Here’s the full list of our Editors’ picks for the best PlayStation games of all time.
As we near the fifth year anniversary of the North American launch of PlayStation and the upcoming launch of the system’s successor, PlayStation 2, we here at IGNPSX have been spending a lot of time thinking about the system, its impact on the industry, and the games that have been released on it.
When you consider certain information tidbits, such as PlayStation’s installed base of more than 27 million units in North America (27.11 million as of March 31, 2000), the system’s overall 7.9 to 1 software-to-hardware ratio — which is higher than any console system in the history of videogames, and total software shipments exceeding 234 million units, it’s funny to think about the state of affairs five years ago when Sony was considered just an outsider trying to break into Sega’s and Nintendo’s turf.
In the year 2000, in the eyes of many, PlayStation is videogames. In fact, based on studies of name recognition among young adults, PlayStation is the most recognizable brand name in the area of interactive entertainment and only comes behind Coca-Cola and Nike on the overall scale of things. Let’s face it, PlayStation is huge and it has earned its spot among the gaming elite, thanks to a variety of factors, including fantastic marketing, plenty of hype, and most of all, games. And, there have been a whole lot of games for that matter. Since its launch in September of 1995, there have been a grand total of more than 800 games released for the system.
That brings us to where we are today; we have decided to put our heads together and come up with what we believe are the Top 25 Games of All Time on PlayStation. Given the large amount of games on the system, the wide variety of titles, and the personal differences of opinion among our editors, this was actually an extremely daunting task — and one that we took very seriously.
In putting together our list of the PlayStation’s best, we took many different things into consideration. We measured factors such as how the game ranked against others in its genre. We looked at the game’s overall depth and replay value, while also taking into account its innovation and the impact that it made at the time of its release. And we also measured the overall timelessness of the title (i.e. – would we still play the game today?). In some cases, the timelessness of one game gave it an edge over the innovation of another, while in others the impact that a particular game made gave it an edge over the stronger points that another game had over it.
And after taking everything into account, including our own personal likes and dislikes, we’ve come up with what we believe are the Top 25 Games of All Time on PlayStation.
- Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Synopsis: Originally released in September 1998, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins is a third/person perspective action/adventure game that was commonly referred to as a assassin/ninja simulator. Unlike most of today’s games, stealth and puzzle solving were the focus of the game rather than storming around hacking and slashing people like a barbarian. The game featured 10 very challenging levels of gameplay.
- Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Synopsis: When it was released back in November of 1997, Super Puzzle Fighter II managed to steal away the lives of many gamers around North America. The game features cute, super-deformed characters from the Street Fighter and Dark Stalker games, Street Fighter II-like combos, and intense, strategy driven gameplay. The best way to describe this game to someone who’s never played it is that it is damn fun.
- Final Fantasy Tactics
Synopsis: In January of 1998, Sony Computer Entertainment America unleashed Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy Tactics onto the North American market. While based on the Final Fantasy brand, it was a turn-based strategy game rather than a strict RPG. It featured a very complex storyline and offered hundreds of hours of gameplay. Easily one of the best games in its genre on PlayStation and worthy of the Final Fantasy moniker.
- Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
Synopsis: Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is Game Arts remake of its classic role-playing game that was a huge success on Sega CD, titled Lunar: The Silver Star. However, unlike most remakes that have been appearing on PlayStation, Lunar actually featured many enhancements over the original, including fully animated cinematic cut-scenes, additional secrets, and a slightly altered storyline. Lunar shipped to stores in June 1999 in North America.
- Medal of Honor
Synopsis: First-person shooters haven’t quite managed to achieve the same prominence on consoles as they have on the PC platform. However, with the release of EA’s Medal of Honor in November of 1999, the PlayStation was blessed with its finest first-person shooter — a game that made many PC owners envious of their PlayStation brethren.
- Crash Bandicoot: Warped
Synopsis: Crash Bandicoot served as PlayStation’s mascot and the system’s answer to Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Nintendo’s Mario. Crash Bandicoot: Warped was the third action/platform game in the series on PlayStation and was arguably the best of the bunch and one of the most polished platforming experiences on Sony’s little gray wonder. Crash Bandicoot: Warped was released in November of 1998 in North America.
- Syphon Filter
Synopsis: Released on February 17, 1999, Syphon Filter received initial comparison’s to Konami’s Metal Gear Solid because of some external similarities between the two games. But, in truth, the two titles weren’t really anything alike and Syphon Filter never suffered from the comparisons because it went on to become an amazing success on the retail front thanks to good word of mouth and advertising.
- Final Fantasy VII
Synopsis:The RPG genre was never really considered a mainstream or popular genre — that is, until the release of Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation. With FF7’s historic release on PlayStation in June of 1997, role-playing games were finally given the respect that they deserved and the RPG genre is now one of the most significant and defining on the system. Following the story of Cloud Strife, gamers were taking on a fantastical journey that encompassed three CDs and over 40 hours worth of gameplay.
Synopsis: On October 26, 1999, North American PlayStation gamers were given what fans of the Sega Saturn had been hoping to get for years — a English version of Game Arts’ masterful role-playing gem, Granida. It was considered the pinnacle of traditional role-playing games on Sega Saturn and featured some of the best character development in any game of its kind on any console. Grandia is true epic that no RPG fan should be without.
- Parappa The Rapper
Synopsis: Parappa The Rapper made a big splash when it was released in the United States in November of 1997 for a variety of reasons. First, it was a sign that the days of American gamers missing out on all of the quirky Japanese titles were nearing an end. And second, it was an extremely original title that was a departure from the cookie-cutter games that were being released on PlayStation in droves. The game was a simple timing-based game with memorable music and addictive gameplay. It’s one of the PlayStation’s most original titles to day.
- Madden NFL 2000
Synopsis: The John Madden series of football games have been a fan favorite of videogame players for years, and EA Sports’ Madden NFL 2000 marked the 10th installment in the heralded series. The game featured classic Madden gameplay, an improved framerate, and more gameplay modes and features than you could shake a stick at. The solid gameplay combined with the excellent franchise mode and historical and customized scenario game modes helped make it one of the best Madden games ever developed.
