|Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics|
|Created by||Treaty on the Creation of the USSR|
|Number||21 (as of 1933)|
|Populations||Smallest: 1,565,662 (Estonian SSR)|
Largest: 147,386,000 (Russian SFSR)
|Areas||Smallest: 29,800 km2 (11,500 sq mi) (Armenian SSR)|
Largest: 17,075,400 km2 (6,592,800 sq mi) (Russian SFSR)
The Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Union Republics (Russian: Сою́зные Респу́блики, tr. Soyúznye Respúbliki) were national-based administrative units of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet Union was formed in 1922 by a treaty between the Soviet republics of Byelorussia, Russian Federation, Transcaucasian Federation, and Ukraine, by which they became its constituent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union).
For most of its history, the USSR was a highly centralized state led by its Communist Party despite its nominal structure as a federation of republics; the light decentralization reforms during the era of perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (voice-ness, as freedom of speech) conducted by Mikhail Gorbachev as part of the Helsinki Accords are cited as one of the factors which led to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 as result of the so-called "Cold War" and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
There were two very distinct types of republics in the Soviet Union: the larger union republics, representing the main ethnic groups of the Union and with the constitutional right to secede from it, and the smaller autonomous republics, located within some of the union republics and representing ethnic minorities. Typically, in regard to governance, autonomous republics were subordinate to the union republics they were located in except for few instances such as the Republic of Nakhichevan.
The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, a relic of the Soviet-Finnish War, became the only union republic to be deprived of its status in 1956. The decision to downgrade Karelia to an autonomous republic within the RSFSR was made unilaterally by the central government without consulting its population.
Chapter 8 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution is titled as the "Soviet Union is a union state". Article 70 stated that the union was founded on principles "socialist federalism" as a result of free self-determination of nation and volunteer association of equal in rights soviet socialist republics. Article 71 listed all of 15 union republics that united into the Soviet Union.
According to Article 76 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution, a Union Republic was a sovereign Soviet socialist state that had united with other Soviet Republics in the USSR. Article 78 of the Constitution stated that the territory of the union republic cannot be changed without its agreement. Article 81 of the Constitution stated that "the sovereign rights of Union Republics shall be safeguarded by the USSR".
In the final decades of its existence, the Soviet Union officially consisted of fifteen Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs). All of them, with the exception of the Russian Federation (until 1990), had their own local party chapters of the All-Union Communist Party.
Outside the territory of the Russian Federation, the republics were constituted mostly in lands that had formerly belonged to the Russian Empire and had been acquired by it between the 1700 Great Northern War and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907.
In 1944, amendments to the All-Union Constitution allowed for separate branches of the Red Army for each Soviet Republic. They also allowed for Republic-level commissariats for foreign affairs and defense, allowing them to be recognized as de jure independent states in international law. This allowed for two Soviet Republics, Ukraine and Byelorussia, (as well as the USSR as a whole) to join the United Nations General Assembly as founding members in 1945.
All of the former Republics of the Union are now independent countries, with ten of them (all except the Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine) being very loosely organized under the heading of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Baltic states assert that their incorporation into the Soviet Union in 1940 (as the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian SSRs) under the provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was illegal, and that they therefore remained independent countries under Soviet occupation. Their position is supported by the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United States. In contrast, the Russian government and state officials maintain that the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states was legitimate.
Constitutionally, the Soviet Union was a federation. In accordance with provisions present in its Constitution (versions adopted in 1924, 1936 and 1977), each republic retained the right to secede from the USSR. Throughout the Cold War, this right was widely considered to be meaningless; however, the corresponding Article 72 of the 1977 Constitution was used in December 1991 to effectively dissolve the Soviet Union, when Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus seceded from the Union. Although the Union was created under an initial ideological appearance of forming a supranational union, it never de facto functioned as one; an example of the ambiguity is that the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1930s officially had its own foreign minister, but that office did not exercise any true sovereignty apart from that of the union. The Constitution of the Soviet Union in its various iterations defined the union as a federation with the right of the republics to secede. This constitutional status led to the possibility of the parade of sovereignties once the republic with de facto (albeit not de jure) dominance over the other republics, the Russian one, developed a prevailing political notion asserting that it would be better off if it seceded. The de facto dominance of the Russian republic is the reason that various historians (for example, Dmitri Volkogonov and others) have asserted that the union was a unitary state in fact albeit it not in law.: 71, 483 
In practice, the USSR was a highly centralised entity from its creation in 1922 until the mid-1980s when political forces unleashed by reforms undertaken by Mikhail Gorbachev resulted in the loosening of central control and its ultimate dissolution. Under the constitution adopted in 1936 and modified along the way until October 1977, the political foundation of the Soviet Union was formed by the Soviets (Councils) of People's Deputies. These existed at all levels of the administrative hierarchy, with the Soviet Union as a whole under the nominal control of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, located in Moscow within the Russian SFSR.
Along with the state administrative hierarchy, there existed a parallel structure of party organizations, which allowed the Politburo to exercise large amounts of control over the republics. State administrative organs took direction from the parallel party organs, and appointments of all party and state officials required approval of the central organs of the party.
Each republic had its own unique set of state symbols: a flag, a coat of arms, and, with the exception of Russia until 1990, an anthem. Every republic of the Soviet Union also was awarded with the Order of Lenin.
Poster of the unity of the Soviet republics in the late 1930s. All republics, except Russia, are shown with their respective traditional clothes.
Union Republics of the Soviet Union
The number of the union republics of the USSR varied from 4 to 16. From 1956 until its dissolution in 1991, the Soviet Union consisted of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics. (In 1956, the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, created in 1940, was absorbed into the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.) Rather than listing the republics in alphabetical order, the republics were listed in constitutional order, which, particularly by the last decades of the Soviet Union, did not correspond to order either by population or economic power.
|Post-Soviet and de facto states||No.|
|Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic||Yerevan||Armenian, Russian||2 December 1920||30 December 1922||23 August 1990||21 September 1991||3,287,700||1.15||29,800||0.13||Armenia||13|
|Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic||Baku||Azerbaijani, Russian||28 April 1920||30 December 1922||23 September 1989||30 August 1991||7,037,900||2.45||86,600||0.39|| Azerbaijan
|Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic||Minsk||Byelorussian, Russian||31 July 1920||30 December 1922||27 July 1990||10 December 1991||10,151,806||3.54||207,600||0.93||Belarus||3|
|Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic[a]||Tallinn||Estonian, Russian||21 July 1940[b]||6 August 1940||16 November 1988||20 August 1991||1,565,662||0.55||45,226||0.20||Estonia||15|
|Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic||Tbilisi||Georgian, Russian||25 February 1921||30 December 1922||18 November 1989||9 April 1991||5,400,841||1.88||69,700||0.31|| Georgia
|Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic||Alma-Ata||Kazakh, Russian||5 December 1936||25 October 1990||16 December 1991||16,711,900||5.83||2,717,300||12.24||Kazakhstan||5|
|Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic||Frunze||Kirghiz, Russian||5 December 1936||15 December 1990||31 August 1991||4,257,800||1.48||198,500||0.89||Kyrgyzstan||11|
|Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic[a]||Riga||Latvian, Russian||21 July 1940[b]||3 August 1940||28 July 1989||4 May 1990||2,666,567||0.93||64,589||0.29||Latvia||10|
|Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic[a]||Vilnius||Lithuanian, Russian||21 July 1940[b]||5 August 1940||18 May 1989||11 March 1990||3,689,779||1.29||65,200||0.29||Lithuania||8|
|Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic||Kishinev||Moldavian, Russian||2 August 1940||23 June 1990||27 August 1991||4,337,600||1.51||33,843||0.15|| Moldova
|Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic||Moscow||Russian||7 November 1917||30 December 1922||12 June 1990||12 December 1991||147,386,000||51.40||17,075,400||76.62||Russia||1|
|Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic||Dushanbe||Tajik,
|5 December 1929||24 August 1990||9 September 1991||5,112,000||1.78||143,100||0.64||Tajikistan||12|
|Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic||Ashkhabad||Turkmen, Russian||13 May 1925||27 August 1990||27 October 1991||3,522,700||1.23||488,100||2.19||Turkmenistan||14|
|Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic||Kiev||Ukrainian, Russian||10 March 1919||30 December 1922||16 July 1990||24 August 1991||51,706,746||18.03||603,700||2.71|| Ukraine
|Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic||Tashkent||Uzbek,
|5 December 1924||20 June 1990||31 August 1991||19,906,000||6.94||447,400||2.01||Uzbekistan||4|
Temporary Union Republics of the Soviet Union
Republics not recognized by the Soviet Union
|Emblem||Name||Flag||Capital||Official languages||Independence from SSR declared||Independence from USSR declared||Population||Area (km2)||Post-Soviet states|
|Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic||Tiraspol||Russian, Ukrainian, Moldovan||2 September 1990||25 August 1991||680,000
Other non-union Soviet republics
|Emblem||Name||Flag||Capital||Created||Defunct||Successor states||Modern states|
|Far Eastern Republic||Verkhneudinsk
|Tuvan People's Republic||Kyzyl
||1921||1944||Russian SFSR ( Tuvan ASSR)|
The Turkestan Soviet Federative Republic was proclaimed in 1918 but did not survive to the founding of the USSR, becoming the short-lived Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of the RSFSR. The Crimean Soviet Socialist Republic (Soviet Socialist Republic of Taurida) was also proclaimed in 1918, but did not become a union republic and was made into an autonomous republic of the RSFSR, although the Crimean Tatars had a relative majority until the 1930s or 1940s according to censuses. When the Tuvan People's Republic joined the Soviet Union in 1944, it did not become a union republic, and was instead established as an autonomous republic of the RSFSR.
