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Soviet Union

Federal socialist country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia (1922–1991)

Top 10 Soviet Union related articles

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Союз Советских Социалистических Республик
Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik
State emblem
"Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!"
Proletarii vsekh stran, soyedinyaytes'!
("Workers of the world, unite!")
("The Internationale")

"Государственный гимн СССР"
Gosudarstvennyy gimn SSSR
("State Anthem of the USSR")
The Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991
and largest city
55°45′N 37°37′E / 55.750°N 37.617°E / 55.750; 37.617
Official languagesRussian[a][2]
Recognised regional languages
Minority languages
Ethnic groups
Secular state[1][2]
State atheism[b]
• 1922–1924
Vladimir Lenin
• 1924–1953
Joseph Stalin
• 1953[c]
Georgy Malenkov
• 1953–1964
Nikita Khrushchev
• 1964–1982
Leonid Brezhnev
• 1982–1984
Yuri Andropov
• 1984–1985
Konstantin Chernenko
• 1985–1991
Mikhail Gorbachev
Head of state 
• 1922–1946 (first)
Mikhail Kalinin
• 1988–1991 (last)
Mikhail Gorbachev
Head of government 
• 1922–1924 (first)
Vladimir Lenin
• 1991 (last)
Ivan Silayev
LegislatureCongress of Soviets
Supreme Soviet
Soviet of Nationalities
Soviet of the Union
Historical era20th century
7 November 1917
30 December 1922
16 June 1923
31 January 1924
5 December 1936
22 June 1941
9 May 1945
25 February 1956
9 October 1977
11 March 1990
14 March 1990
19–22 August 1991
8 December 1991
26 December 1991[3]
• Total
22,402,200 km2 (8,649,500 sq mi)
• 1989 census
286,730,819[5] (3rd)
• Density
12.7/km2 (32.9/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)1990 estimate
• Total
$2.7 trillion[6] (2nd)
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)1990 estimate
• Total
$2.7 trillion[6] (2nd)
• Per capita
$9,000 (28th)
Gini (1989)0.275
HDI (1990)0.920[7]
very high
CurrencySoviet ruble (руб) (SUR)
Time zone(UTC+2 to +12)
Date formatdd-mm-yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+7
ISO 3166 codeSU
Internet TLD.su[4]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Russian SFSR
Ukrainian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
Transcaucasian SFSR
Bukharan SSR
Khorezm SSR
Nazi Germany
Today part of
  1. ^ Declaration № 142-Н of the Soviet of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, formally establishing the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a state and subject of international law (in Russian).
  2. ^ Original lyrics used from 1944 to 1956 praised Stalin. No lyrics from 1956 to 1977. Revised lyrics from 1977 to 1991 displayed.
  3. ^ All-union official since 1990, constituent republics had the right to declare their own official languages.
  4. ^ Assigned on 19 September 1990, existing onwards.

The Soviet Union,[e] officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics[f] (USSR),[g] was a federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics,[h] in practice its government and economy were highly centralized until its final years. It was a one-party state prior to 1990 governed by Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian SFSR. Other major urban centers were Leningrad (Russian SFSR), Kiev (Ukrainian SSR), Minsk (Byelorussian SSR), Tashkent (Uzbek SSR), Alma-Ata (Kazakh SSR) and Novosibirsk (Russian SFSR). It was the largest country in the world by surface area,[8] spanning over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. Its territory included much of Eastern Europe, parts of Northern Europe and Western Asia, and all of Central and North Asia. Its five biomes were tundra, taiga, steppes, desert, and mountains. Its diverse population was officially known as the Soviet people.

The Soviet Union had its roots in the October Revolution of 1917 when the Bolsheviks, headed by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government that had earlier replaced the monarchy of the Russian Empire. They established the Russian Soviet Republic,[i] beginning a civil war between the Bolshevik Red Army and many anti-Bolshevik forces across the former Empire, among whom the largest faction was the White Guard, which engaged in violent anti-communist repression against the Bolsheviks and their worker and peasant supporters known as the White Terror. The Red Army expanded and helped local Bolsheviks take power, establishing soviets, repressing their political opponents and rebellious peasants through Red Terror. By 1922, the Bolsheviks had emerged victorious, forming the Soviet Union with the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics. The New Economic Policy (NEP), which was introduced by Lenin, led to a partial return of a free market and private property; this resulted in a period of economic recovery.