- Silent Hill
Synopsis: Released in February of 1999, Konami’s Silent Hill was its first in the survival horror genre and was highly touted as the company’s answer to Capcom’s Resident Evil. However, the game managed to distinguish itself from RE by concentrating on adventure style gameplay and a heavy emphasis on character and storyline. It was commonly thought of as one of the scariest games on the system and had what was arguably one of the best stories on the system.
- Wipeout XL
Synopsis: The original Wipeout received praise as being a groundbreaking game and it was one of PlayStation’s early system sellers. In addition to being a great game, it was also considered a cultural phenomenon because of its use of elements of popular culture, such as techno music and designer logos. The game’s sequel, Wipeout XL, was a substantial improvement over its predecessor and was oft considered the PlayStation’s best racing game of the time. It had it all; great graphics, competitive computer artificial intelligence, excellent track designs, cool music, and an amazing sensation of speed.
Synopsis: In Driver, Reflections release what was considered one of the most comprehensive, deep, and thoroughly pleasurable driving experiences on PlayStation. The game put players in an urban-adult environment where big Afros and big-ass 8-cylinder engines ruled the day. It featured several gameplay modes with its story mode, called Undercover, was the meat and bones of the game. In this mode, players took on the role of an undercover cop who must take on these various missions to uncover the game’s bad guy. What really made the game great was the developer’s attention to the car’s physics. While it had an arcade style to it, the driving was pure poetry in motion. Driver was released on July 8, 1999.
- Tekken 3
Synopsis: As the third game in the Tekken series that was released on PlayStation, Tekken 3 stood as the pinnacle of 3D fighting games. The game featured one of the best opening FMV sequences that have ever graced a videogame and its fighter list consisted of some of the coolest pugilists that have ever graced a fighting game. And as with all of Namco’s arcade-to-PlayStation conversions, the home version was a vast improvement over its arcade brethren. Namco released Tekken 3 in North America in April of 1998.
- R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
Synopsis: It’s undeniable that the original Ridge Racer was one of PlayStation’s first big system pushers. Regardless of what you thought of Ridge Racer as a game, you had to agree that it was an excellent port of the arcade version that showed the true potential of Sony’s 32-bit wonder. Released in May of 1999, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 was the fourth installment of the game on PlayStation and was by far the most polished.
- Street Fighter Alpha 3
Synopsis: 2D fighters have always seemed to suffer on PlayStation because of the system’s lack of a significant amount of video ram, but with the release of Street Fighter Alpha 3 in May of 1999, Capcom proved that it was the king of 2D as it made the system do what nobody thought possible — an amazing port of its arcade fighting game. Street Fighter Alpha 3 features a long list of characters, excellent character animation, and classic 2D fighting gameplay. Pure gaming bliss (blue shadows or not).
- Ape Escape
Synopsis: Released in June of 1999, Ape Escape is arguably one of PlayStation’s most original platform titles. The game exclusively used Sony’s Dual Shock controller and required the player to use both analog sticks to control the game’s hero. Ape Escape is the story of a band of rogue monkeys that escape from the amusement park and mistakenly break into a genius professor’s laboratory. They find the inventions called the Peak Point Helmets and instantly become intelligent, with a particularly ingenious simian named Specter running the others. In a theme reminiscent of Planet of the Apes, these little creeps plan on changing history so that apes rule the world and humankind becomes the special attraction at amusement parks. The premise was damn cool…and more importantly, it had monkeys!
- Final Fantasy VIII
Synopsis: Released on September 9, 1999, Final Fantasy VIII made a big splash on the retail front and quickly became one of the fastest selling games of all time. With an epic storyline and some of the best looking graphics ever seen on PlayStation, Final Fantasy VIII stood as one of the best RPGs ever released on console.
- Vagrant Story
Synopsis: Generally overshadowed by other games in Square’s vaunted 2000 software lineup, such as Legend of Mana, Final Fantasy IX, and Chrono Cross, Vagrant Story has proven to be one of the company’s best games. It features an extremely cinematic presentation, intriguing storyline, and an impressively deep battle system. It’s one of those unique titles that only come around every once and a while.
- Resident Evil 2
Synopsis:Resident Evil 2 was one of the most hyped and eagerly anticipated sequels of its time. And when it was finally released in January of 1998, gamers across the country found out that all the hype and anticipation was well deserved. Taking place a few months after the first game, the game let you choose between using Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, each with different story paths that actually affected the story of the other character when you played the game the second time. It was a brilliant sequel that still stands as the best Resident Evil game on PlayStation.
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
Synopsis: Released in September of 1999, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater started the skateboarding craze that probably won’t die down any time in the near future. It was the first game that truly captured the pure grit and radical feel of skateboarding, giving skateboarding fans (and the wannabes) a chance to do things that they’ve always wished that they could do. It was a genre-defining game that only comes around once in a while. It’s true gem.
- Gran Turismo 2
Synopsis: Gran Turismo 2 made a big splash when it was released on December 17, 1999 — becoming one of the year’s best selling games despite only being out for a mere two weeks. The game conveyed sheer brilliance and is the premiere racing game on the system. It featured over 500 licensed vehicles, tons of tracks, and just provided what was a phenomenal racing experience.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Synopsis: The Castlevania series is one of the most enduring and well-liked in the history of videogames. The game has appeared on a wide variety of platforms, with its start being on NES. The PlayStation’s Castlevania, which was titled Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, stayed true to its roots as it was your standard 2D side-scrolling adventure game. It was released on October 2, 1997.
- Metal Gear Solid
Synopsis: Created by the legendary designer of such all-time classics like the previous versions of Metal Gear, plus Snatcher and Policenauts, Metal Gear Solid was released in October of 1998 as one of the system’s most hotly anticipated games of its time. The game, which followed the exploits of Solid Snake, was an action/adventure game that relied heavily on using stealth and had a presentation that was superior to anything else on the platform. It not only lived up to the hype, it exceeded it in many ways.
During the era in which the Ripper was active, there were 11 murders committed in London’s East End. These murders took place between April 3, 1888 and February 13th, 1891. These murders were collectively known as the “Whitechapel Murders”, being labeled as such by a London Metropolitan Police Service investigation.
