Soviet Union

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Союз Советских Социалистических Республик

Soyuz Sovetskich Socialist Republic
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Soviet Union flag
National coat of arms of the Soviet Union
flag coat of arms
Motto : Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь! (Transcription: Proletarii wsech stran, sojedinjaites!)
German: Proletarians of all countries, unite!
Official language Russian (in each Soviet republic also the respective national language: Armenian , Azerbaijani , Estonian , Georgian , Kazakh , Kyrgyz , Latvian , Lithuanian , Moldavian ( Romanian ), Tajik , Turkmen , Ukrainian , Uzbek and Belarusian as well as other national languages ​​in the autonomous republics)
capital city Moscow (since March 12, 1918 capital of Soviet Russia , later RSFSR , from December 30, 1922 capital of the USSR)
State and form of government Socialist soviet republic with a one-party system
Head of state Heads of State of the USSR
Head of government Heads of government of the USSR
surface 22,402,223 km²
population 290.100.023 (1991)
Population density 13 inhabitants per km²
currency 1 ruble = 100 kopecks

ISO 4217 code = SUR exchange

rate to dollar
1930 1 ruble = 0.51 dollars
1938 1 ruble = 0.19 dollars
1950 1 ruble = 0.25 dollars
1961 1 ruble = 1.11 dollars
1973 1 ruble = 1.33 dollars

founding December 30, 1922, from:
Soviet Russia
Ukrainian SSR
Belarusian SSR
Transcaucasian SFSR
resolution Dissolution under international law by resolution of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on December 26, 1991
National anthem The international
Gimn Sowjetskowo Sojusa
National holiday May 9th Victory Day
October 7th Constitutional Day
November 7th October Revolution Day
Time zone UTC +02: 00 to +12: 00
License Plate SU
Internet TLD .su
Telephone code +7 used by Russia today
Soviet Union territory
Soviet Union territory
Template: Infobox State / Maintenance / TRANSCRIPTION
Template: Infobox State / Maintenance / NAME-GERMAN

The Soviet Union (shortly SU , full official name: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , shortly USSR , Russian Союз Советских Социалистических Республик (СССР) ? / I Soyuz Sowjetskich Sozialistitscheskich Respublik (SSSR) ) was a centrally governed, federal party state whose territory across Eastern Europe and stretched the Caucasus to Central and all of North Asia . It was founded on December 30, 1922 by the Bolsheviks and dissolved by the Alma Ata Declaration on December 21, 1991 as a union consisting of 15 union republics . The rights and obligations under international law in international organizations have since been exercised by the Russian Federation . Audio file / audio sample

The core area (with 78% of the area in 1990) consisted of the Russian Soviet Republic (RSFSR), which emerged from the core of the tsarist empire in the course of the October Revolution on November 7, 1917 and to which as an independent Russian Federation after the dissolution of the Union its " Connecting thread with the outside world has passed ”. Unlike the other former Soviet republics, the RSFSR had not previously made a declaration of independence, which should not be confused with the Russian Federation's “Declaration of State Sovereignty ” on June 12, 1990, which is now celebrated as “ Russia's Day ”.

Because of the dominance of the Russian Soviet Republic, the Soviet Union was often incorrectly linguistically in Western countries or simply equated with historical Russia before 1917 or referred to as so-called Soviet Russia as a rhetorical figure of the pars pro toto . The Soviet citizens were generally mistakenly referred to as " Russians ".


Extent and Limits

Its greatest expansion, which it retained until Lithuania became independent on March 11, 1990, was achieved during the course of the Second World War with the annexation of the Baltic countries ( Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania), Bessarabia , Tuwas , the northern part of East Prussia and Finnish , Polish , Czechoslovak and Japanese territories. The Soviet Union was thus (apart from the Russian Empire before 1917, which also included Finland, parts of Poland, northeast Turkey and, until 1867, Alaska ) the state with the largest contiguous sovereign territory in the recent history of mankind. It was one of the greatest rulers in history.

The Soviet Union bordered after 1945:

The USSR had a combined national border of 19,025 kilometers in length and thus around 1000 kilometers less than the much smaller Russia in 2008.

The territory of the USSR covered almost a seventh of the mainland of the world with 22.4 million square kilometers. In a west-east direction, it stretched from the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean for almost 10,000 kilometers. It stretched nearly 5000 kilometers from north to south. The Soviet Union touched 11 of the Earth's 24 time zones .

Physical map of the Soviet Union

On its territory, the Soviet Union had coal and iron ore as mineral raw materials, crude oil and natural gas as energy sources and raw materials for the petrochemical industry, non-ferrous and precious metals, hydropower and agriculturally usable soils, including the fertile black earth soils of Ukraine. The country thus had all the natural resources that an industrialized economy needs.

Natural spaces

The natural spatial structure of the Soviet Union stretched from the areas of eternal ice in the north to the desert areas in Central Asia . The proportion of ice desert and tundra in the north made up 8 percent of the total area, the proportion of desert and semi-desert in the south 10 percent of the total area, and that of forest areas 30 percent.

Almost half of the territory of the Soviet Union was permafrost , which only thaws briefly and relatively shallowly in summer. As a result, the settlement with the construction of houses, the installation of the water supply and the establishment of a climate-friendly infrastructure was complex, expensive and difficult. 27 percent of the national territory was usable for agriculture. The proportion was thus well below that of the USA, whose agricultural area was 45 percent. The proportion of arable land was 10 percent (USA: 20 percent).



According to the last census of 1988, the Soviet Union had 286.717 million inhabitants in its 15 Union republics . The Russian SFSR (Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic) was the largest in terms of both area and population, and the dominant Union republic in political and economic terms.


The number of inhabitants increased by leaps and bounds in 1940 as a result of the annexation of the three Baltic states and the Moldova region and the enlargement of the Belarusian and Ukrainian regions at the expense of Poland. The very high number of war victims (soldiers and civilians) from 1941 to 1945 was the reason for the decrease in the population.

Population development in millions
republic 1913 1926 1939 1950 1959 1966 1970 1973 1979 1987 1988/
Russian SFSR (RSFSR) 89,900 92.737 108.379 117.534 126.561 130.079 132.151 137.410 145.311 147.386 148.548
Ukrainian SSR 35.210 29,515 40.469 41.869 45.516 47.127 48.243 49,609 51,201 51.704 51.944
Belarusian SSR 6,899 4.983 8,910 8.055 8.633 9.002 9.202 9.533 10.078 10.200 10.260
Uzbek SSR 4,366 4,660 6.440 8,261 10,581 11,960 12,902 15.389 19.026 19,906 20.708
Kazakh SSR 5.565 6.037 5.990 9.154 12.129 12,849 13,705 14.684 16.244 16,538 16.793
Georgian SSR 2.601 2,677 3,540 4.044 4,548 4.686 4.838 4.993 5.266 5.449 5.464
Azerbaijani SSR 2,339 2,314 3.205 3,698 4,660 5.117 5.420 6.027 6.811 7.029 7.137
Lithuanian SSR 2,880 2.711 2.986 3.128 3.234 3,392 3,641 3,690 3.728
Moldovan SSR 2.056 2,452 2.290 2,885 3.368 3,569 3.721 3,950 4.185 4.341 4,366
Latvian SSR 1,885 2.093 2.262 2,364 2,430 2.503 2,647 2,681 2,681
Kyrgyz SSR 0.864 1.002 1.458 2.066 2.652 2.933 3.145 3.523 4.143 4,291 4,422
Tajik SSR 1.034 1.032 1.484 1.981 2.579 2,900 3.194 3.806 4.807 5.112 5.358
Armenian SSR 1.000 0.881 1.282 1.763 2.194 2,492 2,672 3.037 3.412 3.283 3.376
Turkmen SSR 1.042 0.998 1.252 1.516 1.914 2.159 2,364 2.765 3.361 3.534 3,576
Estonian SSR 1.052 1.197 1.285 1.356 1.405 1.465 1.556 1.573 1,582
total 159.200 147.028 190.678 178.500 208.827 231.868 241.720 248.626 262,085 281.689 286.717 289,943


The demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 1931

The state doctrine of the Soviet Union was atheist . The practice of religions was forbidden at times or was subject to extensive government restrictions. B. Laws against the public singing of religious songs.

While around 1920 around 90% of the people in the Russian SFSR belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church , the number fell to below 30% by 1940. Many believers were subjected to reprisals, tortured, shot or exiled to Siberia .

Under Lenin's leadership, the Soviet government issued decrees and laws (“Decree on Freedom of Conscience, Ecclesiastical and Religious Associations” of January / February 1918 and the Liquidation Act of July 27, 1918, submitted by People's Commissar for Justice Pyotr Stutschka ), which were legally free Religious practice, but expropriated the churches. Indeed, the churches were seen as representatives of the old order and their followers as counter-revolutionaries. As a result, there were mass executions of priests of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Thousands of priests were deported to labor camps ( gulag ) under Josef Stalin . Likewise, in Central Asian republics, where the majority of Muslims lived, most mosques were closed and religious practice was also banned.

Numerous Buddhists also live in Siberia , especially south of Lake Baikal . Large parts of the Korean minority also professed Buddhism.

During the Second World War, the state's strict anti-religious stance was relaxed somewhat. Some bishops and priests have been released from custody. Some religious colleges as well as churches and monasteries were admitted again. After Nikita Khrushchev came to power , a new wave of anti-religious struggle was triggered. Khrushchev promised to show the last priest of the Soviet Union on television soon. Under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s, the state's stance loosened up somewhat until religious freedom was finally granted formally with the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, this was interpreted differently. In 2018, at least five successor republics are still on the world persecution index of Open Doors of the countries with the persecution of Christians, including Uzbekistan in 16th place (out of 50).


1917 to 1922: October Revolution and Civil War

The leadership of Tsarist Russia was ousted with the February Revolution of 1917 . The October Revolution , initiated a few months later by the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin , led to the proclamation of the "Russian Soviet Republic". After the victory of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War , the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ( Soviet Union for short ) was founded in December 1922, which reunited a large part of the territories of the collapsed Russian Empire into one state. Central economic catch-up industrialization was carried out in the Soviet Union . A previously backward peasant country in many areas, in which medieval, feudal production conditions prevailed, was to be transformed into an industrial power and the military starting point of the world revolution within 20 years . This happened through the forced, ruthless development of heavy industry from 1928 onwards. As a basis for the industrialization policy, extensive literacy campaigns were carried out, which were also intended to strengthen the population's ties to the state and the party.

In the early years of the Bolshevik government, the former tsarist empire was severely shaken by numerous conflicts, including economically. In addition to the aftermath of the First World War, the prolonged civil war in particular had a severe impact on the population. While the Bolsheviks gradually gained the upper hand militarily, as a reaction to the serious crisis from 1921 onwards, Lenin had to, inter alia. the famine in Soviet Russia 1921-1922 , a new economic policy (NEP) to introduce, which deviated from the previous ideological line and meant greater free-market freedoms for the population.

1924 to 1939: industrialization and Stalinist terror

Josef Stalin on a postage stamp from the GDR, 1954 (first anniversary of death)

Lenin's death on January 21, 1924 led to a bitter succession struggle in which the Georgian Josef Stalin , General Secretary of the Communist Party since 1922 , prevailed against Leon Trotsky . Stalin consolidated his power through targeted terror from 1926 to 1927 against his opponents from the “left” (Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev ) and from 1929 to 1930 against those from the “right” (including Nikolai Bukharin ) and anyone suspected stood to sympathize with them.

From 1928, the state economy was subjected to five-year plans, with rapid industrialization of the previously agrarian country. The simultaneous forced collectivization of agriculture with the formation of sovkhozs and kolkhozes triggered great resistance from the richer and middle peasants in many places. These were defamed as " kulaks " and ruthlessly broken from 1929 to 1933 in the so-called deculakization through various repression such as arrests, expropriations, mass deportations and executions. It has not yet been conclusively assessed to what extent huge famines , such as those that hit Ukraine hardest , but also areas on the Volga and the Kazakh SSR , were also part of targeted political measures by Stalin. The famine in Ukraine is summarized under the term Holodomor . In general, supplying the population with consumer goods played a subordinate role for Stalin; Grain exports back then for the procurement of material for heavy industry are known as starvation exports .

From 1935 onwards, Stalin escalated the persecution and deportation of citizens who apparently or actually stood in the way of the system. With the “ Stalin Purges ” (Russian “Chistki”) from 1936 to 1940, a systematic terror was carried out against the people who allegedly conspired against the communist regime of Stalin. The purges were often disguised as judicial prosecution and based on confessions extracted under torture ( show trial ). Deportations of entire peoples of the Soviet Union , ethnic minorities, to labor camps ( gulag ) took place. “Kulaks”, priests and monks, ecclesiastical lay people, large parts of the military leadership, leading members of the party and even relatives of the victims were murdered.

The anti-communist black book of communism gives up to 20 million victims for this period.

1939 to 1945: Second World War

Memorial to the blockade of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg )
Second World War - the German-Soviet War 1941 to 1942

In the run-up to World War II , negotiations between France and Great Britain and the Soviet Union on a joint military alliance against Hitler's Germany failed due to mutual distrust and conflicting interests. Instead, in a dramatic diplomatic turn, the USSR concluded a non-aggression pact with the German Reich on August 24, 1939 . The so-called " Hitler-Stalin Pact " gave Germany backing in the event of war in the east and the Soviet Union the possibility of regaining territories that Russia had lost as a result of the First World War .

A week later, on September 1, 1939, the German Reich started World War II with the invasion of Poland . According to the secret additional protocol to the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the Red Army marched into Poland on September 17, 1939 and occupied the eastern half of the country. The reason given by the Soviet leadership was that they wanted to protect the Belarusians and Ukrainians living there against a German threat. On September 28, 1939, however, the Soviet Union concluded a border and friendship treaty and on February 10, 1940 an economic agreement with the German Reich. The reasons for the conclusion of the Hitler-Stalin Pact have since been discussed in historical research. It is likely that Stalin saw in this agreement a better way of increasing Soviet influence in Eastern Europe than in an alliance with the Western powers, which had demanded guarantees for Poland and Romania. In addition, after the Stalinist purges of 1937/38, the Red Army was not yet adequately equipped for a war against Germany. Stalin was likely to have hoped for a time gain of several years and a long war of attrition between Germany and the Western powers like 1914–1918.

The USSR used the freedom of action that the agreement with the German Reich had given it in Eastern Europe and began the winter war against Finland on November 30, 1939 . The Soviet Union was then excluded from the League of Nations. After initial setbacks for the Red Army, Finland had to surrender in the spring of 1940 and cede parts of its territory in Karelia . These were integrated into the newly created Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic . In June 1940 she also annexed the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as the Romanian regions of Bukovina and Bessarabia , which later became Moldova .

The unexpectedly rapid defeat of France by Germany in the summer of 1940 decisively worsened the strategic position of the Soviet Union. Hitler postponed the planned conquest of Great Britain and in December of the same year gave the order to plan a campaign in the east. Under the code name " Operation Barbarossa ", the Wehrmacht began the war against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, which is present in Russian historical consciousness as the " Great Patriotic War ". On August 24, 1941, the Soviet Union and Great Britain occupied Persia, which had been neutral until then . Despite the ongoing mutual mistrust, both countries and the USA formally agreed on an alliance against Germany at the Tehran and Yalta conferences .

In the fight against the Wehrmacht, the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the burden since 1941. German troops penetrated far inland. Millions of Soviet soldiers and civilians have been killed or captured. The country emerged from the Second World War devastated by the war and materially weakened, but as one of the victors, it emerged politically considerably stronger. From 1945 onwards, the Soviet Union was considered a world power and the undisputed hegemonic power in Eastern Europe. In the Potsdam Conference , the victorious powers tried to agree on a post-war order for Europe. However, this was only partially successful. The coalition broke due to mutual distrust and due to the different social systems and political values. Both sides only tried to secure their spheres of influence and, if possible, to enlarge them. This started the East-West conflict, the Cold War .

1945 to 1985: Cold War

Nikita Khrushchev (right) with Richard Nixon ( Kremlin , Moscow in July 1959)
Soviet postage stamp from 1981, on the left Lenin, on the right Brezhnev quote

After the Second World War, the Soviet Union secured the territorial power it had gained. The Soviet area of ​​interest in eastern Poland, as agreed in the Hitler-Stalin Pact, as well as the entire Baltic region , the USSR permanently attached to its national territory. Albania (1948–1961), Bulgaria , Poland , Romania , Hungary , Czechoslovakia and the GDR , which was founded in 1949, came under the influence of the Soviet Union and, as satellite states , became “people 's democracies ” governed by communism . In 1949 the Soviet Union became a nuclear power .

Internally, the reconstruction and repair of the war damage began. The USSR also had to contend with the famine in the winter of 1946–1947 , which killed between one and two million people.

In 1953, after Stalin's death, Nikita Khrushchev became First Secretary of the CPSU . 1956, on the XX. At the CPSU party congress , he made a secret speech against Stalinism . He tried to turn Soviet policy with a cautious liberalization (" thaw period ") to achieve. However, the Hungarian popular uprising was bloodily suppressed by the Red Army in 1956.

