Timeline: A Century of Unions in Europe (1920-2022)
On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine launching one of the biggest wars on European soil since World War II. The invasion reflects a longstanding belief of Russia’s that Ukraine—and much of the Soviet Union’s former republics and satellite states—is still their territory to claim. But what is the “former glory” of Russia?
Of the USSR’s former republics and satellite states, many have moved on to join the European Union, and in Putin’s eyes have become more “Westernized” and further from Russian values. In fact, Ukraine recently had its candidacy status approved with the EU.
It’s now been a full century since the formation of the USSR. Much has changed since then, and this visual timeline breaks down how countries within and near Europe have aligned themselves over those 100 years.
The USSR / Soviet Union
The Soviet Union—officially titled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)—was formed 100 years ago in 1922 and was dissolved in 1991 almost 70 years later. At its height it was home to 15 republics, over 286 million people, and stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Ukraine, with virtual control and influence in countries as far west as East Germany.
Notable leaders characterized both the rise and fall of the USSR, starting with its establishment under Vladimir Lenin until the union’s dissolution under Mikhail Gorbachev. Latvia and Lithuania were among the first republics to make the move for sovereignty, beginning the demise of the Soviet Union.
Here’s a look at which modern day countries were a part of the USSR.
|Modern Day Country||Name Under USSR||Date Joined||Date Gained Independence|
|🇬🇪 Georgia||Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic||1922||1991|
|🇺🇦 Ukraine||Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic||1922||1991|
|🇦🇲 Armenia||Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic||1922||1991|
|🇦🇿 Azerbaijan||Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic||1922||1991|
|🇧🇾 Belarus||Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic||1922||1991|
|🇷🇺 Russia||Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic||1922||1991|
|🇺🇿 Uzbekistan||Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic||1924||1991|
|🇹🇲 Turkmenistan||Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic||1924||1991|
|🇹🇯 Tajikistan||Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic||1929||1991|
|🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan||Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic||1936||1991|
|🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic||1936||1991|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic||1940||1990|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic||1940||1991|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic||1940||1990|
|🇲🇩 Moldova||Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic||1940||1991|
Additionally, there were multiple satellite states, which were not formally joined with the USSR, but operated under intense Soviet influence.
|Modern Day Country||Country Name at the Time|
|🇦🇱 Albania||People's Republic of Albania|
|🇵🇱 Poland||Polish People's Republic|
|🇧🇬 Bulgaria||People's Republic of Bulgaria|
|🇷🇴 Romania||Romanian People's Republic|
|🇨🇿 Czechia||Czechoslovak Socialist Republic|
|🇸🇰 Slovakia||Czechoslovak Socialist Republic|
|🇩🇪 Germany||East Germany (German Democratic Republic)|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||Hungarian People's Republic|
|🇸🇮 Slovenia||Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia & Herzegovina||Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia|
|🇲🇪 Montenegro||Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia|
|🇲🇳 Mongolia||Mongolian People's Republic|
Today, there are still some countries that align themselves with Putin and Russia over the EU.
Belarus, sometimes called Europe’s “last dictatorship”, shares a border with both Ukraine and Russia and facilitated the entry of Russian soldiers into Ukraine. Furthermore, according to the Pentagon, Russian missiles have been launched from Belarus.
The European Union
The European Union was officially formed in 1993 and has 27 member states. Some former USSR republics are now a part of the union including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The most recent member to join was Croatia in 2013.
The EU has its roots in the European Coal & Steel Community which was formed in 1952 with Italy, France, West Germany and a few other countries comprising its first members. There are currently six candidate countries on track to join the EU — all but one were either former Soviet satellite states or formal republics:
- 🇦🇱 Albania
- 🇲🇪 Montenegro
- 🇲🇰 North Macedonia
- 🇷🇸 Serbia
- 🇹🇷 Turkey
- 🇺🇦 Ukraine
- 🇲🇩 Moldova
There are many reasons countries opt to join the EU: a common currency, easier movement of goods and people between national borders, and, of course, military protection.
However, in 2020 the UK formally left the union, making it the first country in history to do so. Here’s a look at every EU member state.
|EU Member States||Year Joined||Former USSR Republic?||Former USSR Satellite State?|
|🇩🇪 Germany||1952||No||Yes (East Germany)|
The iron curtain that was draped across Europe, which used to divide the continent politically and ideologically, has since been drawn back. But the war in Ukraine is a threat to many in Europe, and countries such as Poland have voiced fears about the spillover of conflict.
In late June, the European Council approved Ukraine’s bid for expedited candidacy to the EU, but the process will still likely be lengthy—for example, it took Croatia 10 years to formally join at the normal pace.