Whitechapel Murder Locations
The map below shows the Whitechapel Murder crime scene locations, beginning with the site of the attack on Emma Elizabeth Smith (April 3, 1888) and ending with the murder of Frances Coles (February 13, 1891).
Note: Although the deaths of these eleven women were officially recorded as murders, evidence in the case of Rose Mylett (see: Later Whitechapel Murders) suggests accidental death or suicide. For this reason, the location of Rose Mylett’s body has not been included in this map.
Of the eleven Whitechapel Murders, it is widely believed that Jack the Ripper is directly responsible for five of them. It is possible that the Ripper may have claimed more than five victims, but most experts agree that at least five of the East End murders were the work of Jack the Ripper.
New! We’ve been feverishly working on a timeline for the Whitechapel Murders which can be seen here. We’ll be continuing to add to the descriptions and captions, but it’s ready to be viewed. Go ahead and have a look if you like!
Emma Elizabeth Smith
The first victim in the series of Whitechapel Murders was a prostitute by the name of Emma Elizabeth Smith. Smith was attacked and raped on Osbourn Street in Whitechapel on April 3, 1888. During the assault, her attackers beat and raped her, then violently inserted a blunt object into her vagina, causing an injury which would take her life the following day. After the assault, the men emptied her purse and fled – leaving her to die on the street. Before she slipped into a coma and died the next day at a London hospital, Smith told authorities that two or three men, one of them a teenager, were responsible for her attack.
The press had linked Smith’s murder to the subsequent Whitechapel Murders, but most experts later believed that particular murder to be the result of random gang violence. Whitechapel was home to many notorious gangs who would patrol the streets of Whitechapel – harassing unfortunate women like Emma Smith – demanding they pay them money in exchange for ‘protection’.
The next victim in the series of Whitechapel Murders was Martha Tabram. Tabram, a hawker and prostitute in the East End, was brutally murdered in the early morning hours of August 7, 1888. On the eve of her murder, Tabram was out drinking with an acquaintance (a fellow unfortunate who went by the name of ‘Pearly Poll’) and two soldiers at a public house near the George Yard Buildings. Shortly before midnight on August 6th, Tabram and her friend paired off with their clients – Tabram heading through the archway into George Yard on Wentworth Street.
Tabram’s body was first encountered at around 3:30 AM on August 7th by carman George Crow. He had been returning home after work, and because of the darkness in the stairwell, mistook her body as that of a drunk woman passed out on the landing.
At around 5 AM, her body was again discovered by another resident of George Yard Buildings, but by this time there was enough light in the stairway to reveal her ghastly wounds. She had been stabbed 39 times. The wounds focused on her throat, chest and lower abdomen, and appeared to have been inflicted by a pocket knife – with the exception of one violent stab through her chest which looked to have been performed with a large dagger or bayonet.
Many feel that Tabram was the Ripper’s first victim, due to the proximity of the murder in relation to the others, as well as the brutal nature of the crime. However, a number of experts also agree that another individual was responsible for Tabram’s death, and not Jack the Ripper. Tabram’s wound patterns were distinctly different from the Canonical Five, in that she received multiple stab wounds as opposed to being slashed, which is believed to be the modus operandi of the Ripper.
The Canonical Five
Although eleven women were murdered around the time of the Ripper’s reign, there were five victims that stood apart from the rest. The Canonical Five, as they are known, are believed to have all been murdered by the same hand. All five victims, prostitutes of the East End, shared distinct and similar wounds, as well as postmortem organ removal and mutilations in some cases. Other victims in the Whitechapel Murders investigation had been brutally murdered as well, but none were carried out with the same precision and methodology as the Canonical Five.
These five victims were all killed under cover of darkness, typically in the early morning hours. All of these murders also occurred on a weekend, or within one day of, and happened towards the end of the month, or within a week or so after.
Sir Melville Macnaghten, who had been Assistant Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service and Head of the Criminal Investigation Department, wrote a report in 1894 that stated: “the Whitechapel murderer had 5 victims – & 5 victims only”.
The police surgeon, Thomas Bond, also linked the killings together in a letter he’d written to Robert Anderson, head of the London CID, on 10 November 1888.
Mary Ann Nichols
The body of Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols was discovered in the wee morning hours of August 31, 1888, at about 3:40am by 2 carmen on their way to work. Her body was found in front of a gated horse stable entrance on Buck’s Row, Whitechapel. The two men who happened upon her, Charles Cross and Robert Paul, saw Polly lying on the ground with her skirts pulled up to her waist. At first they weren’t sure if she was either passed out drunk or dead, but after some hesitation they approached her and felt her hands and face, which were both cold to the touch. Feeling very uneasy about what they had just stumbled upon, both men hurried off to alert the first constable they could find.
Minutes later she was discovered by PC John Neil while passing through Buck’s Row while on his nightly beat. He shone his lantern on Polly’s body which revealed her lifeless eyes staring up into the night sky.
Her throat had been deeply severed in two locations – nearly decapitating her – and her lower abdomen partially ripped open by a deep, jagged wound. The killer had also made several other incisions in her abdomen with the same knife. The doctor who had arrived at the scene to examine her body had deemed her time of death to be less than 30 minutes from the time she’d been found.
A witness had reported seeing Annie Chapman talking with a man outside 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, 5:30am the morning of her murder. Albert Cadosch, who lived at 27 Hanbury Street, reported hearing a woman in the next door backyard say “No”, followed by what sounded like a body falling against the fence. Approximately twenty minutes later, her badly mutilated body was found by carter John Davis near a doorway in the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street.
Her throat had been cut in much the same manner as Mary Ann Nichols had been slashed, and her abdomen ripped entirely open. Her intestines, torn out and still attached, had been placed over her right shoulder. A later autopsy revealed that the killer had removed her uterus and parts of her vagina.
The Ripper would claim two victims in the early morning hours of September 30, 1888; the first of which was Elizabeth Stride. Her body was discovered in Dutfield’s Yard, off Berner Street, at approximately 1am. The killer had cut her throat, severing her left artery, yet no other slashes or incisions had been made.
Because of the absence of abdominal mutilations, there has been some doubt as to whether or not Stride was in fact killed by Jack the Ripper. However, most experts agree that Stride was murdered by the same killer due to the nature in which her throat had been cut.
It’s also believed that the reason Stride had not been mutilated like the others was due to an interruption of some sort. It’s possible the killer feared he was in jeopardy of being detected by nearby witnesses and elected to flee before finishing his ritual.
Forty five minutes after Stride’s body was found in Dutfield’s Yard, Eddowes’ body was discovered in Mitre Square, within the City of London. Eddowes’ throat had been severed and her abdomen torn open with a deep, jagged wound. Her left kidney had been removed, along with a major portion of her uterus. Just before Eddowes’ mutilated body would be discovered in Mitre Square, an eyewitness saw her in the company of a man who he described as being approximately 5′ 7″ tall, 30 years of age, with a medium build, fair complexion and a moustache. His attire gave him the over all “appearance of a sailor.”
The Stride and Eddowes murders were later referred to as the “Double Event“.
Naming Jack the Ripper: Based on modern scientific evidence obtained from what is believed to be a shawl taken from the Eddowes crime scene, author and “armchair detective” (…and Ripper gift shop owner…wink, wink) Russell Edwards claims to have solved the case and identified the killer as Polish immigrant Aaron Kosminski. In his recent book entitled “Naming Jack the Ripper“, Edwards provides what he feels is substantiated evidence obtained via thorough forensic scientific investigation.
Inside the 330 plus pages of his book, Edwards describes the process of the studies – validating both that the piece of evidence obtained for the testing is legitimate, and that the blood and semen samples found on the shawl tie both Eddowes and Kosminski to that same piece of evidence. Many people will see the recent headlines crediting Edwards with solving the crime as shameless promotion for his new book, but depending on what he provides us with inside, perhaps there is enough evidence to back up his claim.
Regardless, there will be those that will dismiss his findings, and others who might be convinced of Kosminski’s guilt in the Eddowes case alone, but it is an entertaining read. Check out our review of Naming Jack the Ripper.
Mary Jane Kelly
Considered to be Jack the Ripper’s Swan Song, Mary Jane Kelly’s murder was the most gruesome of all the Whitechapel Murders. She was found horribly mutilated, lying on the bed in her single room flat where she lived at 13 Miller’s Court, off Dorset Street, Spitalfields. She was discovered at 10:45am on the morning of Friday, November 9, 1888.
The landlord’s assistant, Thomas Bowyer, had been sent over to collect the rent, which she had been weeks behind in paying. When she didn’t answer his knock at the door, Bowyer reach his hand through a crack in the window, pushing aside a coat being used as makeshift drapery. What he saw at that moment was absolutely horrific.
Kelly’s body was mutilated beyond recognition. Her entire abdominal cavity had been emptied out, her breasts cut off, and her viscera had been deliberately placed beneath her head and on the bedside table. Kelly’s face had been hacked away and her heart removed, which was also absent from the crime scene. Kelly’s murder was by far the most grisly and ritualistic of all.
Following the death of Mary Kelly, it’s generally believed that the Ripper’s killing spree had ceased. The murders that followed did not bear any striking similarities to those that occurred between August 31st and November 9th, 1888.
Later Whitechapel Murders
Following Kelly’s ghastly murder, there were four other women who were killed in the Whitechapel district during that same period, the first of which was Rose Mylett. Mylett was found strangled in Clarke’s Yard on High Street on December 20, 1888. Investigators assessed that her death may have been the result of a drunken stupor, as there were no visible signs of a struggle apparent anywhere on her body or clothing. Even though the inquest deemed it to be a murder, her death in no way resembled a Ripper killing.
The body of Alice McKenzie was found on July 17, 1889, in Castle Alley, Whitechapel. She had suffered a severed carotid artery, along with multiple small cuts and bruises across her body – evident of a struggle. One of the pathologists involved in the investigation dismissed this as a possible Ripper murder, as it did not match with the findings of the three previous Ripper victims he had examined. Writers have also disputed McKenzie as being a victim of Jack the Ripper, but rather of a murderer trying to copy his modus operandi in an attempt to deflect suspicion.
The tenth Whitechapel murder victim was “The Pinchin Street Torso”. The victim was named as such because she was found headless and legless under a railway arch on Pinchin Street, Whitechapel, on September 10, 1889.
Investigators believed that the victim was murdered at a different location, and the body dismembered for disposal.
Frances Coles was murdered on February 13, 1891. She was found at Swallow Gardens – a passageway beneath a railway arch between Chamber Street and Royal Mint Street, Whitechapel – with her throat slit. Visible wounds on the back of her head suggested that Coles was likely thrown to the ground after having suffered to knife wounds across her throat. Apart from the cuts to her throat, there were no mutilations to her body.
A man named James Thomas Sadler, who authorities believed to be Jack the Ripper, was arrested and charged with her murder, but was later discharged on March 3, 1891 due to lack of evidence.
The Fate of the Ripper
Regardless of whether or not the Ripper’s bloodsport ended with Mary Jane Kelly, it’s certain that it did end. Many speculate that this was due to either illness and eventual death, or perhaps insanity which led to institutionalization.
Some suggest he may have fled the country and lived in self-imposed exile. One thing that is certain… along with the other killer(s) involved in the Whitechapel Murders, his true identity has never been ascertained.
The Mystery Surrounding the Whitechapel Murders
Although it’s believed that Jack the Ripper was responsible for only five of the eleven Whitechapel Murders, the person or persons that committed these murders evaded capture. Several arrests were made, many witnesses were questioned, inquiries were conducted, as well as efforts by the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee to bring the killer(s) to justice, but no one was ever caught or identified.
To this day, the fiendish individual(s) responsible for these horrible crimes have forever remained a mystery.
Russia is a highly controversial country today, with many people questioning what the government’s policies are and how the citizens of Russia truly feel about their leaders. In any case, poverty in Russia is a problem. From wealth inequality to political corruption, Russia’s poverty challenges are multi-dimensional.
Russia’s poverty rate is on the rise
In the late 1990’s Russia’s poverty rates rose to 29 percent. In the early 2000s, incomes increased and allowed a significant amount of people to rise above the poverty line. Poverty rates in the early 2000s stayed constant at around 10 percent. Unfortunately, the poverty rate has seen an increase in recent years, with 13.5 percent of Russians living in poverty in 2016.
Politics drastically affect poverty in Russia
Russia’s longtime leader Vladimir Putin secured a fourth term on March 18 and has been widely criticized by many leaders around the globe for aggressive military actions and corruption. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. These sanctions have led to increased poverty in Russia, as well as food shortages.
Falling oil prices have led to an increase in poverty
Along with economic sanctions, rapidly falling oil prices have severely reduced Russia’s revenue from oil exports. As a result, the economy in Russia has been hit hard and its people have seen an increase in poverty rates.
Wealth inequality is a major problem
The contrast between the rich and the poor in Russia is apparent. Studies have shown that Russia’s most affluent 10 percent control roughly 77 percent of the wealth. Despite this, Putin has made it clear that he wishes to invest in infrastructure in Russia and do everything possible to decrease economic dependence on Western powers.
The embargo on western foods has not helped Russia
In 2014, the Russian government banned the importation of many food products from Western countries in response to Western-imposed sanctions. This embargo was meant to hurt the West, but it also led to a heightened food scarcity, especially for those struggling with poverty in Russia.
Russia’s agricultural sector struggles
Russia has been known to have large amounts of barren farmland, which makes food production difficult. Coupled with the embargo on Western products, it has led to a very turbulent economy and a lack of confidence in food security over the last 10 years.
Rural citizens are providing poverty solutions
Russia’s rural citizens often enjoy a higher quality of life due to their ability to grow food and produce products others need. With the food embargo, many of Russia’s rural citizens have been pressured to produce more and, as a result, have found new ways to produce more products domestically.
Short-term solutions are unlikely
Russia would undoubtedly benefit from more friendly relationships with Western territories and its neighbors in the East. While this is unlikely given Putin’s recent military actions and opinions on Western power, the poverty-stricken citizens in Russia would benefit from a long-term lift of sanctions and embargos.
Russia needs a more cohesive strategy to fight poverty
Russia needs to build more cohesive poverty-fighting strategies if it wishes to increase the quality of life for its citizens. Putin has said that his government wishes to increase domestic spending on infrastructure and poverty reduction, but have not clearly stated what actions it will take or where it will get the funding.
Russia’s battle with poverty is far from over
Russia’s economic hardships are not going to see an end overnight. Many of its issues are long-standing and notoriously difficult to improve. With new conflicts arising with the West and Russia’s neighbors, it’s hard to envision a quick path to poverty resolution.
Poverty in Russia is ongoing and multi-dimensional. Diminishing oil profits, one-dimensional economic conditions and government sanctions play a major role in the poverty problems in Russia. A struggling agricultural sector and sanctions on U.S. goods cause serious problems for food security in Russia. The country has a long road ahead in an attempt to reduce poverty within its borders.
Farmers struggled with low prices all through the 1920s, but after 1929 things began to be hard for city workers as well. After the stock market crash, many businesses started to close or to lay off workers. Many families did not have money to buy things, and consumer demand for manufactured goods fell off. Fewer families were buying new cars or household appliances. People learned to do without new clothing. Many families could not pay their rent. Some young men left home by jumping on railroad cars in search of any job they could get. Some wondered if the United States was heading for a revolution.
Farmers Grow Angry and Desperate
During World War I, farmers worked hard to produce record crops and livestock. When prices fell they tried to produce even more to pay their debts, taxes and living expenses. In the early 1930s prices dropped so low that many farmers went bankrupt and lost their farms. In some cases, the price of a bushel of corn fell to just eight or ten cents. Some farm families began burning corn rather than coal in their stoves because corn was cheaper. Sometimes the countryside smelled like popcorn from all the corn burning in the kitchen stoves.
Some farmers became angry and wanted the government to step in to keep farm families in their homes. In Le Mars, Iowa, a mob of angry farmers burst into a court room and pulled the judge from the bench. They carried him out of the court room, drove him out of town and tried to make him promise that he would not take any more cases that would cost a farm family its farm. When he refused, they threatened to hang him. Fortunately the gang broke up and they left the judge in a dazed condition. The governor of Iowa called out the National Guard who rounded up some of the leaders of the mob and put them in jail.
In other areas around the state, farmers banded together like a labor union and threatened to prevent any milk from getting from farms to towns and cities. They hoped that this would raise the price that farmers were paid for their products. They set up blockades on country roads and made any trucks carrying milk, cream, butter or other farm products to turn around and go back home. They called it “The Farm Strike.” Not all farmers joined the movement, however, and the effort did not have any effect on prices.
In some ways farmers were better off than city and town dwellers. Farmers could produce much of their own food while city residents could not. Almost all farm families raised large gardens with vegetables and canned fruit from their orchards. They had milk and cream from their dairy cattle. Chickens supplied meat and eggs. They bought flour and sugar in 50-pound sacks and baked their own bread. In some families the farm wife made clothing out of the cloth from flour and feed sacks. They learned how to get by with very little money. But they had to pay their taxes and debts to the bank in cash. These were tough times on the farms.
The Federal government passed a bill to help the farmers. Surplus was the problem; farmers were producing too much and driving down the price. The government passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 which set limits on the size of the crops and herds farmers could produce. Those farmers that agreed to limit production were paid a subsidy. Most farmers signed up eagerly and soon government checks were flowing into rural mail boxes where the money could help pay bank debts or tax payments.
Town and Cities Suffer Too
When factories and stores shut down, many workers lost their jobs. In Dubuque, for example, 2,200 workers lost their jobs between 1927 and 1934 when their firms closed, while only 13 new businesses opened—employing only 300 workers. That meant a loss of 1,900 jobs. Dubuque railroads employed 600 workers in 1931; three years later, only 25 jobs remained.
Before the Great Depression, people refused to go on government welfare except as a last resort. The newspapers published the names of all those who received welfare payments, and people thought of welfare as a disgrace. However, in the face of starving families at home, some men signed up for welfare payments. For most it was a very painful experience.
