Mnemonics · Trivia

A mnemonic for the former Soviet Union

Geography doesn’t stand still. When I was a boy the Soviet Union (or USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) counted as one country with one capital city (Moscow). After the break-up of the Soviet Union, it split into many more countries. How many, exactly? I didn’t know until very recently so looked it up. It’s 15, for now anyway.

Can you name them all? A few weeks ago I probably couldn’t but have now created a mnemonic for it: U TALK 2 MR BEG. This indicates that there are two countries beginning with each of the letters U, T, A, L and K, and one each for the letters M, R, B E and G. I find this easier than trying to remember the countries alphabetically, geographically or any other way. The 15 countries, using the same order as the mnemonic, are: Ukraine, Uzbekistan; Tajikistan, Turkmenistan; Armenia, Azerbaijan; Latvia, Lithuania; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan [8 consecutive consonants in that name]; Moldova, Russia, Belarus, Estonia and Georgia.

I have just about got to grips with their capital cities but it takes a second or two longer to retrieve some of the information. The following are straightforward enough (the “MR BEG” part of the acronym): Chisinau (Moldova), Moscow (Russia), Minsk (Belarus), Tallinn (Estonia) and Tblisi (Georgia). The capitals of Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Lithuania and Kazakhstan have been on the news often enough, and in enough quiz shows and other sources, to have stuck (Kiev, Yerevan, Baku, Riga, Vilnius and Astana). It’s the four other countries in the “UTALK” part of the mnemonic that I have to think about: Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) and Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). Of course if I ever visited any of these places this information would move out of the realm of quiz questions and into personal experience, and the former Soviet Union would be something other than places on a map, but I’ve never been further east than Athens.


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