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Soviet Empire

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Title: Soviet Empire  
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Collection: Empires, Former Empires, Imperialism, Soviet Union
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Soviet Empire

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.


  • Characteristics 1
  • Influence 2
    • The Soviet Union, its allies, and its satellite state 2.1
    • Soviet involvement in the Third World 2.2
    • Communist states opposed to the Soviet Union 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4


Though the Soviet Union was not ruled by an emperor and declared itself anti-imperialist, 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,[4] 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.[5]

Overall, the Soviet Empire was a political-military construct. Its hub, Russia, was hardly a colonial state in the classical sense, which exploited its colonies' natural resources. The economies of various parts were both diversified and interrelated. For example, while Uzbek SSR may has been viewed as a typical example of 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". The penetration of the Soviet influence into the "socialist-leaning countries" was primarily of political and ideological kind: rather getting hold on their economic riches, the Soviet Union pumped enormous amounts of "international assistance" into them in order to secure the influence,[6] 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.[6]

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][7]


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

The Soviet Union, its allies, and its satellite states

The USSR is seen in red, while states in light pink were satellites. Yugoslavia, a communist state that was never a Soviet ally, 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.

 North Korea was a Soviet ally,[10] but always followed a highly isolationist foreign policy and therefore it did not join the Comecon or any other international organization of communist states.

Soviet involvement in the Third World

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. Most 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, in other cases the pro-Soviet forces were overthrown by military coups promoted by the United States (such as in Chile), in some cases the pro-Soviet forces gained power by military aid from the Soviet Union (such as in Vietnam), 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, and states that the USSR believed at one point to be "moving toward socialism" in orange. 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

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

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.",  
  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. ^ .  
  4. ^ Caroe, O. (1953). "Soviet Colonialism in Central Asia". Foreign Affairs 32 (1): 135–144.  
  5. ^ Natalia Tsvetkova. Failure of American and Soviet Cultural Imperialism in German Universities, 1945-1990. Boston, Leiden: Brill, 2013
  6. ^ a b Dmitri Trenin, “Post-Imperium: A Eurasian Story,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011. p. 144-145
  7. ^ Paul Goble (2014-11-11). "Russians Dream of ‘Soviet Empire Without Communists,’ Commentators Say". Interpreter Magazine. Retrieved 2014-11-11. 
  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.  
  9. ^ Dawson, Andrew H. (1986). Planning in Eastern Europe. Routledge. p. 295.  
  10. ^ Shin, Gi-Wook (2006). Ethnic nationalism in Korea: genealogy, politics, and legacy. Stanford University Press. p. 94.  
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