Following Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power. Stalin suppressed all political opposition to his rule inside the Communist Party and inaugurated a command economy. As a result, the country underwent a period of rapid industrialization and forced collectivization, which led to significant economic growth, but also led to a man-made famine in 1932–1933 and expanded the Gulag labour camp system originally established in 1918. Stalin also fomented political paranoia and conducted the Great Purge to remove his actual and perceived opponents from the Party through mass arrests of military leaders, Communist Party members, and ordinary citizens alike, who were then sent to correctional labor camps or sentenced to death.

On 23 August 1939, after unsuccessful efforts to form an anti-fascist alliance with Western powers, the Soviets signed the non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany. After the start of World War II, the formally neutral Soviets invaded and annexed territories of several Eastern European states, including eastern Poland and the Baltic states. In June 1941 the Germans invaded, opening the largest and bloodiest theater of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the cost of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad. Soviet forces eventually captured Berlin and won World War II in Europe on 9 May 1945. The territory overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Eastern Bloc. The Cold War emerged in 1947 as a result of a post-war Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe, where the Eastern Bloc confronted the Western Bloc that united in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.

Following Stalin's death in 1953, a period known as de-Stalinization and the Khrushchev Thaw occurred under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. The country developed rapidly, as millions of peasants were moved into industrialized cities. The USSR took an early lead in the Space Race with the first ever satellite and the first human spaceflight and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus. In the 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed when the Soviet Union deployed troops in Afghanistan in 1979. The war drained economic resources and was matched by an escalation of American military aid to Mujahideen fighters.

In the mid-1980s, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to further reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika. The goal was to preserve the Communist Party while reversing economic stagnation. The Cold War ended during his tenure and in 1989, Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective Marxist-Leninist regimes. In particular, the indecisive action of the Eastern European rulers after the Pan-European Picnic caused the fall of the Iron Curtain, which shattered the formerly powerful communist unity. This led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements inside the USSR as well. Central authorities initiated a referendum—boycotted by the Baltic republics, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova—which resulted in the majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the Union as a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état was attempted by Communist Party hardliners. It failed, with Russian President Boris Yeltsin playing a high-profile role in facing down the coup, resulting in the banning of the Communist Party. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the remaining twelve constituent republics emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as independent post-Soviet states. The Russian Federation (formerly the Russian SFSR) assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and is recognized as its continued legal personality.

The USSR produced many significant social and technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century. The country had the world's second-largest economy and the largest standing military in the world.[6][9][10] The USSR was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states. It was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the OSCE, the WFTU and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.

Before its dissolution, the USSR had maintained its status as one of the world's two superpowers for four decades after World War II through its hegemony in Eastern Europe, military strength, economic strength, aid to developing countries, and scientific research, especially in space technology and weaponry.[11][12]

Soviet Union Intro articles: 107


The word soviet is derived from the Russian word sovet (Russian: совет), meaning "council", "assembly", "advice",[j] ultimately deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti ("to inform"), related to Slavic věst ("news"), English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or" (which came to English through French), or the Dutch weten ("to know"; cf. wetenschap meaning "science"). The word sovietnik means "councillor".[13]

Some organizations in Russian history were called council (Russian: совет). In the Russian Empire, the State Council which functioned from 1810 to 1917 was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905.[13]

During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union which he initially named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia (Russian: Союз Советских Республик Европы и Азии, tr. Soyuz Sovetskikh Respublik Evropy i Azii).[14] Stalin initially resisted the proposal but ultimately accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), albeit all the republics began as socialist soviet and did not change to the other order until 1936. In addition, in the national languages of several republics, the word council or conciliar in the respective language was only quite late changed to an adaptation of the Russian soviet and never in others, e.g. Ukraine.

СССР (in Latin alphabet: SSSR) is the abbreviation of USSR in Russian. It is written in Cyrillic letters. The Soviets used the Cyrillic abbreviation so frequently that audiences worldwide became familiar with its meaning. Notably, both Cyrillic letters used have homoglyphic (but transliterally distinct) letters in Latin alphabets. Because of widespread familiarity with the Cyrillic abbreviation, Latin alphabet users in particular almost always use the Latin homoglyphs C and P (as opposed to the transliteral Latin letters S and R) when rendering the USSR's native abbreviation.

After СССР, the most common short form names for the Soviet state in Russian were Советский Союз (transliteration: Sovetskiy Soyuz) which literally means Soviet Union, and also Союз ССР (transliteration: Soyuz SSR) which, after compensating for grammatical differences, essentially translates to Union of SSR's in English.

In the English language media, the state was referred to as the Soviet Union or the USSR. In other European languages, the locally translated short forms and abbreviations are usually used such as Union soviétique and URSS in French, or Sowjetunion and UdSSR in German. In the English-speaking world, the Soviet Union was also informally called Russia and its citizens Russians,[15] although that was technically incorrect since Russia was only one of the republics.[16] Such misapplications of the linguistic equivalents to the term Russia and its derivatives were frequent in other languages as well.

