The largest country at the time of its formation in 1922, and its collapse in 1991, the Soviet Union was the first nation-state to be based on Marxist socialism. Occupying nearly one-sixth of the Earth’s land surface, including the eastern half of Europe and roughly the northern third of Asia, the many Soviet states covered more than 6,800 miles (10,900 kilometres) from east to west; over 11 of the world’s 24 time zones.
When Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR, or the Soviet Union) collapsed in 1991, it led to the independence of these 15 countries that we know today.
So let’s take a look at these former Soviet states and see what they have to offer:
One of the Central Asian countries, did you know that Turkmenistan is 70% desert? Yes, it is home of the vast Karakum Desert. Explore the desert, during your desert walkabouts, which used to be home to a giant sea 30 million years ago
The mysterious and un-explored Turkmenistan is a perfect blend of Silk Road history and the traditional nomadic culture.
PS: Don’t forget to visit the white marble capital of Ashgabat.
The smallest Central Asian country, Tajikistan is a landlocked and highly mountainous region. With more than 90% of its region being mountainous– multi-hued lakes, peaks and high passes are perfect for hikers and trekkers!
Travel to the only non-Turk country of central Asia for its mountainous landscape, less explored cultures and its scattered villages.
A true enigma of Central Asia, Uzbekistan will lure you in with its mosques, mausoleums, madrasas and other sites linked to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean.
Rich in history you’ll find three of the Silk route’s most important cities in Uzbekistan- Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. These cities were key stopovers for traders, and have now been meticulously restored to their former glory. Due to this refurbishment, you’ll find a charming mixture of 12th-century mosques and classical Russian architecture.
PS: Must visit the booming capital- Tashkent
Also Read: The Top 13 Places To Visit in Uzbekistan
Another landlocked and mountainous Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan is known for its incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Immerse yourself in these nomadic cultures with their new home stays and yurt stays.
A paradise for hikers, trekkers’ climbers and riders as one gets to feast his/her eyes on the unspoilt mountain-scapes, stark craggy ridges and rolling jailoos (summer pastures).
This central Asian country extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. It is known to be economically the most advanced of the ‘stans’. This has been possible only because of the abundant reserves of oil and most valuable minerals found in this country.
The world’s 9th biggest country in size, Kazakhstan is the richest Central Asian country. The biggest city in the country, Almaty, will surprise you with its Europe-like its leafy avenues, chic ALZhiR Museum-Memorial Complex, glossy shopping centres and hedonistic nightlife.
But beyond the fancy cities, the endless featureless steppe in Kazakhstan calls your adventurous spirit with whether hiking in the high mountains, searching for wildlife, enjoying homespun hospitality in village guesthouses, or jolting across the western deserts to remote underground mosques.
Situated in the heart of Europe, Belarus will surprise you with it’s deeply embedded past. A landscape engulfed in the Soviet past, you get to visit a bygone era. The country is newly becoming the new European hotspot with its rich history, art and architecture.
The capital-Minsk is famous for its brimming nightlife, buildings from Stalin-era and excellent museums. While cities like Minsk and Grodno offer European charm and history, travellers will discover picturesque castles, dense forests and beautiful lakes outside the cities.
Tiny east European country tucked between Ukraine and Romania has varied terrain including forests, rocky hills and vineyards. With the highest percentage of land dedicated to vineyards in the world, wine is big business for the people of Moldova. As a result, there are many family-run wineries which offer an intriguing insight into the deep relationship that Moldovans hold with the land.
Experience simplicity with city sightseeing that unveils myriad monuments and wide open green spaces.
Latvia is a Baltic country situated between Lithuania and Estonia. This tiny country is a tapestry of sea, lakes and woods. You really need to visit Latvia due to its unspoilt landscapes that allow you to trek, cycle or dream away on a white-sand beach amid pine-covered dunes.
Latvia has only one real city and that is its cosmopolitan capital- Riga which has cobbled streets, historic churches and abundance of Art Nouveau buildings.
This is a country which is bordering Poland, Latvia and Belarus and is the southernmost of the Baltic States. It teases you with the Baltic Sea breeze and similarly, invites you to visit beaches that are lined woodlands which are alive with mysterious demonic statues.
Estonia is a country situated in Northern Europe bordering the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. While it is historically and geographically very similar to Latvia and Lithuania, it is culturally very distinct from both the countries.
Unaffected by mass tourism, this sparsely populated country offers charming castles, churches and hilltop fortresses.
The world’s largest nation Russia borders European and Asian countries as well as the Pacific and Arctic oceans. It offers all, with historic cities and idyllic countryside to artistic riches, epic train rides and vodka-fuelled nightlife.
Russia’s landscape ranges from tundra and forests to subtropical beaches, giving you a combination of adventurous and dreamy. It is rich in history with creativity seen in the ancient walled fortresses, glittering palaces, onion-domed churches and the charming historical towns and villages. However you plan your trip, you won’t be disappointed. Russia delivers not just with its geographical distances but also, above all, with its cultural diversity.
One of the biggest European countries, Ukraine is situated in at the northwest end of the Black Sea. Ukraine is home to a horde of beautiful places with a great range of tourist activities. A country with vibrant cities, rich in colourful traditions, ancient castles, and its diversity makes it a special destination in spite of the recent political, territorial and economic difficulties. The stunning landscapes offer diverse outdoorsy activities; from mountain biking and hill walking, to bird spotting; from cycling and to water sports in the Black Sea. There’s certainly something for everyone.
Also Read: The Top 11 Places To See In Ukraine
Situated at the intersection of Europe and Asia, Georgia is a former Soviet republic that’s home to Caucasus Mountain villages and the Black Sea beaches. Except for its fantastic mountain scenery, if you are into food and wine, this is the place for you! Considered as the birthplace of wine, it also allows you to stuff your faces with its diverse cuisine based on the country’s rural nature and austere history.
One of the most beautiful countries, Georgia is filled with green valleys spread with vineyards. Also here are old churches and watchtowers making it a wonderful heritage of architecture and art.
One of the East European countries untouched by mass tourism, Armenia is situated in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. It is also one of the earliest Christian civilisations of the world, and has a rich cultural heritage dating far back as the ancient times.
If your next trip involves Armenia, you’ll be fascinated by its dark past; awed by monuments; amazed by the landscape and charmed by down-to-earth locals.
Situated in neither Europe nor Asia exactly, Azerbaijan is a mesh of contradictions and contrasts. From high altitude Caucasian mountains to vast hot deserts, green meadows and coastal areas, this former Soviet Republic covers 9 out of 11 climate zones.
Azerbaijan gives variety to its tourists with its space-age cityscapes and Arabian nights exotica. While sitting on oil-rich Caspian sea, the cosmopolitan capital Baku offers exclusive 21st-century shops, modern architecture and luxury hotels. You can also taste the blend of east and west in the culture of Azerbaijan; it was once a part of Persian, Turkish and Russian empires.
I know these are not your usual destinations for travel, but now you know why these erstwhile Soviet states should be on your list! So, what are you waiting for? Book away!