Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place, now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes; the history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age. Egypt reached the pinnacle of its power in the New Kingdom, ruling much of Nubia and a sizable portion of the Near East, after which it entered a period of slow decline. During the course of its history Egypt was invaded or conquered by a number of foreign powers, including the Hyksos, the Libyans, the Nubians, the Assyrians, the Achaemenid Persians, the Macedonians under the command of Alexander the Great; the Greek Ptolemaic Kingdom, formed in the aftermath of Alexander's death, ruled Egypt until 30 BC, under Cleopatra, it fell to the Roman Empire and became a Roman province.
The success of ancient Egyptian civilization came from its ability to adapt to the conditions of the Nile River valley for agriculture. The predictable flooding and controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which supported a more dense population, social development and culture. With resources to spare, the administration sponsored mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions, the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, a military intended to assert Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, administrators under the control of a pharaoh, who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people in the context of an elaborate system of religious beliefs; the many achievements of the ancient Egyptians include the quarrying and construction techniques that supported the building of monumental pyramids and obelisks.
Ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy. Its art and architecture were copied, its antiquities carried off to far corners of the world, its monumental ruins have inspired the imaginations of writers for centuries. A new-found respect for antiquities and excavations in the early modern period by Europeans and Egyptians led to the scientific investigation of Egyptian civilization and a greater appreciation of its cultural legacy; the Nile has been the lifeline of its region for much of human history. The fertile floodplain of the Nile gave humans the opportunity to develop a settled agricultural economy and a more sophisticated, centralized society that became a cornerstone in the history of human civilization. Nomadic modern human hunter-gatherers began living in the Nile valley through the end of the Middle Pleistocene some 120,000 years ago. By the late Paleolithic period, the arid climate of Northern Africa became hot and dry, forcing the populations of the area to concentrate along the river region.
In Predynastic and Early Dynastic times, the Egyptian climate was much less arid. Large regions of Egypt were traversed by herds of grazing ungulates. Foliage and fauna were far more prolific in all environs and the Nile region supported large populations of waterfowl. Hunting would have been common for Egyptians, this is the period when many animals were first domesticated. By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of cultures demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry, identifiable by their pottery and personal items, such as combs and beads; the largest of these early cultures in upper Egypt was the Badari, which originated in the Western Desert. The Badari was followed by the Amratian and Gerzeh cultures, which brought a number of technological improvements; as early as the Naqada I Period, predynastic Egyptians imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes. In Naqada II times, early evidence exists of contact with the Near East Canaan and the Byblos coast.
Over a period of about 1,000 years, the Naqada culture developed from a few small farming communities into a powerful civilization whose leaders were in complete control of the people and resources of the Nile valley. Establishing a power center at Nekhen, at Abydos, Naqada III leaders expanded their control of Egypt northwards along the Nile, they traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the western desert to the west, the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and Near East to the east, initiating a period of Egypt-Mesopotamia relations. The Naqada culture manufactured a diverse selection of material goods, reflective of the increasing power and wealth of the elite, as well as societal personal-use items, which included combs, small statuary, painted pottery, high quality decorative stone vases, cosmetic palettes, jewelry made of gold and ivory, they developed a ceramic glaze known as faience, used well into the Roman Per
Lapis lazuli, or lapis for short, is a deep blue metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone, prized since antiquity for its intense color. As early as the 7th millennium BCE, lapis lazuli was mined in the Sar-i Sang mines, in Shortugai, in other mines in Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan. Lapis was valued by the Indus Valley Civilisation. Lapis beads have been found at Neolithic burials in Mehrgarh, the Caucasus, as far from Afghanistan as Mauritania, it was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun. At the end of the Middle Ages, lapis lazuli began to be exported to Europe, where it was ground into powder and made into ultramarine, the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments, it was used by some of the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque, including Masaccio, Perugino and Vermeer, was reserved for the clothing of the central figures of their paintings the Virgin Mary. Today, mines in northeast Afghanistan are still the major source of lapis lazuli. Important amounts are produced from mines west of Lake Baikal in Russia, in the Andes mountains in Chile.