Soviet Union Etymology articles: 37


With an area of 22,402,200 square kilometres (8,649,500 sq mi), the Soviet Union was the world's largest country, a status that is retained by the Russian Federation.[17] Covering a sixth of Earth's land surface, its size was comparable to that of North America.[18] Two other successor states, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, rank among the top 10 countries by land area, and the largest country entirely in Europe, respectively. The European portion accounted for a quarter of the country's area and was the cultural and economic center. The eastern part in Asia extended to the Pacific Ocean to the east and Afghanistan to the south, and, except some areas in Central Asia, was much less populous. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The USSR, like Russia, had the world's longest border, measuring over 60,000 kilometres (37,000 mi), or 1+12 circumferences of Earth. Two-thirds of it was a coastline. The country bordered Afghanistan, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Hungary, Iran, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Turkey from 1945 to 1991. The Bering Strait separated the USSR from the United States, while the La Pérouse Strait separated it from Japan.

The country's highest mountain was Communism Peak (now Ismoil Somoni Peak) in Tajikistan, at 7,495 metres (24,590 ft). The USSR also included most of the world's largest lakes; the Caspian Sea (shared with Iran), and Lake Baikal, the world's largest (by volume) and deepest freshwater lake that is also an internal body of water in Russia.

Soviet Union Geography articles: 28


Revolution and foundation (1917–1927)

Modern revolutionary activity in the Russian Empire began with the 1825 Decembrist revolt. Although serfdom was abolished in 1861, it was done on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to encourage revolutionaries. A parliament—the State Duma—was established in 1906 after the Russian Revolution of 1905, but Tsar Nicholas II resisted attempts to move from absolute to a constitutional monarchy. Social unrest continued and was aggravated during World War I by military defeat and food shortages in major cities.

A spontaneous popular uprising in Petrograd, in response to the wartime decay of Russia's economy and morale, culminated in the February Revolution and the toppling of Nicholas II and the imperial government in March 1917. The tsarist autocracy was replaced by the Russian Provisional Government, which intended to conduct elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly and to continue fighting on the side of the Entente in World War I.

At the same time, workers' councils, known in Russian as "Soviets", sprang up across the country. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, pushed for socialist revolution in the Soviets and on the streets. On 7 November 1917, the Red Guards stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, ending the rule of the Provisional Government and leaving all political power to the Soviets.[19] This event would later be officially known in Soviet bibliographies as the Great October Socialist Revolution. In December, the Bolsheviks signed an armistice with the Central Powers, though by February 1918, fighting had resumed. In March, the Soviets ended involvement in the war and signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

A long and bloody Civil War ensued between the Reds and the Whites, starting in 1917 and ending in 1923 with the Reds' victory. It included foreign intervention, the execution of the former tsar and his family, and the famine of 1921, which killed about five million people.[20] In March 1921, during a related conflict with Poland, the Peace of Riga was signed, splitting disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between the Republic of Poland and Soviet Russia. Soviet Russia had to resolve similar conflicts with the newly established republics of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania.

On 28 December 1922, a conference of plenipotentiary delegations from the Russian SFSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR approved the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR[21] and the Declaration of the Creation of the USSR, forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.[22] These two documents were confirmed by the first Congress of Soviets of the USSR and signed by the heads of the delegations,[23] Mikhail Kalinin, Mikhail Tskhakaya, Mikhail Frunze, Grigory Petrovsky, and Alexander Chervyakov,[24] on 30 December 1922. The formal proclamation was made from the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.

An intensive restructuring of the economy, industry and politics of the country began in the early days of Soviet power in 1917. A large part of this was done according to the Bolshevik Initial Decrees, government documents signed by Vladimir Lenin. One of the most prominent breakthroughs was the GOELRO plan, which envisioned a major restructuring of the Soviet economy based on total electrification of the country.[25] The plan became the prototype for subsequent Five-Year Plans and was fulfilled by 1931.[26] After the economic policy of "War communism" during the Russian Civil War, as a prelude to fully developing socialism in the country, the Soviet government permitted some private enterprise to coexist alongside nationalized industry in the 1920s, and total food requisition in the countryside was replaced by a food tax.

