Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and the historical centre of Lithuanian economic and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the centre of a county in Trakai Municipality of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. In the Russian Empire, it was the capital of the Kaunas Governorate from 1843 to 1915. During the interwar period, it served as the temporary capital of Lithuania, when Vilnius was seized by Poland between 1920 and 1939. During that period Kaunas was celebrated for its rich cultural and academic life, construction of countless Art Deco and Lithuanian National Romanticism architectural-style buildings as well as popular furniture, the interior design of the time, a widespread café culture; the city interwar architecture is regarded as among the finest examples of European Art Deco and has received the European Heritage Label. It contributed to Kaunas being named as the first city in Central and Eastern Europe to be designated as a UNESCO City of Design. Kaunas has been selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2022, together with Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg.
The city is the capital of Kaunas County, the seat of the Kaunas city municipality and the Kaunas District Municipality. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kaunas. Kaunas is located at the confluence of the two largest Lithuanian rivers, the Nemunas and the Neris, is near the Kaunas Reservoir, the largest body of water in the whole of Lithuania; the city's name is of Lithuanian origin and most derives from a personal name. Before Lithuania regained independence, the city was known in English as Kovno, the traditional Slavicized form of its name. An earlier Russian name was Ковно Kovno, although Каунас Kaunas has been used since 1940; the Yiddish name is קאָװנע Kovne, the names in German include Kaunas and Kauen. The city and its elderates have names in other languages. An old legend claims; these Romans were led by a patrician named Palemon, who had three sons: Barcus and Sperus. Palemon fled from Rome. Palemon, his sons and other relatives travelled to Lithuania. After Palemon's death, his sons divided his land.
Kunas got the land. He built a fortress near the confluence of the Nemunas and Neris rivers, the city that grew up there was named after him. A suburban region in the vicinity is named "Palemonas". On 30 June 1993, the historical coat of arms of Kaunas city was re-established by a special presidential decree; the coat of arms features a white aurochs with a golden cross between its horns, set against a deep red background. The aurochs was the original heraldic symbol of the city, established in 1400; the heraldic seal of Kaunas, introduced in the early 15th century during the reign of Grand Duke Vytautas, is the oldest city heraldic seal known in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The current emblem was the result of much study and discussion on the part of the Lithuanian Heraldry Commission, realized by the artist Raimondas Miknevičius. An auroch has replaced a wisent, depicted in the Soviet-era emblem, used since 1969. Blazon: Gules, an aurochs passant guardant argent ensigned with a cross Or between his horns.
Kaunas has a greater coat of arms, used for purposes of Kaunas city representation. The sailor, three golden balls, Latin text "Diligite justitiam qui judicatis terram" in the greater coat of arms refers to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of merchants and seafarers, regarded as a heavenly guardian of Kaunas by Queen Bona Sforza. According to the archeological excavations, the richest collections of ceramics and other artifacts found at the confluence of the Nemunas and the Neris rivers are from the second and first millennium BC. During that time, people settled in some territories of the present Kaunas: the confluence of the two longest rivers of Lithuania area, Lampėdžiai, Kaniūkai, Marvelė, Romainiai, Petrašiūnai, Sargėnai, Veršvai sites. A settlement had been established on the site of the current Kaunas old town, at the confluence of two large rivers, at least by the 10th century AD. Kaunas is first mentioned in written sources in 1361. In 1362, the castle was destroyed by the Teutonic Order.
Commander Vaidotas of the Kaunas castle garrison, with 36 men, tried to break through, but was taken prisoner. It was one of the largest and important military victories of the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century against Lithuania; the Kaunas castle was rebuilt at the beginning of the 15th century. In 1408, the town was granted Magdeburg rights by Vytautas the Great and became a centre of Kaunas Powiat in Trakai Voivodeship in 1413. Vytautas ceded Kaunas the right to own the scales used for weighing the goods brought to the city or packed on site, wax processing, woolen cloth-trimming facilities; the power of the self-governing Kaunas was shared by three interrelated major institutions: vaitas, the Magistrate, the so-called Benchers' Court. Kaunas began to gain prominence, since it was at an intersection of a river port. In 1441 Kaunas joined the Hanseatic League, Hansa merchant office Kontor was opened—the only one in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By the 16th century, Kaunas had a public school and a hospital and was one of the best-formed towns in
5th Guards Tank Division
The 5th Guards Tank Division was an armored division of the Soviet Ground Forces and Russian Ground Forces, active from 1945 to 2009, in two different formations. The 5th Guards Stalingrad-Kiev Red Banner Tank Division was formed in September 1945 at Sherlovaya Gora, Chita Oblast, from the 5th Guards Tank Corps. In mid 1957 it became the 122nd Guards Motor Rifle Division; the second formation drew its heritage from an illustrious Soviet World War II cavalry formation, the 5th Guards Cavalry Corps. After the end of World War II, the corps relocated from Ploiești in Romania, where it was part of the Southern Group of Forces, to Novocherkassk in Rostov Oblast, by the fall of 1945; the corps was reorganised as the 5th Guards Cavalry Division on 6 May 1946, part of the North Caucasus Military District. Its two cavalry divisions, the 11th Guards and 12th Guards, became regiments with the same numbers in the new division. A third regiment, the 7th Guards Cavalry Regiment, was renumbered from the 37th Guards Cavalry Regiment.
On 6 September 1951, the division was awarded the honorific "named for E. A. Shchadenko", in honor of Soviet cavalry commander Yefim Shchadenko. On 18 November 1954 18th Guards Heavy Tank Division was formed from 5th Guards Cavalry Division. With the beginning of the Nikita Khrushchev era, the Strategic Rocket Forces were emphasised at the expense of the Ground Forces, the Ground Forces were reduced and reorganized. On 5 March 1962, the division dropped the designation "Heavy" and became the 18th Guards Tank Division. Between 1 and 2 June 1962, the division was involved in the Novocherkassk massacre, the suppression of a strike caused by food shortages. On 11 January 1965, the division was renumbered the 5th Guards Tank Division to reflect its World War II title. In April 1966, the division was transferred to Kyakhta, on the Mongolian–Russian border, to reinforce the Transbaikal Military District in the light of deteriorating relations with the People's Republic of China. On 22 February 1968, the division was awarded the Order of the Red Star.
By May 1970, the division was part of the 29th Army. The division was expanded into the 48th Separate Guards Army Corps, as an experiment in rapid reaction units along with the Belorussian Military District's 120th Guards Motor Rifle Division, from 1982 to 1989; the three tank regiments and single motor rifle regiment of the division were expanded into two tank brigades and two motor rifle brigades, the 1319th Air Assault Regiment and 373rd Separate Helicopter Regiment, both newly formed, were added to the corps. The 57th Army Corps was upgraded in status to Army level in 2003; the 29th Army was subsequently disbanded. Adam Geibel wrote that 5th "Don" Guards Tank Division, stationed in Buryatia, had received ‘a few’ of the initial group of 150 T-90s produced. On 1 June 2009, the division became the 37th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, as part of the 2008 Russian military reform; the brigade included more than 200 tracked vehicles and more than 100 wheeled vehicles in 2013. Elements of the brigade fought in the War in Donbass and were located in the Northern operational area in February 2015.
The 37th's troops fought in the Battle of Debaltseve during this time, where their heavy equipment and weaponry was crucial to the defeat of Ukrainian forces in the battle. In September 2016, a conscript from the brigade was run over by a Kamaz truck while sleeping during an exercise; the division's second formation included the following units: 108th Tank Regiment 140th Guards Tank Regiment 160th Guards Tank Regiment 311th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment 861st Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment 940th Anti-aircraft Rocket Regiment Alyohin, Roman. Воздушно-десантные войска: история российского десанта. Moscow: Eksmo. ISBN 9785699332137. Baron, Samuel H.. Bloody Saturday in the Soviet Union: Novocherkassk, 1962. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804740937. Feskov, V. I.. I.. A.. A.. Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской. Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306
7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division
The 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division is an elite guards division of the Russian Airborne Troops. The 7th Guards Airborne Division was formed in September 1948 based on 322nd Guards Rifle Regiment which fought in Eastern Europe in World War II. In October 1948 the division was relocated to Lithuania. During the Cold War period, the division served in the suppression of the Hungarian and Czech revolutions. On August 1993, the division was relocated to Russia, it took part in various counter-insurgency operations in the Caucasus region. On 1 December 2006 it was renamed as 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division. In 2014 the division's 247th Guards Air Assault Regiment took part in the War in Donbass in Ukraine. There were two separately formed 7th Guards Airborne Divisions in the Red Army and Soviet Ground Forces/Soviet Airborne Troops; the first division was formed during the Second World War at Ramenskoye in December 1942. It fought at Demyansk, Korsun, on the Dnieper River, at Targul Frumos and Budapest.