Beyond other needs such as military support, joining the union would allow refugees from Ukraine the freedom to migrate and work in other EU countries with ease.
What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?
As European gas prices soar, countries are introducing policies to try and curb the energy crisis.
What is the Cost of Europe’s Energy Crisis?
Europe is scrambling to cut its reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
As European gas prices soar eight times their 10-year average, countries are introducing policies to curb the impact of rising prices on households and businesses. These include everything from the cost of living subsidies to wholesale price regulation. Overall, funding for such initiatives has reached $276 billion as of August.
With the continent thrown into uncertainty, the above chart shows allocated funding by country in response to the energy crisis.
The Energy Crisis, In Numbers
Using data from Bruegel, the below table reflects spending on national policies, regulation, and subsidies in response to the energy crisis for select European countries between September 2021 and July 2022. All figures in U.S. dollars.
|Country||Allocated Funding||Percentage of GDP||Household Energy Spending,
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||$5.9B||2.5%||16.1%|
Source: Bruegel, IMF. Euro and pound sterling exchange rates to U.S. dollar as of August 25, 2022.
Germany is spending over $60 billion to combat rising energy prices. Key measures include a $300 one-off energy allowance for workers, in addition to $147 million in funding for low-income families. Still, energy costs are forecasted to increase by an additional $500 this year for households.
In Italy, workers and pensioners will receive a $200 cost of living bonus. Additional measures, such as tax credits for industries with high energy usage were introduced, including a $800 million fund for the automotive sector.
With energy bills predicted to increase three-fold over the winter, households in the U.K. will receive a $477 subsidy in the winter to help cover electricity costs.
Meanwhile, many Eastern European countries—whose households spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs— are spending more on the energy crisis as a percentage of GDP. Greece is spending the highest, at 3.7% of GDP.
Energy crisis spending is also extending to massive utility bailouts.
Uniper, a German utility firm, received $15 billion in support, with the government acquiring a 30% stake in the company. It is one of the largest bailouts in the country’s history. Since the initial bailout, Uniper has requested an additional $4 billion in funding.
Not only that, Wien Energie, Austria’s largest energy company, received a €2 billion line of credit as electricity prices have skyrocketed.
Is this the tip of the iceberg? To offset the impact of high gas prices, European ministers are discussing even more tools throughout September in response to a threatening energy crisis.
To reign in the impact of high gas prices on the price of power, European leaders are considering a price ceiling on Russian gas imports and temporary price caps on gas used for generating electricity, among others.
Price caps on renewables and nuclear were also suggested.
Given the depth of the situation, the chief executive of Shell said that the energy crisis in Europe would extend beyond this winter, if not for several years.
Mapped: Which Countries Still Have a Monarchy?
Beyond the 15 nations under the British monarchy, 28 other countries still have a ruling monarch. Here’s a look at the world’s monarchies.
Mapped: Which Countries Still Have a Monarchy?
In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the question of monarchy is brought sharply into focus.
However, a surprising number of countries have ruling monarchs, and in this visual we break down the kinds of royal leadership across the 43 countries that still have them.
Types of Monarchies
A monarch in the simplest sense is a country’s king, queen, emir, or sultan, and so on. But before diving in, it’s important to break down the distinctions between the types of monarchies that exist today. Generally, there are four kinds:
① Constitutional Monarchy
The monarch divides power with a constitutionally founded government. In this situation, the monarch, while having ceremonial duties and certain responsibilities, does not have any political power. For example, the UK’s monarch must sign all laws to make them official, but has no power to change or reject new laws.
Here are some examples of countries with constitutional monarchies:
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
② Absolute Monarchy
The monarch has full and absolute political power. They can amend, reject, or create laws, represent the country’s interests abroad, appoint political leaders, and so on.
Here are some examples of countries with absolute monarchies:
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇻🇦 Vatican City
③ Federal Monarchy
The monarch serves an overall figurehead of the federation of states which have their own governments, or even monarchies, ruling them.
Here are some examples of countries with federal monarchies:
Malaysia is a unique form of federal monarchy. Every five years, each state’s royal leaders choose amongst themselves who will be the monarch, or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, of Malaysia and the respective states. Furthermore, the monarchy is also constitutional, allowing a democratically elected body to govern.
④ Mixed Monarchy
This is a situation wherein an absolute monarch may divide powers in distinct ways specific to the country.
Here are some examples of countries with mixed monarchies:
Interestingly, Liechtenstein is the only European monarchy that still practises strict agnatic primogeniture. Under agnatic primogeniture, the degree of kinship is determined by tracing descent from the nearest common ancestor through male ancestors.
