Special Report

The 20 Wars Russia Has Fought in the Past Century

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. Battle of Xinjiang
> Year(s): 1937

Before the outbreak of World War II, about 5,000 Soviet Red Army troops moved into Xinjiang in China to aid Sheng Shicai, a Chinese war lord, whose troops had been beaten by Muslim rebels in earlier in 1937. In August, the Russian units and provincial Chinese troops decisively defeated the rebels. The Soviet Union had backed the non-communist Chinese side to oppose the growing influence of Japan in the region.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

14. Border Incidents with Japan
> Year(s): 1938-1939

Japan began its occupation over what is today Manchuria in northern China in 1931. This would lead to a dispute with Russia over their 3,000-mile border, and relations deteriorated further after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Japan was outgunned and lacked tanks but had because of its superior leadership and determination by its troops, Japan won the initial battles. Then Georgy Zhukov, who would eventually led the Red Army to triumph over the Nazis in World War II, came to lead the Russian troops and Japan was defeated.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

13. Invasion of Poland
> Year(s): 1939

The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact on Aug. 23, 1939, a week before Germany unleashed blitzkrieg on Poland and the start of World War II in Europe. The pact contained a secret provision for spheres of influence in Eastern Europe that both sides would accept after Germany conquered Poland.

The Soviet Union would acquire the eastern half of Poland, along with Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Just over two weeks after Germany invaded Poland, the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east on Sept. 17. Worn down after fighting with the Germans, the Poles offered little resistance to Soviet incursion. German and Soviet soldiers met in the middle of Poland, and the Soviet Union took control over most of the country.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

12. Winter War
> Year(s): 1939-1940

The Winter War was a conflict fought between Finland and the Soviet Union that began in the winter of 1939. The Red Army was poorly led and inadequately prepared to fight in winter conditions, and the smaller Finnish army dealt the Soviet troops a bitter defeat.

The Soviet Union regrouped and changed leadership. The Red Army eventually overpowered the Finns who lost 11% of their territory. The poor performance of the Soviet military emboldened Hitler to invade the Soviet Union in 1941.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

11. Soviet Union in World War II
> Year(s): 1939-1945

Nazi Germany violated the non-aggression pact forged with the Soviet Union and invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. It was an ideologically driven conflict in which Nazi leader Adolf Hitler intended to wipe out communism and expand the Nazi empire in the east.

The Soviet Union suffered the most of any nation in World War II, with as many as 27 million fatalities. The Soviet Union reorganized its military and replenished leadership that had been purged by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin before the war. The Red Army defeated Nazi Germany in 1945 and the Soviet Union emerged as a superpower.

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