It’s remarkable, every ex-Soviet Union country I visit I can still feel the remains of the great empire it once was. The Soviet Union left its mark on these nations’ architecture, politics, food, and even its culture. Scattered across 15 different countries you will find old military equipment, structures reminiscing a villain’s layer, dictator statues, Gulag work camps and of course the taste of dill on everything you eat. It is huge, fascinating and you will often find you are the only traveller in the area. This is the former Soviet Union and one of histories most fascinating times!
Back in the USSR!
For many years I have been making voyages across the former USSR in search of the weird and wonderful. Traveling here does not come easy, however. The majority of the countries that form the Ex-Soviet Union are far from the tourist radar making simple things like transport and hotels a logistical nightmare (unless you speak fluent Russian). With saying this it is very worth it to face the challenges of traveling here.
Those who crack the travel codes and venture deep into the heart of the motherland will tell you that there is no other place like this! It’s almost addictive trying to travel here and truly takes you back in time.
This post is a compilation of my experiences in traveling the countries of the former USSR. I have not been to the entirety of it all, that would take a lifetime, but what I have seen so far has made me completely obsessed with traveling this unique corner of the world.
What Countries Were in the USSR?
Armenia, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia all made up the largest country to ever exist in our world until its collapse in 1991.
Moscow the Capital of the USSR
Like Rome, all roads lead to the glorious capital of Russia and once upon a time, the Soviet Union. This is the epicenter of all Soviet Union travellers, here you will find grand monuments, statues, and history all dedicated to the world’s largest empire to have ever existed. Moscow also happens to be one of my most favorite cities I have traveled to!
Fallen Monument Park
In the middle of Moscow’s historic center, you will find the Fallen Monument Park. Although one might think a trip to Russia will include many statues of Lenin or Stalin, you would actually be wrong as many of them have been taken down. Although, the removed statues have now been relocated to this historic park! Apart from statues, there are plenty of Gulag Relics and other Soviet Monuments!
All-Russian Exhibitions Center
Newly opened, this massive exhibit is ever-changing, but the one feature that consistently remains and is simply amazing is the All-Russian Exhibitions Center. Easily one of the best spots to see old Soviet space suits and even the real Sputnik!
The Red Square
The Red Square is for many the first image they conjure up when one thinks of the USSR. This is where Stalin demonstrated the military power of the Soviet army. To this day Russia still holds military demonstrations here very similar during the days of the Soviets.
It’s also where you can see Russia’s most famous church St. Basils and the walls protecting the government center of the Kremlin.
Since the beginning of Russian history, this is where the Tsars, Soviet Leaders, and Presidents today operate the government of Russia. Although the Kremlin has plenty of Soviet History it goes back much further in history and many of the relics here are from the times of royalty and tsars.
Needless to say, any Soviet obsessed traveller must make a stop here to see where all the decisions of the USSR were made.
Spend any amount of time in Moscow and you are sure to stumble across Soviet ere monuments. These grand, retro and somewhat gaudy structures are dotted all over the city. The best are dedicated either to the space cosmonaut race or the workers.
The Seven Sisters are seven very different functioning buildings in Moscow all of which feature a Soviet star atop of them making them easy to identify. Visiting all of them is a classic Moscow itinerary, but to make things easy my favourite one to have visited was the Moscow State University.
Far from a typical “tourist” Itinerary, a trip venturing out to the University will reward you with one of the most intact Soviet building relics. The Star atop which I visited with my drone is the most intact and stunning of the seven!
Staying at Hotel Baltschug Kempinski Moscow, the first hotel that was opened during the Soviet Union is something a a cult classic for all those chasing Soviet History. This historic hotel is right across the river from the Red Square and many of the rooms have a unbelievable view that Soviet Leaders would have seen during these times!
Top Ex-Soviet Era Relics
Chernobyl – Pripyat
In my opinion, this is the “Ultimate” Soviet Sight to see. After the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986, the area was deserted and left to nature which has slowly crept in taking back the settlements. Pripyat the town which is home to the Chernobyl disasters reactor has not been touched since Soviet times, making it the only 100 percent untouched Soviet settlement.
Although you must brave the radiation you will be rewarded with Soviet buildings, murals and plenty of propaganda stations throughout the community as if it has been frozen in time! This is the best insight into what life would have been like in a utopian Soviet society.
Check out Gamma Travel for unique tours to Chernobyl
Nuclear Missile Base Ukraine
Three hours south of Ukraine’s capital hidden amongst quaint farmland is one of the most impactful historic Soviet sights throughout the entire Soviet Union. Here lies hidden deep beneath the ground the nuclear missile silo’s that almost ended the world.
Now open to the public you can enter deep beneath the earth into the silo’s many control rooms. You also can re-enact what it would have been like during an attack where you can initiate a missile launch.
The Berlin Wall, this was the border of the Soviet Union and the rest of the world before David Hasselhoff sang out tearing it down. Not a lot is left of the walls these days but in Berlin, you can still find small sections remaining dedicated to historical remembrance with many of the sections being covered in graffiti art.
The Moscow Central Air Force Museum
If you have a fascination with the space race and Soviet aviation, then this is the place to visit! Inside this massive museum, you can find almost every single aircraft innovated by the creative Soviet minds laid out before you. Many of which have actually entered space! Moscow Central Air Force Museum Website Here!
Eating Like a Soviet
One of my absolute favourite things to do in Russia is searching out these Soviet-era cafes that serve up countless Soviet classic dishes like Chicken Kiev and Herring in a Fur Coat! These cafeterias are usually decked out in Soviet memorabilia and often play old Soviet music. It’s a fun way to step back in time and eat like a Soviet!
Caviar, the Soviet Obsession
Before I visited Russia I knew nothing about Caviar, but the more you know about this Russian favourite the more intriguing it becomes. There are so many variations and qualities within Caviar and taking a Caviar tour is well worth its price just to get the chance of sampling this delicacy.
Vodka, Vodka, Vodka!
Across the Soviet Union, there is one thing that absolutely everyone has in common, and that my friend is a fondness for Vodka. They drink vodka when celebrating, to help digest, to cure sadness and simply just to relax. Also known as Russian water, Vodka comes in many different flavors.
In smaller villages across Russia, you will find some fermented with fruits, pepper, and dill or like in the far reaches of the Soviet Union it will come in a massive bottle. There is a rule in Russia “if you open the bottle you must finish it”.
Far Reaches of the Soviet Union
Siberia and Lake Baikal
The first time I traveled to Siberia it shocked me! It wasn’t its incredible history, diverse cultures or stunning landscapes, it was simply how far and remote it truly is. It’s almost a six-hour flight from Moscow!
Siberia is wreathed in Soviet history, many of it being very tragic as this is where the Soviet Gulag (work camps), camps were located. However, Siberia’s real draw is its natural beauty, the star of the show being Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake.
Siberia’s diversity also shows how this stop along the Trans Siberian Railway was a crossing point between East and West cultures.
Check out my friend Jack from Baikaler Tours for unique tours throughout Siberia.
Uzbekistan and The Silk Road
Traveling Uzbekistan it is difficult to even believe that you are still in the confines of the Soviet Union. Uzbekistan has an ancient culture and legendary Silk Road cities said to be some of the most beautiful on the planet.
Although there is not much Soviet history here to see, just traveling a place so far from Russia but knowing that it was once the same place really gives perspective on how utterly massive the Soviet Union was.
Learn more about Uzbekistan HERE!
Kyrgyzstan, The Far Reaches
In Kyrgyzstan, you reach the far eastern borders of the empire. Rolling green hills speckled with Nomadic Yurt villages drop down to the eerie deserts of Xinjiang in China. This is where you reach the end of the Soviet Union’s grasp across Asia, but more importantly how you can see that even though Moscow is thousands of kilometers away, it has left its language and culture here.
See my buddies here at Nomadasauras Kyrgystan Tours
Kazakhstan, Cosmonaut History
Kazakhstan has two major Soviet sights, the first being the Semipalatinsk Test Site and the second the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Semipalatinsk Test Site also known as “The Polygon” is where the Soviet Union tested 456 nuclear weapons. It is now considered one of the most radioactive places on the planet next to Chernobyl and Fukushima.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility. Tours can happen here, but expect to empty your wallets!