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Timeline: A century of trade unions in Europe (1920-2022)

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, starting one of the biggest wars on European soil since World War II. The invasion reflects a long-held Russian belief that Ukraine – and most of the Soviet Union’s former republics and satellite states – is still their territory to claim. But what is Russia’s “former glory”?

Many of the former republics and satellite states of the USSR have joined the European Union and, in Putin’s eyes, have become more “Westernized” and further removed from Russian values. In fact, Ukraine recently had its candidate status approved with the EU.

It has now been a century since the formation of the USSR. A lot has changed since then, and this visual timeline breaks down how countries in and near Europe have lined up over those 100 years.

ℹ️ In the visual above, the Soviet satellite states are not shown as part of the USSR, as they were never formal republics. Candidate countries in the process of joining the EU are not represented.

USSR / Soviet Union

The Soviet Union – officially called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) – was formed 100 years ago in 1922 and dissolved in 1991, almost 70 years later. At its peak, it was home to 15 republics, more 286 million and stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Ukraine, with virtual control and influence in countries as far west as East Germany.

Notable leaders characterized both the rise and fall of the USSR, beginning with its creation under Vladimir Lenin to the dissolution of the union under Mikhail Gorbachev. Latvia and Lithuania were among the first republics to take the step towards sovereignty, beginning the demise of the Soviet Union.

Here is an overview of the modern countries that were part of the USSR.

modern day country Name under the USSR Subscription date Date of gaining independence
🇬🇪 Georgia Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic 1922 1991
🇺🇦Ukraine Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic 1922 1991
🇦🇲 Armenia Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic 1922 1991
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic 1922 1991
🇧🇾 Belarus Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic 1922 1991
🇷🇺 Russia Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic 1922 1991
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Soviet Socialist Republic 1924 1991
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic 1924 1991
🇹🇯 Tajikistan Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic 1929 1991
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyz Soviet Socialist Republic 1936 1991
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic 1936 1991
🇱🇹 Lithuania Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic 1940 1990
🇪🇪 Estonia Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic 1940 1991
🇱🇻 Latvia Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic 1940 1990
🇲🇩 Moldova Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic 1940 1991

Additionally, there were several satellite states, which were not officially attached to the USSR, but operated under intense Soviet influence.

modern day country Country name at the time
🇦🇱 Albania People’s Republic of Albania
🇵🇱 Poland People’s Republic of Poland
🇧🇬 Bulgaria People’s Republic of Bulgaria
🇷🇴 Romania Romanian People’s Republic
🇨🇿 Czechia Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
🇸🇰 Slovakia Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
🇩🇪 Germany East Germany (German Democratic Republic)
🇭🇺 Hungary Hungarian People’s Republic
🇸🇮 Slovenia Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
🇭🇷 Croatia Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
🇷🇸 Serbia Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
🇲🇪 Montenegro Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
🇲🇰 North Macedonia Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia
🇲🇳 Mongolia Mongolian People’s Republic

Today, there are still countries that align themselves with Putin and Russia with the EU.

Belarus, sometimes called Europe’s “last dictatorship”, shares a border with Ukraine and Russia and has facilitated the entry of Russian soldiers into Ukraine. Moreover, according to the Pentagon, Russian missiles were launched from Belarus.

The European Union

The European Union was officially formed in 1993 and has 27 member states. Some former republics of the USSR are now part of the union, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The last member to join was Croatia in 2013.

The EU has its roots in the European Coal and Steel Community which was formed in 1952 with Italy, France, West Germany and a few other countries comprising its first members. There are currently six candidate countries on track to join the EU – all but one were either former Soviet satellite states or formal republics:

  • 🇦🇱 Albania
  • 🇲🇪 Montenegro
  • 🇲🇰 North Macedonia
  • 🇷🇸 Serbia
  • 🇹🇷 Turkey
  • 🇺🇦Ukraine
  • 🇲🇩 Moldova

There are many reasons why countries choose to join the EU: a common currency, easier movement of goods and people across national borders and, of course, military protection.

However, in 2020 the UK officially left the union, making it the first country in history to do so. Here is an overview of each EU member state.

EU member states Membership year Former republic of the USSR? Satellite state of the former USSR?
🇦🇹 Austria 1995 Nope Nope
🇧🇪 Belgium 1952 Nope Nope
🇧🇬 Bulgaria 2007 Nope Yes
🇭🇷 Croatia 2013 Nope Yes
🇨🇾 Cyprus 2004 Nope Nope
🇨🇿 Czech Republic 2004 Nope Yes
🇩🇰 Denmark 1973 Nope Nope
🇪🇪 Estonia 2004 Yes
🇫🇮 Finland 1995 Nope Nope
🇬🇧France 1952 Nope Nope
🇩🇪 Germany 1952 Nope Yes (East Germany)
🇬🇷 Greece nineteen eighty one Nope Nope
🇭🇺 Hungary 2004 Nope Yes
🇮🇪 Ireland 1973 Nope Nope
🇮🇹 Italy 1952 Nope Nope
🇱🇻 Latvia 2004 Yes
🇱🇹 Lithuania 2004 Yes
🇱🇺 Luxemburg 1952 Nope Nope
🇲🇹 Malta 2004 Nope Nope
🇳🇱 Netherlands 1952 Nope Nope
🇵🇱 Poland 2004 Nope Yes
🇵🇹 Portugal 1986 Nope Nope
🇷🇴 Romania 2007 Nope Yes
🇸🇰 Slovakia 2004 Nope Yes
🇸🇮 Slovenia 2004 Nope Yes
🇪🇸 Spain 1986 Nope Nope
🇸🇪 Sweden 1995 Nope Nope

Ukraine’s prospects

The iron curtain that draped over Europe, which divided the continent politically and ideologically, has since been removed. But the war in Ukraine is a threat to many people in Europe, and countries like Poland have expressed fears that the conflict will spill over.

At the end of June, the European Council approved Ukraine’s accelerated EU candidacy, but the process is likely to be long – for example, it took Croatia 10 years to officially join at the normal pace.

Beyond other needs such as military support, EU membership would give refugees from Ukraine the freedom to migrate and work easily in other EU countries.

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