Today In Fact, 30 December

Today in 1916, Russian aristocrats and a British spy, Oswald Rayner shot and killed Rasputin, the Russian mystic and healer who was said to have had enormous influence on the Tsar and Tsarina. Rasputin was a master at playing on the fears and hopes of power brokers in a Russia gradually being torn apart by its own oppressive dynamics. Rasputin died six years to the day before the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.

The USSR was in theory a federation of autonomous states; citizens of each state received two passports, one for their state and one for the USSR. In fact the USSR was ruled from Moscow and once Stalin came to power, the various states lost the right to opt out of the USSR.

The USSR became a superpower promoting global Communism and lasted for 69 years, finally falling apart in 1991. Fifteen independent states were formed from the debris.

The USSR supported many conflicts across the globe including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. There were over 3,000 Soviet military advisers supporting Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It is thus not without some irony that Saddam Hussein, the man who had played-off the West against the East so successfully during the Cold war years, was executed on this day in 2006, Ninety years to the day after Rasputin was killed.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (