Soviet Union

The Soviet Union,[lower-alpha 14] officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics[lower-alpha 15] (USSR),[lower-alpha 16] was a transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, it was nominally a federal union of fifteen national republics;[lower-alpha 17] in practice, both its government and its economy were highly centralized until its final years. It was a one-party state governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with the city of Moscow serving as its capital as well as that of its largest and most populous republic: the Russian SFSR. Other major cities included 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
State Emblem
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 Soviet Union" (1944–1991)
The Soviet Union after World War II
and largest city
55°45′N 37°37′E
Official languagesRussian (1990–1991)[lower-alpha 2]
Recognised regional languages
Ethnic groups
Secular state (de jure)
State atheism (de facto)
GovernmentSee also: Government of the Soviet Union
Vladimir Lenin[lower-alpha 3]
Joseph Stalin[lower-alpha 4]
 1953[lower-alpha 5]
Georgy Malenkov[lower-alpha 6]
Nikita Khrushchev[lower-alpha 7]
Leonid Brezhnev[lower-alpha 8]
Yuri Andropov
Konstantin Chernenko
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
Soviet of Nationalities
Soviet of Republics
Soviet of the Union
Historical eraInterwar periodWorld War IICold War
7 November 1917
30 December 1922
 End of Russian Civil War
16 June 1923
31 January 1924
5 December 1936
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]
22,402,200 km2 (8,649,500 sq mi) (1st)
2,767,198 km2 (1,068,421 sq mi)
 Water (%)
 1989 census
286,730,819[5] (3rd)
12.7/km2 (32.9/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)1990 estimate
$2.7 trillion[6] (2nd)
 Per capita
GDP (nominal)1990 estimate
$2.7 trillion[6] (2nd)
 Per capita
$9,000 (28th)
Gini (1989)0.275
HDI (1990 formula)0.920[7]
very high
CurrencySoviet rouble (Rbl) (SUR)
Time zone(UTC+2 to +12)
Driving sideright
Calling code+7
ISO 3166 codeSU
Internet[lower-alpha 13]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Russian SFSR
Ukrainian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
Transcaucasian SFSR
Bukharan SSR
Khorezm SSR
Poland (portion)
Finland (portion)
Romania (portion)
Germany (portion)
Japan (portion)
Czechoslovakia (portion)

The country's roots lay in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government that had earlier replaced the House of Romanov of the Russian Empire. The Bolshevik victory established the Russian Soviet Republic, the world's first constitutionally guaranteed socialist state.[lower-alpha 18] Persisting internal tensions escalated into the Russian Civil War. By 1922 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, the partial return of a free market and private property.

Following Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power.[8] Stalin inaugurated a period of rapid industrialization and forced collectivization that led to significant economic growth, but also contributed to a famine in 1930–1933 that killed millions. The labour camp system of the Gulag was also expanded in this period. Stalin conducted the Great Purge to remove his actual and perceived opponents. Hundreds of thousands were executed. On 23 August 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany, which established an understanding of neutrality and non-aggression between the two sides. With the outbreak of World War II following the German invasion of Poland, the formally neutral Soviet Union invaded and annexed the territories of several states in Eastern Europe. In June 1941, Germany broke the non-aggression pact and launched a large-scale invasion of the Soviet Union. Despite initial German successes, the Soviets gained the upper hand over Axis forces at the Battle of Stalingrad and eventually captured Berlin. The combined Soviet civilian and military casualty count—estimated to be around 27 million people—accounted for the majority of losses of Allied forces. In the aftermath of World War II, the territory taken by the Red Army formed various Soviet satellite states.

The beginning of the Cold War saw the Eastern Bloc of the Soviet Union confront the Western Bloc of the United States, with the latter grouping becoming largely united in 1949 under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the former grouping becoming largely united in 1955 under the Warsaw Pact. Following Stalin's death in 1953, a period known as de-Stalinization occurred under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviets took an early lead in the Space Race with the first artificial satellite, the first human spaceflight, and the first probe to land on another planet (Venus). In the 1970s, there was a brief détente in the Soviet Union's relationship with the United States, but tensions resumed following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In the mid-1980s, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform the country through his policies of glasnost and perestroika. In 1989, during the closing stages of the Cold War, various countries of the Warsaw Pact overthrew their Marxist–Leninist regimes, which was accompanied by the outbreak of strong nationalist and separatist movements across the entire Soviet Union. In 1991, Gorbachev initiated a national referendum—boycotted by the Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova—that resulted in the majority of participating citizens voting in favour of preserving the country as a renewed federation. In August 1991, hardline members of the Communist Party staged a coup d'état against Gorbachev; the attempt failed, with Boris Yeltsin playing a high-profile role in facing down the unrest, and the Communist Party was subsequently banned. The Soviet republics, led by Russia and Ukraine, formally declared independence. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned from his presidency. All of the republics emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as fully independent post-Soviet states. Above the other former republics, the Russian Federation (formerly the Russian SFSR) assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and has since remained recognized as its successor legal personality in international affairs.

The Soviet Union produced many significant social and technological achievements and innovations, particularly with regard to military power. It boasted the world's second-largest economy, and the Soviet Armed Forces comprised the largest standing military in the world.[6][9][10] An NPT-designated state, it possessed the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It was a founding member of the United Nations as well as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; it was also a member of the OSCE and the WFTU, and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Between the end of World War II in 1945 and its dissolution in 1991, the Soviet Union had maintained its status as one of two superpowers vis-à-vis the United States. It was sometimes referred to informally as the "Soviet Empire" [by whom?] in relation to its exercising of hegemony across Europe as well as worldwide with a combination of military and economic strength; proxy conflicts and influence in the Third World; and funding of scientific research, especially in space technology and weaponry.[11][12]

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