This excerpt of a Russian newspaper says:

Russian newspaper 1939

[…] On December 4 {1939}, comrade Molotov has telegraphed to Avenol. In his answer, he stated that there are no reasons for raising "Finnish question", since the USSR is not in war with Finland. Instead, it helps the People's government of FDR (Finnish Democratic Republic) to get rid of Ryti, Tanner, and Co.
If, nevertheless, the LN meeting will be scheduled, the USSR will not attend.

In 1919-1920, the Russia has committed an armed invasion to Emirate of Bukhara, partially occupied its territory to create "Bukharan People's Soviet Republic";
In 1920-1921, the Russia has ignited civil war in Iran to create so-called "Persian Socialist Soviet Republic";
The cases of puppet North Korea and North Vietnam are also self-evident.

Even the war against Afghanistan (1979-1989):

The policy of government has been oriented to build a socialist republic in Afghanistan.
In Russian: Политика правительства была ориентирована на построение в Афганистане социалистической республики.

In the recent history, the Russian propaganda has also self-excused Russian wars against Moldova (1992), Georgia (1991-1992, 2008), and Ukraine (2013-2014) with supporting marionette "Transnistria", "South Ossetia", "Abkhazia", "Donets'k People's Republic", and "Luhans'k People's Republic", respectively.


In all cases, I see a pretty strong pattern which assumes

  • the creation of a bogus state in a certain region of the target state (Victim);
  • whose leaders are:
    • represented by Victim's natives;
    • fully or partially trained on Russia and then injected back to Victim;
    • and whose actions are fully controlled by Russia;
  • and whose aim is to be annexed by Russia:
    • either by maintaining or omitting a brief period of independence from the Victim state
    • with or without setting the final goal of the annexation of the entire Victim state.


I was trying to find any war ignited by the Russia's recent history (under any regime) that has not been backed up with an idea of "supporting" some kind of "People's Republic", but failed to find one.

So, the question is: Has there been any war that the Russia has ignited since WWII ever in its history, that has NOT been self-excused as a support of a newly-created bogus puppet state like "People Republics" we observe throughout the recent history?

  • 1
    Do you count WWII's post-defensive stages (e.g. attacks on Germans outside pre-1941 borders up to and including invasion of Germany itself?). They didn't strictly speaking "ignite" the war in its totality, but they did have a choice of either stopping their attacks on Nazi Germany at the border or continuing on to Berlin. Ditto attacks on Imperial Japanese controlled territories in 1945
    – user4012
    Oct 28, 2014 at 15:53
  • 1
    Also: Chechnya. Arguably Prague Spring in 1968 since the Dubček government was legitimate and sole government of the country with no insurrection against them.
    – user4012
    Oct 28, 2014 at 15:54
  • 1
    @DVK Thanks, the Japanese case looks convincing. I was also thinking about Hungary'56, Czechoslovakia'68, Lativa'91, Lithuania'91, as well as Chechnya — but these countries have already been under the Russian occupation at that time. So, the invasions were more like suppression of some liberation attempts. At least, all these events have not been considered wars (e.g., by UN). The background for my question is finding some pattern in various cases of Russian military aggressions to figure out if, for example, Baltic states are under military threat nowadays. Oct 28, 2014 at 16:19
  • 3
    I recall something about border conflicts with China but am not sure who was the main monger in that particular red-on-red confrontation. Oct 29, 2014 at 15:45
  • 1
    Worth noting that Abkhazia and South Ossetia did in fact declare, and fight for, independence on their own, without Russia getting involved until the war was already in progress.
    – Vikki
    Apr 24, 2019 at 3:15

6 Answers 6


So, the question is: Has there been any war that the Russia has ignited since WWII ever in its history, that has NOT been self-excused as a support of a newly-created marionette "Republic"?

Well, any point of Russian history is acceptable, right? We have a lot of interesting candidates. Let's see some of them:

The Russo-Swedish War of 1590–1595 between the Tsardom of Russia and Sweden seems to fit what you want. If I can believe wikipedia, this war was instigated by the Russian Regent Boris Godunov hoping to recover the Duchy of Estonia, which was taken from Russia in the previous Livonian War - so there was not an excuse of supporting a "marionette Republic" (or Kingdom). According to the wiki:

As soon as the Truce of Plussa expired early in 1590, a large Russian army led by Godunov and his sickly brother-in-law, Fyodor I of Russia, marched from Moscow towards Novgorod. On 18 January they crossed the Narva River and laid siege to the Swedish castle of Narva (...).

Maybe someone could say this war was not ignited by Russia, since there was previous wars against Sweden, including the one where Russia lost the Duchy of Estonia.

