary citizens and policy makers in North America and in Europe, as well as in many Muslim- majority societies around the world. It has become a surprisingly powerful symbol.

The veil may symbolize any number of perceived threats. For some, the veil represents the rise of fundamentalist Islam worldwide, a constant reminder of the Iranian Revolution, and the plight of women in Afghanistan. For others, it demonstrates Muslim women’s subordination to Muslim men and the impossibility of assimilating Muslim immigrants into Euro- American secular societies. Others still view the veil as a threat to national security, a potential cover-up for suicide bombers, and a troublesome reminder that the world is not safe at the turn of the new millennium. The veil’s appearance in most public spaces has been taken as proof that Islam is quintessentially opposed to women’s rights. The veil has even come to stand in for the ultimate otherness and inferiority of Islam.

Considering the intensity of the emotions that arise in discussions of veiling, however, the obsession with Muslim women’s veiling practices is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only since the nineteenth century has it been an integral part of Euro-American discourses on Islam and the Middle East.

From WHAT IS VEILING? by Sahar Amer. Copyright © 2014 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

How the Lada 2101 became an iconic Soviet car

On April 19, 1970, a brand new factory in Tolyatti, Russia, released the very first six automobiles of a new brand that would later earn an iconic status, not only in the Soviet Union but also in many other countries. The first model was called &lsquoVAZ 2101&rsquo and would soon become widely loved and known as a &ldquokopeika&rdquo - a copeck, a monetary subunit of the ruble.

The Soviets chose the Italian &lsquoFiat-124&rsquo model as a prototype for their own car made in the USSR. In August 1966, the Soviet government signed a partnership agreement with Fiat. The agreement would soon result in mass production of one of the most popular car models in the history of the Soviet Union.

Russian and Italian engineers talk to each other at the new factory in Tolyatti, Russia.

At first, however, the Italian prototype had to be adapted for the Russian roads. During the course of trials of the Fiat-124 in the field in the USSR, Soviet engineers discovered that the car had to be reworked significantly and asked the Italian carmakers to do so.

In the meantime, a brand new factory was being built in the USSR. Peculiarly, the Soviets chose a city named after the leader of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti, to produce cars made with the help of Italian engineers. Tolyatti, a city on the Volga River, would soon become the center of the Soviet car-making industry.

For the Soviet government, the success of the initiative was so crucial that it appointed Viktor Polyakov, a deputy minister of the automobile industry of the USSR, as the head of the new car-making line.

On April 19, 1970, the first six Ladas 2101 were assembled and released. Two of those were colored black and the other four - cherry red. The cars were powered with 1.2-liter 64 HP engines. In August 1970, the factory launched its first marketing campaign.

In July 1971, a year after the first cars were assembled, the factory had produced 100,000 cars in total. Two years later, in 1973, the factory had built 1 million cars. But even so, it was not enough to satisfy a growing demand for the popular model in the Soviet Union.

The Lada 2101 was popular not only in the USSR but also in other countries. Some of the cars went for export even to the most unlikely locations. In 1971, the first shipment of Lada 2101s was exported to Yugoslavia. Three years later, the model was specifically redesigned for the British market. The right-hand drive Lada remains a rarity.

Lada sedan in Cambridge when new in 1981.

As a rule, Ladas made for export were of superior quality compared to those made for the internal Soviet market. For example, Ladas made for the UK had decorative stripes on both sides of the car&rsquos body that was made of thickened metal with antistatic and anti-corrosion treatment. It also had a reinforced transmission, a better starter and a battery. Those higher-quality cars were also exported to Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and East Germany.

Many cherish warm memories about their first Lada &ldquokopeika&rdquo to these days. &ldquoI always look at my &lsquokopeika&rsquo with emotion and nostalgia. It was my first car - my first love,&rdquo wrote a former owner on a forum dedicated to the Lada 2101.

&ldquoYes. We loved each other very much several times a week in a garage,&rdquo says another, who spent a lot of time fixing his Lada with his own hands, as was the norm in the USSR. The car was so simple that most drivers developed a habit of fixing it in their private garages.

The last &ldquokopeika&rdquo was produced in 1982, though a slightly modified version of this car (known as &lsquoLada 21011&rsquo) was produced by the same factory up until 1983. In total, the factory in Tolyatti produced 2,710,930 Lada 2101 carss.

Cuban taxi (long custom made version of Lada).

Suspension of manufacturing in the Soviet Union didn&rsquot mean this car would go off the market and gradually cease to exist. People all over the world fell in love with this simple, cheap, and undemanding car and many kept driving it in classic or modified form.

