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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


During the early nineteenth century, Russia's population, resources, international diplomacy, and military forces made it one of the most powerful states in the world. Its power enabled it to play an increasingly assertive role in the affairs of Europe. This role drew it into a series of wars against Napoleon, which had farreaching consequences not only for Europe but also for Russia. After a period of enlightenment, Russia became an active opponent of liberalizing trends in central and western Europe. Internally, Russia's population had grown more diverse with each territorial acquisition. The population included Lutheran Finns, Baltic Germans, Estonians, and some Latvians; Roman Catholic Lithuanians, Poles, and some Latvians; Orthodox and Uniate (see Glossary) Belorussians and Ukrainians; Muslim peoples of various sects; Orthodox Greeks and Georgians; and Apostolic Armenians. As Western influence and opposition to Russian autocracy mounted, the regime reacted by curtailing the activities of persons advocating change, by creating a secret police, and by increasing censorship. The regime remained increasingly committed to its serf-based economy as the means of supporting the upper classes, the government, and the military forces. But Russia's backwardness and inherent weakness were revealed when several powers attacked a Russian fortress in Crimea and forced its surrender.

Data as of May 1989