This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations since 1945.
After its victory over the German army at Stalingrad in February 1943, the USSR quickly re-conquered its own territory before liberating Eastern and Central Europe. By 1945, therefore, it was in a position to strengthen its western frontier from north to south by taking control of:
- the region of Petchenga and the Finnish territory of Karelia,
- the Baltic countries,
- part of Eastern Prussia, including the capital Königsberg which it renamed Kaliningrad,
- the eastern parts of Poland,
- Carpathian Ruthenia, taken from Czechoslovakia
- Bukovina and Bessarabia, ceded by Romania
In addition to these conquests, which allowed the USSR to recuperate more territory than it had lost after the First World War, the Soviet Union was able to exert its influence over countries in Eastern Europe. As the communist parties, one by one, took control of governments, a number of countries were transformed into satellite states of the USSR, thus giving the Russians a protective barrier along their Western frontier.
Within the USSR’s own territory, Stalin accused entire populations of collaborating with Nazi Germany during the Occupation and moved them to Siberia: Tartars living in the Crimea Peninsula and Chechens were particularly targeted. More than a million people were deported.