Despite more intensive diplomatic contacts with the USA , the Cold War continued. The member states of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty continued to arm each other. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war . Under pressure from the USA, Khrushchev withdrew the nuclear missiles planned for stationing on the Caribbean island and prevented the threatened escalation, but at the same time managed to agree on the withdrawal of American Jupiter missiles from Turkey in a secret supplementary agreement. From a military point of view, the situation for the Soviet Union was better after the crisis than before, but the Soviet Union saw itself as the loser of the confrontation. Paradoxically, Americans also saw themselves as losers from the crisis.

The prestigious “conquest of space” began in autumn 1957 : with Sputnik 1 , the first artificial satellite was brought into orbit and in the same year the Soviet scientists succeeded in transporting the dog Laika, the first living being into space . In 1961, Yuri Gagarin made the first human flight into space with Vostok 1 .

In 1964 Khrushchev was replaced by the conservative Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary (1966 General Secretary). The regime vehemently opposed reform attempts in other communist states. In 1968, with the invasion of Warsaw Pact tanks, the Prague Spring freedom movement in Czechoslovakia was crushed. The imposition of martial law in the People's Republic of Poland in 1980 (the crackdown on the reform movement of the Solidarność trade union ) came under pressure from Moscow. However, the USSR signed the CSCE Agreement in 1975 .

In 1979, with the invasion of Soviet troops (up to 100,000 soldiers), the civil war in Afghanistan escalated; a new global political crisis zone emerged. The country was devastated and its infrastructure destroyed. The fighting between government forces and the mujahideen triggered large waves of refugees; around 1.2 million Afghan deaths and around five million refugees were the result. In 1986 Afghanistan's President Mohammed Najibullah embarked on a course of national reconciliation. Mikhail Gorbachev thought the Soviet engagement in Afghanistan was too costly and costly. He started with the promise to elect the chief chairman of the Central Committee to end the extremely unpopular war. From 1988 to 1989, the Soviet troops were withdrawn under his aegis. The victorious mujahideen, organized and equipped by the US and Pakistani intelligence agencies, the CIA and ISI , took power to re-engage in civil war-like battles. In this situation, the radical Islamic Taliban were able to prevail in large parts of the country in a rapid advance from Pakistan and established an Islamic " state of God " in the mid-1990s .

1985 to 1991: Reforms and dissolution of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev (1986)

The economic development of the Soviet Union showed drastic declines in growth since the early 1980s. From 1985 the newly elected General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev initiated the first reforms. Real socialism was to be reformed through perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (openness) and lead to new, critical thinking. This exposed the problems of the system, the public discussion of which weakened the position of the central government. The development became independent and increasingly slipped out of the control of the party, which was unable to react because the democratization process that began with it lacked the institutional framework. In terms of foreign policy, a comprehensive policy of detente and disarmament was initiated. The reforms initiated by Gorbachev did not increase growth. The further development of industry in large combines could not be promoted, nor did the growing investment shares in the agricultural sector result in a better food supply for the population. Growing economic corruption deprived the state economy of important resources.

The uncertainty created by the political and economic upheavals was heightened by natural and technogenic disasters.

1986 nuclear reactor disaster

Chernobyl reactor

1986 occurred in the Ukraine with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster a severe nuclear accident. In addition, there were creeping environmental pollution that contributed to the destabilization:

Slow decay processes

In nationality structure of the Soviet Union as well destabilization emerged. In December 1986 there were serious ethnic conflicts ( Sheltoksan riots ) for the first time after the Brezhnev era , when the Kazakh party leader Dinmuchamed Kunayev was replaced by the Russian Gennady Vasilyevich Kolbin, who was headed by Kazakhstan from Moscow, as a result of serious suspicion of corruption . At the beginning of 1988 the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began , from which the first war between the successor states of the Soviet Union developed. A large number of new nationality conflicts within the Soviet Union followed within a short time.

As a result of the monetary, economic and social union between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR on July 1, 1990, the D-Mark was introduced in the GDR. As early as May 30, 1990, the GDR government decided that with the introduction of the D-Mark in the GDR, prices would be calculated freely and subsidies would be abolished as far as possible. Because of the changed pricing at GDR companies, this meant that the GDR companies' supplies to the value chains of the Council for Mutual Economic Aid RGW , which were laid down in a planned economy and created to create mutual ties, and which primarily served to secure the power of the Moscow headquarters, were no longer realized could become. The withdrawal of the GDR from the value chain led to the weakening and soon to the decline of the Comecon and the power of the headquarters in Moscow and thus ultimately to the decline of the USSR.

The break of the border states of the Soviet Union with the center of Moscow did not come from the people of the large number of small-scale crisis centers, but from the political leaderships of the Union republics. It was the Baltic republics, referring to their national identity, that made the start. In 1990 and 1991 Lithuania , Latvia and Estonia declared their independence.

Coup and its effects

Tank T-80 on the Red Square during the August coup

On August 19, 1991, the day before Gorbachev and a group of the leaders of the republics were about to sign a new union treaty, the State Committee for the State of Emergency , a group of senior officials , tried to seize power in Moscow. On August 21, the coup failed due to popular resistance led by Boris Yeltsin . With the August putsch , the Soviet Union had finally disintegrated. However, the official dissolution did not take place until December 26, 1991, the date on which the instruments of ratification of the Alma-Ata Agreement were deposited, by resolution of the Supreme Soviet (although there is disagreement on this even among the individual successor republics of the former USSR ), so on December 31 1991 the existence of the Soviet Union officially ended.

After the coup, the CPSU was banned by decree. Yeltsin took control of the media and key ministries. Gorbachev resigned as general secretary of the CPSU, but remained president until December 25, 1991, when he handed over office to the President of the Russian Federation , Boris Yeltsin . In the evening the red flag of the Soviet Union with hammer and sickle was hauled down from the roof of the House of the Council of Ministers in the Moscow Kremlin and the white-blue-red flag of Russia was raised. The Union Republics declared their independence from the USSR. Ultimately, eleven of them - the Baltic states and Georgia were not present - decided on December 21, 1991 in Alma-Ata to dissolve the Union ( Alma-Ata Declaration ). The Soviet Union thus went under through dismembration in its previously existing member republics , while these, as successor states of the Soviet subject of international law, uno actu attained the status of states directly under international law. The former union republics then united in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Nevertheless, the Russian Federation, which in turn is identical to the RSFSR in terms of international law , expressly declared itself the "continuation state" of the USSR, which included the assumption of all rights and obligations under international law - including the Soviet seat in the United Nations Security Council - and from it in other foreign policy how domestic legal acts and declarations have been confirmed time and time again. International treaties with third countries thus remained in force with broad approval .




For the first time a constitution was drawn up in the entire Soviet Union in 1923, the Soviet Constitution of 1924 . This was replaced by the Stalin constitution in 1936 . In 1977 the so-called Brezhnev Constitution was passed.

Formally, the Soviet Union was a federal state , formed from the fifteen union republics ; In fact, it was a unitary state dominated by the Russian SFSR. Nominally, it was ruled democratically by councils ( Russian Совет , Soviet ) or parliament . The actual power, however, always rested with the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , which ruled the country under Stalin in a totalitarian manner , and later more authoritarian - dictatorial . Towards the end of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev made efforts to introduce actual democratic institutions under the heading of glasnost and perestroika .

The government of the Soviet Union was not only responsible for the legislation, administration, and jurisdiction of the country, but also administered the economy. Fundamental political decisions were made by the most important political institution in the state, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) .

In the late 1980s, the formal structure of the Union was organized in a manner similar to that of Western political systems. A constitution set up all state organs and guaranteed citizens a range of political and civil rights. A legislative power, the Congress of People's Deputies , and a permanent legislative council, the Supreme Soviet as the supreme representative of the people, represented the sovereignty of the people . The Supreme Soviet elected the Presidium , the chairman of which also acted as head of state, and oversaw the Council of People's Commissars, later the Council of Ministers , which acted as the executive power. The chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, the election of which had to be approved by the legislature, was the head of government. A constitutional judiciary was represented by a system of courts of law, with the Supreme Court at the top. The Supreme Court was responsible for overseeing the legality of government institutions. According to the constitution of 1977, the country had a federal structure, which granted the individual republics certain sovereign rights (for example, the decision on minority policy).

In practice, however, many of the tasks of the individual government institutions were carried out by the only authorized party, the CPSU. The actual basic and policy decisions were made by the party and adopted by the government, which ratified the party's decisions rather than passing laws itself. A number of different mechanisms ensured that the government supported the party's decisions. Although the citizens of the Soviet Union were able to choose which candidate to vote for in all elections, since all candidates had to belong to the CPSU and were nominated by the party, the Communist Party could fill all important positions in the government with people who opposed the party leadership were loyal. The people in government offices were strictly monitored by the CPSU to prevent them from deviating from the official line.

