Five Fantastic Failures of Soviet Russia

Contrary to what Vladimir wants us to think, communism does not work. For those who are too young to remember the original Soviet Union, their most promising homegrown ideas often led to calamity and destruction.
White Sea Canal in Summer 7 photos
Photo: Alexxx1979 via English Wikipedia
Putin's PipelinePutin realizes the White Sea Canal is shallowChernobyl Liquidator SimulatorStalin PosterAK-74 Vodka BottleN1 Rocket Test Failure
Nobody knows how history will judge Russia’s bungled invasion, but it seems to be par for the course for their old communist dictator. In a story that began in 1917, the office of the Supreme Soviet has sought to win the hearts and minds of the world with ambitious efforts. The most obvious ones were copies of Western technology, so we’re going to focus on the ones they cooked up in-house (when they weren’t starving). The road to Hell is paved with the greatest of intentions, so we’ve ranked these in terms of their fallout (literally).

White Sea Canal

Stalin got the big chair in 1922, so he needed to show the world how capable his people were. Thus began his first 5 Year Plan. Even from space, it seems logical to have a navigable passage from the Arctic to the Baltic. Even on paper it seemed simple. Running 227 km (141 mi) from the great city of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) to the White Sea, they used free labor from the gulags (prison camps) who dug by hand because shovels are expensive. In theory, the only real expenses would be for engineering and the construction of 19 sets of locks along the way.

But wait! The engineers are Soviet Citizens, so they should do it for Mother Russia, right? As for the prisoners, they had a mortality rate of 9% with 25,000 estimated deaths along the way. Work was done by the Summer of ‘33 and it is a great canal, for swimmers. At only 3.5m (11.5”) deep, it was and is useless for anything other than remote controlled boats. This also keeps it frozen solid most of the year, a great way to keep your vodka chilled.

AK\-74 Vodka Bottle
Photo: Crazy Russian Sergey via YouTube


Yes, you read that correctly. In order to modernize the timeless AK-47 assault rifle, General Kalashnikov introduced its replacement in 1974. A decade prior, American soldiers began carrying the M-16 chambered in 5.56mm (.223 caliber). This small bullet was more accurate and much faster than the 7.62mm (.30 cal) used by everyone. To improve upon this, he developed 5.45mm ammunition that is even faster.

Smaller is not better when it comes to bullets. You can defend yourself against an AK-74 by wearing minimal body armor, or just find an old Buick. The ATF went so far as to classify it as a fancy handgun! Even though the ‘74 is still their main battle rifle, it has allowed the original AK-47 to find new popularity around the world (myself included).

N1 Moon Rocket

Days after Apollo 4 proved the Saturn V rocket’s first flight, its Soviet competitor was spotted by a spy satellite around Thanksgiving of 1967. Given Russia’s dominance in the space race, it looked like a red flag would soon be flying above us. With similar dimensions, the N1 was slightly less powerful because they burned kerosene while NASA used hydrogen on the upper stages. This was offset by running more engines, with 30 on the first stage alone.

What killed this program was communism exemplified. Chief Engineer Sergei Korolev had to beg for money in Moscow, splitting his time between being a politician and building his dream. Funds were diverted from the Army, Navy, and the Air Force, which sparked a backlash from other engineers. It was almost ready when he died from a simple operation in 1966, and his budget for final testing died with him. All four test launches failed from a series of small problems, the same kind that plagued NASA on the other side of the world. We actually felt their pain, as these were the largest non-nuclear explosions until recently.

Putin's Pipeline
Photo: RIA Novosti (Russian Government)

Siberian Pipeline

Despite Putin’s tanks running out of gas, Russia has incredible oilfields. What they didn’t have in 1981 was software needed to run their pipelines. With the Trans-Alaska pipeline literally flexing in their face, Soviet spies went to Texas looking to steal our operating systems. At the time, President George H.W. Bush was an oil man who also ran the CIA. In addition to being a cousin of mine, he had a sense of humor.

We allowed their spies to steal a program that was exactly what they needed, except for one line of code. As soon as the Siberian pipeline was switched on, a logic bomb began a countdown hidden in the code. On Halloween night in 1982, a massive explosion in Siberia transformed the night into day for a few brief moments.


Despite what climate activists tell us, nuclear power is safe. What’s not are the humans in charge of it. The Soviet RBMK reactor has proven to be efficient and powerful, with a dozen Chernobyl-style power plants operating up until recent years. The explosion in Ukraine had two human (Soviet) causes, the first being a lack of money to build a concrete emergency containment lid above the reactor.

The second issue was disabling the safety systems when simulating a power outage. Although the site is entombed by a massive sarcophagus, Putin’s army continues to hold the workers hostage. These are just the tip of the iceberg, so tell us if you want more in the comments below!
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