Soviet Union U.S.S.R. or Russia: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the Soviet Union, U.S.S.R. or Russia, the nations included.



Location--Northern Eurasia from the Baltic to the Pacific. To the west are Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, and Norway; to the north is the Arctic Ocean; to the east is the Pacific and its various north Asian seas; to the south are Korea, China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey; about 1/4 lies in eastern Europe, 3/4 in northern Asia.

How Created--Greater Russia grew up from the duchies around Moscow and Kiev and pushed to the Volga Steppe and Caspian Sea during the 16th century under Ivan the Great and his son. Siberia was gradually added during the 17th century. In 1639 Russians reached the Pacific and in 1689 fixed their boundaries with China at the Amur River. Peter the Great opened up a window onto the Baltic in the 18th century. Russia expanded into its present frontiers by annexing or conquering the following nations which are presently socialist republics within the Soviet Union:


Ukraine: 47,000,000; added mostly during the 18th century; part sliced from Poland after W.W. II.

Belorussia: 9,000,000; 18th-century addition.

Georgia: 4,700,000; 18th-century addition.

Lithuania: 3,100,000; 18th-century conquest, part after W.W. II.

Moldavia: 3,600,000; part of Russia at various times.

Kazakh: 13,000,000; by conquest of Nicholas I, early 19th century.

Kirghiz: 2,900,000; 19th-century addition.

Tadzhik: 2,900,000; 19th-century addition under Nicholas I.

Armenia: 2,500,000; finally subdued in mid-19th century.

Azerbaijan: 5,100,000; 19th-century addition.

Uzbek: 12,000,000; Alexander II added in the 19th century.

Turkmen: 2,200,000; late 19th-century addition under Alexander III.

Latvia: 2,400,000; handed to Russia by Hitler in the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact; retained after the war.

Estonia: 1,400,000; another Non-Aggression Pact casualty though Peter the Great had controlled it earlier.

Size--8,650,000 sq. mi. (22,400,000 sq. km.). Area-wise Russia is the world's largest country covering 1/6 of its land surface.

Population--255 million: Russian, 50%; Ukrainian, 16.9%; Uzbek, 4%; Belorussian, 4%; Kazakh, 2%; Azerbaijanian, 2%; Armenian, 1.5%; Georgian, 1.4%; Moldavian, 1.2%; Lithuanian, 1.2%; 160 other ethnic groups, 12.8%. Most people belong to no organized religion, but there are 13% Russian Orthodox, 13% Muslim, 12% Roman Catholic, 1% Jewish, 0.8% Russian Baptist Union.

Who Rules--The U.S.S.R. Federal constitution provides for legislative and executive branches. One house of the legislature, or Supreme Soviet, is composed of representatives elected from the 15 Union republics (25 from each), the 20 autonomous republics (11 each), the 8 autonomous regions (5 each), and the 10 national districts (one each). These deputies, running on either the Communist party ticket or as a nonparty member, comprise the Council ("Soviet") of Nationalities. The 2nd house--the Council of the Union--is composed of one deputy for each 300,000 of the population. Both houses usually meet twice per year during the 4-year term. The 37-member Presidium is chosen by the Supreme Soviet from among its members; the chairman is the titular head of state, or President. The Council of Ministers, which includes the Premier and his deputies, is also appointed by the Supreme Soviet. Its chairman is the Premier.

Who REALLY Rules--The Communist party, whose membership is rigidly controlled through a strict indoctrination program that admits only a carefully-chosen few. Party membership (a necessity for political advancement): about 9% of total population. The party elects the Central Committee which, in turn, names the Politburo members who determine U.S.S.R. policy. The Committee also elects the Secretariat, or executive, body. The First Secretary, or chairman, of the Central Committee is the U.S.S.R.'s political leader, overseeing the corporate-manager types who maintain control. At times the party secretary has also been the Premier, e.g. Nikita Khrushchev. But whether or not he heads the Government, the head of the party is in control of the U.S.S.R.

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