The main task of the executive , the Council of Ministers, was the administration of the economy. For the entire duration of its existence, the Council of Ministers was occupied by the Communist Party vis-à-vis loyal politicians, and the chairman of the Council of Ministers was always a member of the Politburo, the central decision-making body of the CPSU. Often it was also the general secretary of the party himself. The chairman had a dominant position over the other ministers.

Under the 1978 Constitution, the highest legislative body in the Soviet Union was the Congress of People's Deputies . The most important task of Congress was the election of a smaller, permanent legislative assembly, the Supreme Soviet and its chairman, who was also head of state. Although in theory the Congress of People's Representatives alone had the power to pass laws, it seldom met to approve bills from the Party, the Council of Ministers, and the Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Soviet had the right to interpret the applicable laws of the Soviet Union and, together with the Council of Ministers, to pass decrees if there were any ambiguities in the existing laws.

The legal system differed from that used in western countries. Instead of a defense attorney and a prosecutor arguing for and against the accused, the judge worked with the prosecutor and the defense attorney. In the understanding of the Soviet Union, this was to ensure that the trials brought the truth to light. At the same time, this regulation opened the door to abuse of law.

The communist party

Name and Organizations
Military parade in
Red Square on September 18, 1990

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the only party in the country's political leadership.

In 1918, after the October Revolution, it was renamed from the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Russia (RSDLP) to the Communist Party of Russia (KPR (B) or RKP (b)). In 1925 it was named the Communist All-Union Party (WKP (b)). In 1952 the party was renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

  • The party congresses of the CPSU (1st to XXVIIIth party congress) were the highest organ of the CPSU.
  • The Central Committee of the CPSU (Central Committee) was supposed to lead the party according to the statutes, but completely lost its power under Stalin.
  • The Secretariat of the Central Committee directed the day-to-day work of the Central Committee. It was the party's center of power.
  • The Politburo (called the Presidium from 1952 to 1966) was elected by the Central Committee. It was the leading body of the party and thus of the state.
  • The General Secretary , sometimes referred to as First Secretary from 1952 to 1964, was the party leader and, during the Stalin era, the absolute ruler of the party and the state.
Party leader

The party leaders of the Bolsheviks of the RSDLP until 1918, then the Communist Party of Russia (B) (1918–1925), then the CPSU until 1991, were, according to the understanding of the party and the state, the actual rulers of the Soviet Union:

photo Surname Term of office
Vladimir Lenin.jpg Vladimir Ilyich Lenin * November 17, 1903 to January 21, 1924
CroppedStalin1943.jpg Josef Wissarionowitsch Stalin April 3, 1922 to March 5, 1953
Nikita Khruchchev Colour.jpg Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev September 7, 1953 to October 14, 1964
Brezhnev 1973.jpg Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev October 14, 1964 to November 10, 1982
Yuri Andropov - Soviet Life, August 1983.jpg Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov November 12, 1982 to February 9, 1984
Konstantin Ustinowitsch Tschernenko February 13, 1984 to March 10, 1985
Mikhail Gorbachev 1987 b.jpg Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev March 11, 1985 to August 24, 1991

*) Lenin was only informally head of the Communist Party; 1922/24 to 1953 and 1966 to 1991 the official title was Secretary General ; 1953 to 1966 first secretary .


Head of state

In the Soviet Union (until 1922 Soviet Russia ), the representative tasks of a head of state until 1990 were performed by the respective chairman of the highest legislative body (from 1937 Supreme Soviet ). In 1990 the office of President of the Soviet Union was created.

photo Surname Term of office Offices
1918 Lev Kamenev.jpg Lev Borisovich Kamenev November 9, 1917 to
November 21, 1917
Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee
Yakov Sverdlov crop.jpg Jakow Mikhailovich Sverdlov November 21, 1917 to
March 16, 1919
Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee
Калинин М.  И.  (1920) .jpg Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin March 30, 1919 to
March 19, 1946
Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (1919–1922)
Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR (1922–1938)
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1938–1946)
Николай Михайлович Шверник.jpg Nikolai Michailowitsch Schwernik March 19, 1946 to
March 15, 1953
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Klim voroshilov.JPG Kliment Eefremovich Voroshilov March 15, 1953 to
May 7, 1960
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Brezhnev 1973.jpg Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev May 7, 1960 to
July 15, 1964
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Анастас Иванович Микоян.jpg Anastas Mikoyan July 15, 1964 to
December 9, 1965
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Nikolai Podgorny Federal Archives cropped.JPG Nikolai Viktorovich Podgorny December 9, 1965 to
June 16, 1977
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Brezhnev 1973.jpg Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev June 16, 1977 to
November 10, 1982
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Yuri Andrópov (Federal Archives) .jpg Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov June 16, 1983 to
February 9, 1984
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Konstantin Chernenko1.jpg Konstantin Ustinowitsch Tschernenko April 11, 1984 to
March 10, 1985
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Andrej Gromyko 1967.png Andrei Andreevich Gromyko July 2, 1985 to
October 1, 1988
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Mikhail Gorbachev 1987 b.jpg Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev October 1, 1988 to
December 25, 1991
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1988–1989)
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1990)
President (1990–1991)

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers of the USSR was the government of the Soviet Union. The government was called the Council of People's Commissars from 1917 and was renamed the Council of Ministers in 1946 under Stalin.

The Council of Ministers consisted of the chairman (mostly named as prime minister), the first deputy chairman (s), the deputy chairman, the ministers, the chairmen of commissions, committees or heads of offices, the representatives of state planning (also known as the Gosplan since 1929 ) and the Chairs of the Councils of Ministers of the 15 Union Republics.

Head of government

1917–1946: Chairwoman of the Council of People's Commissars, 1946–1991: Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers , August 28, 1991 to December 25, 1991: Prime Minister of the USSR and Chairman of the Inter-Republican Economic Committee

photo Surname Term of office
Vladimir Lenin.jpg Vladimir Ilyich Lenin November 8, 1917 to January 21, 1924
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10691, Alexej Iwanowitsch Rykow.jpg Alexei Ivanovich Rykov January 23, 1924 to December 19, 1930
Molotov.bra.jpg Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov December 19, 1930 to May 6, 1941
JStalin Secretary general CCCP 1942.jpg Josef Wissarionowitsch Stalin May 6, 1941 to March 5, 1953
Malenkow.jpg Georgi Maximilianowitsch Malenkow March 6, 1953 to February 8, 1955
Federal Archives Image 183-29921-0001, Bulganin, Nikolai Alexandrowitsch.jpg Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin February 8, 1955 to March 27, 1958
Nikita Khruchchev Colour.jpg Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev March 27, 1958 to October 15, 1964
Kosygin Glassboro.jpg Alexei Nikolaevich Kosygin October 15, 1964 to October 23, 1980
Nikolai Alexandrovich Tikhonov October 23, 1980 to September 27, 1985
Nikolay Ryzhkov2.jpg Nikolai Ivanovich Ryschkow September 27, 1985 to January 14, 1991
Valentin Sergeevich Pavlov January 14th to August 22nd, 1991
Ivan Stepanowitsch Silajew September 6th to December 25th, 1991

Human rights

NKVD photos of the arrested Sergei Korolev (1938)

From its founding until its dissolution, the Soviet Union was a police state in which hardly any aspect of daily life escaped state surveillance. The expression or freedom to travel , although existed on paper but not in practice. Authorization had to be obtained for almost every significant activity. The authorities, first and foremost the secret and state security service KGB , closely monitored the public and private life of the Soviet citizens; Dissidents were threatened by state reprisals and severe punishments up to and including deportation to the prison camp (“ Gulag ”).

These totalitarian control and coercive measures took place most intensively under Stalin - his " Great Terror " cost the lives of around 700,000 people - and Brezhnev. Later, especially during Gorbachev's glasnost , limited cultural, political and personal freedom emerged. In the post-Stalin era, an anti-Soviet underground emerged that kept itself alive through forbidden literature (" samizdat ") and political humor ( cf. Radio Yerevan ) , among other things .

Foreign policy

Until World War II

The new communist regime from 1917 tried to be recognized by other countries as the government of Russia or the Soviet Union. Germany negotiated with the communists in early 1918 in the run-up to the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty . However, official diplomatic recognition did not follow until 1922. In 1925 the Soviet Union was recognized by Japan and in 1933 by the USA. Other western countries did this much later in some cases. Reasons for the negative attitude of many countries towards the Soviet Union were not only the human rights violations, but also, for example, the fact that the communist regime refused to recognize Russian foreign debts from the time of the tsars.