From its creation, the government in the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks).[k] The stated purpose was to prevent the return of capitalist exploitation, and that the principles of democratic centralism would be the most effective in representing the people's will in a practical manner. The debate over the future of the economy provided the background for a power struggle in the years after Lenin's death in 1924. Initially, Lenin was to be replaced by a "troika" consisting of Grigory Zinoviev of the Ukrainian SSR, Lev Kamenev of the Russian SFSR, and Joseph Stalin of the Transcaucasian SFSR.

On 1 February 1924, the USSR was recognized by the United Kingdom. The same year, a Soviet Constitution was approved, legitimizing the December 1922 union. Despite the foundation of the Soviet state as a federative entity of many constituent republics, each with its own political and administrative entities, the term "Soviet Russia" – strictly applicable only to the Russian Federative Socialist Republic – was often applied to the entire country by non-Soviet writers and politicians.

Stalin era (1927–1953)

Lenin, Trotsky and Kamenev celebrating the second anniversary of the October Revolution
The Russian famine of 1921–22 killed an estimated 5 million people.

On 3 April 1922, Stalin was named the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Lenin had appointed Stalin the head of the Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate, which gave Stalin considerable power. By gradually consolidating his influence and isolating and outmanoeuvring his rivals within the party, Stalin became the undisputed leader of the country and, by the end of the 1920s, established a totalitarian rule. In October 1927, Zinoviev and Leon Trotsky were expelled from the Central Committee and forced into exile.

In 1928, Stalin introduced the first five-year plan for building a socialist economy. In place of the internationalism expressed by Lenin throughout the Revolution, it aimed to build Socialism in One Country. In industry, the state assumed control over all existing enterprises and undertook an intensive program of industrialization. In agriculture, rather than adhering to the "lead by example" policy advocated by Lenin,[29] forced collectivization of farms was implemented all over the country.

Famines ensued as a result, causing deaths estimated at three to seven million; surviving kulaks were persecuted, and many were sent to Gulags to do forced labor.[30][31] Social upheaval continued in the mid-1930s. Despite the turmoil of the mid-to-late 1930s, the country developed a robust industrial economy in the years preceding World War II.

Construction of the bridge through the Kolyma (part of the Road of Bones from Magadan to Jakutsk) by the workers of Dalstroy

Closer cooperation between the USSR and the West developed in the early 1930s. From 1932 to 1934, the country participated in the World Disarmament Conference. In 1933, diplomatic relations between the United States and the USSR were established when in November, the newly elected President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, chose to recognize Stalin's Communist government formally and negotiated a new trade agreement between the two countries.[32] In September 1934, the country joined the League of Nations. After the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, the USSR actively supported the Republican forces against the Nationalists, who were supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.[33]

Five Marshals of the Soviet Union in 1935. Only two of them – Budyonny and Voroshilov – survived Great Purge. Blyukher, Yegorov and Tukhachevsky were executed.

In December 1936, Stalin unveiled a new constitution that was praised by supporters around the world as the most democratic constitution imaginable, though there was some skepticism.[l] Stalin's Great Purge resulted in the detainment or execution of many "Old Bolsheviks" who had participated in the October Revolution with Lenin. According to declassified Soviet archives, the NKVD arrested more than one and a half million people in 1937 and 1938, of whom 681,692 were shot.[35] Over those two years, there were an average of over one thousand executions a day.[36][m]

In 1939, after attempts to form a military alliance with Britain and France against Germany failed, the Soviet Union made a dramatic shift towards Nazi Germany. Almost a year after Britain and France had concluded the Munich Agreement with Germany, the Soviet Union made agreements with Germany as well, both militarily and economically during extensive talks. The two countries concluded the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the German–Soviet Commercial Agreement in August 1939. The former made possible the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and eastern Poland, while the Soviets remained formally neutral. In late November, unable to coerce the Republic of Finland by diplomatic means into moving its border 25 kilometres (16 mi) back from Leningrad, Stalin ordered the invasion of Finland. In the east, the Soviet military won several decisive victories during border clashes with the Empire of Japan in 1938 and 1939. However, in April 1941, the USSR signed the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact with Japan, recognizing the territorial integrity of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state.

World War II

The Battle of Stalingrad, considered by many historians as a decisive turning point of World War II

Germany broke the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 starting what was known in the USSR as the Great Patriotic War. The Red Army stopped the seemingly invincible German Army at the Battle of Moscow. The Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from late 1942 to early 1943, dealt a severe blow to Germany from which they never fully recovered and became a turning point in the war. After Stalingrad, Soviet forces drove through Eastern Europe to Berlin before Germany surrendered in 1945. The German Army suffered 80% of its military deaths in the Eastern Front.[40] Harry Hopkins, a close foreign policy advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt, spoke on 10 August 1943 of the USSR's decisive role in the war.[n]