It ended the war with 4th Guards Army of the 3rd Ukrainian Front in May 1945. As part of a postwar military reorganization, this division was retitled the 115th Guards Rifle Division in June 1945; the second formation of the 7th Guards Airborne Division was started in September 1948 based on 322nd Guards Rifle Regiment. The first formation of the division was formed during the Second World War at Ramenskoye in December 1942, it fought at Demyansk, Korsun, on the Dnieper River, at Targul Frumos and Budapest. On May 8, 1945, the divisional commander, Major General Dmitrii Aristarkhovich Drichkin, set up his headquarters in the village of Erlauf, some 60 miles west of Vienna and 50 miles east of Linz. Anxious to meet the Allies, he sent out scouts. At midnight, he met Major General Stanley Eric Reinhart, commander of the U. S. 65th Infantry Division. For the duration of their presence on the Danube river, both commanders continued to cooperate in an unusually effective manner. Twenty years public affairs officer Captain John J. Pullen described their first cordial encounter for the National Observer.
For the 50th anniversary, Erlauf erected a Soviet-sponsored memorial. It features a local girl, linking arms with a GI on her right, a Soviet soldier on her left. To this day, an enlarged photo and a small exhibit mark the spot where this historic encounter took place: A life-size Major General Reinhart, smiling at General Drichkin, as they compare their watches one minute past midnight, on 9 May 1945, the moment the unconditional surrender of Germany became effective; as part of a postwar military reorganization at the end of June 1945, the first formation of the 7th Guards Airborne Division was retitled as the 115th Guards Rifle Division. The 22nd Guards Tank Division was activated on 4 June 1957 in Novomoskovsk, Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, from the 115th Guards Rifle Division; the baptism of fire of the second formation division's predecessor regiment took place in 1945, fighting around Lake Balaton under the 37th Guards Rifle Corps, 9th Guards Army, 3rd Ukrainian Front. On 26 April 1945, the 322nd Guards Rifle Regiment of the 103rd Guards Rifle Division was awarded the Order of Kutuzov, second class, for exemplary performance.
In commemoration, the division's official day is 26 April, by an order of the Defense Minister of the USSR. At the end of the war, the 322nd Guards Rifle Regiment was in the city of Czechoslovakia. During the war, the regiment was thanked on six occasions by the Supreme Commander. In all 2,065 of its soldiers and officers were decorated for valor and heroism by the Soviet Union; the 7th Guards Airborne Division was established on 15 October 1948 on the basis of the 322nd Guards Air Landing Regiment of the 103rd Guards Airborne Division at Polotsk in the Belorussian Military District, becoming part of the 8th Guards Airborne Corps. The division was relocated to the cities of Kaunas and Marijampole, Lithuanian SSR. Personnel from these bases took part in actions against Lithuanian partisans. Units in this premier division of airborne troops have mastered the landing of Antonov An-8, An-12, An-22, Il-76 aircraft, tested a number of new parachute systems, all generations of BMD, 2S9 Nona artillery systems.
In 1956, the division was involved in "Operation Whirlwind", the suppression of the Hungarian revolution. On 3 November 1956, the 108th Parachute Regiment landed at the Tököl airbase in Il-12 and Li-2 aircraft and disabling six antiaircraft batteries positioning themselves to defend the base. On 4 November 1956 the regimental staff, together with fighters from the 119th Parachute Regiment, entered the city of Budapest and took part in street fighting until the city was secured on 7 November. In 1968, the division participated in Operation Danube to suppress the Prague Spring uprising; the 108th Regiment distinguished itself in the most dangerous and difficult missions, for which about two hundred of its personnel received high government awards. On 23 June 1969, troops of the 108th Airborne Regiment were tasked to fly from Kaunas to Ryazan, where they were to demonstrate their vehicle assault landing skills to the Minister of Defence of the USSR, Andrei Grechko; the group of three An-12 aircraft took off early in the morning, reaching a cruising altitude of 3,000 metres.