After initial attempts to force like-minded governments in European countries through covert influence or military force, the Soviet Union concentrated on consolidating its own position. To this end, it mainly concluded bilateral agreements; she stayed away from the League of Nations until 1934 (in 1939 she was expelled because of the attack on Finland ). Nevertheless, she intervened in the Spanish Civil War : With her arms deliveries she gained considerable influence on the republican side. Under the leadership of the Soviet Union, "purges" began within the republican side: The communists dominated by the Soviet Union began to expand their power with arrests, assassinations and executions at the expense of the anarchists (allied with them). The republicans, dominated by the communists at the time, lost the war against the nationalists under Franco in 1939.

World War II and post-war period

At the end of the 1930s, National Socialist Germany pushed for new territories to be conquered. Stalin initially negotiated with the Western powers, but demanded that Poland allow Soviet troops to march through in the event of war. Poland refused, also because of the experience of 1920 . Finally, in late August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Hitler-Stalin Pact . With this alleged non-aggression pact, the two powers divided the countries between them. This was essentially intended to give the Soviet Union back the areas that had belonged to Russia before the First World War .

Secured by the pact in the east, Hitler attacked Poland, which he defeated within weeks; Stalin thus made World War II possible. Soon after the start of the war, the Soviet Union moved into the eastern part of Poland, which the pact had promised it. Finland resisted Soviet occupation in the winter war, but suffered major territorial losses in the south in a peace treaty. On the other hand, Stalin was able to annex the three Baltic countries by means of threats. During this time, Germany and the Soviet Union worked closely together economically, and the Soviet deliveries of raw materials made Hitler's warfare possible in the medium term.

On June 22, 1941, however, Germany surprised the Soviet Union with a military attack, thereby breaking the pact and the year and a half of cooperation. Within weeks and months, Germany conquered large parts of European Russia and committed serious war crimes in the process. The aim of the Nazis was ultimately the murder of numerous inhabitants of the Soviet Union and the enslavement of the survivors. A colonial area for German settlers was to be created from the ruins of the Soviet Union.

Josef Stalin with Roosevelt and Churchill (seated in front, from right), during the Yalta Conference in 1945

Stalin therefore entered into alliances with the Western powers ( anti-Hitler coalition ), from which the Soviet Union received substantial deliveries of goods. Germany was defeated in May 1945 and Japan in September. The Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression treaty with Japan in 1941, but shortly before the end of the war, the Soviet Union broke the treaty and invaded Japanese-occupied northern China. The latter helped the Chinese communists to win the civil war against the Chinese nationalists. The People's Republic of China , officially founded in 1949, initially appeared to be a natural ally of the Soviet Union, but by the 1960s at the latest, both powers became rivals because of ongoing border conflicts, ideological differences and the question of who was the dominant power in the communist world.

In 1945 the Red Army had advanced to the Elbe, Austria and most of Yugoslavia. After that, the Soviet Union tried, often successfully, to establish regimes dependent on it in the restored countries:

  • Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria were ruled permanently by communists from the second half of the 1940s until 1989/1990 and were de facto satellites of the Soviet Union. However, Romania had been pursuing a relatively independent foreign policy since the 1960s.
  • The German Democratic Republic was of particular importance for the Soviet Union, as it had occupation rights there that had also been recognized by the Western powers (as part of the victory over Hitler's Germany). While Walter Ulbricht wanted to take a course that was independent within limits, his successors recognized the leadership role of the Soviet Union all the more.
  • The Communist Yugoslavia under Tito broke with Stalin soon and pursued officially own rate between West and East. Albania has oriented itself towards communist China since the late 1960s and was essentially isolationist in terms of foreign policy.
  • In Greece there was a civil war (1945-1949) in which the communists were defeated.
  • Finland had to finally cede the territories that it had lost to the Soviet Union in 1940 and was able to recapture on the side of the German Reich in 1941, but the country was able to maintain its independence. The Soviet Union also secured occupation rights in some Finnish ports and had a considerable influence on Finnish domestic politics.

The European allies of the Soviet Union were grouped militarily in the Warsaw Treaty Organization and economically in the Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon). The Soviet Union intervened militarily on several occasions to save the communist regimes from attempted insurrections (e.g. GDR 1953 ) or to keep the regime itself under Soviet dependency (e.g. Hungary 1956 ).

Cold War

Soon after the end of the Second World War, tensions arose with the Western powers, for example because of the division of Germany, because of the troops that the Soviet Union wanted to keep permanently in Iran, because of the attempted influence in Turkey and generally because of human rights violations within the Soviet Union . One of the events that permanently damaged the image of the Soviet Union and caused the Western powers to distance itself was the communist overthrow in Prague in February 1948.

Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in Moscow (1988)

The Soviet Union engaged in an extensive arms race, especially with the USA; Since the 1960s, technical developments had created a situation in which both superpowers had enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy their opponents in the shortest possible time. After Stalin's death in 1953, his successors increasingly spoke of overtaking the USA in economic, scientific and cultural areas in a " peaceful coexistence ". The Soviet Union also tried political, economic and military means to maintain influence in the former colonies of the Western powers in Africa and Asia, including in South America. But it seldom succeeded in gaining permanent allies, like the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba .

During the Cold War, phases of détente and confrontation alternated or sometimes overlapped. The Soviet Union also had the Western countries as trading partners. A new phase of détente occurred in the mid-1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev took office , who wanted to give the communist allies greater freedom. At the same time, it was becoming increasingly difficult economically for the Soviet Union to support its allies. This contributed to the fact that in 1989/1990 the dependency factors in the Eastern Alliance lost their effect.

Memberships in international organizations

Relationship with Germany

Soviet and German military losses in World War II

An important step out of the self-chosen isolation was the settlement with Germany in the Treaty of Rapallo of 1922, which the USSR was the first foreign state to recognize diplomatically. It was not until September 18, 1934 that the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations .

Relations with the National Socialist regime in Germany were very tense from the start. Adolf Hitler's aggressive foreign policy and his degradation of the Slavic peoples as “subhumans”, as well as his extreme hostility to communism, severely impaired German-Soviet relations. In order to be able to annex parts of Poland , the Soviet Union and Germany signed the German-Soviet non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939. In a secret additional protocol to this contract, both then defined their spheres of interest in Eastern Europe .

In a declaration by the Soviet government of March 25, 1954, after the failure of the conference of foreign ministers of the four occupying powers in Berlin (January 25 to February 18, 1954), the USSR “established the same relations with the German Democratic Republic as with other sovereigns States ”and on September 20, 1955 granted it state sovereignty in internal and external affairs . The share in the four-power responsibility for Germany as a whole was expressly emphasized here. The three Western powers, however, already stated on April 8, 1954 that they “continue to regard the Soviet Union as the power responsible for the Soviet zone of Germany”. The Soviet high command also reserved the right, without the GDR to have a say, to take whatever measures it deemed necessary “in the event of a threat to security”. After the state of war with Germany was declared over on January 25, 1955 , the last German soldiers returned from Soviet captivity . As a result, the Soviet Union maintained diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany from September 1955 , as the Federal Republic of Germany saw them as a possible means of overcoming the division and restoring German unity.

Relationship to the Third World

soviet postage stamp (1961)

After the Soviet Union had freed itself from the Eurocentric and xenophobic perspectives of the 1930s and 1940s, it endeavored from the mid-1950s to build relationships with the Third World , which was created through decolonization . The motive can be seen to tie the non-aligned countries to the Soviet system of rule. Khrushchev's symbolic visits to India , Burma and Afghanistan in 1955, the hosting of the World Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957 and the founding of the University for Friendship of Nations in 1960 are the results of this policy. However, the shortage of Africans, South Asians, and Latin Americans living in the Soviet Union, and an almost complete lack of people whose travel activity could have maintained the USSR-Third World alliance, made long-term relationships difficult to build. Another factor behind the slow development of foreign policy relations with third world countries was the Soviet Union's inadequate external economic aid and performance. As a result, some political, ideological and military points of contact were lost again.

At the beginning of the 1960s, the Soviet Union increased its commitment to third world countries in the UN . First of all, from then on she supported some UN development projects financially. Second, it tried to win over the decolonized states that had just joined the United Nations. Examples of this are Khrushchev's speeches at the UN General Assembly in 1960, in which he accused the UN of supporting the dictatorial putschist Mobutu during the Congo crisis . His demand for extensive reforms of the UN found little support in the ranks of the new member states , as they feared that the reforms could lead to the destruction of an institution that finally promised them a say.

The case of Angola is remarkable , in which the intervention of the Soviet Union (as well as Cuba and the GDR ) gave a local conflict the character of a proxy war in the Cold War .