Smaller quantities are mined in Italy, the United States, Canada. Lapis is the Latin word for "stone" and lazulī is the genitive form of the Medieval Latin lazulum, taken from the Arabic لازورد lāzaward, itself from the Persian لاجورد lājevard, the name of the stone in Persian and of a place where lapis lazuli was mined. "Lazulum" is etymologically related to the color blue and used as a root for the word for blue in several languages, including Spanish and Portuguese "azul". The most important mineral component of lapis lazuli is lazurite, a feldspathoid silicate mineral with the formula 861-2. Most lapis lazuli contains calcite and pyrite; some samples of lapis lazuli contain augite. Lapis lazuli occurs in crystalline marble as a result of contact metamorphism; the intense blue color is due to the presence of the trisulfur radical anion in the crystal. An electronic excitation of one electron from the highest doubly filled molecular orbital into the lowest singly occupied orbital results in a intense absorption line at λmax ~617 nm.
Lapis lazuli is found in limestone in the Kokcha River valley of Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan, where the Sar-e-Sang mine deposits have been worked for more than 6,000 years. Afghanistan was the source of lapis for the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, as well as the Greeks and Romans. Ancient Egyptians obtained this material through trade from Afghanistan with the Aryans. During the height of the Indus Valley Civilisation about 2000 BCE, the Harappan colony now known as Shortugai was established near the lapis mines. According to the Sorbonne's mineralogist Pierre Bariand's leading work on the sources of lapis lazuli in modern times, to references in Afghanistan's Blue Treasure: Lapis Lazuli by Lailee McNair Bakhtiar, the lapis lazuli is found in "caves" not traditionally considered "mines" and the stone lapis lazuli is from the primary source of the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan's Kochka River Valley and not in Pakistan. In addition to the Afghan deposits, lapis is extracted in the Andes.
It is mined in smaller amounts in Angola. Lapis takes an excellent polish and can be made into jewelry, boxes, ornaments, small statues, vases. During the Renaissance, Lapis was ground and processed to make the pigment ultramarine for use in frescoes and oil painting, its usage as a pigment in oil paint ended in the early 19th century when a chemically identical synthetic variety became available. Lapis lazuli is commercially synthesized or simulated by the Gilson process, used to make artificial ultramarine and hydrous zinc phosphates, it may be substituted by spinel or sodalite, or by dyed jasper or howlite. Lapis lazuli has been mined in Afghanistan and exported to the Mediterranean world and South Asia since the Neolithic age. Lapis lazuli beads have been found at Mehrgarh, a neolithic site near Quetta in Pakistan, on the ancient trade route between Afghanistan and the Indus Valley, dating to the 7th millennium BCE. Quantities of these beads have been found at 4th millennium BCE settlements in Northern Mesopotamia, at the Bronze Age site of Shahr-e Sukhteh in southeast Iran.
A dagger with a lapis handle, a bowl inlaid with lapis, amulets and inlays representing eyebrows and beards, were found in the Royal Tombs of the Sumerian city-state of Ur from the 3rd Millennium BCE. Lapis was used in ancient Mesopotamia by the Akkadians and Babylonians for seals and jewelry. In the Mesopotamian poem the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest known works of literature, lapis lazuli is mentioned several times; the Statue of Ebih-Il, a 3rd millennium BCE statue found in the ancient city-state of Mari in modern-day Syria, now in the Louvre, uses lapis lazuli inlays for the irises of the eyes. In ancient Egypt, lapis lazuli was a favorite stone for ornaments such as scarabs. Lapis jewelry has been found at excavations of the Predynastic Egyptian site Naqada. At Karnak, the relief carvings of Thutmose III show fragments and barrel-shaped pieces of lapis lazuli being delivered to him as tribute. Powdered lapis was u
Afghanistan the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in South-Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east, its territory covers 652,000 square kilometers and much of it is covered by the Hindu Kush mountain range, which experiences cold winters. The north consists of fertile plains, while the south-west consists of deserts where temperatures can get hot in summers. Kabul serves as its largest city. Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, the country's strategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia; the land has been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, British and since 2001 by the United States with NATO-allied countries. It has been called "unconquerable" and nicknamed the "graveyard of empires"; the land served as the source from which the Kushans, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Khaljis, Hotaks and others have risen to form major empires.
