Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Second World


The term “Second World” is a classification that originated during the Cold War era to refer to countries and regions that were neither capitalist Western world countries (the First World) nor communist, socialist Eastern bloc countries (the Third World). Second World countries were typically defined as being part of the Soviet sphere of influence, including the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact nations, and other aligned countries. From a financial perspective, these countries maintained a centrally planned economy, with the government controlling a majority, or entirety, of the country’s resources and production.


The phonetic spelling for “Second World” is:/ˈsɛk.ənd wɜːrld/

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li>Second World is often used to describe former socialist countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia that were aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.</li> <li>These countries experienced central planning, state control of resources, and less emphasis on individual freedoms than First World countries. The term is less commonly used today, as the political and economic landscape has changed significantly since the Cold War.</li> <li>Second World countries tended to have lower levels of economic development and slightly higher levels of poverty compared to First World countries. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many of these countries have transitioned toward more market-based economies and democratic political systems.</li></ol>


The term “Second World” is important in business and finance because it provides a way to categorize and better understand the economic landscape of various countries, particularly during the Cold War era. This classification allowed for a comparative analysis of the economies of socialist, industrial nations that were neither part of the highly developed capitalist First World countries nor the less-developed Third World countries. These Second World economies typically had a combination of state-controlled and mixed-market systems, often with strong industrial sectors and significant participation in international trade. As a result, their economic activity, investment opportunities, and financial markets attracted interest and attention from both First and Third World players, contributing to the complexity and dynamics of the global economy. By distinguishing these nations from other world economies, analysts and investors could strategically evaluate their potential impact in shaping financial trends, forming economic alliances, and driving geopolitical power shifts.


The term “Second World” was primarily used during the Cold War era to categorize nations that did not align with either the capitalist First World, led by the United States and its allies, or the communist Third World, led by the Soviet Union. The Second World comprised mainly of socialist or communist countries, such as those in the Eastern Bloc and China. The purpose of this classification was to enable a clearer understanding of the global political and economic landscape at the time, as nations were largely defined by their allegiances and governance systems. As a result, Second World countries were characterized by their centrally planned economies and state control over most industries and resources, which often prioritized social welfare, worker’s rights, and the public good over private enterprise and profits.Today, the term “Second World” has become somewhat obsolete, as the world has moved beyond the dynamics of the Cold War. The purpose of the term has therefore evolved to describe countries that could be considered as emerging economies or developing nations, such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Economically, these countries are witnessing rapid industrialization, expansion of infrastructure, and the growth of a middle class. They often have characteristics of both developed economies, such as modern infrastructure and industries, and developing economies, where there may still exist socioeconomic disparities and a lingering reliance on traditional sectors like agriculture. Due to their growing economic power, trade, and influence, the Second World nations are increasingly important players on the global stage and are often the focus of international business, trade, and investment opportunities, as they present potential for significant economic growth.


The term “Second World” refers to countries that were part of the socialist/communist Eastern bloc during the Cold War era (1947-1991), influenced by the Soviet Union. Here are three real-world examples related to the business and finance sectors in these countries:1. Russian Automotive Industry: Soviet-era Russian automobile manufacturing, such as the Lada, was a classic example of Second World business. They were state-owned companies, and the products were consumed primarily in socialist countries. Following the collapse of the USSR, the Russian automotive industry faced numerous challenges, including declining consumer demand, the absence of substantial technological advancements, and increased competition from international companies who entered the Russian market.2. East German Economy: Prior to the reunification of Germany in 1990, East Germany’s economy was primarily based on a centralized planning system, following the Soviet model. Despite a strong industrial base, state control over businesses and natural resources, combined with central planning, ultimately led to inefficiencies and a struggling economy. After reunification, privatization and market-oriented reforms transformed the former Second World East German economy, integrating it into the larger German economy and eventually the European Union’s market system.3. Yugoslavia’s State-controlled Economy: The former Yugoslavia, consisting of countries like Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and others, had an economy largely based on state control and self-management during the socialist era. The government directed most investments, owned major industries, and made critical decisions in the economy. However, in the 1980s, Yugoslavia faced economic stagnation and substantial debt, leading to its disintegration in the 1990s. In the post-socialist era, the successor states adopted market-oriented economies and began the process of privatization and liberalization to foster economic growth and integration into the European market.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the term “Second World” mean in finance and business?

The term “Second World” refers to countries that were formerly part of the socialist bloc, mostly aligned with the Soviet Union, during the Cold War era. These countries typically have a mixed economy, combining elements of both capitalism and socialism.

Which countries are classified as Second World countries?

Second World countries mainly include Eastern European countries such as Russia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and former Soviet countries like Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. Some nations in Asia and Africa, which were once Soviet allies, like Vietnam, Cuba, and Angola, are also considered Second World countries.

Are Second World countries considered developed or developing nations?

Though the classification of countries based on the First, Second, and Third Worlds is rather obsolete, Second World countries generally lie between developed and developing nations. Some of them have experienced considerable industrial development, urbanization, and infrastructure improvements since the end of the Cold War, while others still struggle with economic stagnation.

What are the main economic characteristics of Second World countries?

Second World countries typically exhibit mixed economies, with certain sectors being largely state-controlled, while others operate under market principles. Some common economic traits of Second World countries include lower GDP per capita, slower economic growth rates, higher inflation, and high levels of government involvement in economic affairs.

How do Second World countries compare with First and Third World countries in terms of investment opportunities?

Second World countries can offer unique investment opportunities due to lower competition, lower labor costs, and untapped markets. However, risks like political instability, corruption, and bureaucratic complexities might make these markets less attractive for some investors. In comparison, First World countries usually have more stable and mature investment environments, while Third World countries can provide higher potential returns but often come with even greater risks.

Are Second World countries part of any international economic organizations or alliances?

Yes, Second World countries are part of various international organizations and alliances, such as the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund. Some countries also participate in regional associations like the Eurasian Economic Union or the Visegrád Group. These organizations often provide platforms for economic cooperation and aid in promoting trade and investment between member countries.

How has the transition to market-oriented economies affected Second World countries?

The transition from centrally planned economies to market-oriented systems for Second World countries has led to significant economic and social changes. While some countries have benefited from increased foreign investments, privatization, and liberalization of markets, others have faced challenges such as rising inequality, unemployment, and poverty. The success of the transition largely depends on each country’s policies and the effectiveness of their economic reforms.

Related Finance Terms

  • Emerging Markets
  • Transition Economies
  • Developing Countries
  • Global South
  • Industrialization

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More