Soviet Empire

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The informal term "Soviet Empire" is used by critics of the Soviet Union and Russian nationalists[1] to refer to that country's perceived imperialist foreign policy during the Cold War. The nations said to be part of the "Soviet Empire" were officially independent countries with separate governments that set their own policies (to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the country), but those policies had to remain within certain limits decided by the Soviet Union and enforced by threat of intervention by the Warsaw Pact (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland 1980). Countries in this situation are often called satellite states.


Though the Soviet Union was not ruled by an emperor and declared itself anti-imperialist and a people's democracy, critics[2][3] argue that it exhibited tendencies common to historic empires. Some scholars hold that the Soviet Union was a hybrid entity containing elements common to both multinational empires and nation states.[2] It has also been argued that the USSR practiced colonialism as did other imperial powers,[3] Maoists argued that the Soviet Union had itself become an imperialist power while maintaining a socialist façade.

The other dimension of "Soviet imperialism" is cultural imperialism. The policy of Soviet cultural imperialism implied the Sovietization of culture and education at the expense of local traditions.[4]

Overall, the Soviet Empire was a political-military construct. Its hub, Russia, was not a colonial state in the classical sense of holding colonies and exploiting their natural resources. The economies of various parts were both diversified and interrelated, frequently specialising in one type of production and fully dependent on others in both the supply and demand chains. For example, while Uzbek SSR may have been viewed as a typical example of a monoculture country producing cotton, its capital, Tashkent has become a major industrial centre, and Russia itself was a major supplier of raw materials for all its "colonies". In cases where political control wasn't yet firmly established, the satellite states were economically exploited at full scale, as it happened in post-war Poland and Baltic states.[citation needed]

The penetration of the Soviet influence into the "socialist-leaning countries" was also of the political and ideological kind: rather than getting hold on their economic riches, the Soviet Union pumped enormous amounts of "international assistance" into them in order to secure influence,[5] eventually to the detriment of its own economy. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Russia declared itself successor, it recognized $103 billion of Soviet foreign debt, while claiming $140 billion of Soviet assets abroad.[5]

Part of contemporary Russian nationalism considers the USSR to be a continuation of the Russian Empire and thus considers geographical and political expansion of the Soviet Union as continuation and further achievement of the Russian ethnos.[1][6][7]


The Soviet Empire is considered to have included the following:[8][9]

Soviet Union The Soviet Union, its allies, and its satellite states[edit]

The USSR is seen in red, while states in light pink were satellites. Yugoslavia, a communist state that was a Soviet ally until 1948, is marked in purple. Albania, a communist state which ceased being allied to the Soviet Union in the '60s after the Sino-soviet split, is marked in orange.

These countries were the closest allies of the Soviet Union. They were members of the Comecon, a Soviet-led economic community founded in 1949. In addition, the ones located in Eastern Europe were also members of the Warsaw Pact. They were sometimes called the Eastern bloc in English and were widely viewed as Soviet satellite states.

Soviet involvement in the Third World[edit]

Some countries in the Third World had pro-Soviet governments during the Cold War. In the political terminology of the Soviet Union, these were "countries moving along the socialist road of development", as opposed to the more advanced "countries of developed socialism", which were mostly located in Eastern Europe, but also included Vietnam and Cuba.

They received some aid, either military or economic, from the Soviet Union, and were influenced by it to varying degrees. Sometimes, their support for the Soviet Union eventually stopped, for various reasons; in some cases the pro-Soviet government lost power, while in other cases the same government remained in power but ended its alliance with the Soviet Union.

States that had communist governments in red, states that the USSR believed at one point to be "moving toward socialism" in orange, and other socialist nations in yellow. Not all of the bright red states remained Soviet allies.

Some of these countries were not communist states. They are marked in italic.

Communist states opposed to the Soviet Union[edit]

Communist state alignments in 1980: pro-Soviet (red); pro-Chinese (yellow); and the non-aligned North Korea and Yugoslavia (black). Somalia had been pro-Soviet until 1977. Cambodia (Kampuchea) had been pro-China until 1979.

Some communist states were openly opposed to the Soviet Union and many of its policies. Though their forms of government may have been similar, they were completely sovereign from the USSR and held only formal ties. Relations were often tense, sometimes even to the point of armed conflict.

See also[edit]

Remains of the "iron curtain" in Devínska Nová Ves, Bratislava (Slovakia).


  1. ^ a b "The borders of the Russian World extend significantly farther than borders of Russian Federation. I fulfill a historic mission in the name of Russian nation, super-ethnos, unified by the Orthodox christianity. Just as in Caucasus, I'm fighting in Ukraine against separatism – this time not Chechen, but Ukrainian one. Because there is Russia, Great Russia, Russian Empire. And now Ukrainian separatists in Kiev are fighting against Russian Empire.", Alexander Borodai, in: Skobov, Aleksandr (21 July 2014). "Реконструкция ада" [Reconstruction of Hell]. Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Beissinger, Mark R. 2006 "Soviet Empire as 'Family Resemblance,'" Slavic Review, 65 (2) 294-303; Dave, Bhavna. 2007 Kazakhstan: Ethnicity, language and power. Abingdon, New York: Routledge.
  3. ^ a b Caroe, O. (1953). "Soviet Colonialism in Central Asia". Foreign Affairs. 32 (1): 135–144. JSTOR 20031013. 
  4. ^ Natalia Tsvetkova. Failure of American and Soviet Cultural Imperialism in German Universities, 1945-1990. Boston, Leiden: Brill, 2013
  5. ^ a b Dmitri Trenin, “Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011. p. 144-145
  6. ^ Paul Goble (2014-11-11). "Russians Dream of ‘Soviet Empire Without Communists,’ Commentators Say". Interpreter Magazine. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  7. ^ Alexander Dugin, Foundations of Geopolitics
  8. ^ Cornis-Pope, Marcel (2004). History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries. John Benjamins. p. 29. ISBN 978-90-272-3452-0. 
  9. ^ Dawson, Andrew H. (1986). Planning in Eastern Europe. Routledge. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-7099-0863-0. 
  10. ^ Shin, Gi-Wook (2006). Ethnic nationalism in Korea: genealogy, politics, and legacy. Stanford University Press. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-8047-5408-8. 
  11. ^ Crockatt, Richard, The Fifty Years War: The United States and the Soviet Union in World Politics. London & New York, NY: Routledge. 1995, ISBN 978-0-415-10471-5