The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan began with the Hotak and Durrani dynasties in the 18th century. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between British India and the Russian Empire, its border with British India, the Durand Line, was formed in 1893 but it is not recognized by the Afghan government and it has led to strained relations with Pakistan since the latter's independence in 1947. Following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919 the country was free of foreign influence becoming a monarchy under King Amanullah, until 50 years when Zahir Shah was overthrown and a republic was established. In 1978, after a second coup Afghanistan first became a socialist state and a Soviet Union protectorate; this evoked the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s against mujahideen rebels. By 1996 most of Afghanistan was captured by the Islamic fundamentalist group the Taliban, who ruled most of the country as a totalitarian regime for over five years.
The Taliban were forcibly removed by the NATO-led coalition, a new democratically-elected government political structure was formed, but they still control a significant portion of the country. Afghanistan is a unitary presidential Islamic republic with a population of 31 million composed of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks, it is a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Group of 77, the Economic Cooperation Organization, the Non-Aligned Movement. Afghanistan's economy is the world's 108th largest, with a GDP of $64.08 billion. The name Afghānistān is believed to be as old as the ethnonym Afghan, documented in the 10th-century geography book Hudud ul-'alam; the root name "Afghan" was used in reference to a member of the ethnic Pashtuns, the suffix "-stan" means "place of" in Persian. Therefore, Afghanistan translates to land of the Afghans or, more in a historical sense, to land of the Pashtuns. However, the modern Constitution of Afghanistan states that "he word Afghan shall apply to every citizen of Afghanistan."
Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites; the country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire, the Islamic Empire. Many empires and kingdoms have risen to power in Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Samanids, Ghurids, Kartids, Timurids and the Hotak and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state.
Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Neolithic and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan. Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, the early city of Mundigak may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization. More recent findings established that the Indus Valley Civilisation stretched up towards modern-day Afghanistan, making the ancient civilisation today part of Pakistan and India. In more detail, it extended from what today is northwest Pakistan to northwest India and northeast Afghanistan. An Indus Valley site has been found on the Oxus River at Shortugai in northern Afghanistan. There are several smaller IVC colonies to be found in Afghanistan as well. After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic
The Panj River known as Pyandzh River or Pyanj River, is a tributary of the Amu Darya. The river forms a considerable part of the Afghanistan -- Tajikistan border; the river is formed by the confluence of the Pamir River and the Wakhan River near the village of Qalʿa-ye Panja. From there, it flows westwards, forming the border of Tajikistan. After passing the city of Khorog, capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan it receives water from one of its main tributaries, the Bartang River, it turns towards the southwest, before joining the river Vakhsh and forming the greatest river of Central Asia, the Amudarya. Panj played an important role during Soviet times, was a strategic river during the Soviet military operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s. A water treaty between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan, signed in 1946, allows Afghanistan to draw 9 million cubic metres of water a year, it draws 2 million cubic metres of water. According to the Panj River Basin Project environmental damage could be expected if Afghanistan drew the entire amount of water from the river that the treaty allows.
Afghanistan-Tajikistan Bridge: A highway bridge was built over the river between Tajikistan and Afghanistan at Nizhnii Panj. The contract was awarded in May 2005 and the construction of the bridge began in Jan 2006 and was completed in August 2007; the financing was provided by the USA, amounting to 37 million USD, the construction was done by an Italian General Construction company Rizzani de Eccher S.p. A. under the ownership of US Army Corps of Engineers. The bridge replaces a barge that could transport only 60 cars a day and, unusable many months in the year due to strong currents in the river. RAWA reports that this facilitates the key to the economic miracle in Afghanistan. Another bridge was built at the confluence with the Gunt River at Khorog in 2003. A bridge exists at Langar; the Aga Khan Development Network has been engaged in a project to build a series of three bridges across the Panj River between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The first of these bridges, connecting Tem on the Tajik side with Demogan on the Afghan side, was inaugurated by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmonov, Afghanistan’s Vice-President Hedayat Amin Arsala and His Highness the Aga Khan in November, 2002.
