What Was the USSR and Which Countries Were In It?

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Lasted from 1922-1991

A globe showing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Photogal / Getty Images

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as the USSR or the Soviet Union) consisted of Russia and 14 surrounding countries. The USSR's territory stretched from the Baltic states in Eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean, including the majority of northern and portions of central Asia.

The Story of the USSR in Brief

The USSR was founded in 1922, five years after the Russian Revolution overthrew the monarchy of the czar.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was one of the leaders of the revolution and was the first leader of the USSR until his death in 1924. The city of Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor.

During its existence, the USSR was the largest country by area in the world. It included more than 8.6 million square miles (22.4 million square kilometers) and stretched 6,800 miles (10,900 kilometers) from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east.

The capital of the USSR was Moscow (also modern Russia's capital city).

The USSR was also the largest communist country. Its Cold War with the United States (1947-1991) filled most of the 20th century with tension that extended throughout the world. During much of this time (1927-1953), Joseph Stalin was the totalitarian leader and his regime is known as one of the most brutal in world history. Tens of millions of people lost their lives while Stalin held power.

The USSR was dissolved in late 1991 during the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev.

What is the CIS?

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was a somewhat unsuccessful effort by Russia to keep the USSR together in an economic alliance. It was formed in 1991 and included many of the independent republics that made up the USSR.

In the years since its formation, the CIS has lost a few members and other countries have simply never joined. By most accounts, analysts think of the CIS as little more than a political organization in which its members exchange ideas. Very few of the agreements that the CIS has adopted have, in reality, been implemented.

Countries That Made Up the Former USSR

Of the fifteen constituent republics of the USSR, three of these countries declared and were granted independence a few months preceding the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The remaining twelve did not become independent until the USSR fell completely on December 26, 1991.

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus 
  • Estonia - Granted independence in September 1991 and is not a member of the CIS.
  • Georgia  - Withdrew of the CIS in May 2005.
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia - Granted independence in September 1991 and is not a member of the CIS.
  • Lithuania - Granted independence in September 1991 and is not a member of the CIS.
  • Moldova - Formerly known as Moldavia.
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan - Associate member of the CIS.
  • Ukraine Participating member of the CIS.
  • Uzbekistan
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Rosenberg, Matt. "What Was the USSR and Which Countries Were In It?" ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-was-the-ussr-1434459. Rosenberg, Matt. (2017, March 3). What Was the USSR and Which Countries Were In It? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-was-the-ussr-1434459 Rosenberg, Matt. "What Was the USSR and Which Countries Were In It?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-was-the-ussr-1434459 (accessed September 20, 2017).