What was
What was Former Soviet Union (USSR) - Full List of Countries: Map and flags of the 15 republics of the former USSR. Getty Images

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What was the Former Soviet Union (USSR): Full List of Countries, History, Facts

The Soviet Union (full name: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR) was a socialist state that was created by Vladimir Lenin in 1922.

Founded in 1922 as a confederation of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Transcaucasia (comprised of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) eventually grew to 15 republics—and a world-wide superpower.

Nearly 130 ethnic groups populated the vast country, which spanned 11 time zones.During its existence, the USSR was the largest country in the world. The USSR collapsed in 1991 and left in its place 15 independent states that we know today.

In post-revolutionary Russia, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is established, comprising a confederation of Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine and the Transcaucasian Federation (divided in 1936 into the Georgian, Azerbaijan and Armenian republics). Also known as the Soviet Union, the new communist state was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country in the world to be based on Marxist socialism.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent three-year Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik Party under Vladimir Lenin dominated the soviet forces, a coalition of workers’ and soldiers’ committees that called for the establishment of a socialist state in the former Russian Empire. In the USSR, all levels of government were controlled by the Communist Party, and the party’s politburo, with its increasingly powerful general secretary, effectively ruled the country. Soviet industry was owned and managed by the state, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms.

In the decades after it was established, the Russian-dominated Soviet Union grew into one of the world’s most powerful and influential states and eventually encompassed 15 republics—Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Political Map of Soviet Union

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Soviet Union

The map shows the Soviet Union and surrounding countries with international borders, the capital Moscow, Soviet Socialist Republics, major cities, main roads, railroads, and major airports.

Facts about Soviet Union

Compared, the Soviet Union was more than twice the size of the USA, covering more than one-sixth of Earth's landmass. But vast regions of the country were uninhabited or uninhabitable. The Soviet Union, and today Russia as well, are countries with a very low population density (8.5 people/km², compared Germany 226 people/km², USA about 33 people/km²). But still, the USSR had a population of nearly 300 million people. Moscow was the capital and core of political power and the center of culture, and trade of the USSR, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), was the second-largest city.

The Soviet Empire was made up of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia (now Belarus), Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgiziya (now Kyrgyzstan), Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia (now Moldova), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

The Soviet Union was bordered by Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic and Slovakia), China, Finland, Hungary, Iran, North Korea, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, resulting in about 20,000 km of borders; additionally, the country shared maritime borders with the USA and Sweden.

Warsaw Pact

The USSR's sphere of influence included the countries of the Warsaw Pact, a collective defense agreement signed in Warsaw, Poland, between the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern Bloc socialist republics: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955.

Geography of the Soviet Union

Everything geographical of the Soviet Union was gigantic, 10,000 km from its western borders to the eastern coast of the Russian Far East at the Bering Street, 11 of the world's 24 time zones, 52 ethnic groups with more than 100,000 people, 23 exceeded 1 million, 42,777 km of coastline, and as already mentioned, the largest empire in the world.

The Soviet landscape offered a variety of regions, west of the Ural mountain range, which separates the Asian and European part of the country, lies the European Plain, with Moscow in the center. It was the most populous part of the country.

Mountains

The Caucasus Mountain Range in the southwest, between the southern Black Sea and the western coast of the Caspian Sea. South of the Ural are the Pamir Mountains. Within this mountain range are some of the world's highest mountains, occupying most of the terrain of today Tajikistan. Within was the highest mountain of the Soviet Union, known as Communism Peak (now Ismoil Somoni Peak) in Tajikistan, with its peak at 7,495 m (24,590 ft).

East of the Ural Mountains lies the West Siberian Plain. The world's largest area of continuous lowlands is bounded by the Kara Sea in the north, by the Kazakh Uplands and the Altai Mountains in the south and by the Yenisey River valley and the Central Siberian Plateau in the east. Further east of the Soviet Union/Russia, it's getting mountainous, with the Stanovoy Mountains, Yablonovy Mountains, the Verkhoyansk Range, the Sikhote-Alin mountain range, the Kolyma Mountains, and the mountainous Kamchatka Peninsula with a coastline at the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.

