The Soviet Union or formally the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (abbreviated USSR; Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, СССР or Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, SSSR; Armenian: Խորհրդային Սոցիալիստական Հանրապետությունների Միություն, ԽՍՀՄ) was a communist state in Eurasia that emerged from the Russian Empire and existed from 1922 to 1991. It was the largest country in the world in terms of area and in 1991 claimed 293,047,571 people as its citizens. Its capital was Moscow.
The USSR was comprised of 15 constituent Soviet Socialist Republics. The Russian SFSR (Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) was the largest in terms of area and population and thus dominated the union. The rest included the Ukrainian, Byelorussian, and Moldavian SSRs in eastern Europe; the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian SSRs on the Baltic Sea; the Armenian, Azerbaijan, and Georgian SSRs in the south Caucasus; and the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek SSRs in central Asia.
The Soviet Union was founded by the Bolshevik party led by Vladimir Lenin. It was declared in 1917 but was not firmly established until the conclusion of the Russian Civil War. After Lenin's death, his heir-apparent, Leon Trotsky was out-manuvered by Joseph Stalin who proceeded to rule the country with an iron fist from the late 1920s to his death 1953. Stalin's rule saw the Soviet victory in World War II (the "Great Patriotic War") in which 23,100,000 Soviet citizens perished (approximately 13.71% of the pre-war population). However, post-war tension brought about the Cold War with the United States and western Europe.
Stalin was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev who was later ousted and replaced by the more conservative Leonid Brezhnev. After Brezhnev's death and brief interludes by other leaders (Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev assumed control. Gorbachev's reforms combined with economic difficulties eventually led to the collapse of the country. It now exists in the form of 15 independent nations, 12 of which are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
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