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The World Factbook (1990)/Soviet Union


Soviet Union

World Factbook (1990) Soviet Union.jpg

See regional maps VIII and XI


Total area: 22,402,200 km²; land area: 22,272,000 km²

Comparative area: slightly less than 2.5 times the size of US

Land boundaries: 19,933 km total; Afghanistan 2,384 km, Czechoslovakia 98 km, China 7,520 km, Finland 1,313 km, Hungary 135 km, Iran 1,690 km, North Korea 17 km, Mongolia 3,441 km, Norway 196 km, Poland 1,215 km, Romania 1,307 km, Turkey 617 km

Coastline: 42,777 km

Maritime claims:

Continental shelf: 200 meters or to depth of exploitation
Extended economic zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 12 nm

Disputes: bilateral negotiations are under way to resolve four disputed sections of the boundary with China (Pamir, Argun, Amur, and Khabarovsk areas); US Government has not recognized the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the Soviet Union; Habomai Islands, Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan islands occupied by Soviet Union since 1945, claimed by Japan; Kuril Islands administered by Soviet Union; maritime dispute with Norway over portion of Barents Sea; has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other nation; Bessarabia question with Romania; Kurdish question among Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and the USSR

Climate: mostly temperate to arctic continental; winters vary from cool along Black Sea to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from hot in southern deserts to cool along Arctic coast

Terrain: broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia, deserts in Central Asia, mountains in south

Natural resources: self-sufficient in oil, natural gas, coal, and strategic minerals (except bauxite, alumina, tantalum, tin, tungsten, fluorspar, and molybdenum), timber, gold, manganese, lead, zinc, nickel, mercury, potash, phosphates

Land use: 10% arable land; NEGL% permanent crops; 17% meadows and pastures; 41% forest and woodland; 32% other; includes 1% irrigated

Environment: despite size and diversity, small percentage of land is arable and much is too far north; some of most fertile land is water deficient or has insufficient growing season; many better climates have poor soils; hot, dry, desiccating sukhovey wind affects south; desertification; continuous permafrost over much of Siberia is a major impediment to development

Note: largest country in world, but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of world


Population: 290,938,469 (July 1990), growth rate 0.7% (1990)

Birth rate: 18 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 1 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 24 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 65 years male, 74 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 2.4 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Soviet(s); adjective—Soviet

Ethnic divisions: Russian 50.78%, Ukrainian 15.45%, Uzbek 5.84%, Byelorussian 3.51%, Kazakh 2.85%, Azerbaijan 2.38%, Armenian 1.62%, Tajik 1.48%, Georgian 1.39%, Moldavian 1.17%, Lithuanian 1.07%, Turkmen 0.95%, Kirghiz 0.89%, Latvian 0.51%, Estonian 0.36%, others 9.75%

Religion: 20% Russian Orthodox; 10% Muslim; 7% Protestant, Georgian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic; less than 1% Jewish; 60% atheist (est.)

Language: Russian (official); more than 200 languages and dialects (at least 18 with more than 1 million speakers); 75% Slavic group, 8% other Indo-European, 12% Altaic, 3% Uralian, 2% Caucasian

Literacy: 99%

Labor force: 152,300,000 civilians; 80% industry and other nonagricultural fields, 20% agriculture; shortage of skilled labor (1989)

Organized labor: 98% of workers are union members; all trade unions are organized within the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions (AUCCTU) and conduct their work under guidance of the Communist party


Long-form name: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; abbreviated USSR

Type: Communist state

Capital: Moscow

Administrative divisions: 1 soviet federative socialist republic* (sovetskaya federativnaya sotsialistcheskaya respublika) and 14 soviet socialist republics (sovetskiye sotsialisticheskiye respubliki, singular—sovetskaya sotsialisticheskaya respublika); Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic, Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic*, Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic; note—the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic is often abbreviated RSFSR and Soviet Socialist Republic is often abbreviated SSR

Independence: 1721 (Russian Empire proclaimed)

Constitution: 7 October 1977

Legal system: civil law system as modified by Communist legal theory; no judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Great October Socialist Revolution, 7-8 November (1917)

Executive branch: president

Legislative branch: the Congress of People's Deputies is the supreme organ of USSR state power and selects the bicameral USSR Supreme Soviet (Verkhovnyy Sovyet) which consists of two coequal houses—Council of the Union (Sovet Soyuza) and Council of Nationalities (Sovet Natsionalnostey)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of the USSR