Kings, Queens, Emperors, and Sultans Around the Globe
Now let’s break down the different monarchies country by country:
|Country||Type of Monarchy||Title of Head of State||Monarch||Title of Head of Government|
|🇦🇩 Andorra||Constitutional||Co-Princes||Joan-Enric Vives, Emmanuel Macron||Prime Minister|
|🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇦🇺 Australia||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇭 Bahrain||Mixed||King||Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||Constitutional||King||Philippe||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇿 Belize||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇹 Bhutan||Constitutional||King||Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam||Absolute||Sultan||Hassanal Bolkiah||Sultan|
|🇰🇭 Cambodia||Constitutional||King||Norodom Sihamoni||Prime Minister|
|🇨🇦 Canada||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||Constitutional||Queen||Margrethe II||Prime Minister|
|🇸🇿 Eswatini||Absolute||King||Mswati III||Prime Minister|
|🇬🇩 Grenada||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇯🇲 Jamaica||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇯🇵 Japan||Constitutional||Emperor||Naruhito||Prime Minister|
|🇯🇴 Jordan||Mixed||King||Abdullah II||Prime Minister|
|🇰🇼 Kuwait||Mixed||Emir||Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah||Prime Minister|
|🇱🇸 Lesotho||Constitutional||King||Letsie III||Prime Minister|
|🇱🇮 Liechtenstein||Mixed||Sovereign Prince||Hans-Adam II||Prime Minister|
|🇱🇺 Luxembourg||Constitutional||Grand Duke||Henri||Prime Minister|
|🇲🇾 Malaysia||Constitutional & Federal||Yang di-Pertuan Agong||Abdullah||Prime Minister|
|🇲🇨 Monaco||Mixed||Sovereign Prince||Albert II||Minister of State|
|🇲🇦 Morocco||Mixed||King||Mohammed VI||Prime Minister|
|🇳🇱 Netherlands||Constitutional||King||Willem-Alexander||Prime Minister|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Constitutional||King||Harald V||Prime Minister|
|🇴🇲 Oman||Absolute||Sultan||Haitham bin Tarik||Sultan|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇶🇦 Qatar||Mixed||Emir||Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani||Prime Minister|
|🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇱🇨 Saint Lucia||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||Absolute||King||Salman||Prime Minister|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇪🇸 Spain||Constitutional||King||Felipe VI||President of the Government|
|🇸🇪 Sweden||Constitutional||King||Carl XVI Gustaf||Prime Minister|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||Constitutional||King||Rama X||Prime Minister|
|🇧🇸 The Bahamas||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇹🇴 Tonga||Constitutional||King||Tupou VI||Prime Minister|
|🇹🇻 Tuvalu||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇦🇪 UAE||Federal||President||Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan||Prime Minister|
|🇬🇧 UK||Constitutional||King||Charles III||Prime Minister|
|🇻🇦 Vatican City||Absolute||Pope||Francis||President of the Pontifical Commission|
Constitutional monarchies are undoubtedly the most popular form of royal leadership in the modern era, making up close to 70% of all monarchies. This situation allows for democratically elected governments to rule the country, while the monarch performs ceremonial duties.
Most monarchs are hereditary, inheriting their position by luck of their birth, but interestingly, French president, Emmanuel Macron, technically serves as a Co-Prince of Andorra.
Another unique case is the Vatican’s Pope Francis, who has absolute power in the small independent city—he gained his role thanks to an election process known as a papal conclave.
The Role of Monarchies
One of the most notable and famous ruling monarchies is the United Kingdom’s House of Windsor—also known as Queen Elizabeth II’s family. King Charles III has now ascended to the country’s throne, making him head of state in 15 nations total, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Many see the benefit in having a stable and consistent form of tradition and decorum at the country’s head of state.
“The Crown is an integral part of the institution of Parliament. The Queen [now King] plays a constitutional role in opening and dissolving Parliament and approving Bills before they become law.” – British Parliament
Japan’s royal family has been a prime example of stability, having reigned in the country for more than 2,600 years under the same hereditary line.
Critiques and the Future of Monarchy
Some claim, however, that there is no function of monarchy in the modern day, and complaints of monarchies’ immense wealth and power are rampant.
For example, according to the Dutch government, King Willem-Alexander’s budget for 2022, funded by the state and thus, taxpayers, comes out to more than €48 million.
Beyond tax dollars, with absolute monarchies there is typically a lack of political freedoms and certain rights. Saudi Arabia, for example, has no national elections. Rather its king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, stays in power for life, appoints the cabinet himself, and passes laws by royal decree.
The death of Queen Elizabeth, though, may bring about change though for many of the world’s royally-governed. Since Barbados’ removal of her as head of state in 2021, six other Caribbean nations have expressed the desire to do the same, namely:
🇧🇸 The Bahamas
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda
🇰🇳 St. Kitts and Nevis
The future of monarchy in the 21st century is certainly not a guarantee.
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