Then there was the Russo-Persian War of 1722–1723:

The formal pretext was the grave damage inflicted to the many Russian merchants who inhabited the Safavid Iranian city of Shamakhi. In 1721, rebellious Lezgins, from within the declining Safavid Empire, had sacked and looted the city, killing many of its inhabitants including several Russian merchants.

However, according to wiki, "the ultimate cause of the war was Russia's desire to expand to the southeast and the temporary weakness of Iran", i.e., the war was ignited by Russia, and the formal "excuse" was the damage suffered by Russian merchants in Persia, not the support of, let's say, a "People's Emirate".

About recent wars: most Russian wars after WWII seems to, formally, be either in support of new communist or post-soviet states, about crushing some kind of rebellion (so formally ignited by the rebellion itself; for example, Caucasus Insurgency, Hungary Revolution or the invasion of Czechoslovakia), or involved mainly other countries which were the ones who formally ignited the war (as North Vietnam, Egypt in the War of Attrition, or the wars between Ethiopia and Eritrea). Wars after 1917 seems to follow the same pattern, including wars which formed the Soviet Union and its constituents.

Some possible exceptions to this includes:

  • The Sino-Soviet Conflict in 1929, fought for the administration of the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER), which was a joint management between the non-communist Republic of China and USSR. The first country to attack was the USSR. However, since the war started after China arrested the General Manager and other Soviet citizens of the CER, a move in response to maneuvers by the Soviet to retain most control of the company by, for example, hiring more Soviet workers and officers, it's pretty hard to state who "ignited" it.
  • Soviet invasion of the Baltic States: there was no existing "People's Republic" in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania (unlike Finland, although the communist puppet state in Finland was created soon after the start of Winter War). The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which forced them to sign "mutual assistance treaties" and give freedom to Soviet forces in their territory. Then the Orzel Incident happened, when a Polish submarine escaped from Estonian capital, Tallinn, to UK, so the Soviets questioned Estonia's neutrality and forced them to allow the establishment of military bases by the communist countries. In the end, the three countries were accused of "conspiracy against the Soviet Union", and this was the pretext for the invasion - no existing "People's Republic", and the whole situation is such that it's hard to argue that this war was not "ignited" by USSR. However, soon after the invasion, of course new communist governments formed in the three countries, so this situation may not count.
  • Zhenbao Island Incident between USSR and Maoist China in 1969, one of a series of border incidents between the two countries after the Sino-Soviet Split, but it was PRC who started to attack in this one.
  • Border conflicts between Imperial Japan and Soviet Union in the 30s, where both sides claims that the other one was blame of border violations. There was no newly-created People's Republic there, although communist Mongolia participated of the battles. However, the excuse here is border defense, and it's hard to argue who "ignited" this conflict.
  • 1
    Probably also worth mentioning the Crimean War, the original one from 1853 to 1856. There was no People’s Republic of the Crimea.
    – Mike Scott
    May 10, 2023 at 12:16

This is an interesting question.

If I remember my history correctly, Peter "The Great" was openly expansionist and did not cloak himself in a mantle of a liberator. But he was also doing a lot of domestic reforms.

Come to think of it, the same can be said about Napoleon. It may be interesting to generalize this question to examine how often monarchs who were domestic reformers also proved to be openly expansionist internationally.


I think the question can be interpreted in two ways: 1) whether Russia has always pretended to have a just cause for war, and 2) whether the cause has always been supporting people's Republics.

Are there any unjust wars?
In general the wars throughout history have been nearly always presented as just.^1 However, what is considered just reason for a war has changed throughout history. A few hundred years ago laying claims to a throne was considered a good cause, as well as punishing for misdeeds or insults to a god-anointed representatives - e.g., Peter the Great motivated opening of the Great Northern War by an insufficiently polite reception that he received a few years previously during his travel through the Baltic areas.

Protection of one's religious denomination has been a reason throughout centuries (and arguably remains such today in some places) - here we could mention the Crusades, the European Wars of Religion, as well as Russian interference in the Balkans to protect Orthodox Slavs. (Btw, Cardinal Richilieu was much criticized when he allied France with protestant Swedes against Catholic Hapsburgs.)

Nowadays the wars are mainly justified by liberating from tyrants, bringing democracy, helping independence struggle, fighting mafia/terrorists - examples are abundant (and many of them have nothing to do with Russia). Creating a puppet government and then militarily supporting it is also a time-honored tradition.

Has Russia always motivated its involvement in wars by helping People's Republics?
Some counter-examples have already been given above. One need not dig deeply to find more - Winter war, to my knowledge, was not to help any specific republic, as well as the reunification with western Ukraine.

^1 Dale Carnegie has famously explained that no person thinks of themselves as a bad person, and nearly always finds a justification for their action. He gives several examples in How to win friends and influence people, including such unsavory characters as Al Capone. Nuremberg trials provide many other examples.


Likely not.