Armed forces

According to the law, the armed forces of the Soviet Union included the army, the navy and other armed formations. The army emerged after the October Revolution of 1917. Its designation "Red Army", Russian Рабоче-крестьянская Красная Армия Rabotsche-Krestjanskaja Krasnaya Armija (PKKA) , German , "Red Workers' and Peasants Army" , was officially changed to "Soviet Army" in 1946 " . Советская Армия Sovetskaya Armiya (CA) changed. The Soviet atomic bomb project in 1949 led to the establishment of the Soviet Union as the second nuclear power after the United States of America .

Defense Minister

The defense ministers (before March 16, 1946, People's Commissars) were Trotsky , Frunze , Voroshilov , Tymoshenko , Stalin , Bulganin (twice), Vasilevsky , Zhukov , Malinovsky , Grechko , Ustinov , Sokolov, Yasov and Shaposhnikov .

Constituent states and other entities

The 15 Union Republics between 1956 and 1991

The Soviet Union was formally a federation . From 1956 to 1991 there were 15 national socialist Soviet republics (also called Union Republics ) as member states , which, according to Article 72, also had the right to leave the Union again. Each Union republic had its own capital, but Moscow had a special status as the supra-regional and cross-republic-overlapping capital of the Soviet Union and the RSFSR. The republics had their own constitutions, which, like the constitution of the entire Union, should theoretically guarantee the separation of powers in the Soviet Union. In practice, however, the central government had taken all important powers and made decisions that were only carried out by the regional authorities.

Within these republics there were so-called Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republics (for example Nakhichevan ), Autonomous Areas , for example the Jewish Autonomous Oblast or Autonomous Counties . Theoretically , all of these entities had the character of a state , which also applied within the Soviet Union. Different interpretations of the Soviet constitution of 1977 are significant for some conflicts in the post-Soviet space. An example of this is Abkhazia as the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic or Nagorno-Karabakh , an area within Azerbaijan populated by the majority of Armenians: after both Armenians and Azerbaijanis had made claims to the area, it was decided on July 5, 1921 that it would remain with the Azerbaijani Soviet Republic and In 1923 the boundaries of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region were established.

The Union Republics of 1991 and today's states
Union Republic of the USSR Today's states CIS NATO EU EURASEC GUUAM CSTO SCO
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist RepublicSoviet Russia
Russian SFSR
1922-1956 Russia Soviet Federal Socialist RepublicRussian SFSR
1956-1991 RussiaRussia
1991 - - 2002 - Blank vertex Hexagonal Icon.svg 1996
Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist RepublicKarelo-Finnish SSR
Karelo-Finnish SSR
Belarus Soviet Socialist RepublicBelarusian SSR
Belarusian SSR
1922-1991 BelarusBelarus
1991 - - 2002 - Blank vertex Hexagonal Icon.svg -
Estonia Soviet Socialist RepublicEstonian SSR
Estonian SSR
1940-1991 EstoniaEstonia
- 2004 2004 - - - -
Latvia Soviet Socialist RepublicLatvian SSR
Latvian SSR
1940-1991 LatviaLatvia
- 2004 2004 - - - -
Lithuania Soviet Socialist RepublicLithuanian SSR
Lithuanian SSR
1940-1991 LithuaniaLithuania
- 2004 2004 - - - -
Moldova Soviet Socialist RepublicMoldovan SSR
Moldovan SSR
1940-1991 Moldova RepublicRepublic of Moldova
1991 - - Beo. 1997 - -
Ukraine Soviet Socialist RepublicUkrainian SSR
Ukrainian SSR
1922-1991 UkraineUkraine
1991-2018 - - Beo. 1997 - -
Flag of Transcaucasian SFSR.svg

Armenia Soviet Socialist Republic 1952Armenian SSR
Armenian SSR
1936-1991 ArmeniaArmenia
1991 - - Beo. - Blank vertex Hexagonal Icon.svg -
Azerbaijan SSRAzerbaijani SSR
Azerbaijani SSR
1936-1991 AzerbaijanAzerbaijan
1991 - - - 1997 - -
Georgia Soviet Socialist RepublicGeorgian SSR
Georgian SSR
1936-1991 GeorgiaGeorgia
1993-2008 - - - 1997 - -
Kazakhstan Soviet Socialist RepublicKazakh SSR
Kazakh SSR
1936-1991 KazakhstanKazakhstan
1991 - - 2002 - Blank vertex Hexagonal Icon.svg 1996
Kyrgyzstan Soviet Socialist RepublicKyrgyz SSR
Kyrgyz SSR
1936-1991 KyrgyzstanKyrgyzstan
1991 - - 2002 - Blank vertex Hexagonal Icon.svg 1996
Tajikistan Soviet Socialist RepublicTajik SSR
Tajik SSR
1929-1991 TajikistanTajikistan
1991 - - 2002 - Blank vertex Hexagonal Icon.svg 1996
Turkmenistan Soviet Socialist RepublicTurkmen SSR
Turkmen SSR
1925-1991 TurkmenistanTurkmenistan
1991-2005 - - - - - -
Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist RepublicUzbek SSR
Uzbek SSR
1925-1991 UzbekistanUzbekistan
1991 - - - 1999-2005 - 2001


republic capital city Population
Share in the
total population
July 2007
Population development 1989–2007 Population density
(people per sq km)
Share of the
total area
Russian SFSR Moscow 147,386,000 51.40% 141,377,752 −4.0% 8.6 17,075,200 76.62%
Ukrainian SSR Kiev 51,706,746 18.03% 46,299,862 −10.5% 85.6 603,700 2.71%
Uzbek SSR Tashkent 19,906,000 6.94% 27,780,059 + 39.6% 44.5 447,400 2.01%
Kazakh SSR Alma-ata 16,711,900 5.83% 15.284.929 −8.5% 6.1 2,727,300 12.24%
Belarusian SSR Minsk 10.151.806 3.54% 9,724,723 −4.2% 48.9 207,600 0.93%
Azerbaijani SSR Baku 7,037,900 2.45% 8,120,247 + 15.4% 81.3 86,600 0.39%
Georgian SSR Tbilisi 5,400,841 1.88% 4,646,003 −14.0% 77.5 69,700 0.31%
Tajik SSR Dushanbe 5,112,000 1.78% 7,076,598 +38.4% 35.7 143,100 0.64%
Moldovan SSR Chișinău 4,337,600 1.51% 4,320,490 −0.4% 128.2 33,843 0.15%
Kyrgyz SSR Frunze 4,257,800 1.48% 5,284,149 + 24.1% 21.4 198,500 0.89%
Lithuanian SSR Vilnius 3,689,779 1.29% 3,575,439 −3.1% 56.6 65,200 0.29%
Turkmen SSR Ashgabat 3,522,700 1.23% 5,097,028 + 44.7% 7.2 488.100 2.19%
Armenian SSR Yerevan 3,287,700 1.15% 2,971,650 −9.6% 110.3 29,800 0.13%
Latvian SSR Riga 2,666,567 0.93% 2,259,810 −15.3% 41.3 64,589 0.29%
Estonian SSR Tallinn 1,565,662 0.55% 1,315,912 −16.0% 34.6 45.226 0.20%

Economy and industry

Organization, foundations and alliances

The economic leadership lay with the central organs of the communist state party , which decided on goals and means for the economy. The main perspective goal was to build a communist society.

The political and economic conditions immediately after the October Revolution of 1917 ( war communism ) and in the 1920s ( new economic policy ) and the lack of a theory of central planning initially forced the leadership to change course in regulatory policy. From 1928, under Josef Stalin, the main features of the Soviet economic system were shaped, with the development of industry taking absolute priority. In addition, the Soviet Union consolidated the central administration economy . The production of goods was monitored according to a strict plan. Essential characteristics of the economy of the Soviet Union were the nationalized means of production and companies, the central control of the economic process, the central fixing of prices and wages and a stable foreign trade monopoly. The majority of the agricultural land was now in cooperative ownership, but agriculture was also subject to state planning. The central planning authority of the Soviet Union, the Gosplan , developed a plan for usually one year based on forecasts of social needs, which was incorporated into multi-year plans (e.g. five-year plan ). Through this plan, the individual companies were given precise quantities to which they had to adhere precisely.

On January 25, 1949, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance was established with most of the Eastern Bloc countries . After Stalin's death in 1953, attempts were made several times to reform the strict plan centralism and to reorganize the steering apparatus (1965 and 1979) without, however, changing the basic elements of the central administrative system.

The mistakes and deficiencies of the planned economy could for a long time be compensated for by extensive economic activity, since the Soviet Union was a huge country rich in natural resources. From the 1970s onwards, the economy, which had been operated extensively for many years, reached its limits. The growth rates fell and the discontent of the population increased. There were increasing bottlenecks and difficulties in the economic cycle:

  • high losses in the use of raw materials and energy in product processing
  • too slow introduction of new techniques
  • Food shortage
  • insufficient level of consumer goods
  • poor housing condition
  • inadequate service ratios.

