Special Report

A Look at the Recent Military History of Every Former Soviet Republic

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Kazakhstan
> GDP: $171.08 billion
> GNI per capita: $24,410
> Population: 18,754,440

The Asian nation of Kazakhstan has an area of 1,693,174 square miles and is the world’s largest landlocked country. It was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the early 19th century and was briefly independent after the collapse of the empire before the Soviet Union made it a part of that nation in 1920. Kazakhstan became a center for Soviet space exploration activity in the 1950s and 1960s. Kazakhstan declared its independence in 1991. Nursultan Nazarbayev became president, and although he initially followed a moderate path, his tenure became progressively authoritarian.

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Kyrgyz Republic
> GDP: $7.74 billion
> GNI per capita: $4,750
> Population: 6,591,600

Kyrgyz Republic, or Kyrgyzstan, is another landlocked Central Asian nation. The region was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1876. Fifty years later, restive Kyrgyzstan revolted in 1916, leading to the deaths of about one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population. It was made a Soviet republic in 1926 and became independent in 1991 when the USSR dissolved. The transition to independence has not been easy. Nationwide demonstrations in 2005 and 2010 led to the removal of its first two presidents. In October 2020, protests against election results led to the resignation of President Sooronbay Jeenbekov. Sadyr Japarov, who had been in prison, became acting president and was eventually elected.

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Latvia
> GDP: $33.71 billion
> GNI per capita: $31,460
> Population: 1,901,548

One of the three Baltic nations, Latvia became an independent republic following the end of World War I after centuries of control by various European countries. It was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 and gained independence in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. Since then, Latvia has moved closer to the West, joining NATO and the European Union. Ethnic Russians account for about one-fourth of the population, a bone of contention with Russia.

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Lithuania
> GDP: $56.55 billion
> GNI per capita: $37,760
> Population: 2,794,700

Lithuania, another Baltic nation, combined with Poland to form a union that lasted for more than 200 years until various European powers carved it up in 1795. Lithuania declared independence following the First World War but was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare independence on March 11, 1990, though Moscow did not recognize it until September 1991. Like the other Baltic nations of Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania has gravitated toward the West, joining NATO and the European Union.

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Moldova
> GDP: $11.92 billion
> GNI per capita: $13,510
> Population: 2,620,495

Much of present-day Moldovan territory, northeast of Romania, was absorbed into the Russian Empire in 1812. It combined with Romania following World War I. After World War II, it became part of the Soviet Union. Landlocked Moldova has been independent from the Soviet Union since 1991. However, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Nistru River in the disputed region of Transnistria.

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