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The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics commonly abbreviated to the USSR or the Soviet Union, was a constitutionally socialist state in Eurasia which existed between 1922 and 1991, ruled as a single-party state by the Communist Party from its foundation until 1990, with its capital as Moscow. Formally a union of 15 subnational Soviet republics, in practice the Soviet Union was structured under a highly centralized government and economy. The largest subnational republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), was the political, cultural and economic center of the Union. As a result, Russian characteristics personified the country throughout its history, and the country was often commonly (but incorrectly) referred to as "Russia."

The Soviet Union has its roots in the Russian Revolution of 1917, which deposed the Tsar. The Bolshevik party led by Vladimir Lenin then seized power, but fought a civil war against the anti-bolshevik White movement. While the war was underway, the Red Army entered several territories that had declared their independence from Russia in the aftermath of the Tsar's ouster and helped local Communists seize power. In December 1922, the victorious Bolsheviks formed the Soviet Union with the merger of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics. Lenin instituted the New Economic Policy to rebuild the country.

Following Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power and established Marxism¨CLeninism as state doctrine, driving the country through a period of rapid industrialisation and collectivisation and creating a centralised planned economy which laid the basis for its later war effort and dominance after World War II. However, Stalin committed mass repression against Communist Party members and elements of the population through his authoritarian rule.

During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history and violating an earlier pact between the two countries. The Soviet Union suffered the largest loss of life in the war, but halted the Axis advance at intense battles such as Stalingrad, eventually driving through Eastern Europe and capturing Berlin in 1945. Having played the decisive role in the Allied victory, the Soviet Union consequently occupied much of Central and Eastern Europe and emerged as one of the world's two superpowers after the war. Between 1946 and 1949, Stalin arranged for local Communists to take power in the occupied areas of eastern Europe. Together with these new satellite states, through which it established economic and military pacts, it became involved in the Cold War, a prolonged ideological and political struggle against the Western world led by the other superpower, the United States.

A de-Stalinisation period followed Stalin's death, which reduced the harshest aspects of the society. On 4 October 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space. This was followed by some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human spaceflight, and led to the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 marked a period of extreme tension between the two countries, considered as the closest to an annihilistic nuclear confrontation. In the 1970s, a period of relaxation of relations, or detente, followed, but tensions resumed when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support the country's socialist government.

Ultimately, the war ended in failure to achieve its goals a decade later, and the USSR was mired in economic troubles, as well as domestic and foreign political unrest. In the late 1980s the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, tried to reform the state with his policies of perestroika and glasnost, but the Soviet Union collapsed and was formally dissolved in December 1991 after the abortive coup attempt.[5] The republics of the Soviet Union became independent countries and a successor organisation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, was set up. The Russian Federation, successor of the RSFSR, assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and is recognised as its continued legal personality.