In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the collapse of its communist government.

  • Armenia
  • Moldova
  • Estonia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Georgia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Tajikistan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Belarus
  • Uzbekistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Ukraine
  • Kazakhstan
  • Russia
Post-Soviet states in English alphabetical order: Armenia Azerbaijan Belarus Estonia Georgia Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Latvia Lithuania Moldova Russia Tajikistan Turkmenistan Ukraine Uzbekistan

Republics of the Soviet Union, numbered alphabetically by the English names of the post-soviet states:

1 Armenia, 2 Azerbaijan, 3 Belarus, 4 Estonia, 5 Georgia, 6 Kazakhstan, 7 Kyrgyzstan, 8 Latvia,

9 Lithuania, 10 Moldova, 11 Russia, 12 Tajikistan, 13 Turkmenistan, 14 Ukraine, 15 Uzbekistan

Military Strengths of Russia and Ukraine in Comparison

What happened to the 15 republics in the decades after the USSR’s disintegration

1. Russian Federation

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Russia

Soviet Union

With 6.6 million square miles, the Russian Federation is the world's largest country and is located in Eurasia. Soviet Russia together with other Soviet Republics formed the USSR. Russia was the largest member of the Soviet Union with more than half of the USSR's total population. Soviet Russia dominated the Soviet Union during its entire history which lasted 69 years.

Before 1991, the Soviet economy was the world's second-largest which was later significantly affected by inflation. The Soviet Union was experiencing political and economic turmoil by 1991, prompting the Baltic Republics to disaffiliate from the union.

After the USSR’s disintegration

After the dissolution of the USSR on December 25, 1991, Russia underwent a major economic crisis leading to high death rates, low birth rates, and the collapse of social services.

The Russian Federation, the new name of the country of what was left of the Soviet Union, after the breakaway of some of its republics, is still the largest country in the world, covering more than 11% of Earth's inhabited area.

Meanwhile, millions of Russians were affected by poverty that increased from 1.5% to about 39 to 49%. Violent crime, extreme corruption, criminal gangs, and lawlessness characterized the 1990's in Russia.

While oligarchs accumulated great wealth, most Russians faced high inflation and supply shortages. A year after Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin ended a 1993 constitutional crisis by ordering the army to shell the country’s legislative building, he launched a disastrous war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

Following a cease-fire in 1997, Yeltsin’s government ordered a second attack of Chechnya in 1999 after Russian authorities asserted that bombings in Moscow and other cities were linked to Chechen militants. Then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin led the military response against Chechnya.

On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin announced his resignation and named Putin acting president. Since taking office and serving as president, prime minister and again as president, Putin has consolidated authority. In seeking to re-establish Russia as a global power and limit Western influence in the former Soviet republics, Putin continued the war in Chechnya, annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and attack Ukraine in 2022.

How Strong Is The Russian Army - 2nd Strongest Militaries in the World

2. Ukraine

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Ukraine showing Crimea with Blak Sea and neighbouring countries, USSR, Belarus, Romannia, Poland, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, Geogia.

Soviet Union

Ukraine is a sovereign state covering an area of 233,000 square miles. Ukrainian SSR or UkSSR was among the Soviet Union's constituent republics and was admitted to the Soviet Union on December 30, 1922. Soviet Ukraine was the UN's founding member, but the All-Union state acted as its legal representative in matters concerning other countries that were not a part of the USSR.

Once known as Europe’s breadbasket for its plentiful wheat fields, Ukraine accounted for a quarter of the USSR’s agricultural production.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Society, UkSSR was renamed as Ukraine and its new constitution was approved on June 28, 1996. Post independence the country has retained its seat in the UN and continues to pursue allegations in foreign courts against the Russian Federation in hopes of recovering its foreign property share.

Since independence, the country’s politics have lurched between pro-Russian and pro-European governments. In 1994 Ukraine became the first former Soviet republic to peaceably transfer power through an election, and it transitioned toward capitalism over the next decade.

After pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych declared victory in a presidential election beset by fraud in 2004, the peaceful Orange Revolution forced a new vote that was won by pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who sought membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). When Yanukovych, who subsequently won the presidency in 2010, backed away from signing an association agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2014, the Maidan street protests forced him to flee to Russia as a pro-Western coalition took power. Weeks later, Russia annexed Crimea while pro-Russian rebels launched an insurgency in eastern Ukraine. In 2019, a former actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected the nation's new president.

In 2022, Russian President Putin claimed that Ukraine never had stable statehood and said the country was instead part of Russia’s “own history, culture, spiritual space.” Days later, Russia attacked Ukraine in the largest European military operation since World War II.

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3. Kazakhstan

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Kazakhstan

The Republic of Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world covering an area of 1.05 million square miles. It is a transcontinental country located in Eastern Europe and northern Central Asia.

The Kazakh SSR, which became a republic in 1936, was colonized with Slavic settlers who farmed wheat on its grasslands and became the epicenter of the country’s space program.

During the USSR's dissolution, the country was the last member of the Soviet Union's constituent republics to declare independence.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Following the independence of Kazakhstan, the country has been headed by Nursultan Nazarbayev. The current president's governance has been characterized by suppression of political opposition and human rights abuses.

Following independence, Kazakhstan privatized its economy, which grew tenfold in two decades due to oil reserves larger than those of any former Soviet republic except Russia.

Kazakhstan maintains strong relations with both the West and Russia, which it called upon to help quell mass protests in 2022 over liquefied gas prices and widening inequality.

4.Turkmenistan

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan, formerly known as Turkmenia, covers an area of 190,000 square miles. Turkmenistan was annexed into the Russian Empire and was later established as one of the Soviet Union's constituent republics in 1924. The Soviet Union reorganized agricultural practices thus destroying the nomadic lifestyle in the country.

The Turkmen and Uzbek SSRs joined the Soviet Union in 1925, followed by the Tajik SSR in 1929 and the Kirghiz SSR in 1936. Soviet leaders transformed the majority-Muslim region through forced collectivization of agriculture, which produced devastating famines in 1930s, and the encouragement of Russian immigration.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Its political life was controlled by Moscow. Economically, Turkmenistan played its delegated role within the USSR. However, the country declared its sovereignty in 1990 but was barely ready for independence, therefore, opting to preserve the USSR.

On October 27, 1991, the country declared its independence from the Soviet Union which was recognized on December 26, 1991. Since the country's independence from the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan has maintained in a neutral position in regards to most international matters.

Following independence, strongmen have ruled these mountainous, energy-rich countries. Although economically dependent on Russia, the former republics permitted American and NATO forces to use their airspace and military facilities during the war in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

5.Uzbekistan

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Uzbekistan

The Republic of Uzbekistan is one of the world's doubly landlocked countries and is located in Central Asia. Soviet Uzbekistan was established on October 27, 1924. Between 1941 and 1945 about 1.5 million Uzbekistanis fought against Nazi Germany alongside the red army during World War II.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Uzbekistan proclaimed itself a sovereign state on June 20, 1990 and declared its independence on August 31, 1991. Following the country's independence, Uzbekistan held its first election. At present, Uzbekistan has the second highest rate of modern slavery in the world at 3.97%

In Uzbekistan, Communist Party leader Islam Karimov easily won the country’s first presidential election and ruled Central Asia’s most populous country for a quarter-century until his 2016 death. Karimov’s successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has continued to consolidate power and limit political opposition—while deepening ties with Russia.

6. Belarus

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Belarus

In 1919, the region of Belarus that was under the Russian rule was established and it was known as Soviet Belarus, Soviet Byelorussia, or BSSR. However, Lithuanian Byelorussia SSR soon emerged which caused competition between the Soviet Union and Poland. The western region of modern day Belarus remained as part of Poland but was later annexed by the BSSR while the Belarusian SSR became the founding member of the USSR. Between the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet Union introduced economic and agricultural policies in the territory that resulted in political repression and famine. A mass grave for victims who were executed between 1937 and 1941 was discovered near Minsk. The act was linked to the Soviet Union prompting the nationalists of Belarus to seek independence and declare its sovereignty on July 27, 1990.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Post-independence, the country has faced many disputes with Russia which have subsequently weakened the relationship between the two countries.