Leaders: Chief of State—President Mikhail Sergeyevich GORBACHEV (since 14 March 1990; General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party since 11 March 1985);

Head of Government—Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers Nikolay Ivanovich RYZHKOV (since 28 September 1985)

Political parties and leaders: only party—Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), President Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU; note the CPSU is the only party, but others are forming

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: President—last held 14 March 1990 (next to be held NA 1995); results—Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was elected by the Congress of People's Deputies;

Congress of People's Deputies—last held 12 March 1990 (next to be held NA); results—CPSU is the only party; seats—(2,250 total) CPSU 1,931, non-CPSU 319; USSR Supreme Soviet—last held NA June 1989 (next to be held NA); results—CPSU is the only party; seats—(542 total) CPSU 475, non-CPSU 67;

Council of the Union—last held Spring 1989 (next to be held NA); results—CPSU is the only party; seats—(271 total) CPSU 239, non-CPSU 32;

Council of Nationalities—last held Spring 1989 (next to be held NA); results—CPSU is the only party; seats—(271 total) CPSU 236, non-CPSU 35

Communists: about 19 million party members

Other political or pressure groups: Komsomol, trade unions, and other organizations that facilitate Communist control; regional popular fronts, informal organizations, and nascent parties with varying attitudes toward the Communist Party establishment

Member of: CEMA, ESCAP, IAEA, IBEC, ICAC, ICAO, ICCO, ICES, ILO, ILZSG, IMO, INRO, INTERPOL, IPU, ISO, ITC, ITU, International Whaling Commission, IWC—International Wheat Council, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, Warsaw Pact, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador-designate Aleksandr BESSMERTNYKH; Chancery at 1125 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20036; telephone (202) 628-7551 or 8548; there is a Soviet Consulate General in San Francisco; US—Ambassador Jack F. MATLOCK, Jr.; Embassy at Ulitsa Chaykovskogo 19/21/23, Moscow (mailing address is APO New York 09862); telephone [7](096) 252-24-51 through 59; there is a US Consulate General in Leningrad

Flag: red with the yellow silhouette of a crossed hammer and sickle below a yellow-edged five-pointed red star in the upper hoist-side corner


Overview: The first five years of perestroyka (economic restructuring) have undermined the institutions and processes of the Soviet command economy without replacing them with efficiently functioning markets. The initial reforms featured greater authority for enterprise managers over prices, wages, product mix, investment, sources of supply, and customers. But in the absence of effective market discipline, the result was the disappearance of low-price goods, excessive wage increases, an even larger volume of unfinished construction projects, and, in general, continued economic stagnation. The Gorbachev regime has made at least four serious errors in economic policy in these five years: the unpopular and short-lived anti-alcohol campaign; the initial cutback in imports of consumer goods; the failure to act decisively for the privatization of agriculture; and the buildup of a massive overhang of unspent rubles in the hands of households and enterprises. In October 1989, a top economic adviser, Leonid Abalkin presented an ambitious but reasonable timetable for the conversion to a partially privatized market system in the 1990s. In December 1989, however, Premier Ryzhkov's conservative approach prevailed, namely, the contention that a period of retrenchment was necessary to provide a stable financial and legislative base for launching further reforms. Accordingly, the new strategy was to put the reform process on hold in 1990-92 by recentralizing economic authority and to placate the rank-and-file through sharp increases in consumer goods output. In still another policy twist, the leadership in early 1990 was considering a marked speedup in the marketization process. Because the economy is caught in between two systems, there was in 1989 an even greater mismatch between what was produced and what would serve the best interests of enterprises and households. Meanwhile, the seething nationality problems have been dislocating regional patterns of economic specialization and pose a further major threat to growth prospects over the next few years.

GNP: $2,659.5 billion, per capita $9,211; real growth rate 1.4% (1989 est. based on Soviet statistics; cutbacks in Soviet reporting on products included in sample make the estimate subject to greater uncertainty than in earlier years)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 6% (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: officially, no unemployment

Budget: revenues $622 billion; expenditures $781 billion, including capital expenditures of $119 billion (1989 est.)

