I initially tried to keep this article as short as possible, but I quickly realised that there is no easy answer to the question of “Which Countries Were In The Soviet Union?”. Reason being is that there were so many regions that either no longer exist or have been combined and/or split into other regions that there is no simple answer. I feel that you have to understand at least the basics on which countries/regions/leaders were involved to be able to understand the answer to the question, so, dear reader, I hope my summary of what was one of humanity’s most twisted and tragic series of events helps you to find the answer.
What Is The USSR/Soviet Union?
The Soviet Union, aka USSR, CCCP, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or just Russia, was a social state formed in 1922 when one of the biggest dick heads who ever lived decided that, despite murdering Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family and taking over leadership of Russia just like he wanted, the Russian Provisional Government weren’t all that cool, and overthrew them. The social state was to become a collective of (often forced) communist nations who theoretically had their own governments, but were clearly run by the USSR, AKA Russia.
His name was Vladimir Lenin, and along with his Bolsheviks cronies he formed the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (Russian SFSR) and began a civil war from 1918-20 which saw The Reds (remember those movies where the old grandpa would randomly yell out “YA DAMN COMMIES“? He was referring to The Reds) battling the counter-revolutionary Whites. Although he was a fantastic politician, he ruled by terror (including the odd murder here or there) and as such could never be considered, at least in the modern age, a ‘good leader’.
The Red Army, although assholes, we’re pretty switched on and tottled over to a few countries in the region whilst all this shit was going on in the Motherland and “helped” local communist groups in those countries take power through workers’ councils called “soviets” (AKA government-sponsored trade unions). Those territories included the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian republics.
The Soviet Union Becomes ‘A Thing’
In 1922, the communists prevailed over the Whites and formed the Soviet Union by joining Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Transcaucasus (which in 1936 were split up into Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) together into a Republic of sorts. It’s at this point that Germany formally recognises the Soviet Union as an entity.
Lenin had a stroke in May of 1922 which weakened him considerably, and then in December of 1922 whilst he was still recovering, Lenin wrote his ‘Testament’ which included his propositions to changes to how the party’s Central Committee should be structured. In this Testament, he showed regret that he had appointed a particular man to the position of General Secretary of the Party, and questioned if it were wise to place so much power in that particular man’s hands. That man was Joseph Stalin.
At the time, in 1924, Stalin held a titled called the ‘Commissar for Nationalities’, meaning he had the power to decide which countries became a part of the USSR, and what communist union they were technically a part of. He changed the borders of existing countries and regions according to political & ethnic status. The Turkestan ASSR, Bukharan People’s Republic, and Khorezm People’s Republic were wiped off the map when their territories were divided up into five separate Soviet Socialist Republics:
- Azerbaijan SSR
- Georgian SSR
- Russian SFSR
- Ukrainian SSR
- Uzbek SSR
After 2 more strokes, Lenin karked it in 1924 and there was a brief tiff within the Party, after which Joseph Stalin rose to power. Now, you may have heard of this guy, because if he doesn’t spend eternity with a firey poker shoved up his ass then there is no justice in the world. He rivals only Hitler, Genghis Khan and Mussolini on the c*nt scale. You get the picture.
So this is where shit starts to get real bad.
Stalin made sure that there was zero political opposition to his position as USSR ruler and came up with this batshit crazy thing called Marxism–Leninism. Marxism–Leninism is pretty much the ideology (based on Classical Marxism and Leninism) that aims to establish and develop a socialist state, support the one-party state/state dominance over the economic theory, and are very against capitalism. And if you’re thinking Stalin looks a lot like Mario, you’re not alone.
The Five Year Plan
It’s 1928, and Stalin puts into force the first version of a thing called the Five-Year Plan. This plan sounds innocent enough, in that it is the state setting goals and priorities for the whole socialist economy. But in reality, it was the start of the end for millions upon millions of people who die tragic deaths.
The state took control of all existing businesses (imagine that!) and began a super full-on push into industrialisation. When it came to agriculture and food, Stalin got all the farms in the USSR and made them into one big farm (if that makes any sense) so that no one actually owned any land or farms; they just worked on this one big farm which was run by the USSR. Imagine what a punch in the teeth that would have been to these farmers who had proudly owned and carefully cultivated their farms over generations.
Stalin and the Regime found out about a plot against the Regime which was headed by a guy Leon Trotsky, who, during the reign of Lenin, was Lenin’s number 2 and the heir-presumptive when he died. But Stalin ensured that Trotsky couldn’t take over, and from 1924 made Trotsky’s posts within the Regime more and more meaningless.
When the plot was discovered, Trotsky was expelled from the Central Committee in 1927 and thousands of alleged opposers in the army and government were sentenced to death or long and torturous imprisonments, primarily in inhospitable Siberia. Trotsky wasn’t killed, but was instead exiled with is wife and son first to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan on 31 January 1928, and then from the Soviet Union entirely to Turkey in February 1929.
USSR’s Rapid Industrialisation
At this stage, although they had started along the path of industrialisation in the late 1800’s, Russia/USSR was still trailing behind Europe who had already totally nailed the Industrial Revolution, and Russia was all freaked out after World War I. So Stalin and his cronies drove the region into a rapid period of industrialisation which was ultimately why they had the victories they did in World War II, and was a defining factor in their postwar dominance of Eastern Europe. But there were unthinkable consequences.
It’s at this part of this tragic tale of woe that it starts to get really personal for me. See, my background is half Ukrainian, and if there was ever a country that seems to just get totally fucked all the time, it’s the Ukraine. And most of the time it’s Russia’s fault. Because of this rapid industrialisation, a lot of the peasants who used to farm the land and, ya know, make all the fucking food for everyone who lived in the USSR, moved into the cities to work in factories and the like. And this is where one of Butt Nugget’s greatest fuck-ups happened – they didn’t realise that by forcing this industrial revolution into overdrive the whole fucking region would run out of food.
Russia, even though it was technically just a region in the collective USSR, was clearly the only place that Stalin actually gave a shit about, so when Russia ran out of food, they just knicked it from Ukraine, Poland, etc.
The name given to the famine in the Ukraine was ‘Holodomor’ (Голодомо́р), which when literally translated from Ukrainian means “death by hunger”. The Holodomor was a man-made famine in Soviet controlled Ukraine in 1932-33 that was the direct cause of death of an officially estimated 7 million to 10 million people.
Can we just stop here for a sec? Ten. Million. People. I really struggled to get my head around that number, so I looked at what countries currently have a population of about 10 million, and tried to imagine every single person in that country being killed within the space of 1 year. Pick whichever country from the list below that you can relate to the most, and imagine that:
- Dominican Republic
- Czech Republic
Another reference which may help you to understand the true horror of the Holodomor was that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and 10 million Ukrainians in the Holodomor. I, of course, would never trivialize the plight of the Jews during the war, but I do find such a well-publicised event as a solid reference point for helping people to realise just how many Ukrainians were killed.
After the war, when the international community took a look at this and realised just how much of an atrocity it was, the Holodomor was officially considered:
- a genocide by 16 countries
- as a criminal act of the Stalinist regime by 6 countries
- a tragedy or crime against humanity by 5 international organisations
Don’t Mention The War
In August of 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany finish up negations on a non-aggression dealio which leads to Germany invading Poland. This, in turn, starts World War II. After waiting for the agreed upon amount of time, in September of the same year, Soviet troops enter Poland, which is then split up between Germany and the USSR.
Look how bloody happy Stalin is. What an ass hole.
The Winter War
From 1939-40 the Russian-Finnish war happened, which I have to admit was something I didn’t know a lot about. Turns out that Russia had cracked the shits that Finland’s border was just 32km from Leningrad, which was a really important city to them, and wanted Finland to hand over a significant part of their land to just make Russia feel better. Finland was like “What are you talking about, it’s ours, no fucking way”, at which point Russia spat the dummy and invaded.
Although Russia had a shit ton more soldiers and war machines than Finland that they threw at this effort, Finland still did really bloody well. In the end, Finland had to cede territory to the USSR, and that is present day Republic of Karelia, shown below in red. The long and the short of it is that Finland was one of the few countries Russia invaded that they didn’t capture and add to their Soviet collection. You go Finland!
World War II
I won’t go into too much detail into World War II as most of us would have a rough idea on what went down, but I will give you a refresher on some of the bigger shit-storms. In 1940 the Soviets occupy Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which are then (surprise surprise) incorporated into the USSR. Shortly after that Romania ceded Bessarabia and North Bukovina to the USSR which declares them the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
A year later Hitler becomes number one enemy to Stalin when he directs Germany to invade the USSR, and by the end of the year the Germans have occupied Belarus and most of Ukraine. They surrounded Leningrad (AKA St Petersburg) and nearly bloody got to Moscow, but a last minute Soviet counter-offensive saved Moscow. By the end of 1942 the Krouts nearly had Stalingrad (AKA Volgograd), but fucked it up because they did something monumentally stupid; they invaded bloody Russia in winter. Seriously.
When the Germans failed to take Stalingrad, the Soviet troops got swift revenge by eventually capturing of Berlin in May 1945.
Russia vs Japan; Fight!
In that same year, Stalin declared war on Japan at the request of the Allies, eventually annexing the southern half of Sakhalin and the Kuril islands. Japan were being real ass holes at this stage, and finding themselves up again the Allies & the Soviets, were bound to fall. If I had to hazard a guess on my limited knowledge on the subject, I would say that this was the main reason the agreed to have a go at Japan, as the two nations have been feuding over Sakhalin and the Kuril islands for decades. Note that these were not incorporated into the Soviet Republic as previously external regions; they were treated similarly as the land ceded from Finland.
Happiest Of Days! Stalin Is Dead!
After Stalin died in 1953 of a stroke (but was rumoured to be an assassination; fingers crossed it was!), the Communists had another internal tiff and he was succeeded by Georgi Malenkov as prime minister and by Nikita Khrushchev as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Stalin and his administration had, over his reign, made the people of the USSR feel that he was some amazing and fantastic leader; almost a demigod. His death was mourned across the USSR, and his embalmed body was visited by 1.5 million people while it was on display. I sort of assumed that today people in ex-USSR hated Stalin, but turns out that’s not the case. The results of an understandably controversial poll taken in 2006 said that over 35% of Russians would vote for Stalin if he were still alive. What the fuck.