As soon as any foreign territory is occupied, the occupier needs some local government to keep any order there. And even more if the regime must oppose the continuing resistance. Nobody is as useful for the occupier as locals that turn to the side of the enemy. Not only these locals know the language, culture and things the like, they can also make confusing declarations to the rest of the world. So unless complete physical extermination is planned (that I have only seen in science fiction done by aliens), any locals willing to serve the enemy will always be welcome and would form the "new government" that of course will just be following orders of the occupier. This is a short work to arrange even if there are no pre-existing organizations ready to co-operate with the enemy, but as a rule there is also always something to start from.

Due that, "we just support the People's republic" has been a standard motto for:

  • Baltic States right before WWII. Under Soviet surveillance, the new governments arranged rigged elections for new "people's assemblies", and a month later, the new assemblies met, with their sole item of business being resolutions to join the Soviet Union.
  • Hungary in 1956. "Hungarian patriots" under Kádár.
  • Czechoslovakia in 1968. The Eastern Bloc press printed an unsigned request, allegedly by Czechoslovak party and state leaders, for "immediate assistance, including assistance with armed forces".
  • Afghanistan in 1979. The Amin government repeatedly requested the introduction of troops.
  • Ukraine and Ukraine break away regions now.

I would say, mostly the standard approach.

To be objective, have never seen Russia claiming that invasion into Nazi Germany during WWII has been in response to some People's Republic, and likely same for Japan at this time. It was war, it was clear. Maybe it has been the last time so.


Paradoxically, in Bertrand Russell's view, Russian hegemony was good for peace.

The hegemony of Russia in Asia would not, to my mind, be in any way regrettable. Russia would probably not be strong enough to tyrannize as much as the English, the Americans, or the Japanese would do. Moreover, the Russians are sufficiently Asiatic in outlook and character to be able to enter into relations of equality and mutual understanding with Asiatics, in a way which seems quite impossible for the English-speaking nations. And an Asiatic block, if it could be formed, would be strong for defence and weak for attack, which would make for peace. Therefore, on the whole, such a result, if it came about, would probably be desirable In the interests of mankind as a whole.

Russell, Bertrand. The Problem of China. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1922

Russell's opinions are highly tentative, subject to revision based on new evidence. It is doubtful whether Russians today still share that level of sympathy with the rest of Asia. The underlying desire in a Russian heart to gang up against China is very strong. In 2015, I would trust a Japanese before a Russian.

  • 10
    Russia is much more tolerant country than most of developed countries. Just look at the history of russo-german reconciliation after WWII and compare that to Japan-rest of Asia or US-Cuba, US-Iran or role of Germany in yugoslav conflicts. Russians somehow forgive things which e.g. Poles can not.
    – lowtech
    Dec 31, 2014 at 16:06
  • 3
    @lowtech - According to Bertrand Russell, it was the Russians who were calm and reasonable during Cuban missile crisis. Nothing less than madness can characterize the democratic side in these situations. See Unarmed Victory. amazon.com/Unarmed-Victory-Bertrand-Russell/dp/0043270247 Dec 31, 2014 at 19:17
  • 1
    Alexander Pushkin by American standard was black. China today is pre-Pushkin Russia. We desperately need a Pushkin to modernize our language. I don't know if the grandpa of our Pushkin has been born yet. Dec 31, 2014 at 19:28
  • 1
    This doesn't even try to answer the question, I'm afraid. It's an interesting point, but the question was about Russia's alibis to start wars, not about how good or bad would be a Russian domination of Asia.
    – Rekesoft
    Feb 18, 2022 at 11:39
  • 6
    The quote this answer is built around is about Russia from 100 years ago. It was written during the Russian Revolution. Long before the present day Russian Federation and even before the Soviet Union.
    – Philipp
    Feb 18, 2022 at 16:15

Since WWII the USSR has participated only in one war, in Afghanistan (if not to count the border clashes with China).

In post-Soviet history, besides what u mentioned, Russia participated in two major wars in Chechnya and also in defending the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. I do not know whether it counts as defending a "people's republic" but Russia definitely was defending Tajikistan.

  • 5
    Sorry, this does not attempt to provide an answer. Also, the truth about wars of the Russia is a bit the opposite: List of wars involving Russia Dec 29, 2014 at 23:03
  • 6
    @bytebuster if u know the answer, why u are asking? Is is a retorical question or something like that? then it should be closed.
    – Anixx
    Dec 29, 2014 at 23:29
  • 4
    I don't know the answer. There is a long list of wars involving the Russia, some of these have been ignited by the Russia, and some of these are covered by "defending" so-called "People's Republics". I have no idea how many is "some", hence the question. I'm sorry to learn that some russians need such a detailed explanation before they understand. Instead of answering, these russians claim that there were no wars at all involving the Russia, which is obviously untrue. Dec 30, 2014 at 7:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .