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THE FINAL CURTAIN : An Ex-Superpower's Reach: Measuring Moscow's Sphere of Influence

December 31, 1991

At various times during the last 74 years, the Soviet Union's influence has touched five continents and at least half the globe's population. Here are some of the countries that have been dominated or strongly influenced by the Soviet Union:


1. Afghanistan--A Marxist coup in 1978 led to a long and bloody civil war. Soviet troops intervened in 1979 and were withdrawn in early 1989 as part of an agreement with the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan calling for an end to outside aid to the warring factions.

2. Cambodia--Moscow backed the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978 and still had military advisers in the country as late as 1989. Treaties dealing with aid as well as cultural, scientific, economic and technical cooperation were signed in 1980.

3. China--Communist forces led by Mao Tse-tung and supported by the Soviet Union defeated the Chinese Nationalists in a long civil war leading to formation of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949. But relations between the two countries began to sour in the mid-1950s, and there was an open split by 1960.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday January 7, 1992 Home Edition World Report Page 3 Column 1 World Report Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
The map for a graphic depicting the Soviet Union's global influence in World Report on Dec. 31 erroneously highlights Pakistan. Neighboring Afghanistan is the country that should have been highlighted.

4. India--Continuing a regional contest for influence going back to the czars, the Kremlin poured billions of rubles into India almost from the moment of its independence in 1947. The country's system of state industries and central planning were based on the Soviet model. Also, India bought most of its arms from Moscow and found in the Kremlin a geopolitical ally against China and Pakistan.

5. Laos--The Soviet Union supported one of three competing factions during an intermittent Laotian civil war, and when fighting ended under a 1961 cease-fire agreement, it was the Soviet-backed Prince Souvanna Phouma who was chosen to head a coalition government. The Communists had seized complete power by 1975.

6. Mongolia--Soviet troops entered the country in 1921 and backed Mongolian revolutionaries who declared an independent republic in 1924. Mongolia sided with the Kremlin in its long-running dispute with China and was a member of the Soviet-led Comecon trade bloc. Free, multi-party elections held in 1990 produced a government that is still largely Communist but that is moving toward a market economy.

7 . North Korea--After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided into U.S. and Soviet zones at the 38th Parallel--a Cold War division made permanent in 1948 with the formation of two separate nations. Moscow supported North Korea's invasion of the south in 1950 but has lately been encouraging a budding rapprochement between the two Koreas.

8. Vietnam--Through its support of Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese, the Soviet Union exerted widespread influence throughout Indochina, backing Vietnamese actions in Cambodia and Laos. After the American military withdrawal and defeat of the U.S.-backed Saigon government, the Soviets maintained a major military presence at the former U.S. naval base at Cam Ranh Bay. A treaty of friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and the Soviet Union was signed in November, 1978, and last year the two signed a $1-billion trade agreement.


9. Albania--Communist guerrillas seized power in 1944 with no help from the Soviets, but by 1948 the country was a virtual Soviet satellite. Tirana broke with Moscow in 1961 in protest over de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union. Only last March did a general strike and widespread street demonstrations force the all-Communist Cabinet to resign. It was replaced by a nonpartisan caretaker Cabinet.

10. Bulgaria--Long considered the most slavishly loyal of all the Soviet Union's former Warsaw Pact allies in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria ended its four-decade Communist monopoly with free elections in May, 1990.

11. Czechoslovakia--Another Warsaw Pact ally of the Soviets, Czechoslovakia's Communists tried to liberalize in 1968, only to experience a Soviet-led invasion to restore orthodoxy. But a "velvet revolution" at the end of 1989 brought democracy and commitment to a free-market economy.

12. Finland--A former czarist Russian duchy, Finland was pressured into joining the Nazis against Russia in 1941. Defeated, the Finns signed the first of two 20-year treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Kremlin in 1948. Helsinki's studied avoidance of any action that might trigger Kremlin ire led to the term "Finlandization" to describe countries neutralized by fear of Moscow. A center-right government elected this year moved to integrate Finland's economy with that of Western Europe.

13. East Germany--The Soviet-dominated state created in the post-World War II division of Germany finally ceased to exist in 1990 with German reunification.

14. Hungary--Leaders of a 1956 revolution tried to pull Hungary out of its post-World War II Warsaw Pact alliance with the Soviet Union, but they were put down by Soviet tanks. A reform movement in the 1980s gained momentum until free elections were held in 1990. The last Soviet troops left Hungarian territory last June.

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