Approaching the city of Kaluga, a plane carrying the staff of a company and battalion command collided with an Ilyushin Il-14 passenger plane, at 3000 meters without clearance, with the loss of all aboard. The division was involved in many major exercises and maneuvers, such as "Shield-76", "Neman", "West-81", "West-84" and "Watch-86", in the latter three exerc
Sliven is the eighth-largest city in Bulgaria and the administrative and industrial centre of Sliven Province and municipality. Sliven is famous for its heroes Haiduts who fought against the Ottoman Turks in the 19th century and is known as the "City of the 100 Voyvodi", a Voyvoda being a leader of Haiduts; the famous rocky massif Sinite Kamani and the associated national park, the fresh air and the mineral springs offer diverse opportunities for leisure and tourism. Investors are exploring the opportunity to use the famous local wind for the production of electricity. Another point of interest and a major symbol of the city as featured on the coat of arms, is over thousand-year-old Stariyat Briast, a huge Smooth-leaved Elm in the center of the city. In times of the Ottoman rule Turkish officials used to hang Bulgarian revolutionaries on it. Today the city is reinforcing its base, it was elected Bulgarian tree of the year in 2013. On 19 March 2014 the results of online poll were revealed at a ceremony in the European Parliament.
The Old Elm was voted European tree of the year 2014. Sliven Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Sliven; the name comes from the Slavic word sliv ending - en. | Sliven is located 300 km east of Bulgaria's capital Sofia, 100 km from Burgas, the country's largest commercial port, 130 km from the border with Greece and 130 km from the border with Turkey. It is located in close proximity to the cities of Nova Zagora. West of the city lies the so-called Peach Valley; the city is known for its mineral baths whose water is used to treat diseases of the liver and nervous system. The most visited geographical attraction in the city is the Karandila, it is a hilltop 1050m above sea level, with great sights overlooking the city. The rock formation Halkata is located on the Karandila, it is a rock protrusion with an peculiar hole in the center. According to myth, one would have their most sincere wish granted upon passing through the ring. Karandila is the site of the annual Karakachani festival, organized by the Federation of the Cultural and Educational Associations of Karakachans in Bulgaria each July.
Karandila is located in the nature park Sinite Kamani, whose peak Bulgarka is the highest in the eastern Balkan mountain. Sliven Municipality is situated on the sub-Balkan plain in the zone of transitional-continental climate. In the region of Sliven, winter is mild and summer is warm. Autumn is longer than spring; the local wind Bora is typical for the region. According to the Bulgarian National Statistical Institute, as of February 2011, the total population of the Sliven Municipality is 125,268 inhabitants while 91,620 inhabitants live in the city of Sliven; the town is called the under-age mother capital of Europe, with 177 such births in 2008. Members of the following ethnic groups are represented in the city's population: Bulgarians: 68,853 Roma: 5,666 Turks: 2,637 Sarakatsani and others: 1,388 Undefinable: 491 Undeclared: 12,585 Total: 91,620 In Sliven Municipality, 8,8750 declared as Bulgarians, 12,153 as Roma, 4,209 as Turks, 18,641 did not declare their ethnic group; the city of Sliven, Sliven Municipality and Sliven Province have the largest number of Roma in Bulgaria.