This was followed by the inauguration of the Tajik-Afghan Friendship Bridge at Darwaz in July, 2004, The Ishkashim bridge between Ishkashim and Ishkashim, Tajikistan was inaugurated in October, 2006. Amu Darya
Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days corresponding to most of Iraq, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders. The Sumerians and Akkadians dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire, it fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire. Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with western parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, the eastern regions of Mesopotamia fell to the Sassanid Persians; the division of Mesopotamia between Roman and Sassanid Empires lasted until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire and Muslim conquest of the Levant from Byzantines.
A number of neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene and Hatra. Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC, it has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics and agriculture". The regional toponym Mesopotamia comes from the ancient Greek root words μέσος "middle" and ποταμός "river" and translates to " between two/the rivers", it is used throughout the Greek Septuagint to translate the Aramaic equivalent Naharaim. An earlier Greek usage of the name Mesopotamia is evident from The Anabasis of Alexander, written in the late 2nd century AD, but refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. In the Anabasis, Mesopotamia was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.
The Aramaic term biritum/birit narim corresponded to a similar geographical concept. The term Mesopotamia was more applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey; the neighbouring steppes to the west of the Euphrates and the western part of the Zagros Mountains are often included under the wider term Mesopotamia. A further distinction is made between Northern or Upper Mesopotamia and Southern or Lower Mesopotamia. Upper Mesopotamia known as the Jazira, is the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris from their sources down to Baghdad. Lower Mesopotamia is the area from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf and includes Kuwait and parts of western Iran. In modern academic usage, the term Mesopotamia also has a chronological connotation, it is used to designate the area until the Muslim conquests, with names like Syria and Iraq being used to describe the region after that date. It has been argued that these euphemisms are Eurocentric terms attributed to the region in the midst of various 19th-century Western encroachments.
Mesopotamia encompasses the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both of which have their headwaters in the Taurus Mountains. Both rivers are fed by numerous tributaries, the entire river system drains a vast mountainous region. Overland routes in Mesopotamia follow the Euphrates because the banks of the Tigris are steep and difficult; the climate of the region is semi-arid with a vast desert expanse in the north which gives way to a 15,000-square-kilometre region of marshes, mud flats, reed banks in the south. In the extreme south, the Euphrates and the Tigris empty into the Persian Gulf; the arid environment which ranges from the northern areas of rain-fed agriculture to the south where irrigation of agriculture is essential if a surplus energy returned on energy invested is to be obtained. This irrigation is aided by a high water table and by melting snows from the high peaks of the northern Zagros Mountains and from the Armenian Highlands, the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that give the region its name.
The usefulness of irrigation depends upon the ability to mobilize sufficient labor for the construction and maintenance of canals, this, from the earliest period, has assisted the development of urban settlements and centralized systems of political authority. Agriculture throughout the region has been supplemented by nomadic pastoralism, where tent-dwelling nomads herded sheep and goats from the river pastures in the dry summer months, out into seasonal grazing lands on the desert fringe in the wet winter season; the area is lacking in building stone, precious metals and timber, so has relied upon long-distance trade of agricultural products to secure these items from outlying areas. In the marshlands to the south of the area, a complex water-borne fishing culture has existed since prehistoric times, has added to the cultural mix. Periodic breakdowns in the cultural system have occurred for a number of reasons; the demands for labor has from time to time led to population increases that push the limits of the ecological carrying capacity, should a period of climatic instability ensue, collapsing central government a
The Hindu Kush known in Ancient Greek as the Caucasus Indicus or Paropamisadae, is an 800-kilometre-long mountain range that stretches near the Afghan-Pakistan border, from central Afghanistan to northern Pakistan. It forms the western section of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, it divides the valley of the Amu Darya to the north from the Indus River valley to the south. The Hindu Kush range has numerous high snow-capped peaks, with the highest point in the Hindu Kush being Tirich Mir or Terichmir at 7,708 metres in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. To the north, near its northeastern end, the Hindu Kush buttresses the Pamir Mountains near the point where the borders of China and Afghanistan meet, after which it runs southwest through Pakistan and into Afghanistan near their border; the eastern end of the Hindu Kush in the north merges with the Karakoram Range. Towards its southern end, it connects with the Spin Ghar Range near the Kabul River; the Hindu Kush range region was a significant centre of Buddhism with sites such as the Bamiyan Buddhas.
The range and communities settled in it hosted ancient monasteries, important trade networks, travelers between Central Asia and South Asia. The Hindu Kush range has been the passageway during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent, continues to be important during modern-era warfare in Afghanistan. Geologically, the range is rooted in the formation of a subcontinent from a region of Gondwana that drifted away from East Africa about 160 million years ago, around the Middle Jurassic period; the Indian subcontinent and islands of the Indian Ocean rifted further, drifting northeastwards, with the Indian subcontinent colliding with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago, towards the end of Palaeocene. This collision created the Himalayas, including the Hindu Kush; the Hindu Kush range is still rising. It is prone to earthquakes; the origins of the name Hindu Kush are uncertain, with various theories being propounded by different scholars and writers. According to Hobson-Jobson, the name might be a possible corruption of Indicus Caucasus, with another explanation mentioned first by Ibn Batuta remaining popular despite doubts upon it, the modification of the name by some writers into Hindu Koh is factitious and throws no light on the name's origin.
In the time of Alexander the Great, the Hindu Kush range was referred to as the Caucasus Indicus or the "Caucasus of the Indus River", in the time of Islam in India, the regular invasions derived Hind Kash as Hindu Kush Hindū Kūh and Kūh-e Hind applied to the entire range separating the basins of the Kabul and Helmand Rivers from that of the Amu Darya, or, more to that part of the range lying northwest of Kabul. Sanskrit documents refer to the Hindu Kush as Hind kshetra in short Hind Kash as frontier lands of India. "Kash as in Kashmir" word synonym of frontier part of a "Kusha" grass. Hind Kash all around from Amu Darya to Kashmir was Kshetra for meditation and teaching by founders of Hinduism; the mountain range was called "Paropamisadae" by Hellenic Greeks in the late first millennium BC. The word Koh or Kuh means "mountain" in Khowar. According to Nigel Allan, Hindu Kush meant both "mountains of India" and "sparkling snows of India", as he notes, from a Central Asian perspective. A Persian-English dictionary indicates that the suffix'koš' is the present stem of the verb "to kill".
According to Francis Joseph Steingass, the word and suffix "-kush" means "a male. A Practical Dictionary of the Persian Language gives the meaning of the word kush as "hotbed". According to one interpretation, the name Hindu Kush means "kills the Hindu" or "Hindu killer" and is a reminder of the days when slaves from the Indian subcontinent died in the harsh weather typical of the Afghan mountains while being taken to Central Asia; the World Book Encyclopedia states that the word kush means death, was given to the mountains because of their dangerous passes. In his travel memoirs about India, the 14th century Moroccan traveller Muhammad Ibn Battuta mentioned crossing into India via the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush. In his Rihla, he mentions the history of the range in slave trading. Alexander von Humboldt stated that it can be learned from his work that the name only referred to a single mountain pass upon which many Indian slaves died of the cold weather. Battuta wrote, After this I proceeded to the city of Barwan, in the road to, a high mountain, covered with snow and exceedingly cold.
The name Hindu Kush is young, states Ervin Grötzbach, it is "missing from the accounts of the early Arab geographers and occurs for the first time in Ibn Baṭṭuṭa". Ibn Baṭṭuṭa, states Grötzbach, saw the "origin of the name Hindu Kush in the fact that numerous Hindu slaves died crossing the pass on their way from India to Turkestan". In contrast, state Fosco Maraini and Nigel Allan, the earliest known usage occurs on a map published about 1000 CE. According to Allan, the term Hindu Kush has been seen to mean "Hindu killer", but two other meaning
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