Town families could not produce their own food. Many city dwellers often went hungry. Sometimes there were soup kitchens in larger cities that provided free meals to the poor. Winters were an especially hard time since many families had no money to buy coal to heat their houses.
The government created programs to put Americans to work. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) hired many men to work on parks, roads, bridges, swimming pools, public buildings and other projects. Teen age boys were hired by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). They lived in barracks, were given clothing, and provided with free meals. The small salary that they earned was sent back to help their families. The CCC boys planted trees, helped create parks, and did other projects to beautify and preserve natural areas.
The 1930s are remembered as hard times for many American families. With the coming of World War II, the government began hiring many men to serve in the army. Factories began receiving orders for military supplies. But the memories of the Depression did not go away. Many Americans worried that when the war ended, hard times would come again.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was one of the most important uprisings in modern political history, an event which still shapes the world.
After enduring decades of economic exploitation under the British, followed by a CIA and MI6 coup in 1953 to overthrow Iranian PM Mossadegh and replace him with Western-backed monarch the Shah, Iran finally stood up to Britain and the United States. Iranians took to the streets by the millions, regained its sovereignty as well control over its natural resources and dealt a heavy blow to imperialism, setting the stage for resistance and anti-imperialist movements to this day.
Iran’s Islamic revolution of 1979 was a monumental event in many aspects, with long lasting effects still felt to this date.
To better understand the roots of Iran’s Islamic Revolution we have to go back in time to the beginning of the 20th century.
This is when the British Empire was at its height with around a quarter of the world’s entire population under its rule and around a quarter of the Earth’s landmass under its dominion.
At this time the British were occupying India, Australia, Canada, and vast swaths of Africa, one place that wasn’t officially part of the Empire, but in practical terms, very much under its rule was, in fact, Iran, with the Russian Empire occupying the northern part of Iran and the British exerting their sphere of influence over the southern part of Iran.
Now as with many imperialist endeavors a lot of this story has to do with natural resources, particularly oil. In 1908 oil was discovered in Iran, a British company known back then as Burma oil, founded a subsidiary company called the Anglo Persian oil company. This Anglo Persian oil company installed its first pipeline just one year later in 1909 and built an enormous refinery in Abadan, which was completed later in 1912. And from that moment on this company in Britain effectively began stealing oil from the Iranian people for the following six decades.
Former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and in charge of the British Royal Navy at the time. He realised what a lucrative goldmine this was.
He convinced the British government to buy an ownership share in the Anglo Persian oil company in 1914, and he transitioned the Royal Navy’s fleets from coal to petroleum, which proved to be of immense use in World War One, and World War Two, when the British Navy was the envy of other empires at the time.
The British however, took the Iranians for granted and gave them crumbs. with Iran receiving a mere 16% of all oil revenue, for its own oil. If that wasn’t bad enough, this tiny amount of 16% was calculated by the United Kingdom’s government in private, without ever showing the Iranians the books. And on top of that this was done after taxes had already been paid by the British government to the British government.
This blatant theft and plundering of Iran’s Natural Resources became common knowledge, and people rightfully resented the British and their colonial arrogance.
In the years after World War Two, there was one politician who would soon put an end to this, Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh was known for wanting to nationalize Iran’s oil fields and just like many Iranians held a grudge against the 1933 agreement, made by Reza Shah, which gave enormous concessions to the British to continue plundering the oil at Abadan.
Mossadegh was appointed Prime Minister in 1951, and soon thereafter Iran’s Parliament moved to nationalize all of Iran’s oil fields, including Abadan which, at the time, housed the largest oil refinery in the world.
That should give you an idea of how badly the British wanted to keep their hands on it. They attempted to stop Iran from controlling and using its own oil refineries through sabotage and other clandestine operations. An embargo or blockade was also imposed on Iran in order to stop it from being able to sell its own oil on the global market.
The British felt that they had been robbed somehow, because they had discovered the oil, they had built the refineries and they had developed Abadan. This is of course absurd, but the British would not accept this condition for long, and instead they resorted to the typical dirty tactics used by imperialists, they plotted a coup.
The British called it operation boot. Meanwhile, the Americans who were helping them refer to it as Operation Ajax. The goal was to oust Mossadegh and reinstall the Shah, and retake the oil.
Now while people often attribute the coup of 1953 to the CIA, and that’s partly correct, the role of the British cannot be overlooked. We know for example that Mossadegh’s chief of police Mahmoud Afshartoos was kidnapped, tortured and executed by Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6.
Once this coup was completed and Mossadegh was deposed, the Americans and British moved quickly to help the Shah establish and train the SAVAK, Iran’s secret police. The SAVAK were trained by the CIA, who had lots of experience, training people in torture, all over the world, in Jakarta, in Latin America, as part of their Cold War campaign against communists.
Now, the CIA training of the SAVAK taught them how to repress dissidents, activists and anyone who opposed the Shah. This is collectively remembered in Iran as a period of immense struggle and great suffering.
The CIA finally released documents, entitled ‘The battle for Iran’, showing its involvement in the coup of 1953. The United Kingdom, however, to this day, maintains secrecy regarding the matter, and has still not owned up or confessed to its damning role in the overthrow of Mossadegh.
Oil was one of the most lucrative things for the British Empire in Iran, and Mossadegh’s nationalisation represented a threat for them. What are some of the other things that aren’t very much talked about the other economic and political reasons for which the UK backed the Shah, along with the US?
“Yeah, that’s a great question and as you correctly say the support of the UK for the Shah was based on oil, and Mossadegh wanted to nationalize the oil. So, the British, (and) to a lesser extent the Americans, were upset about that. And they backed the Shah in opposition to Mossadegh.
So that was one reason but as the years went by, actually, Iran got more concessions regarding sovereignty on oil. So a big reason, another reason that the UK and the US and also the West more generally supported the Shah was because the Shah was a big ally against anti imperialist movements in the region, and perhaps in the world at large, and also he was not a big annoyance when it came to the question of Zionism and Palestinian independence.