In addition, there were oversized expenses for the military. For ideological and political reasons, the Soviet Union had to maintain a large armed force. In order to be able to achieve military-strategic parity with the USA, the Soviet Union spent 18 percent of its national income on the military, while only six percent was used for the production of consumer goods.


The industry of the Soviet Union was not completely centralized, but organized in territorial production complexes that were supposed to be able to support themselves.

Energy industry

Uniform energy system of the Soviet Union

Before 1956, the power grid of the Soviet Union consisted of several independent sub-networks under the leadership of the Central Load Distributor of the Uniform Energy System (EES), which was subordinate to the Minenergo . The large network began with the merger of the Central and Middle Volga networks through the construction of the first 400 kV line Moscow - Kuibyshev (from 1959 500 kV).

In 1990 the EES consisted of eleven power rings, two of which (Far East and Central Asia) were not connected in parallel. As of January 1, 1991, the installed capacity of all power plants in the Soviet Union was 325 GW, of which 288.6 GW were synchronously interconnected.


One ruble from 1970

The official currency of the Soviet Union was the ruble , which is divided into 100 kopecks . In 1922, Vladimir Lenin caused hyperinflation in line with the party program. Thus he pursued the goal of the communist doctrine gradually to abolish money or at least to reduce its importance, which would not be possible with a decree. In accordance with his goals, he devalued all circulating financial capital. After several years of military conflicts, economic crises and problems, the movement of money was limited to the national level. This means that not a single kopeck was able to leave the country with the exception of the republic and the black market.

Forms of ownership

There were two basic forms of property in the Soviet Union ; Individual property and collective property (joint property, in practice cooperative or state property). These differed greatly in terms of their content and legal status. According to communist theories , with a few minor exceptions, capital ( means of production ) could not be owned individually. After the end of the brief relaxation with the New Economic Policy (Russian: НЭП - Новая экономическая политика; NEP - Novaja ekonomicheskaja politika) by Lenin , all industrial property and building land became the common property of the people and the property of the state. Individual property could only be personal property , that is, capital (means of production) was automatically state or cooperative property.


The agriculturally usable large region in the Soviet Union between Saint Petersburg , Odessa or Rostov-on-Don in the west and Krasnoyarsk in the east was also called the Agrarian Triangle .

The farms were inter alia. differentiated in

  • Sovkhozes , that is, large-scale agricultural holdings of the state and
  • Collective farms , i.e. large farms that were organized as cooperatives and whose management was carried out by the socialist collective of members.

Culture and society


Schuchow radio tower , Moscow (1919–1921)


After the October Revolution, a decidedly avant-garde development was recorded in the development of Russian-Soviet art and architecture . The new style began to emerge as early as the beginning of the 20th century in interaction with other art movements in Russia - as in Europe. Architects such as Moissei Ginsburg , Alexander Wesnin , Ilja Golosow and Konstantin Melnikow stand for the renewal of style as constructivists or rationalists . Much was designed in the period from 1920 to around 1933, but only a little was realized. Reference should be made to the Izvestia building in Moscow by Grigori Barchin (1927), the Narkomfin Commune House by Moissei Ginsburg (1928–1930), a large kitchen in Moscow by A. Meskow (1929), and the House of Technical Teaching in Leningrad by Alexander Gegello and Dawid Krichevsky (1932), the Lenin mausoleum in Moscow by Alexei Viktorovich Shtusev , the clubhouse “Red Putilov Workers” in Leningrad by A. Nikolsky (1926), a bank by W. Wesnin (1927), a radio tower from Vladimir Schuchow (1919–1921, picture) and a power plant by S. Grusenberg both in Ivanovo-Voznesensk and on many residential buildings from this time. In the 1920s and 1930s, foreign architects from all over Europe, especially from Germany, were in the Soviet Union to carry out government orders. These were often large urban projects.

Lomonosov University , Moscow (1947–1953)

The approaching end of the new architecture was already evident in 1932 in the result of the competition for the Palace of the Soviets, which had not been realized . Traditional designs prevail. The expulsion of all foreign architects in 1937 in particular sealed the end of modern architecture in the Soviet Union. Constructivism and functionalism were called capitalist architecture. An “idealistic and utopian architecture” - as it was now said - “wants to skip the necessary stages on the way to socialism, and thus had a counter-revolutionary effect in a political sense.” From now on, traditional architecture, very splendid palaces and lush buildings. The Socialist Classicism prevailed as a style that was common in the Soviet Union and its satellite states to 1955th

As the population grew rapidly after the end of the Second World War, the working classes quickly suffered a major housing shortage. With the beginning of the Nikita Khrushchev era in September 1953, austerity measures were called for throughout the Soviet Union. In December 1954, Khrushchev gathered the leading architects and building officials of the Soviet Union for the “All Union Conference of Building Workers” and had the de-Stalinization of building culture and the abolition of “conservatism in architecture” announced. The architecture rejoined modernism and developed a very diverse architecture. Examples of this are the administration building of the Ministry of Road Construction , the State Kremlin Palace , the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Moscow Paleontological Museum . At the same time, however, the residential buildings generally known as " Khrushchevki " ( хрущёвки ; apartment blocks ) were built, which were arranged in the style of so-called "Khrushchoby" ( хрущобы ; prefabricated housing estates). However, this cannot be considered a purely Soviet phenomenon.



Well-known writers

Science fiction

The Soviet Union had its own rich science fiction literature. Unlike in western countries, this genre was never ostracized as trivial literature in the Soviet Union. Most science fiction works provided utopian designs for a future society, such as the novel Andromedanebel by Ivan Antonovich Yefremov from 1957, which with over 20 million copies was probably the most important and most successful book of this genre in the Soviet Union. The future plans of the very successful Strugazki brothers became more and more gloomy and critical over time, and some of their books were not allowed to appear or only in abridged form. Science fiction literature quickly became something of a mouthpiece for the critics of the Soviet leadership. Georgian director Otar Ioselani had a conversation with Boris Barnet in 1962 , who later committed suicide:

He asked me: “Who are you?” I said: “A director.” - “A Soviet one,” he corrected. “You always have to say, 'A Soviet director.' It's a very special job. ”-“ Why? ”I asked. "Because if you ever get honest, which would surprise me, you can leave out the word 'Soviet'."

Science fiction films were made later, some of which dared to challenge Soviet materialism . For example, in 1972 Andrei Tarkowski's Solaris , the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stanisław Lem , portrays the confrontation of space travelers with an absolutely alien form of life, which for them becomes a metaphysical journey into the inner world of their own culture and they become self-knowledge, love and Patience lasts. The film Stalker by the same director also ignores the premises of socialist realism . What is astonishing about the realization of these films is that they were all made in the Brezhnev era, when all forms of organized religion were severely restricted.

Film and theater


Soviet supersonic passenger plane, Tupolev Tu-144


Lenin was already enthusiastic about physical activity. During his stay in Switzerland he was an avid hiker, in prison he did his body-building exercises according to Jørgen Peter Müller every day . The traditions from Russia before the First World War continued in the young USSR, only that physical exercise was no longer a privilege of the upper class, but was open to the entire population. The sport, popular sport as well as elite sport, was intensively promoted by the state in the Soviet Union. For this purpose there was a specially established organization within the state, whose task it was to work with young people and to track down promising talents who were further trained in sports schools.

See also: USSR National Football Team , Soviet Chess School , Soviet National Ice Hockey Team , Olympic History of the Soviet Union

National anthem

From 1922 to 1944, The Internationale was the national anthem of the Soviet Union. In 1943 Alexander Wassiljewitsch Alexandrow composed a hymn specially intended for the Soviet Union with the text by Sergei Vladimirovich Michalkow . This was first presented to the public on January 1, 1944. Three and a half months later, on March 15, 1944, this song was declared the official national anthem of the Soviet Union.

The only change to the anthem was in 1977, as a result of the de-Stalinization, in which, among other things, Stalin's name was removed from the text. Between 1955 (two years after Stalin's death) and 1977 the hymn was always interpreted without a text.

After the collapse of the USSR, the new Russia threw off the Soviet legacy and gave itself a new anthem. Since this was never very popular, in 2000 the old Soviet anthem with a new text became the national anthem of Russia again .

