A Breakdown of Confusing Cold War Era Terms

Because so many of my articles involve Cold War era terminology, I decided to list them all out here to serve as a tool to make it easier for those who want to understand the nitty-gritty details.

Soviet Union: Also known as simply “USSR,” it was a single country compromising of 15 republics, its three most influential members were Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Eastern Bloc: Consisted of seven countries, Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. Alternative names for this group were “Iron Curtain” and “Warsaw Pact.” There is no “K” in Bloc.

Former Eastern Bloc: Yugoslavia and Albania were communist countries during the Cold War. For a brief period they were part of the Eastern Bloc but both had departed by 1968.

Not Eastern Bloc: China.

Not Soviet: East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. They can be described as belonging to the Soviet Sphere of influence, but they weren’t directly Soviet.

Baltics: Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and they are colored in the above map. These were 3 of the 15 members of the Soviet Union. This term is commonly confused with the Balkans.

Balkans: Has no specific boundary and its definition/boundary depends on who you ask. But its general area ranges from Slovenia (next to Italy) in the West, to Romania in the East, and all the way South to Turkey/Greece. See map below:

Balkan Championships: Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Turkey, and Albania. During the Cold War, gymnastics programs from these countries were the participants in the Balkan Championships. Those six countries is the gymnastics definition I will be using for this blog.

Western Balkans: The region that was once Yugoslavia and is infamous for its ethnic tension and violence during the 1990s. It is widely attributed as compromising the entirety of the Balkans, but it is merely a region within the Balkans.

Note: The Western Balkans are not the only region of the Balkans that have had high levels of ethnic tension in their history. The Western Balkans are most commonly associated with it due to Recency Bias of the 1990s and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand being one of the most important events in European history.

Countries that no longer exist: East Germany, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia.

East Germany: Was officially annexed into West Germany. They did not merge.

Czechoslovakia: Split into two countries. The first country is the Czech Republic or Czechia. The second country is Slovakia. It is incorrect to continue to refer to either one as Czechoslovakia.

Yugoslavia and Soviet Union: Broke apart into 20+ countries.

Soviet Union and Russia: Are two very different things. Russia made up only 50% of the total Soviet population, and 75% of its total landmass. The remaining 25% was still a massive chunk of territory that is roughly two-thirds the size of the United States.

Russia at the Olympics: Per the official Olympic record book, Russia didn’t join until 1993. Athletes who competed for the Russian Empire prior to the formation of the Soviet Union are listed as a separate country with the country code “RU1.” Russia is not credited as the host country of the 1980 Olympics. The OlyMadMen database feels differently and credits RU1 athletes to modern day Russia, but not Soviet athletes.

Breakup of Soviet Union and the Olympics: When the USSR broke apart, 12 of the 15 ex-Soviet countries created an organization called “CIS” which was similar in structure to the European Union. These countries fielded a joint team under the Olympic flag with the country code “EUN.” Of the three remaining countries which were all from the Baltics, they were incorporated into the 1992 Olympics only on a sport-by-sport basis. Gymnastics was one of the sports that opted against their inclusion. The decision was particularly devastating for Latvia as it had enough talent to compete for a spot in team finals in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Breakup of Yugoslavia and the Olympics: Slovenia and Croatia broke away in time to compete at the 1992 Olympics. The same can be said for Bosnia and Herzegovina which is one country with two names. This left two remaining countries who like the ex-Soviet nations, also competed under an Olympic flag. But they were designated “Independent Olympic Athletes” with the country code “IOP.”

The first was what was then called Macedonia which was a fully independent country by this point, but it achieved independence too close to the Olympics in time to be recognized as its own country. But it had a second problem as its name was a fiercely contested issue with Greece. The naming issue made it harder to fast-track them into the Olympics. The first compromise solution was “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and it has recently been changed to “North Macedonia.”

The second IOP nation was Serbia and Montenegro which at this point was still claiming to be Yugoslavia despite Yugoslavia losing 4 of its 6 republics. They were a separate country, and had international recognition, but widespread international condemnation for their actions in the Yugoslav wars. As a sanction, they were forced to compete without national symbols. It resulted in their athletes competing under the Olympic flag and with the same country code as North Macedonia. This in spite of North Macedonia being a different nation.

Whereas everything was settled with the ex-USSR states by the 1994 Olympics, Serbia and Montenegro where still a single country and used the Yugoslavia name and country code through the 2000 Olympics. In 2004 they switched to “Serbia and Montenegro” as their new national name with an SCG country code. Then in 2006 Montenegro gained independence from Serbia and after 20 years since Yugoslavia’s last Olympic appearance, the six regions of Yugoslavia were now their own Olympic powers.

And in that very same year Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Currently Kosovo is in diplomatic limbo being recognized as a country by nearly every Western Democracy, but countries like China and Russia with their influence/veto power have prevented it from gaining membership to the United Nations. The IOC granted Kosovo the right to compete as its own nation in time for the 2016 Olympics.

1st, 2nd, & 3rd World Countries (Cold War): Was originally a Cold War era term to describe political affiliation. First-World being the United States and its allies. Second-World being the Soviet Union/China and its allies. 3rd-World being all remaining countries. Under this definition Sweden and Switzerland are 3rd-World countries.

1st, 2nd, & 3rd World Countries (Today): Has evolved to become a term to describe economic wealth. Under this definition Sweden and Switzerland are 1st-World countries.

Slavic People: Otherwise known as Slavs or Slavic. It is a collection of ethnic groups that belong to the same family of ethnic groups, but are each different ethnic groups themselves. The Slavic majority countries were Poland, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union.

Slavs in the Soviet Union: The Soviet Republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were each a major Slavic ethnic group. Most of the remaining ethnic groups within the Soviet Union were not Slavic.

Not Slavic: Romania, Hungary, & East Germany.

Note: A country’s status as a Slavic nation/ethnic group impacts geopolitical relations. So Slavic status is important to note as Cold War era geopolitical rivalries often dealt with Slavic nations being more willing to align themselves with other Slavic nations.

Cyrillic: The alphabet that is used in many Slavic nations. Each nation has minor differences, but they are generally the same.

Cyrillic Alphabet:
А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ь ь Ю ю Я я

Latin Alphabet:
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Vv Xx Yy Zz

CCCP and USSR: They are the same term. CCCP is the Cyrillic version of “USSR.” Since “C” and “P” are present in both alphabets, the term “CCCP” can sometimes be mistaken for an English acronym.

Turischeva vs Tourischeva: Latin and Cyrillic writing systems are very different and sometimes there isn’t a perfect match when converting names between the two. Some Cyrillic names have different ways they can be spelled in English. Others have different spelling depending on which Cyrillic language one chooses to use.

Caucasus: Another ex-Communist part of the world that is known for its recent history of ethnic tension and warfare. The North Caucasus comprises of Southern Russia whereas the South Caucasus compromise of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. These countries were all part of the Soviet Union. Map of the Caucasus region:

Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. These five countries were once part of the Soviet Union.

Moldova: Was also part of the Soviet Union, they are ethnically Romanian. Of the 15 Republics within the USSR, Moldova was the only one that was not part of the Baltics, South Caucasus, Central Asia, or one of the three major Slavic Republics.

Exclusive Mandate: This term is relevant to countries like East and West Germany that were divided along Cold War lines. They didn’t want to officially label themselves as North, East, South, or West as that implied they had forfeited their claim over all of Germany. As the two nations saw it, they were the legitimate government of all German territory and their rival was an illegitimate imposter serving as a puppet government controlled by a foreign power. Other examples are China/Taiwan and North Korea/South Korea.

Their informal/formal names are as followed:

East Germany: German Democratic Republic
West Germany: Federal Republic of Germany
North Korea: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
South Korea: Republic of Korea
China: People’s Republic of China
Taiwan: Republic of China

Chinese Taipei: Unlike Serbia which was too small of a country to force its demands on the IOC, China managed to gain significant influence over how the IOC treats Taiwan. The result was the Nagoya Resolution in the late 1970s which coined the term Chinese Taipei” for Taiwan to use. The term itself was created entirely as a political compromise and didn’t exist beforehand. Taipei is actually the largest city in Taiwan. “Chinese Taipei” is the equivalent of calling Hawaii “American Honolulu.”

The term works because both countries interpret it to their favor. Taiwan interprets it to mean they have linguistic, cultural, and ethnic connections to China, but that it does not imply China has direct sovereignty over them. China interprets it to mean exactly that, that the “Chinese” terminology designates they are part of China and merely compete as their own Olympic team in the same way Hong Kong does the same.


Post-Soviet states: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan (15 Total)

Post-Yugoslav states: Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Kosovo (7 Total)

Post-Czechoslovakian states: Czech Republic and Slovakia (2 Total)

Post-Communist States Without Border Changes: Albania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland (5 Total)

Post Communist States: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland (29 total)

Note: Mongolia is another post-communist state, but I didn’t include them as the focus on this list was the downfall of communism in Europe.

Map of Communist Europe:

Red: Soviet Union
Green: Soviet Sphere of influence
Red + Green: Eastern Bloc
Blue: Communist, but left the Eastern Bloc

On the second map I used various shades of green to make it easier to identify individual countries of the Soviet sphere of influence:


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