And there’s actually I think a good analogy to be made here to the Tsars. So before the Russian Revolution a lot of the anti imperialist and progressive movements in the world were opposed to the Tsars, the Russians, and in a similar way in this period so from 1950s onward to the present day. I would say a lot of the anti imperialist movements are opposed to the US and the UK and the West more generally, and the Shah, since he was friendly to the US and the UK, he could be used as an instrument against these anti imperialist movements.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
And a lot of people in Iran remember this period for its brutal repression. One of the most notable events perhaps is referred to as Black Friday. We asked Mr Zarrinnal to elaborate on that for us as well as the secret police, the SAVAK, and just in general how political dissidents were treated and what the climate was like under the Shah.
“So there were numerous demonstrations preceding the revolution. And there was one very famous protest, known as Black Friday in English nomenclature. And it happened in what was called the Zhalleh Square at the time and they changed the name after the revolution to Martyr’s square or Meiydane Shohada.
In this demonstration, the Shah’s forces killed a number of people in this Black Friday demonstration so it became a big event of the revolution that’s remembered every year. Black Friday was an example of the wide variety of demonstrations that were happening.
And also it indicated the high participation in the Iranian Revolution. Because if you look at the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution or coming even more forward, the Romanian revolution of 1989, the participation usually was about a couple percent it wasn’t very high but in the in the Iranian Revolution, the estimates are that 10% of the population marched, and actively participated in making the revolution.
Regarding the SAVAK, or the secret police. So just as the Shah’s security forces were on the streets containing the protests, the SAVAK would also gather intelligence, and they were also close to the imperialist US. And they had a close eye on the activists and the dissidents.
But what’s interesting is that the Shah, generally gave more space to the Islamic dissent to operate and they were harsher on the socialist Marxist and leftist dissent. And, you know, an example, I think it’s a very powerful example of the Shah’s surveillance state, and how his state would treat dissidents and revolutionary opposition that there was a programme connected to the states that was called Goftegoo which means conversation.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
Confession by coercion
“There was a conversation between an anchor and a dissident who was in prison and they would bring the prisoner on the show, and they were forced recantation, so the decedent has to recant on live TV and there was one particular short story writer and cultural critic named Ghollamhossein Sa’edi who was tortured in prison, and then he was forced to come on this programme called Goftegoo, and then he had to recant, the things like the the criticism of the Shahs government that he had made, and there’s a very memorable line by a poet named Ahmad Shamloo about what happened to society.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
“What said farewell to Shah’s prison was merely a half living corpse. That man with his wondrous creativity, after the bodily and mostly mental tortures of Evin Prison became utterly lifeless.”
- Ahmad Shamloo, Contemporary Iranian Poet
Many in the West, especially the United States, when they think of the Iranian Revolution they always see it through the lens of the hostage crisis, for example the film Argo with Ben Affleck, which they even won an Oscar for this typical Hollywood propaganda film.
Why is that a faux lens to see the revolution through and why does it miss the bigger picture?
“It is a very US centric view to look at one of the biggest and most important revolutions of the 20th century. And as we discussed earlier, the real reason for the revolution was the Imperialist support for the Shah that brought the crisis of legitimacy for the Shah. And then I think there might have been anxieties by the revolutionaries that just as in 1953, the US orchestrated a coup d’etat against Mossadegh, again the US could intervene in Iranian affairs.
It’s just a very minor event in the revolution, but from the American point of view, it became the event of the Iranian Revolution and as you said it was represented in really terrible films like Argo. And if you actually look at the DVD cover the blu ray cover for Argo, you see Ben Affleck looking very contemplative and rational looking at a distance but then the Iran revolutionaries almost look like zombies, they’re holding things and they’re kind of just a collective of them looking various scary and menacing about to come and harm people.
So it’s interesting that even though Ben Affleck seems to be a nice anti orientalist, he actually defended Muslims against Bill Maher’s Islamophobia, but these kinds of representations when it comes to political difference are still very much part of the American consciousness.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
In the aftermath of the revolution, how did the West react, especially the US and the UK, both in the short term, and in the long term, to try and undermine Iran, after they suddenly lost control of their puppet monarch.
“Yes, I think the attempts to sabotage the revolution started from early on, I mean, I think we can look to the example of the Iraq, Iran war as a very unfortunate war that was devastating for both countries. And I think the West was using Saddam Hussein, as a way to weaken and sabotage the revolution. But I think even the bigger attempts to sabotage the revolution came through such things as a currency sabotage. Since Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, Iranian currency has collapsed. And that makes it very difficult to actually bring foreign imports in, and also the effect of sanctions. The problem is that when you when Iran has a difficult time transacting in the international banking system. It’s very difficult to get medicines in, but what I think really important to keep in mind that despite the American attempts to sabotage the Iranian Revolution, Iran has a very strong national production industry, and that has allowed it to withstand the American so called maximum pressure.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
Speaking more broadly, what are the main anti imperialist values and lessons that the revolution brought with it and how have they permeated Iranian society and remained throughout the last four decades?
“I would say a big value of the Iranian Revolution, is that it’s providing an alternative to the globalisation, that is led by the US and multinational corporations that I’m speaking of is that there’s a uniformity in our taste and leisure and our economic choices and our political models, so everything is becoming uniform. But the thing about Iran is that when, when people travel here they actually see the political and economic difference here. So I think the political model is way different.
So, theocratic democracy is what I would describe as, as, and the thing is, because our cognition our political cognition is so Eurocentric, we see that as an oxymoron. But the thing is I think they can be reconciled just as you can reconcile equality and liberty under liberalism, I think it’s very doable to reconcile theocracy with democracy.
And I think that’s also an interesting Iranian experiment an alternative to the European models that have been universalized since colonialism. So, even though you do have things like class inequality and one of the biggest aspirations of the Iranian Revolution was class equality, but unfortunately, that has been much more difficult to achieve.
But despite this, there is still an alternative to the globalised neoliberal model that the US and multinational corporations are pursuing, and you see that, I think when you travel here. And I think a second importance of value and legacy of the Iranian revolution has been the support for the Palestinian cause. And I see I actually see this as an ideological and also moral commitment to Palestine and the Palestinian people. And that has that that was an early aspirational revolution that has persisted to the present day.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
When we talk about the axis of resistance, we talk about Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Iran and supported all these various resistance movements and actually not just in the Middle East, but even with Venezuela, this partnership and Alliance. Can we argue that this is very much indeed one of the main values as spurred on by the revolution and how is it that Iran has become this backbone of these anti imperialist efforts?
