Soviet Union

The immense destruction wrought over the course of the war caused a sharp decline in the influence of the great powers. After the war, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States both became formidable forces. The U.S. suffered very little during the war and because of military and industrial exports became a formidable manufacturing power. This led to a period of wealth and prosperity for the U.S. in the fields of industry, agriculture and technology.

While the homeland of the United States was untouched by the war, quite the opposite was true in the Soviet Union. At the height of the Axis advance in 1941, the Wehrmacht got within 20 kilometers (12.5 mi) of Moscow. Although the Nazis were pushed back from Moscow by Soviet winter counter thrusts in early 1942, the Wehrmacht's Operation Blue in summer 1942 pushed Russian forces northeast of the Black Sea to Stalingrad and southeast of the Black Sea to the approaches to Grozny at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. Therefore the Germans controlled all of Soviet territory west of Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad, from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus. During the initial German invasion, Operation Barbarossa, the use of scorched earth tactics by both sides left the western portion of the Soviet Union almost totally destroyed. Agricultural land was burned, livestock exterminated, infrastructure dismantled or destroyed and entire towns flattened. All of this land was part of more battles as the Red Army swept west in 1943-1944. Although the Soviets were able to salvage some heavy industry and ship it to safer areas around the Ural Mountains, much of the USSR's pre-war industry fell into the hands of the Germans.

The Soviet Union also suffered unprecedented casualties. From 1941 to 1945 the Red Army lost over 10 million killed and more than 18 million wounded. Civilian losses were also immense; most estimates range from 14 to 17 million civilians killed. Most civilians in the occupied lands in the...