1991 Soviet Union referendum
Do you consider it necessary to preserve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, in which the rights and freedoms of a person of any nationality will be fully guaranteed?
Results by republic
|Referendum held: 17 March 1991
Republic not participating
A referendum on the future of the Soviet Union was held on 17 March 1991 across the Soviet Union. It was the only national referendum in the history of the Soviet Union, although it was boycotted by authorities in six of the fifteen Soviet republics.
The referendum asked whether to approve a new Union Treaty between the republics, to replace the 1922 treaty that created the USSR. The question put to most voters was:
Do you consider necessary the preservation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any ethnicity will be fully guaranteed?
In Kazakhstan, the wording of the referendum was changed by substituting "equal sovereign states" for "equal sovereign republics".
In Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Kyrgizia additional questions were asked about sovereignty and independence of these republics.
While the vote was boycotted by the authorities in Armenia, Estonia, Georgia (though not in the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Latvia, Lithuania, and Moldova (though not in Transnistria or Gagauzia), turnout was 80% across the rest of the Soviet Union.
The referendum's question was approved by nearly 80% of voters in all nine other republics that took part. But the August coup attempt by hardliners of the Communist Party prevented the anticipated signing of the new Union Treaty a day later. Although it failed, the coup attempt reduced confidence in Gorbachev's central government. It was followed by a series of referendums for independence in individual republics and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991.
The following question was asked:
|Do you consider it necessary to preserve the USSR as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, which will be fully ensured of human rights and freedoms of any nationality?||Считаете ли Вы необходимым сохранение Союза Советских Социалистических Республик как обновлённой федерации равноправных суверенных республик, в которой будут в полной мере гарантироваться права и свободы человека любой национальности?||Чи вважаєте ви за необхідне збереження Союзу Радянських Соціалістичних Республік як оновленої федерації рівноправних суверенних республік, у якій будуть повною мірою гарантуватися права і свободи людини будь-якої національності?||Һеҙ Совет Социалистик Республикалар Союзын бөтә милләт кешеләренең хоҡуҡтары һәм иректәре тулыһынса гарантияланған тиң хоҡуҡлы суверен республикаларҙың яңыртылған федерацияһы булараҡ һаҡлап ҡалыу кәрәк тип иҫәпләйһегеҙме?|
On December 24, 1990, deputies of the 4th Congress of People's Deputies, having voted by name, decided to consider it necessary to preserve the USSR as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, which will be fully ensured human rights and freedoms of any nationality. The referendum considered five questions:
- Do you consider it necessary to preserve the USSR as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, which will be fully ensured of human rights and freedoms of any nationality? (Yes/No)
- Do you consider it necessary to preserve the USSR as a single state? (Yes/No)
- Do you consider it necessary to preserve the socialist system in the USSR? (Yes/No)
- Do you consider it necessary to preserve in the renovated Union of Soviet power?[clarification needed] (Yes/No)
- Do you feel the need to safeguard the Union in the renewed human rights and freedoms of any nationality?[clarification needed] (Yes/No) (Any legal or legislative consequences, in case of acceptance of, or otherwise, was not specified)
On the same day, at the initiative and insistence of General Secretary and President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Congress adopted two decisions on holding a referendum on the private ownership of land  and on the preservation of the Union as a renewed federation of equal sovereign of Soviet Socialist Republics . For the adoption of the first resolution voted in 1553 deputies, against - 84, abstained - 70. For the adoption of the second resolution voted in 1677 deputies, against - 32, abstained - 66.
However, concerning the first decision the Chairman YH Kalmykov later explained at a session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Supreme Council Committee for Legislation, the president asked to refrain from holding a referendum on the issue of private property.
Second course was given to the decree. It said that "due to numerous appeals of workers expressed concern about the fate of the USSR, and given that the preservation of a single union state is the most important issue of public life, affects the interests of each person, all the Soviet Union's population", the Congress of People's Deputies USSR decided:
1. Conduct a referendum of the USSR to address the issue of maintaining the Union as a renewed federation of equal sovereign Soviet Socialist Republics, taking into account the results of voting for each country separately.
2. To instruct the USSR Supreme Council set a date for the referendum and ensure its measures.
— Resolution of the USSR from LICs December 24, 1990 No. 1856-1
On 27 December 1990, Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR decided to enact it adopted on the day the Law of the USSR "On the popular vote (Soviet Union referendum)".
According to Art. 5 of the Law of the USSR "On the popular vote (Soviet Union referendum)"  Law of the USSR referendum destination belonged to the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR, and on matters not related to the exclusive jurisdiction of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies, in the period between congresses – the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. "Based on the fact that no one, except the people can not take the historical responsibility for the fate of the USSR, pursuant to the decision of the fourth Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR in accordance with the law on the referendum of the USSR" On January 16, 1991 the Supreme Council USSR decided that to:
1. Carry out the entire territory of the Soviet Union on Sunday, 17 March 1991, for the Soviet Union referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union as a federation of equal republics.
