A former Cossack state, it is one of the world's biggest grain exporters.
2 Kazakhstan: The ninth largest country in the world, it was the last Soviet republic to declare independence.
3 Moldova: Lying between Ukraine and Romania, it is Europe's poorest country.
4 Kyrgyzstan: One of the most culturally-advanced republics early last century.
5 Azerbaijan: A relatively wealthy country thanks to oil and gas discoveries.
6 Estonia: The northernmost of the three Baltic states, along with Latvia and Lithuania, it is a leader in e-government.
7 Tajikistan: A landlocked mountainous country, it's name means Land of the Tajiks, people who settled from eastern Iran.
8 Belarus: Formerly known as Byelorussia or White Russia, it is now part of Europe.
9 Georgia: At the crossroads of Asia and Europe, war has raged in its Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
10 Turkmenistan: An ancient country with one of the main stopping points on the old Silk Road trade route.