Second World Countries 2022

What is a "second world" country? That depends upon when in history the label is being applied. The term was first used following World War II, when countries were categorized as First World, Second World, or Third World countries by French demographer Alfred Sauvy in 1952 (though there is debate as to whether he invented the term or adopted it from another source). First World countries were the democratic, capitalist countries allied with the United States and NATO. Second World countries were the communist, socialist countries of the Eastern bloc, led primarily by the Soviet Union and China. Third World countries were those neutral countries not aligned with either power. These definitions lasted throughout the Cold War (approx. 1947-1991)—but once the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, the term "second world" took on a new meaning.

Second World Countries 1947-1991

Afghanistan Cuba Laos Romania
Albania Czechoslovakia Mongolia Somalia
Angola East Germany Mozambique South Yemen
Benin Ethiopia Nicaragua Soviet Union
Bulgaria Grenada North Korea Vietnam
China Hungary Poland Yugoslavia (1945-1948 only)
Congo (People's Rep.) Kampuchea (Cambodia)

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the “three worlds” terminology took on new meanings. Today, “First World” countries are now considered to be developed countries. “Second World” countries is the term used to describe former communist countries that aren’t quite in poverty but aren’t prosperous either. “Third World” countries and even Fourth World countries are considered to be the developing and least developed countries of the world. Therefore, a term that was originally used to describe political ideologies is now used to define economic states.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is one of the world's most accurate and respected measures of economic development. The HDI tracks dozens of indicators such as life expectancy, education, and per capita income, then aggregates them all into a single value between 0 (lowest) and 1 (highest). Each country is then categorized into one of four levels of human development based upon their HDI score:

  • Low human development (0-.55)
  • Medium human development (.55-.70)
  • High human development (.70-80)
  • Very high human development (.80-1.0)

The Second World countries from the Cold War era currently range from medium human development to very high human development in terms of HDI. For example, Slovenia has an HDI of .896, categorizing it as very high human development. In historical terms, Slovenia is a Second World country; however, it is considered a “First World country” under the modern definition. Kyrgyzstan has an HDI of .672, putting the country in the medium human development tier. This makes Kyrgyzstan a “Second World country” by historical definition and by modern definition.

When categorizing countries as First World, Second World, Third World, or Fourth World, it is important to distinguish between the historical and modern definitions of the term.

Second World Countries 2022

Country Years Comecon and Warsaw Pact 2022 Population
Afghanistan1978-1992No
Albania1946-1991Yes
Angola1975-1992No
Benin1975-1990No
Bulgaria1946-1990Yes
China1949-onNo
Congo (People's Rep.)1969-1992No
Cuba1959-Yes
Czechoslovakia1948-1989Yes
East Germany1949-1990Yes
Ethiopia1974-1991No
Grenada1979-1983No
Hungary1949-1989Yes
Kampuchea (Cambodia)1979-1989No
Laos1975-onNo
Mongolia1924-1992Yes
Mozambique1975-1990No
Nicaragua1979-1990No
North Korea1945-onNo
Poland1947-1989Yes
Romania1947-1989Yes
Somalia1969-1991No
South Yemen1967-1990No
Soviet Union1918-1991Yes
Vietnam (North, then unified)1945-1976Yes
Yugoslavia1945-1948No

Second World Countries 2022

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