Soviet Union (Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), 1922-1991
State motto (Russian, transliterated: Proletarii vsekh stran, soedinyaytes'!) Translated: Workers of the world, unite!
Capital Moscow. Official language - Russian (de facto)
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (abbreviated USSR) more commonly known as the Soviet Union (Sovetskiy Soyuz) was a socialist state that existed from 1922 to 1991. From 1945 until its dissolution in 1991, it was, along with the United States, one of the world's two superpowers.
The USSR was created and expanded as a union of Soviet republics formed within the territory of the Russian Empire abolished by the Russian Revolution of 1917 followed by the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920. The geographic boundaries of the Soviet Union varied with time, but from 1945 until dissolution they approximately corresponded to those of late Imperial Russia, with the notable exclusions of Poland and Finland.
The Soviet Union became the primary model for future Communist states during the Cold War; the government and the political organization of the country were defined by the only permitted political party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Established by four Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR grew and from 1956 to 1991 politically contained 15 constituent or union republics ? Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Estonian SSR, Georgian SSR, Kazakh SSR, Kyrgyz SSR, Latvian SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Russian SFSR, Tajik SSR, Turkmen SSR, Ukrainian SSR, and Uzbek SSR ? joined in a strongly centralized federal union. After the USSR's collapse, all 15 SSRs became independent countries.
The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, and the successor states are a collection of 15 countries commonly dubbed "the former Soviet Union." Eleven of these states are aligned through a loose confederation known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Turkmenistan, originally a full member of the CIS, is now an associate member. The three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) did not join this Commonwealth; instead, they joined both the European Union and the NATO alliance in 2004. Russia and Belarus also belong to the Union of Russia and Belarus.
The Soviet Union was a federation of Soviet Socialist Republics (SSR). The first Republics were established shortly after the October Revolution of 1917. At that time, republics were technically independent from one another but their governments acted in closely coordinated confederation, as directed by the CPSU leadership. In 1922, four Republics (Russian SFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Belarusian SSR, and Transcaucasian SFSR) joined into the Soviet Union. Between 1922 and 1940, the number of Republics grew to sixteen. Some of the new Republics were formed from territories acquired, or reacquired by the Soviet Union, others by splitting existing Republics into several parts. The criteria for establishing new republics were as follows:
- to be located on the periphery of the Soviet Union so as to be able to exercise their alleged right to secession; - be economically strong enough to survive on their own upon secession; and - be named after the dominant ethnic group which should consist of at least one million people.
The system remained almost unchanged after 1940. No new Republics were established. One republic, Karelo-Finnish SSR, was disbanded in 1956, and the territory formally became the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) within the Russian SFSR. The remaining 15 republics lasted until 1991. Even though Soviet Constitutions established the right for a republic to secede, it remained theoretical and very unlikely, given Soviet centralism, until the 1991 collapse of the Union. At that time, the republics became independent countries, with some still loosely organized under the heading Commonwealth of Independent States. Some republics had common history and geographical regions, and were referred by group names. These were Baltic Republics (Estonian SSR, Latvian SSR, and Lithuanian SSR), Transcaucasian Republics (Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijan SSR), and Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). In its final state, the Soviet Union consisted of the following republics.
The Soviet Union occupied the eastern portion of the European continent and the northern portion of the Asian continent. Most of the country was north of 50? north latitude and covered a total area of approximately 22,402,200 square kilometres. Due to the sheer size of the state, the climate varied greatly from subtropical and continental to subarctic and polar. 11% of the land was arable, 16% was meadows and pasture, 41% was forest and woodland, and 32% was declared "other" (including tundra).
The Soviet Union measured some 10,000 kilometres from Kaliningrad on the Gulf of Gdańsk in the west to Ratmanova Island (Big Diomede Island) in the Bering Strait, or roughly equivalent to the distance from Edinburgh, Scotland, east to Nome, Alaska. From the tip of the Taymyr Peninsula on the Arctic Ocean to the Central Asian town of Kushka near the Afghan border extended almost 5,000 kilometeres of mostly rugged, inhospitable terrain. The east-west expanse of the continental United States would easily fit between the northern and southern borders of the Soviet Union at their extremities.
The extensive multinational empire that the Bolsheviks inherited after their revolution was created by Tsarist expansion over some four centuries. Some nationality groups came into the empire voluntarily, others were brought in by force. Generally, the Russians and most of the non-Russian subjects of the empire shared little in common?culturally, religiously, or linguistically. More often than not, two or more diverse nationalities were collocated on the same territory. Therefore, national antagonisms built up over the years not only against the Russians but often between some of the subject nations as well.
For many years, Soviet leaders maintained that the underlying causes of conflict between nationalities of the Soviet Union had been eliminated and that the Soviet Union consisted of a family of nations living harmoniously together. In the 1920s and early 1930s, the government conducted a policy of korenizatsiya (indigenization) of local governments in an effort to recruit non-Russians into the new Soviet political institutions and to reduce the conflict between Russians and the minority nationalities. One area in which the Soviet leaders made concessions perhaps more out of necessity than out of conviction, was language policy. To increase literacy and mass education, the government encouraged the development and publication in many of the "national languages" of the minority groups. While Russian became a required subject of study in all Soviet schools in 1938, in the mainly non-Russian areas the chief language of instruction was the local language or languages. This practice led to widespread bilingualism in the educated population, though among smaller nationalities and among elements of the population that were heavily affected by the immigration of Russians, linguistic assimilation also was common, in which the members of a given non-Russian nationality lost facility in the historic language of their group.
The concessions granted national cultures and the limited autonomy tolerated in the union republics in the 1920s led to the development of national elites and a heightened sense of national identity. Subsequent repression and Russianization fostered resentment against domination by Moscow and promoted further growth of national consciousness. National feelings were also exacerbated in the Soviet multinational state by increased competition for resources, services, and jobs, and by the policy of the leaders in Moscow to move workers - mainly Russians - to the peripheral areas of the country, the homelands of non-Russian nationalities.
By the end of the 1980s, encouraged in part by Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, unofficial groups formed around a great many social, cultural, and political issues. In some non-Russian regions ostensible green movements or ecological movements were thinly disguised national movements in support of the protection of natural resources and the national patrimony generally from control by ministries in Moscow. From: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia