1950: USSR issues the memorandum on the Antarctica. Since the beginning of the XX century, a number of countries attempted to claim various parts of the Antarctica. UK, Argentina, Chile, Norway, France, Australia, New Zealand had solid reasons to believe that this continent may be the gold mine. By 1930s, Australia, New Zealand and UK claimed over 60% of the whole territory. In 1938, when Norway also claimed a sector in Antarctica, USSR issued an official protest and proclaimed that the sixth continent must belong to the whole humanity. After the war, in late 1940s, tensions began to form, when countries became very sensitive to the alleged violations of "their" territories by other countries. So, in 1950, USSR had to remind that the Soviet Union has the rights of the discoverer of the Antarctica (discovered in 1820 by Russian ships Vostok and Mirnyi). USSR also said that the Soviet Union may claim the whole continent. However, such claims had to be backed by permanent presence in the area.
So, in 1955 Soviet Union sent the first Soviet Antarctic Expedition, SAE. The expedition was led by Mikhail Somov. Somov was already a well-known polar explorer. He had been the head of the North Pole-2 drifting station in 1950 (now, an exploratory ship named M.Somov carries the explorers to Antarctica). The 1st SAE arrived in February, 1956 and on 13 February the first Soviet Antarctic station was founded. It was named Mirnyi, after the ship led by Faddey Bellinsgauzen, the discoverer of Antarctica. On the next year, station Vostok was built far from the sea, near the geomagnetic pole. This station was one of the most hostile environments on Earth. The world's lowest temperatures were recorded there in 1983 (-89.2°C, -128.56°F).
In 1959, under the pressure of the USSR and USA, the Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 countries, who agreed to drop their territorial claims, proclaimed Antarctica the scientific reserve where every country may organize explorations and banned all military activity on the whole continent. Thus, the Antarctic Treaty became the first arms control agreement in the years of the Cold War.
The treaty was soon followed by more important agreements: Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964), The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972) and many others.
After the fall of the USSR, the SAE program was cancelled. In 1992, the last, 36th Soviet Antarctic expedition was over. Russia continued to support some polar stations, but the presence plunged. Three stations were closed. However, the explorations continued and a unique 270-km long underglacial lake was discovered near Vostok station. Fortunately, the expeditions never stopped completely and in 1997 Russian government adopted the law defining the minimum financing of the Russian Antarctic Expedition (RAE). Since then, the situation significantly improved. During the International Polar Year (2007-2008) the closed stations will be re-opened.