Soviet Union

The Soviet Union,[lower-alpha 14] officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics[lower-alpha 15] (USSR),[lower-alpha 16] was a socialist and communist state that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a federal union of fifteen national republics;[lower-alpha 17] in practice its government and economy were highly centralized until its final years. The country was a one-party state (prior to 1990) governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with Moscow as its capital within its largest and most populous 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, covering over 22,402,200 square kilometres (8,649,500 sq mi), and spanning eleven time zones.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Союз Советских Социалистических Республик
1922–1991
Flag
(1955–1991)
State Emblem
(1956–1991)
Motto: Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!
"Workers of the world, unite!"
Anthem: Интернационал
"The Internationale" (1922–1944)
Государственный гимн СССР[lower-alpha 1]
"State Anthem of the USSR" (1944–1991)
The Soviet Union after World War II
Capital
and largest city
Moscow
55°45′N 37°37′E
Official languagesRussian (1990–1991)[lower-alpha 2]
Recognised regional languages
Ethnic groups
(1989)
Religion
Secular state (de jure)
State atheism (de facto)
Demonym(s)Soviet
GovernmentSee also: Government of the Soviet Union
Leader 
 1922–1924
Vladimir Lenin[lower-alpha 3]
 1924–1953
Joseph Stalin[lower-alpha 4]
 1953[lower-alpha 5]
Georgy Malenkov[lower-alpha 6]
 1953–1964
Nikita Khrushchev[lower-alpha 7]
 1964–1982
Leonid Brezhnev[lower-alpha 8]
 1982–1984
Yuri Andropov
 1984–1985
Konstantin Chernenko
 1985–1991
Mikhail Gorbachev[lower-alpha 9]
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
(1922–1936)[lower-alpha 10]
Supreme Soviet
(1936–1991)
Soviet of Nationalities
(1936–1991)
Soviet of Republics
(1991)
Soviet of the Union
(1936–1991)
Historical eraInterwar periodWorld War IICold War
7 November 1917
30 December 1922
 Civil War ended
16 June 1923
31 January 1924
5 December 1936
1939–1940
1941–1945
24 October 1945
25 February 1956
9 October 1977
11 March 1990
19–22 August 1991
8 December 1991[lower-alpha 11]
26 December 1991[lower-alpha 12]
Area
 Total
22,402,200 km2 (8,649,500 sq mi) (1st)
Population
 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
$9,000
GDP (nominal)1990 estimate
 Total
$2.7 trillion[6] (2nd)
 Per capita
$9,000 (28th)
Gini (1989)0.275
low
HDI (1989)0.920[7]
very high
CurrencySoviet ruble (руб) (SUR)
Time zone(UTC+2 to +12)
Driving sideright
Calling code+7
ISO 3166 codeSU
Internet TLD.su[lower-alpha 13]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
1922:
Russian SFSR
Ukrainian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
Transcaucasian SFSR
1924:
Bukharan SSR
Khorezm SSR
1939:
Poland (portion)
1940:
Finland (portion)
Romania (portion)
Estonia
Latvia
Lithuania
1944:
Tuva
1945:
Germany (portion)
Japan (portion)
1946:
Czechoslovakia (portion)
1990:
Lithuania
1991:
Georgia
Estonia
Latvia
Ukraine
Transnistria
Moldova
Kyrgyzstan
Uzbekistan
Tajikistan
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Turkmenistan
Chechnya
Belarus
Russia
Kazakhstan

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 house of Romanov of the Russian Empire. They established the Russian Soviet Republic, the world's first constitutionally guaranteed socialist state.[lower-alpha 18] Tensions escalated into 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. The White Guard engaged in violent anti-communist repression against the Bolsheviks and suspected worker and peasant Bolsheviks 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 balance of power had shifted and the Bolsheviks had emerged victorious, forming the Soviet Union with the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics. Upon the conclusion of the civil war Lenin's government introduced the New Economic Policy, which 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.[8] 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 contributed to a famine in 1932–1933. The Gulag labour camp system was also expanded in this period. 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 a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. After the start of World War II, the formally neutral Soviets invaded and annexed territories of several Eastern European states, including the eastern regions of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In June 1941 the Germans invaded, opening the largest and bloodiest theater of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the majority of Allied casualties of the conflict in the process 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, where the Eastern Bloc confronted the Western Bloc, which would unite 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 Central and Eastern Europe overthrew their respective Marxist-Leninist regimes. Strong nationalist and separatist movements broke out across the USSR. Gorbachev initiated a referendum—boycotted by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, 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. The main result was the banning of the Communist Party. The republics, led by Russia and Ukraine, declared independence. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned from his presidency. All the 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 in world affairs.

The Soviet Union produced many significant social and technological achievements and innovations regarding military power. It boasted 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 a superpower, alongside the United States, for four decades after World War II. Sometimes also called "Soviet Empire", it exercised its hegemony in East-Central Europe and worldwide with military and economic strength, proxy conflicts and influence in developing countries and funding of scientific research, especially in space technology and weaponry.[11][12]


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