Remains of the oldest settlements on the territory of Sliven date back to around 6000 BCE of the Neolithic. Ruins of a Thracian settlement dating to around 5th–3rd century BCE as well as Thracian ceramics and Hellenistic coins have been discovered in the area of Hisarlaka — a small hill in Sliven. In antiquity it was known as Selymnos; the area occupied by present-day Sliven has in the past been settled by the Thracian tribes Asti and Seleti. These tribes held their independence until time of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great who conquered them; the 2nd century BCE marked the beginning of the Roman conquests of northeastern Thracia. Sliven was conquered by Rome around 72–71 BCE when the Thracian Kabile and Greek cities of Kabile and Apolonia are conquered. With the emergence of the Roman Empire the region of the city became part of the Thracian province of the Roman Empire. A new stage in the city's history began around 2nd-4th century; the first written records of the settlement's name, Tuida/Suida/Tsuida date to this period.
This name is most of Thracian origin. Its etymology is not understood. Known as "İslimye" by the Turks, during Ottoman rule it was a sanjak centre in first Rumelia eyalet Silistre eyalet, Edirne vilayet being for a short period a centre of a department in the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia before its inclusion in the Principality of Bulgaria in 1885. During the First World War it was the site of the Sliven prisoner of war camp, the largest such camp in the country, it was the place of internment for Greek and Serbian civilians and soldiers, with peak numbers of 19,000. In more modern times, Sliven became one of the most significant cultural centres during the Bulgarian National Revival, with much of its old heritage still preserved and enriched and today offers to its citizens and visitors a lot of opportunities for cultural life, it served as the birthplace of many prominent Bulgarians who contributed to the enlightenment such as Hadzhi Dimitar, Dobri Chintulov, Evgeniy Chapkanov, Ivan Seliminski and many others.
Another notable native is Anton Pann. Another notable resident is Yordan Letchkov, whose goal
Balta, Odessa Oblast
Balta is a city in Odessa Oblast in south-western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Balta Raion, as well as a city of regional significance. Population: 18,993 The city's population was 19,772 as of the 2001 Ukrainian Census. Balta was first founded in 1797 out of a combination of three nearby towns, it is located in the historic Podolia region of Ukraine. According to the Russian census of 1897, with a population of 23,363 it was the fourth largest city of Podolia after Kamianets-Podilskyi and Vinnytsia. In 1900, the city's Jewish population numbered 13,235. Pogroms occurred in Balta in 1882 and 1905. From 1924–1929, the city was the capital of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. With the annexation of Bessarabia in 1940, Balta became a part of the Odessa Oblast of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, it was occupied by German and Romanian troops in 5 August 1941 and became part of Transnistria Governorate in Kingdom of Romania until its liberation in 29 March 1944 by Red Army.
Balta is located near the Dniester River border with Moldova. Aryeh Altman, Israeli politician Aryeh Leib Schochet, Rabbi Yuly Aykhenvald, Ukrainian Jewish literary critic Zellig Harris, American linguist, mathematical syntactician, methodologist of science Vsevolod Holubovych, Prime Minister of the Ukrainian People's Republic Grigori Panteleimonov, Russian sport shooter who competed in the 1912 Summer Olympics Louis E. Stern American International Lawyer and friend of Chagall, Picasso and Miro, collection left to Philadelphia Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum Media related to Category:Balta at Wikimedia Commons "Main". Balta City Council. Retrieved 15 March 2013
The Demyansk Pocket was the name given to the pocket of German troops encircled by the Red Army around Demyansk, south of Leningrad, during World War II on the Eastern Front. The pocket existed from 8 February to 21 April 1942. A much smaller force was surrounded in the Kholm Pocket at the town of Kholm, about 100 km to the southwest. Both resulted from the German retreat following their defeat during the Battle of Moscow; the successful defence of Demyansk, achieved through the use of an airbridge, was a significant development in modern warfare. Its success was a major contributor to the decision by the Army High Command to try the same tactic during the Battle of Stalingrad where it failed to save the 6th Army under Paulus; the encirclement began as the Demyansk Offensive Operation, the first phase being carried out from 7 January-20 May 1942 on the initiative of General Lieutenant Pavel Kurochkin, commander of Northwestern Front. The intention was to sever the link between the German Demyansk positions, the Staraya Russa railway that formed the lines of communication of the German 16th Army.
