The Soviet Union was a federal socialist state that existed from 1922 to 1991, consisting of 15 socialist republics.
The Soviet Union originated in the 1917 Russian Revolution, when radical leftist revolutionaries, the Bolsheviks, overthrew Czar Nicholas II and the centuries-old Romanov monarchy and a civil war followed. In 1922, a treaty between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia (today’s Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) formed the Soviet Union, formally called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The USSR’s newly established Communist Party was led by Vladimir Lenin. After Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin rose to power and ruled until 1953. During his rule, Stalin transformed the Soviet Union into an industrial and military superpower. This came at a cost to the Soviet Union’s citizens, as Stalin ruled by terror, which left millions dead.
The Soviets signed a non-aggression treaty in 1939 with Nazi Germany after failing to form an alliance with Western powers. Despite an attempt to stay neutral, the Soviets invaded and annexed territories of several Eastern European states after the start of World War II. These states included Poland and the Baltic states. After Soviet forces captured Berlin and won the war in Europe in 1945, the territory overtaken by the Soviet forces became satellite states of the Eastern Bloc. The Eastern bloc, or Communist bloc, refers to the group of states in central and Eastern Europe, East Asia, and Southeast Asia that were under the control of the Soviet Union. The Bloc existed from 1947 to 1991 in opposition to the capitalist Western bloc.
After World War II, relations between the USSR and the United States and Great Britain began to deteriorate. The USSR had established communist governments in Eastern European countries, making Western countries fear the spread of communism to the rest of the world. In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed by the U.S., Canada, and European allies as a force against the USSR. The Soviets responded by consolidating power among Eastern bloc countries in 1955 under the Warsaw Pact. This sparked the Cold War.
What ensued was a war of political, economic, and propaganda attacks between the Eastern and Western blocs. The rivalry caused anti-communist suspicions and international events that almost led the United States and the Soviet Union to the edge of a nuclear war. The Cold War lasted until 1991, when the USSR fell.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Soviet elites rapidly gained wealth and power while millions of citizens faced starvation and poverty. Citizens lacked basic necessities including clothing, shoes, and food and breadlines were common. This caused outraged among younger Soviet citizens. Additionally, the USSR saw backlash from other nations, such as the United States. U.S. President Reagan isolated the Soviet Union’s economy and forced down oil prices, greatly decreasing the Union’s revenue.
Political revolutions in the Eastern Bloc started in Poland in 1989. This sparked other revolutions across Eastern European states, including the destruction of the Berlin Wall, which reunited East Germany and West Germany (official reunification was made on October 3, 1990.
After the Soviet influence weakened considerably among its states, the USSR fell on December 31, 1991.
Many of the Soviet Union states faced many issues following the dissolution of the USSR. Aside from attempting to find political stability, nations struggled to transition to market economies and rebuild industries, fix population decline, and establish or re-establish official languages and religions. Many Soviet states still face hardships as a result of and their independence from the Soviet Union.
The 15 countries that were a part of the Soviet Union are: