Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

USSR (Soviet Union)

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics existed between 1922 and 1991.
What was the USSR?

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a federal court nation and Marxist-Leninist system that existed between 1922 and 1991, during which period it became one of the two most powerful countries in the world, in open opposition to the United States and its allies in Western Europe.

It was located in Eurasia, occupying the present territory of Russia, along with fifteen neighboring nations that joined the communist project born in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Russian tsarist regime collapsed and the Bolsheviks assumed power.

The territory of the Union (soyuz in Russian) covered an enormous area of 22,402,200 km2 (in 1991) and enjoyed a marked influence on the governments of neighboring nations, many of which were real satellite states or Soviet protectorates.

Characteristics of the USSR

The territory of the Union was vast, almost the same size as that of imperial Russia at its height. It was made up of the present nations of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Uzbekistan.

It also controlled the eastern region of Poland (after being divided with Nazi Germany in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact), Bersabia and some other smaller neighbouring territories.
The new nation was recognized by the world under Stalin’s leadership.

The USSR emerged with the fall of Tsarism and the rise to power of the communists in Russia, which led to the founding of the Soviet state in 1922, although radical social, economic and political reforms had already begun five years earlier.

With Joseph Stalin at the head of the new one-party state-appointed Secretary General of the Communist Party, the new nation was recognized by the world powers and participated in the defeat of both Hitler’s Germany and Hiro Hito’s Japanese forces in World War II and won, together with the United States, the highest world power.

Since then, it has confronted the capitalist powers of the West in a technological, political and economic war that led it to invest efforts in the promotion of communism in other countries (Cuba, Czechoslovakia, for example), in investing fortunes in the development of nuclear weapons (the arms race) and in the exploration of outer space (the space race).


In addition to the official one, red and with the yellowhammer, each republic had its flag.

The USSR was identified with an all-red flag with a yellow hammer and sickle, crowned by a five-pointed star in its upper right corner. The republics that formed the USSR had their own flags that were versions of it.

On the other hand, the Soviet shield showed the sickle and hammer on a globe, surrounded by two groups of three ears of wheat, which embrace a red ribbon with the Union’s motto written in the different languages of its population.


The total population of the USSR was about 293 million people, with an average density of 13.1 inhabitants per km2. It was a highly ethnically diverse nation, with over 100 different groups, but the predominant majorities were Russian (50.78 percent), Ukrainian (15.45 percent) and Uzbek (5.84 percent).

Although Soviet propaganda maintained for decades that there was no friction between the nations that harmoniously made up the whole, there was a predominance of Russian culture, language, and bureaucracy.

This had to be compensated for by partial autonomies to the elites of each nation involved and led to the formation of nationalist elites who, once the Soviet bloc collapsed, reaffirmed their separate identity.

Economic characteristics

The war communism proposed by the USSR nationalized the industry.

The USSR adopted the planned economy which fully controlled production and distribution from the government.

This involved a policy of war communism’, involving the nationalization of industry, centralized distribution of production, control of agriculture and the attempt to abolish the movement of money, private enterprise, and free trade.

This was followed by various plans for the forced collectivization of agriculture, together with rapid industrialization, which was summarised in the formula”sóviets + electricity”.

At the beginning of the 1940s, its economy was practically self-sufficient, a prefiguration of the world power that it would be after the Second World War, despite the fact that the latter would leave the country in ruins.

The Soviet currency was the ruble and its investments were always decided by the political class. With unreliable Soviet statistics – difficult to discern from the regime’s propaganda – the political class announced sustained economic growth for decades.

However, it is considered that the USSR built a colossus of mud feet, unable to sustain the pace of investment in foreign nations, in the arms and scientific-technological projects demanded by competition with the United States and at the same time feed its people.

Form of government

The Soviet government was tremendously centralist and led the country from its capital in Moscow, even though it often had to cede relative autonomy to the national elites of non-Russian republics to maintain unity.

The nation was organized in sóviets, assemblies or worker and peasant councils that had served as the organizational basis for the Russian Revolution against tsarism.

There was a single party, the Communist Party, totally adhered to the social, economic and cultural guidelines of Marxism-Leninism, that is, to the dictatorship of the proletariat. This government was exercised on the basis of three public powers:

Legislative, first exercised by the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and then by the Supreme Soviet; Executive exercised first by the Council of People’s Commissioners and then by the Council of Ministers, led by the President of the Council, the head of government; Judicial, exercised by the Supreme Court and other civil and military courts under Soviet law.

Soviet troops stopped the Nazi advance in 1941.

The Soviet participation in the Second World War was decisive and was due to Hitler’s violation of the non-aggression pact between the USSR and the Third Reich, in what the Nazis called “Operation Barbarossa” in 1941.

The advance of the German troops was brutal and costly for the Soviets, who managed to stop it a few months later with the onset of winter.

On December 5, the German withdrawal began and continued with the Red Army’s invasion of Hitler’s conquered territories until it reached Berlin.

The Cold War between the USSR and the USA began with the fall of Nazi Germany and its division into two blocs (capitalist and communist) controlled by both powers.

As both countries occupied the political and economic forefront of the world and after the fall of war-torn Europe, the world was divided into two blocs: the Soviet and the capitalist, each financing regimes at its convenience in the peripheral countries.
The gulags.

The Soviet concentration camps sentenced the enemies of the state.

The labor camps organized throughout the country by the Soviet government to sentence opponents, enemies of the state and criminals of all kinds, very much in the style of Nazi concentration camps, were so-called.

Crisis and dissolution

Since the economic crisis of the 1980s, the USSR has been unable to sustain the financing of its international allies and the technological and armament career.

This had a high political cost, which increased dissent and led to various reformulations and restructuring plans, such as perestroika and glásnost, but nothing prevented the collapse of the regime in 1991 and the dissolution of the Union.

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