Exports: $110.7 billion (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, metals, wood, agricultural products, and a wide variety of manufactured goods (primarily capital goods and arms); partners—Eastern Europe 49%, EC 14%, Cuba 5%, US, Afghanistan (1988)

Imports: $107.3 billion (c.i.f., 1988); commodities—grain and other agricultural products, machinery and equipment, steel products (including large-diameter pipe), consumer manufactures; partners—Eastern Europe 54%, EC 11%, Cuba, China, US (1988)

External debt: $27.3 billion (1988)

Industrial production: growth rate 0.2% (1989 est.)

Electricity: 355,000,000 kW capacity; 1,790,000 million kWh produced, 6,150 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: diversified, highly developed capital goods and defense industries; consumer goods industries comparatively less developed

Agriculture: accounts for roughly 20% of GNP and labor force; production based on large collective and state farms; inefficiently managed; wide range of temperate crops and livestock produced; world's second-largest grain producer after the US; shortages of grain, oilseeds, and meat; world's leading producer of sawnwood and roundwood; annual fish catch among the world's largest—11.2 million metric tons (1987)

Illicit drugs: illegal producer of cannabis and opium poppy, mostly for domestic consumption; government has begun eradication program to control cultivation; used as a transshipment country

Aid: donor—extended to non-Communist less developed countries (1954-88), $47.4 billion; extended to other Communist countries (1954-88), $147.6 billion

Currency: ruble (plural—rubles); 1 ruble (R) = 100 kopeks

Exchange rates: rubles (R) per US$1—0.600 (February 1990), 0.629 (1989), 0.629 (1988), 0.633 (1987), 0.704 (1986), 0.838 (1985); note—the exchange rate is administratively set and should not be used indiscriminately to convert domestic rubles to dollars; on 1 November 1989 the USSR began using a rate of 6.26 rubles to the dollar for Western tourists buying rubles and for Soviets traveling abroad, but retained the official exchange rate for most trade transactions

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 146,100 km total; 51,700 km electrified; does not include industrial lines (1987)

Highways: 1,609,900 km total; 1,196,000 km hard-surfaced (asphalt, concrete, stone block, asphalt treated, gravel, crushed stone); 413,900 km earth (1987)

Inland waterways: 122,500 km navigable, exclusive of Caspian Sea (1987)

Pipelines: 81,500 km crude oil and refined products; 195,000 km natural gas (1987)

Ports: Leningrad, Riga, Tallinn, Kaliningrad, Liepaja, Ventspils, Murmansk, Arkhangel'sk, Odessa, Novorossiysk, Il'ichevsk, Nikolayev, Sevastopol', Vladivostok, Nakhodka; inland ports are Astrakhan', Baku, Gor'kiy, Kazan', Khabarovsk, Krasnoyarsk, Kuybyshev, Moscow, Rostov, Volgograd, Kiev

Merchant marine: 1,646 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 16,436,063 GRT/22,732,215 DWT; includes 53 passenger, 937 cargo, 52 container, 11 barge carrier, 5 roll-on/float off cargo, 5 railcar carrier, 108 roll-on/roll-orT cargo, 251 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 11 liquefied gas, 21 combination ore/oil, 4 specialized liquid carrier, 17 chemical tanker, 171 bulk; note—639 merchant ships are based in Black Sea, 383 in Baltic Sea, 408 in Soviet Far East, and 216 in Barents Sea and White Sea; the Soviet Ministry of Merchant Marine is beginning to use foreign registries for its merchant ships to increase the economic competitiveness of the fleet in the international market—the first reregistered ships have gone to the Cypriot flag

Civil air: 4,500 major transport aircraft

Airports: 6,950 total, 4,530 usable; 1,050 with permanent-surface runways; 30 with runways over 3,659 m; 490 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 660 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: extensive network of AM-FM stations broadcasting both Moscow and regional programs; main TV centers in Moscow and Leningrad plus 11 more in the Soviet republics; hundreds of TV stations; 85,000,000 TV sets; 162,000,000 radio receivers; many satellite earth stations and extensive satellite networks (including 2 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT and 1 Indian Ocean INTELSAT earth stations)

Defense Forces

Branches: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Defense Forces, Air Forces, Strategic Rocket Forces

Military manpower: males 15-49, 69,634,893; 55,588,743 fit for military service; 2,300,127 million reach military age (18) annually (down somewhat from 2,500,000 a decade ago)

Defense expenditures: NA