What Countries Did Stalin Invade in WWII?
The First Conquest: Poland
The Buffer States: Baltic Nations
- After Poland's fall, Joseph Stalin attacked the "buffer states," or those states bordering the Soviet Union. These territories were previously under Soviet control, but the country lost them after the nation's defeat in World War I (1914-18) and the following Russian Civil War (1917-23). The Soviet Union forced the surrender of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the three Baltic nations, threatening military invasion if the nations failed to comply. By October of 1939, the Soviet Union officially took control of the three Baltic countries.
The Buffer State: Finland
- Not a month later, in November 1939, the Soviet Union began its assault against Finland, but found conquest not as easily achieved as Stalin had anticipated. The Finns were greatly outnumbered but were considerably more skilled than Stalin's troops. Before the war, Stalin had rearranged his military in the Great Purge from 1936 to 1938, executing a great number of skilled officers and political leaders of the preceding regime. This left only the most inexperienced and under-trained forces available to battle Finland in what became known as the Winter War. In March 1940, after both sides experienced severe casualties, Finland and the Soviet Union signed a peace treaty. While Stalin failed to conquer the nation as a whole, the Soviet Union maintained control of Korelia, in southeastern Finland.
Bessarabia, Bukovina and Romania
Conquests as an Allied Nation
- The year 1941 found Germany transgressing its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin joined the Allied forces against Germany. When the war ended in 1945, the Soviet Union occupied Poland, the Balkans, Romania, Yugoslavia, East Prussia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, with Allied support.
- The Berlin Wall separated Western from Soviet-occupied Eastern Berlin.NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
When World War II ended, the Allies, including the Soviet Union, were victorious. The nations under Axis occupation were given sovereignty, or placed under Allied control. During the Potsdam and Yalta Conferences, the "Big Three" Allied leaders, Dwight Eisenhower of the United States, Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, and Joseph Stalin of the U.S.S.R. discussed Germany's reconstruction, and the state of the European nations. During these conferences, the Soviet Union relinquished control of the buffer states, allowing these bordering nations to realize sovereignty. However, Stalin disregarded the treaties and regained control of the buffer states within the next three years, successfully completing his "Iron Curtain."