The country’s only post-Soviet president, Alexander Lukashenko, consolidated near-absolute power through a repressive regime that has allegedly rigged elections, jailed political opponents and silenced the press. A founding republic of the USSR, Belarus has resisted privatization and maintains close ties with Russia.

7.Kyrgyzstan

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Kyrgyzstan

With 77,000 square miles, Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous and landlocked country. Initially, the Soviet Union had established its power in the region in 1919. However, Soviet Kyrgyzstan was established on December 5, 1936.

After the USSR’s disintegration

The territory's name was changed to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan through a vote by the Supreme Soviet in December 1990. On December 25, 1991, Kyrgyzstan attained full independence and on May 5, 1993, the name changed to the Kyrgyz Republic. Following its independence, the country joined the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN. Through the better part of the new millennium, the country has suffered immense political instability.

Kyrgyzstan initially stood out as one of central Asia’s most democratically oriented countries after the 1991 presidential election of Asakar Akayev, who espoused liberal policies. As the country experienced a sharp economic decline, however, Akayev grew increasingly authoritarian until anti-corruption, pro-democracy protests forced him from power in the 2005 Tulip Revolution. Similar protests led Akayev’s successor to resign in 2010.

8. Tajikistan

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Tajikistan

The Republic of Tajikistan is a landlocked, mountainous country located in Central Asia. Tajikistan was known as Soviet Tajikistan or Tajik SSR. Soviet Tajikistan existed between 1929 and 1991. From 1927 to 1934, collective farming and the accelerated expansion of cotton production took place particularly in the southern region of the territory. Other small scale developments took place over time which resulted in improved irrigation infrastructure.

After the USSR’s disintegration

The territory was renamed the Republic of Tajikistan on August 31, 1991 and it declared its independence on September 9, 1991. Tajikistan was recognized as an independent state by the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991. Following its independence, the country fell into the Civil War involving different factions. As a result, more than half a million residents fled the country due to increased poverty and persecution.

Following independence, a five-year civil war erupted in Tajikistan in 1992 between communists and an alliance of pro-Western democratic reformers and Islamists. Backed by Russian troops, current president Emomali Rahmon took power in November 1992 and has tightened control by suppressing political opponents and the press. Beset by widespread corruption, the authoritarian regime is heavily dependent on Russia for economic aid.

9.Azerbaijan

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Azerbaijan

The Republic of Azerbaijan is a country located at the crossroads of Southeastern Europe and Southwest Asia. The country was formerly known as Soviet Azerbaijan or Azerbaijan SSR.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Azerbaijan SSR was renamed on November 19, 1990, as the Republic of Azerbaijan and remained in the Soviet Union until its full independence in 1991. Following the adoption of the country's new constitution in 1995, the Azerbaijan SSR Constitution ceased to exist. Following its independence, Azerbaijan became a member state of the Non-Aligned Movement and was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to become a member of the Human Rights Council on May 9, 2006.

10. Georgia

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Georgia

The Republic of Georgia is at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Formerly known as Soviet Georgia or Georgian SSR, the region covers an area of 27,000 square miles. Soviet Georgia was one of the Soviet Union's constituent republics admitted to the USSR on December 30, 1922.

After the USSR’s disintegration

On November 18, 1989, the territory declared its independence from the Soviet Union, and on November 14, 1990, it was renamed the Republic of Georgia. Following its independence, the country struggled with the economic and civil crisis through most of the 1990s.

Georgia became the first Soviet republic to hold a democratic election in 1991 when Soviet dissident Zviad Gamsakhurdia won the presidency. His tenure was brief, however, and a military coup brought former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze to power in 1992. Widespread corruption and economic instability led to the peaceable Rose Revolution in 2003 that drove Shevardnadze from power.

