What Are Soviet Satellite States?

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Soviet satellite states are the countries that remained occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and had their governments replaced by governments based on the Soviet model. These countries included Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany. The term “satellite” was applied because in the view of the West, these were countries effectively caught in the “orbit” of the communist superpower.

Although the term “satellite state” generally referred to East European countries, there were countries outside Europe that bore many of the same hallmarks. Afghanistan’s government in Kabul was loyal to the Soviets until 1992, and the East Turkestan Republic was considered a Soviet state until it was absorbed into China in 1949. The most infamous non-European satellite state was Cuba, which the Soviet Union used as a staging ground for intermediate-range ballistic missiles in 1962. This arming of Cuba led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of that year; the confrontation was the closest the world came to a global nuclear war in the 20th century.

There were also Soviet satellites before the close of World War II. In the 1920s, the Soviet Union aided Mongolia in its quest for independence from China and helped set up a communist government in the country. Tuva and the Far East Republic in Siberia were two other states formed between the wars, although both of these states were later absorbed directly into Russia.