“The support for resistance to imperialism is definitely a value of the Iranian revolution that we see, both in ideology and in practice. And again, I think it definitely has a geopolitical element to it but I think a big part of it is ideological, philosophical and ethical. And I think as you correctly mentioned to it’s not either because, you know, in the Western media the representation is that whoever is Shia, Iran just supports them so they turn it into like Syria and issue but as you mentioned, in Venezuela, I don’t think they have too many Shias. But, Iran is a big supporter of Venezuela. So I think it’s, it’s an ideological and ethical commitment against imperialism. And because of this, they are supporting resistance movements against imperialism, and it’s not easy to do, it comes at a big cost to the country for example, the sanctions, but it is something that the Iranian Revolution is committed to.”
- Navid Zarrinnal, Columbia University
After the coup in Iran in 1953, the Anglo Iranian oil company changed its name to British Petroleum, or BP, and when the US carried out another coup the following year, in Guatemala to depose the democratically elected president, yet another multinational was at the heart of this dispute, United Fruit Company, and they also rebranded and changed their name afterwards to Chiquita Brands International.
Now while these corporations changed their names and tried to rebrand, the tactic remains very much the same and we continue to see a lot of the same covert means and clandestine operations, being used by the United States and the United Kingdom to overthrow other governments, just for the sake of stealing their resources, as they say, war is a racket.
Now, when the Islamic Revolution came about decades later, this changed everything and shocked the world. All of a sudden the Shah, a puppet monarch loyal to the West, was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic Republic, which was opposed to the west, and to Israel. But it’s important to note that this didn’t happen overnight. Protests and movements to oppose the Shah already started in late 1977 and grew steadily with a coalition of students, leftists Islamists. This broad coalition is a very important factor to which the success of the revolution can be attributed and shows the plurality of the uprising by the Iranian people against the western backed monarchy.
The sea of protestors, Martyr’s Square
Hundreds of 1000s of Iranians, millions in fact, took to the streets in mass protests, prompting the Shah to declare martial law and impose a curfew. This repression became especially violent during this period. One of those horrific moments being the fire at cinema Rex which was, quite frankly, a terrorist attack with over 400 people burned to death inside of a movie theatre by four men working under orders of the SAVAK, the secret police.
Another instance, referred to in English as Black Friday, was at Zhaleh Square, now named Martyrs Square, where the Shah’s troops gunned down hundreds of protesters. It would only be a matter of months, in January of 1979, before the Shah would leave Iran like a coward, pretending that he was going on vacation. He actually never returned, he stayed there in exile, until his death. Shortly thereafter, Imam Khomeini finally returned to Iran.
The return from exile
On February 1, 1979, the founder of the Islamic Republic was greeted by jubilant crowds after spending 15 years in exile. In fact, over a million Iranians flocked to the streets in a show of support.
Widely regarded as both the spiritual, and the de facto leader of the revolution, an Islamic Republic was established through a national referendum, and the adoption of a constitution with Imam Khomeini as Iran’s first leader which marked the beginning of a whole new era for the nation. Finally after decades of rule by a Western backed puppet sponsored by the US and the UK, the Iranians had now finally reclaimed their country by taking to the streets by the million, voting in a new constitution and establishing a new Islamic Republic.
And of course, with that said, Iranians, of course regained sovereignty, not just over their nation but also over their natural resources including the oil, which the British had plundered for so long.
So, again, when we talk about the Islamic revolution of 1979, it’s really important to also talk about the history behind it, about the role that the United States and the United Kingdom, played in the coups in 1953 by installing the Shah who betrayed his country’s riches to these multinational corporations and brutally repressed the Iranian people.
This is a very very important part of history that many Americans and, and many British do not understand, let alone know of. They have hardly any clue of the atrocities the countless coups, the interventions, the meddling and all the nefarious covert operations that their governments carry out all across the world in their names from their point of view, Iranian history starts in 1979, and that’s all they know and it’s completely awash with anti oriental propaganda, which seeks to demonise Iran.
A landmark moment
The truth is that Iran’s revolution represented a landmark moment, the awakening of a movement and the will of the people to fight and regain their sovereignty from the west. This caused a huge upset for Western governments and the multinationals that run them behind the scenes.
In reality, Britain and the United States don’t want other countries to be democracies; they want other countries that they can control, both politically and economically. Only then are those countries considered allies.
You know when nations like Iran who are not only resource rich but rich in culture and history, actually stand up for themselves. It is extremely embarrassing for the suits in Whitehall and Capitol Hill who think that they are above everyone else. The Islamic Revolution in Iran wasn’t just an upheaval of the Iranian political climate. It was also an act of defiance and an act of anti imperialism. This idea of standing up to oppressors is something that is very deeply ingrained in Iranian culture, and this is not just something we see internally, but also internationally, Iran has been an ally and helped to liberate Syria from the various jihadist groups and has been the scourge of foreign terrorists that once again, Britain and the United States along with Saudi Arabia and others have financed.
Iranian assistance not limited to Lebanon and Palestine
Since the revolution Iran has helped Lebanon and Palestine, in their resistance against the Zionist occupation and in the protection of their lands, and more recently, we see in Iraq and Venezuela how Iran has helped these nations, stand up against foreign invaders and imperialism.
This is very important for people to understand and it also explains why the West has held a grudge against Iran ever since it broke free from occidental rule, seeking to cripple it always with sanctions, with war, with intimidation.
Now, not just because Iran is to back control of their country but also because they outmaneuver and help other resistance movements, regionally and globally, and help other people stand up for themselves.
There is certainly no such thing as a perfect country or perfect political system in the world. But there is something to be said about a nation, and a people that are brave enough to stand up to tyranny to colonization and to white supremacy. And then help their brothers and sisters elsewhere to do the same.
It is a remarkable feat of resistance and anti imperialism and why Iran continues to be a thorn in the side of those oppressors who seek to colonize the Middle East.