2. Turn on the ballot for secret voting the following wording of the question put to referendum, and the answers of voting: "Do you consider it necessary to preserve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics, which will fully guarantee the rights and freedoms of all nationalities." "Yes or no".
3. To determine the results of voting by the Union Soviet Socialist Republic as a whole, taking into account the results of voting for each country separately.— Resolution of the USSR Supreme Soviet of 16 January 1991 № 1910-1
|Source: Nohlen & Stöver|
In participating republics
|Source: Direct Democracy|
In republics not participating in the Soviet referendums
An official referendum had been held in Estonia on 3 March 1991 on whether to restore the Estonian republic that had been occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. The result was 77.8% in favour of restoring the Estonian republic. Latvia also held an official referendum on 3 March 1991, when the overwhelming majority voted to restore the independent Latvian republic. Lithuania had held a referendum on 9 February 1991, in which 93% of voters had approved independence.
Georgia was to hold its own independence referendum two weeks later, and Armenia on 21 September.
Consequently, in these republics, pro-Soviet front-organisations organised voluntary referendums without official sanction. Turnout of voting here was considerably less than 50% of the franchised voters of these countries, but this information was not included in the official statement of the Central Commission of the Referendum of USSR.
(not equal to
not franchised voters)
|Source: Direct Democracy|
In several of the republics, additional questions were added to the ballot. In Russia, an additional question was asked on whether an elective post of the president of Russia should be created. In Kirghizia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan the additional question was on the sovereignty of their republics as part of a new union.
In Kirghizia, voters were also asked "Do you agree that the Republic of Kirghizistan should be in the renewed Union as a sovereign republic with equal rights?" It was approved by 62.2% of voters, although turnout was lower at 81.7%, compared to 92.9% in the Union-wide referendum.
|Source: Nohlen et al.|
In Ukraine, voters were also asked "Do you agree that Ukraine should be part of a Union of Soviet sovereign states on the basis on the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine?" The proposal was approved by 81.7% of voters. Ukraine later held its own referendum on 1 December, in which 92% voted for independence.
|Source: Nohlen & Stöver|
At the same day a referendum in the Galician provinces Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, and Ternopil asked the three regions of the USSR about the creation of independent state of Ukraine. 88% of the voters in this referendum supported Ukraine's independence.
In Uzbekistan, voters were also asked "Do you agree that Uzbekistan should remain part of a renewed Union (federation) as a sovereign republic with equal rights?" It was approved by 94.9% of voters, with a turnout of 95.5%. On 29 December, 98% of Uzbeks would vote for full independence.
|Source: Nohlen et al.|
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- ^ a b c Referendum of March 1991 Archived 2018-08-02 at the Wayback Machine Russian History Encyclopedia on Answers.com
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- ^ Постановление СНД СССР от 24 декабря 1990 года № 1853-1 «О сохранении Союза ССР как обновлённой федерации равноправных суверенных республик» // Ведомости СНД и ВС СССР. — 1990. — № 52. — ст. 1158.
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- ^ Съездом было принято два постановления о проведении референдумов по вопросу о частной собственности на землю
- ^ a b c Постановление СНД СССР от 24 декабря 1990 года № 1856-1 «О проведении референдума СССР по вопросу о Союзе Советских Социалистических Республик» // Ведомости СНД и ВС СССР. — 1990. — № 52. — ст. 1161.
- ^ Закон СССР от 27 декабря 1990 года № 1869-1 «О всенародном голосовании (референдуме СССР)» // Ведомости СНД и ВС СССР. — 1991. — № 1. — ст. 10.
- ^ Постановление ВС СССР от 16 января 1991 года № 1910-1 «Об организации и мерах по обеспечению проведения референдума СССР по вопросу о сохранении Союза Советских Социалистических Республик» // Ведомости СНД и ВС СССР. 1991. — № 4. — ст. 87.
- ^ Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1647 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
- ^ "Chronology". 6 September 2012.
- ^ Об итогах референдума СССР, состоявшегося 17 марта 1991 года (Из сообщения Центральной комиссии референдума СССР) // Известия. — 1991. — 27 марта.
- ^ (in Russian) Воля, которую мы потеряли... "Время" № 5. 16 марта 2001 года Archived 2011-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
- ^ (in Russian)Сообщение Центральной комиссии референдума СССР об итогах референдума СССР, состоявшегося 17 марта 1991 года // Правда. — 1991. — 27 марта.
- ^ Nohlen et al., p443
- ^ a b Nohlen & Stöver, p1985
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