Secessionist movements in the ethnic Russian enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have led to tense relations with Russia. After Russian forces crossed the border to join separatist fighters in South Ossetia in a brief war in August 2008, Georgia turned increasingly to the West and signed an association agreement with the EU in 2014.

11.Lithuania

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Lithuania

The Republic of Lithuania is one of the three Baltic States located in Northern Europe covering about 25,000 square miles. The country existed as a Soviet Union republic from 1940 to 1990 and was known as Soviet Lithuania or the Lithuanian SSR. Soviet Lithuania was established on July 21, 1940. The German Nazis occupied the territory between 1941 and 1944 and the territory was later reoccupied by the Soviet Union for the next 50 years. However, the US together with most European nations continued to acknowledge Lithuania as an independent sovereign nation.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Soviet Lithuania declared itself a sovereign state on May 18, 1989 and despite authorities from the Soviet Union finding the action illegal, the country was re-established and declared an independent nation. It was named the Republic of Lithuania and the USSR acknowledged Lithuania as an independent state on September 6, 1991. Following the country's independence, Lithuania joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004 and the United Nations on September 17, 1991.

12. Latvia

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Latvia

The Republic of Latvia is another Baltic State located in Northern Europe. The country is one of former Soviet Union's constituent republics also known as Soviet Latvia or Latvia SSR. Soviet Latvia was established during World War II on July 21, 1940 as a puppet state of the Soviet Union. Both the European community and the US refused to acknowledge the annexation of Latvia into the USSR on August 5, 1940.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the country restored its official name as the Republic of Latvia attaining its full independence on August 21, 1991. It was fully recognized as an independent state on September 6, 1991 by the Soviet Union. The country's primary goals in the post Soviet era were joining the European Union and NATO in 2004.

13.Estonia

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Estonia

Estonia is one of the three Baltic States in northeastern Europe. Formerly known as the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic or ESSR, the region was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Initially, the ESSR was formed on the Republic of Estonia's territory on July 21,1940 as a result of the Soviet troop’s invasion on June 17, 1940. The country was also established following the authorization of a puppet government endorsed by the Soviet Union. On August 9, 1940, ESSR was eventually incorporated into the Soviet Union. Nazi Germany occupied the territory between 1941 and 1944.

After the USSR’s disintegration

On May 8, 1990, ESSR was renamed the Republic of Estonia and its independence was recognized by the USSR on September 6, 1991. In August 1994, Russian troops withdrew from the country while its military presence ended in September 1995 after Estonia seized control of its nuclear reactor facilities located in Paldiski.

14. Moldova

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Moldova

Officially known as Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic or MSSR, Moldova was among the Soviet Union's 15 republics from 1940 to 1991. Soviet Moldova was created on August 2, 1940 from a region that was annexed from Romania known as Bessarabia and parts of an autonomous state within the Ukrainian SSR.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Moldova was declared a sovereign state on June 23, 1990 but was officially known as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova until May 23, 1991. Despite the country remaining a USSR constituent republic, it was renamed the Republic of Moldova. Following its independence, Moldova was affected by civil war.

fter independence, pro-Russian and pro-EU politicians have vied for control of Moldova. While political turmoil and endemic corruption have kept Moldova among Europe’s poorest countries, it has moved cautiously toward market capitalism and full EU membership.

15. Armenia

What Happened to the 15 Republics in the Former Soviet Union (USSR)
Map of Armenia

With 11,500 square miles, the Republic of Armenia was commonly known as Soviet Armenia during the time of the USSR. The country was among the Soviet Union's constituent republics in December 1922. Soviet Armenia was created in 1920 during a time when the Soviets seized control of the First Republic of Armenia. The country is sometimes referred to as the Second Republic of Armenia as the first was short lived.

After the USSR’s disintegration

Following the declaration of its sovereignty, the country's title changed to the Republic of Armenia on August 23, 1990. However, Armenia remained part of the Soviet Union until September 21, 1991 when the country was officially proclaimed as an independent state. Since its independence, Armenia has undergone a significant degree of development.

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