See also

Portal: Soviet Union  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the Soviet Union


  • Helmut Altrichter : A Brief History of the Soviet Union 1917–1991 . CH Beck, 2001, ISBN 978-3-406-45970-2 .
  • Helmut Altrichter (Ed.): The Soviet Union. From the October Revolution to Stalin's death. Volume 1: State and Party . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1986, ISBN 978-3-423-02948-3 ( online ).
  • Helmut Altrichter, Heiko Haumann (Ed.): The Soviet Union. From the October Revolution to Stalin's death. Volume 2: Economy and Society . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1986, ISBN 978-3-423-02949-0 ( online ).
  • Mark R. Beissinger: Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, ISBN 978-0-521-00148-9 .
  • Thomas M. Bohn (Ed.): History of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union . Böhlau, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-412-14098-8 .
  • Michael Brie : Soviet State Party Socialism in the Light of Marx's Theory of “Progressive Epochs of Economic Social Formation” . In: Ernstgert Kalbe, Wolfgang Geier, Holger Politt (eds.): Rise and fall of state socialism: causes and effects. III. Rosa Luxemburg Conference of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Saxony, Leipzig, September 19-20, 2003 (= Leipzig Yearbooks: Eastern Europe in Tradition and Change; Vol. 6). Leipzig 2004, pp. 197-233.
  • Johannes Grotzky : Challenge of the Soviet Union. A world power is looking for its way . Piper Verlag, Munich 1991.
  • Johannes Grotzky: Conflict in a multi-ethnic state. The nations of the Soviet Union on the move . Piper Verlag, Munich 1991.
  • Karl Held (ed.): The life's work of Mikhail Gorbachev: From the reform of real socialism to the destruction of the Soviet Union . Objektpunkt Verlag, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-929211-00-9 .
  • Manfred Hildermeier : The Soviet Union 1917–1991 . Oldenbourg, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-486-56497-8 .
  • Manfred Hildermeier: History of the Soviet Union 1917–1991. The rise and fall of the first socialist state. 2nd Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-71408-5 .
  • Andreas Hilger (Ed.): The Soviet Union and the Third World. USSR, State Socialism and Anti-Colonialism in the Cold War 1945–1991 . R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59153-8 , doi : 10.1524 / 9783486702767 .
  • Jürgen Kuczynski , Wolfgang Steinitz (ed.): Great Soviet encyclopedia. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Publishing house culture and progress, Berlin 1952.
  • Leonid Luks : History of Russia and the Soviet Union: from Lenin to Yeltsin . Pustet, Regensburg 2000, ISBN 3-7917-1687-5 .
  • Gert Meyer (Ed.): The political and social system of the USSR . Cologne 1985.
  • Press Agency Nowosti (APN), Moscow (ed.): USSR - Questions and Answers , 1st edition, Karl-Marx-Werk Pößneck V 15/30, Dietz Verlag , East Berlin 1967.
  • Soviet architecture, Avant-garde II 1924–1937 . Verlag Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-7757-0425-6 .
  • Georg von Rauch : History of Bolshevik Russia. Fischer Bücherei - books of knowledge, vol. 512/13. Frankfurt am Main 1963.
  • James Riordan : Sport in soviet society: development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977, (partially Birmingham, Univ., Diss.). ISBN 0-521-21284-7 .
  • Karl Schlögel : The Soviet Century. Archeology of a Lost World. CH Beck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-71511-2 .
  • Hans Wassmund: The failed utopia. The rise and fall of the USSR . CH Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-37426-3 .

Web links

Commons : Soviet Union  - collection of images
Wiktionary: Soviet Union  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. see also: Languages ​​in the Soviet Union
  2. Quoted in Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev in January 1992; cf.Andreas Zimmermann, State Succession in International Law Treaties: At the same time a contribution to the possibilities and limits of international law codification , Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law , Springer, 2000, ISBN 3-540-66140-9 , p. 91 fn 325 .
  3. For example Antonowicz, Disintegretation of the USSR , p. 9; Bothe / Schmidt, Questions de succession , p. 824.
  4. The year of the census is controversial, as the Russian-language Wikipedia article stipulates 1989 and the article here suggests 1988 in a section.
  5. Alexander Solzhenitsyn , 200 years together , Russki Putj (Moscow Publishing House) 2002, Herbig 2003, ISBN 3-7766-2356-X .
  6. ^ Peter Scheibert, Lenin in power , Acta humaniora, Weinheim 1984, ISBN 3-527-17503-2 .
  7. Alexander Jakowlew , A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia , Yale University Press, New Haven / London 2002 (“A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia”, Berlin Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-8270-0547-7 ).
  8. ^ Heinrich Bonnenberg: My experiences at the Treuhandanstalt and its successor companies , hearing of the parliamentary group DIE LINKE, Reichstag, April 19, 2010 (PDF).
  9. Andreas Zimmermann, State Succession in International Law Treaties: At the same time a contribution to the possibilities and limits of international law codification , Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law , Springer, 2000, ISBN 3-540-66140-9 , pp. 782 , 794 f.
  10. END OF THE SOVIET UNION; The Soviet State, Born of a Dream, Dies. Retrieved March 3, 2010 .
  11. See also Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen and the German Society for Eastern European Studies: Analyzes of Russia No. 22 (PDF; 260 kB) from April 2, 2004.
  12. Volker Epping, in: Knut Ipsen , Völkerrecht , 5th edition, CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-49636-9 , § 5 Rn 19 and § 34 Rn 17.
  13. After h. M. the content of this term is to be understood synonymously with “ identity under international law ”, whereby the terminology and the designation “successor state” are mutually exclusive.
  14. Andreas Zimmermann, State succession in international law treaties: At the same time a contribution to the possibilities and limits of international law codification , Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law , Springer, 2000, ISBN 3-540-66140-9 , pp. 85 ff. ( 91 f. ).
  15. ^ Theodor Schweisfurth : From the unitary state (USSR) to the confederation of states (CIS) . In: Journal for foreign public law and international law (1992), pp. 541–696, here p. 549 fuö. ( online , accessed February 22, 2020); Karl Brinkmann : constitutional theory . 2nd, supplemented edition, R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich / Vienna 1994, ISBN 978-3-486-78678-1 , p. 372 f. (Accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  16. Ingrid Muth, Die DDR-Außenpolitik 1949–1972: Contents, structures, mechanisms , in: Forschungsungen zur DDR-Gesellschaft, Ch. Links Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-86153-224-7 , p. 26 f.
  17. Interview of the Ministerial Director in the Foreign Office, Wilhelm G. Grewe, with the editor-in-chief of Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk, Hans Wendt, December 11, 1955 ( PDF , 154 kB) in the Bulletin of the Federal Government's Press and Information Office, No. 233, December 13 1955, p. 1993 f.
  18. Vladislav M. Zubok: A Failed Empire. The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2009, ISBN 978-0-8078-5958-2 , pp. 171 (English, limited preview in Google Book search).
  19. a b Rossen Diagalov, Christine Evans: Moscow, 1960: How imagined a Soviet friendship with the Third World. In: Andreas Hilger (Ed.): The Soviet Union and the Third World. USSR, State Socialism and Anti-Colonialism in the Cold War 1945–1991 . Munich 2009, p. 83-105 .
  20. ^ Egbert Jahn: The foreign policy of Russia. In: Manfred Knapp, Gert Krell: Introduction to International Politics. 4th edition, Munich, Vienna 2004, p. 263.
  21. Ilya V. Gajduk: New York, 1960: The Soviet Union and the dekolonialisierte world on the Fifteenth Session of the UN General Assembly. In: Andreas Hilger (Ed.): The Soviet Union and the Third World. USSR, State Socialism and Anti-Colonialism in the Cold War 1945–1991 . Munich 2009, p. 107-119 .
  22. See Robert Zischg: The Policy of the Soviet Union towards Angola and Mozambique. Noms, Baden-Baden 1990.
  23. ↑ Minutes of the meeting of the Caucasian Bureau No. 12, Item 2 of July 5, 1921; see also Swietochowski in: Halbach / Kappeler (eds.), Krisenherd Caucasus , 1995, pp. 161, 167; de Waal, Black Garden , 2003, p. 130.
  24. Heiko Krüger, The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Legal Analysis , Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 2009, p. 20 .
  25. ^ 1989 Census and The World Factbook .
  26. ^ Leonhard Müller: Handbook of the electricity industry. P. 52/53.
  27. see also Lenin # Civil War 1918 to 1922 .
  28. Quoted in Eisenschitz, A Fickle Man , 163.
  29. ^ Arnd Krüger : The Homosexual and Homoerotic in Sport. In: James Riordan , Arnd Krüger (Ed.): The International Politics of Sport in the 20th Century. London: Routledge 1999, 191-216; here p. 206.
  30. James Riordan : Sport in soviet society: development of sport and physical education in Russia and the USSR / James Riordan. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977, (partially Birmingham, Univ., Diss.). ISBN 0-521-21284-7 .