However, owing to the difficult wooded and swampy terrain, heavy snow cover, the initial advance by the Front was modest against stubborn opposition. On 8 January, a new offensive called the Rzhev–Vyazma Strategic Offensive Operation started; this incorporated the previous Front's planning into the Toropets–Kholm Offensive Operation between 9 January and 6 February 1942 which formed the southern pincer of the attack that, beginning the second phase of the northern pincer Demyansk Offensive Operation between 7 January and 20 May, which encircled the German 16th Army's II Army Corps, parts of the X Army Corps during winter 1941/1942. German forces inside the pocket consisted of 12th, 30th, 32nd, 123rd and 290th infantry divisions, the SS Division Totenkopf, as well as Reich Labour Service, Organisation Todt, other auxiliary units, for a total of about 90,000 German troops and around 10,000 auxiliaries, their commander was commander of the II Army Corps. The intent of the Northwestern Front offensive was to encircle the entire northern flank of the 16th Army's forces, of which the 2nd Army Corps was only a small part, the Soviet command was desperate to keep the Front moving after this success.
The first thrust was made by the 11th Army, 1st Shock Army and the 1st and 2nd Guards Rifle Corps released for the operation from Stavka reserve. A second thrust was executed on 12 February by the 3rd and 4th Shock Armies of the Kalinin Front, with the additional plan of directly attacking the encircled German forces by inserting two airborne brigades to support the advance of the 34th Army; the front soon settled as the Soviet offensive petered out bad weather. After being assured that the pocket could be supplied with its daily requirement of 300 short tons of supplies by Luftflotte 1, Hitler ordered that the surrounded divisions hold their positions until relieved; the pocket contained two viable airfields at Demyansk and Peski capable of receiving transport aircraft. From the middle of February, the weather improved and while there was still considerable snow on the ground at this time, resupply operations were very successful due to inactivity of the VVS in the area. However, the operation did use up all of Luftflotte 1's transport capability, as well as elements of its bomber force.
Over the winter and spring, the Northwestern Front launched a number of attacks on the "Ramushevo corridor" that formed the tenuous link between Demyansk and Staraya Russa but was unable to reduce the pocket. On 21 March 1942, German forces under the command of General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach attempted to manoevre through the "Ramushevo corridor". Soviet resistance on the Lovat River delayed II Corps' attack until April 14. Over the next several weeks, this corridor was widened. A battle group was able to break the siege on 22 April. Out of the 100,000 men in the pocket, there were 3,335 lost and over 10,000 wounded. Between the forming of the pocket in early February to the abandonment of Demyansk in May, the two pockets received 65,000 short tons of supplies, 31,000 replacement troops, 36,000 wounded were evacuated; the supplies were delivered through over 100 flights of whitewashed Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft per day. However, the cost was significant; the Luftwaffe lost 265 aircraft, including 106 Junkers Ju 52, 17 Heinkel He 111 and two Junkers Ju 86 aircraft.
In addition, 387 airmen were lost. Richard Overy argues that the Demyansk airlift was a Pyrrhic victory, citing the loss of over 200 aircraft and their crew "when annual production of transports was running at only 500. Fighting in the area continued until 28 February 1943; the Soviet forces did not retake Demyansk until 1 March 1943, with the organized withdrawl of the German troops. The success of the Luftwaffe convinced Reich Marschall Hermann Göring and Hitler that they could conduct effective airlift operations on the Eastern front. Furthermore, it "determined Hitler in his belief that encircled troops should automatically hold on to their territory. After the German 6th Army was encircled in the Battle of Stalingrad, Göring convinced Hitler to resupply the besieged forces by airlift until a relief effort could reach them.
The Soviet Union the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were centralized; the country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Minsk, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, it spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, steppes and mountains; the Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s.
Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country. Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, agreeing to non-aggression with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk; the territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union.
The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization; the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika, which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments; as part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by some republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation.
Gorbachev's power was diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union; the remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state. The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus; the country had the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, it was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
The word "Soviet" is derived from a Russian word сове́т meaning council, advice, harmony and all deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti, related to Slavic věst, English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or", or the Dutch weten. The word sovietnik means "councillor". A number of organizations in Russian history were called "council". For example, in the Russian Empire the State Council, which functioned from 1810 to 1917, was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905. During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia. Stalin resisted the proposal, but accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name of the newly proposed sta