You’d think that with Stalin dead the annexing of nations would stop, yeah? Alas, it didn’t.
The Warsaw Pact, which laughably was previously called the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance’, was a group formed from the ‘individual’ Soviet Regions, and was created as a reactionary counterbalance to West Germany being accepted into NATO.
The founding signatories to the Warsaw Pact included the following communist governments:
- People’s Republic of Albania (they withheld support in 1961 because of the Soviet-Albanian split and then left in 1968)
- People’s Republic of Bulgaria
- Czechoslovak Republic (AKA the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic from 1960)
- German Democratic Republic (withdrew in September 1990)
- Hungarian People’s Republic
- Polish People’s Republic (withdrew on 1 January 1990)
- Romanian People’s Republic (AKA the Socialist Republic of Romania from 1965)
- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
A Failed Hungarian & Czechoslovakian Uprising
In 1956, the Hungarian Imre Nagy government announced that they were withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact. Soviet troops then invaded the country and forcibly removed the government, crushing the short-lived revolt, which led to the death of an estimated 2,500 Hungarians. A Soviet government was reinstalled in Hungary, and they were once again under the USSR umbrella.
Between 1958 and 1964 Khrushchev became prime minister after telling Bulganin to bugger off and was then replaced by Leonid Brezhnev, with Aleksey Kosygin becoming prime minister.
In 1968, Czechoslovakia’s liberalisation, otherwise know as the Prague Spring reforms, is cut off at the head by invading Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops. When questioned over their justification in invading Czechoslovakia and previous Eastern European states, Brezhnev was an absolute pussy and just made up a new piece of doctrine, creatively called the Brezhnev Doctrine. It pretty much said that “if a USSR region tries to ditch Marxism–Leninism and replace it with capitalism, we can totally violate their sovereignty and fuck them up”.
An Election! (Sort Of)
In October of 1977, a thing called the third Soviet Constitution was adopted throughout the USSR and Brezhnev is elected to office under a new constitution, although I’d use the word ‘elected’ loosely. The third Soviet Constitution was ultimately a ‘freshen up’ of what the Soviets thought of as a stagnant government under Brezhnev’s relatively long leadership.
From 1980 to 1988 there is an almost comical Scooby-Doo like re-shuffling of heads of state within the USSR. Kosygin (the prime minister) is replaced by Nikolay Tikhonov in 1980, at which point Kosygin promptly dies. Brezhnev then dies in 1982 and is replaced by KGB chief Yuri Andropov. Andropov dies in 1984 and is replaced by Konstantin Chernenko. And guess what! In 1985 Chernenko dies and is replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary of the Communist Party, with Andrey Gromyko becoming president. In 1988 Gorbachev replaced Gromyko as president. Sigh.
Mikhail Gorbachev, AKA Turdsicle
The late 80’s were a tough time for Gorbachev. Not only did he have to take on challenges from nationalists in Kazakhstan, the Baltic republics, Armenia and Azerbaijan, but doodums had to deal with the republics of the Soviet Union starting legitimate legal moves towards declaring sovereignty over their territories. And the most annoying thing for him was the fact that technically, the republics we’re still operating within the USSR constitution, citing Article 72 which stated that any constituent republic was free to secede.
On 7 April 1990, a surprising law was passed allowing a republic to secede if more than two-thirds of its residents voted for it in a referendum. I guess Gorbachev thought that the countries couldn’t get their shit together for long enough to get the nation to vote, but in March, after an insane landslide victory, Lithuania declared its independence from the USSR.
After some pretty hectic internal shit went down between Gorbachev, Yeltsin and the KGB in 1991, Latvia and Estonia followed Lithuania’s lead and also declared independence.
This was the beginning of the end for the USSR. In September of 1991 the Congress of People’s Deputies voted for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, on December 8th the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (AKA Belorussia) sign an agreement which officially sets up the Commonwealth of Independent States, on the 25th Gorbachev officially resigns as Soviet president and finally the US recognises the independence of the remaining Soviet republics.
Which countries were in the Soviet Union/part of the Republics of the Soviet Union?
In December of 1991, when the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union was dissolved, the below countries were officially formed/reformed from what was the USSR:
Before Lithuania was a total badass and was the first to officially vote for their independence, the below republics existed:
- Russian SFSR
- Transcaucasian SFSR
- Ukrainian SSR
- Byelorussian SSR
- Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic
- Khorezm People’s Soviet Republic
- Tuvan People’s Republic
A number of other republics were also briefly a part of the USSR. Most of these states/republics that were formed pretty early in the Soviet Union’s existence and few lasted for more than a couple of years. They included:
- The Abkhazian SSR
- The Transcaucasian SFSR
- The Khorezm SSR
- The Bukharan SSR
- The Karelo-Finnish SSR
As much as I’d love to say I’m alway right and I was thorough in my research, I am not an expert on this subject and as such may have gotten some details incorrect. If you notice this please let me know and I will aim to rectify it ASAP.