Countries That Don't Exist Anymore (But Did In The '60s & '70s)

By | February 15, 2019

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Soviet gymnasts in 1975, from left: Lyudmila Tourischeva, the 23-year old world gymnast champion, Olga Koval, 13, and Elvira Saadi, 23. Source: (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Got an old globe in your house? If it's from the 1950s, '60s or '70s, you'll see a lot of countries that don't exist anymore. Two of the most powerful historical forces of the 20th century, post-colonialism and the rise of communism, conspired to redraw some regions and rename others. Farewell Rhodesia, farewell U.S.S.R., farewell North Yemen -- it was nice knowing ya.

The funny thing about countries that don't exist anymore is that thanks to political or military turmoil, they go out in a flurry of discussion and news coverage, but are quickly forgotten. Yugoslavia, for instance, was a major topic of concern in the late '80s and early '90s. But once it fell apart we all got to work learning the new names, and now we're challenged to remember which six or seven current countries used to be Yugo. (Read on to find out.)

Even though these countries that don't exist anymore have disappeared from maps and globes you studied in school, they're still there -- the land is, anyway, as is the history and the culture. Political divisions and place names are human designations. So if you've always wanted to see the breathtaking sights of the beautiful island realm of Ceylon, you still can. Just make sure your plane ticket says Sri Lanka.

The Soviet Union

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The Russian Kremlin. Source: (

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R., one of the world’s greatest superpowers and largest country on the planet, broke apart on December 26, 1991. For decades, beginning with the end of World War II, schoolchildren in the U.S. learned all about how the Soviets were trying to prove their might in the Cold War and best the United States at technology, science, and engineering. But the U.S.S.R. was really a conglomerate made up of like-minded, yet diverse regions. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant its erasure from maps and globes, but in its place, we got 14 new counties: Uzbekistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, and Georgia.