In Cuba, for example, a stunning locally produced modified &ldquokopeika&rdquo - called &lsquoLada 2101 Limousine&rsquo - is popular as a taxi vehicle.

Kyrill Zykov/Moskva Agency

Today, Russia&rsquos youth tend to pimp-up their Ladas, including the first classic &ldquokopeika&rdquo, for races and drifting. The &lsquoBattle Classic&rsquo movement unites fans of classic Ladas of all ages.

Click here to find out how Russia&rsquos youth turned the Lada into a cult.

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

“Ekranoplan,” the Soviet Union’s Flying Ships

The 242-foot, 400-ton MD-160 was the sole Lun-class ekranoplan built by the Soviets.

Russian dreams of gigantic ground-effect planes are dead in the water.

The story of modern transportation is littered with vehicles that were supposed to be game-changers but that invariably became yet more deposits in the dustbin of history. Maglev trains, monorails, superblimps, Segways, jetpacks, hovercraft, hydrofoils, skycycles, flying cars… the list goes on. One of the strangest was a half-ship, half-airplane Soviet specialty called the ekranoplan—Russian for “ground-effect plane.” (The past tense is intentional though there are still small ekranoplans being built by entrepreneurs and enthusiasts, and perennial proposals for ekranoplans the size of Poughkeepsie that never get any further than the pages of Popular Science, the concept is essentially, shall we say, dead in the water.)

Ekranoplans—also called WIG vehicles, for wing in ground effect—were exactly that: airplanes that flew in ground effect. Well, maybe not exactly that. Some would say that ekranoplans were not airplanes but ships that skimmed above the sea. It is perhaps telling that many photographs of cruising ekranoplans show them no farther out of the water than an unlimited hydroplane racer riding its prop. Like any well-developed bureaucracy, the Soviets wasted lots of time arguing about whether they should be developed by shipyards or aircraft companies, flown by pilots or driven by mariners, or be subject to aviation or maritime rules.

Though a Finnish engineer flew a twinengine ekranoplan in 1935 and the Soviets began to seriously develop the concept in the early 1960s, the world’s first big ekrano was actually American: Howard Hughes’ infamous eight-engine “Spruce Goose” flying boat, which flew only in ground effect, just as ekranoplans eventually would. Had that been Hughes’ intent, the H-4 Hercules might have gone on to become a successful wave-skimmer, making regular runs to Honolulu, rather than the Edsel of airplanes.

Many ekranoplan designers were actually wrong about why their quasi-airplanes flew. Until recently, generations of commercial and military ground school instructors had told their students that ground effect was created by a “cushion of air” under an airplane’s wings when it was flying close to the ground or water at a distance typically equal to half its wingspan, and the ekranoplan developers knew no better. Some still don’t. It made sense that a wing close to the ground would somehow trap a swirl of air to buoy the airplane, but it was a myth.

A harmless one, though. In the words of aircraft designer-builder and writer Peter Garrison, “Like creation myths, it offered a simple, easily memorized way to get people to stop asking unanswerable questions.” For ground effect is a complex, difficult-to-explain phenomenon best left to textbooks. And like creation myths, it is best accepted on faith. Suffice it to say that an airplane flying very close to water (or level ground, such as a runway) experiences less induced drag. The downwash angle is reduced, and this rotates the lift vector forward, thus allowing an aircraft to stay aloft using less power and less fuel (or, to put it another way, carrying more weight than it could otherwise lift outside of ground effect).

Ekranoplans certainly worked, after a fashion. The Soviet Union was blessed with several enormous bodies of water, both lakes and seas—the Caspian, Black, Baltic and Barents seas and Lake Baikal, primarily—which served as either test sites or potential operating zones for enormous cargo-, passenger-or troop-carrying ground-effect vehicles.

And enormous they were. The Soviets went straight from building small proof-of-concept vehicles to impossibly huge sea skimmers. It was as though Boeing (which itself briefly dallied with an enormous ekranoplan heavy-lifter concept called the Pelican) had looked at a Piper Cherokee and said, “Guys, I think we could scale this way up, put a bunch of turbofans on it, double-deck it and carry 1,000 passengers.”

The Soviets always had a thing for mine’s bigger-than-yours aerial gigantism. Igor Sikorsky’s 1913 Ilya Muromets was so large that crewmen strolled atop the fuselage in flight. The enormous Tupolev ANT-20 Maxim Gorky, horribly wrecked by a stunt-flying fighter over Moscow in 1935, was the biggest landplane of its time. Today’s six-engine Antonov An-225, at 1,323,000 pounds the heaviest airplane ever to fly, makes welterweights of Lockheed C-5s and double-deck Airbus A380s.

So it’s no surprise that the Soviets, and today the Russians, have been attracted to the possibilities offered by flying ships. Beriev, the company that has designed and manufactured the world’s most advanced flying boats and amphibians, started experimenting with WIG vehicles in the early 1960s. However, its only full-size, manned ekranoplan—a singleseat turbojet that was designed to use hydrofoils to lift it to a takeoff stance—never was able to achieve ground-effect flight.

Yet this hasn’t prevented Beriev from proposing WIGs so big they’d make Boeing blush. The 12-turbofan Beriev Be-2500 cargolifter, a scale model of which was unveiled at an aviation exposition in September 2000, would weigh 2,500 metric tons (2,750 U.S. tons). But wait, there’s more: The proposed Be-5000—yes, 5,000 metric tons—would have 23 engines and weigh more than eight times as much as the An-225.

Actually, very few true ekranoplans were ever built by the Soviets—perhaps 30, including small prototypes and proof-of-concept vehicles. The most impressive was the 10-jet, 550-ton KM, the so-called “Caspian Sea Monster,” which, legend has it, put the wind up the CIA when satellite surveillance showed the squat-winged, neither fish nor fowl giant under construction in the mid-1960s. The Monster today sits derelict at its Caspian Sea docking facility. The amphibious Orlyonok (Russian for eaglet), with wheels for beach assaults, was a high-speed transport with an enormous contrarotating turboprop atop its T-tail only four ever flew, and just one survives, outside a Moscow museum. Scariest of all was the 400-ton Lun (harrier), which carried six big anti-ship missiles in launch tubes on its back only one was built, and it too is “in storage,” essentially abandoned outdoors.

The KM, aka the “Caspian Sea Monster,” had 10 turbofan engines and weighed 550 tons. (ITAR-TASS)

In any collection of ekranoplan photographs and illustrations, the two phrases most frequently seen in captions are “artist’s impression” and “computer-generated image.” Fevered dreams and fertile imagination have lifted far more ekranos than ground effect ever did. Many of those photos are of fancy scale models on display at airshows. Sometimes the models are of existing ekranoplans, for one ekrano problem is that if they are built on a lake or inland sea, they are pretty much trapped there forever, short of substantial disassembly for barging or trucking to a new site. Imagine building a guided-missile cruiser on the Lake of the Ozarks and then needing it for action in the Persian Gulf.

Ekranoplans can fly in ground effect over land as well as water, technically, but at 250 or 300 mph, you wouldn’t want to do it over anything but an enormous desert or a trackless prairie. And to make the concept even more confusing, the Soviets set out to develop three categories of ekranos: Type A, which could cruise only in pure ground effect Type B, which could maintain flight out of ground effect to altitudes of perhaps 500 feet and Type C, which supposedly could fly at thousands of feet above ground level, like a conventional airplane. (Type Cs were only proposed, never built.)

At any altitude, ekranoplans made lousy airplanes. Relatively stable longitudinally while flying very close to the water but less stable in roll, they became wallowing monstrosities, according to at least some experienced Soviet test pilots brave enough to speak their minds, when out of ground effect.

Obviously, a sophisticated, WIG-specific autopilot was needed for such situations. So ekranoplan developers, officially part of the navy’s hydrofoil-design department, asked their aviation counterparts for help. “Nonsense,” said the fly-guy bureaucrats. “Soviet aviation regulations make it illegal to use an autopilot at any altitude under 500 meters [about 1,600 feet], so there’s no point in pursuing such development.”

The promoters of enormous commercial ekranoplans eventually seemed to realize that yes, they were moderately fast, but they really didn’t have that big a payload per unit of horsepower, particularly compared to surface vessels. Proponents of military ekranoplans that would sneak across oceans under the radar to fire off missiles or land troops must have decided that radar was so 1970s, and that satellite surveillance would pick off huge, loping ekrano fleets as soon as they cast off their moorings. Tactically, ekranoplans would have been useless, able like a ship to maneuver in only one dimension, and ponderously at that. P-51s could have picked them off.

Ultimately, the Soviets’ problem was their fascination with gigantism—their overreaching to make monsters rather than developing smaller, more efficient, more utilitarian ekranos suited to the needs of their sea, lake and river commerce. Instead, they buried what might have been worthwhile efforts under what at times seemed to be a quest for world domination by ekranoplan. Today, despite mutterings about reopening the KM program, all the Russians are left with is a few corroded hulks, and dreams of what might have been.

Originally published in the November 2011 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.

Watch the video: Incredible Flight on Antonov AN-124 Cargo Transporter