The leader of the People's Republic of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov, suggested in the early 1960s that the country should become a union republic, but the offer was rejected. During the Soviet–Afghan War, the Soviet Union proposed to annex Northern Afghanistan as its 16th union republic in what was to become the Afghan Soviet Socialist Republic.
Unrealized Soviet states
- Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic (1919)
- Polish Soviet Socialist Republic (1920)
- East Polish Soviet Socialist Republic (1990)
Autonomous Republics of the Soviet Union
Several of the Union Republics themselves, most notably Russia, were further subdivided into Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs). Though administratively part of their respective Union Republics, ASSRs were also established based on ethnic/cultural lines.
According to the constitution of the USSR, in case of a union republic voting on leaving the Soviet Union, autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts and autonomous okrugs had the right, by means of a referendum, to independently resolve whether they will stay in the USSR or leave with the seceding union republic, as well as to raise the issue of their state-legal status.>
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Former Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union
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Dissolution of the Soviet Union
Starting in the late 1980s, under the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet government undertook a program of political reforms (glasnost and perestroika) intended to liberalise and revitalise the Union. These measures, however, had a number of unintended political and social effects. Political liberalisation allowed the governments of the union republics to openly invoke the principles of democracy and nationalism to gain legitimacy. In addition, the loosening of political restrictions led to fractures within the Communist Party which resulted in a reduced ability to govern the Union effectively. The rise of nationalist and right-wing movements, notably led by Boris Yeltsin in Russia, in the previously homogeneous political system undermined the Union's foundations. With the central role of the Communist Party removed from the constitution, the Party lost its control over the State machinery and was banned from operating after an attempted coup d'état.
Throughout this period of turmoil, the Soviet government attempted to find a new structure that would reflect the increased authority of the republics. Some autonomous republics, like Tatarstan, Checheno-Ingushetia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea, Transnistria, Gagauzia sought the union statute in the New Union Treaty. Efforts to found a Union of Sovereign States, however, proved unsuccessful and the republics began to secede from the Union. By 6 September 1991, the Soviet Union's State Council recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania bringing the number of union republics down to 12. On 8 December 1991, the remaining leaders of the republics signed the Belavezha Accords which agreed that the USSR would be dissolved and replaced with a Commonwealth of Independent States. On 25 December, President Gorbachev announced his resignation and turned all executive powers over to Yeltsin. The next day the Council of Republics voted to dissolve the Union. Since then, the republics have been governed independently with some reconstituting themselves as liberal parliamentary republics and others, particularly in Central Asia, devolving into highly autocratic states under the leadership of the old Party elite.
- Flags of the Soviet Republics
- Emblems of the Soviet Republics
- Commonwealth of Independent States
- Eurasian Economic Union
- National delimitation in the Soviet Union
- Bavarian Soviet Republic
- Hungarian Soviet Republic
- Slovak Soviet Republic
- Limerick Soviet
- Paris Commune
- Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee (Polish SSR)
- Republics of Russia
- Federal subjects of Russia
- Post-Soviet states (former Soviet Republics)
- The annexation of the Baltic republics in 1940 is considered an illegal occupation by the current Baltic governments and by a number of foreign countries. The Soviet Union considered the initial annexation legal, but officially recognized their independence on 6 September 1991, three months prior to its final dissolution
- Not internationally recognized, independent republic continued de jure.
- Known as Oyrot Autonomous Oblast in 1922-1948 and Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast in 1948-1990.
- Hough, Jerry F (1997). Democratization and revolution in the USSR, 1985-1991. Brookings Institution Press. p. 214. ISBN 0-8157-3749-1.
- Federalism and the Dictatorship of Power in Russia By Mikhail Stoliarov. Taylor & Francis. 2014. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-415-30153-4. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "Walter Duranty Explains Changes In Soviet Constitution". Miami News. 6 February 1944. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "League of Nations Timeline - Chronology 1944". Indiana.edu. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "United Nations - Founding Members". Un.org. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "The Occupation of Latvia at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia". Am.gov.
- "Estonia says Soviet occupation justifies it staying away from Moscow celebrations". Pravda.Ru. 3 May 2005. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007.
- Motion for a resolution on the Situation in Estonia by the EU
- European Court of Human Rights cases on Occupation of Baltic States
- "UNITED NATIONS Human Rights Council Report". Ap.ohchr.org. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "U.S.-Baltic Relations: Celebrating 85 Years of Friendship" (PDF). U.S. Department of State. 14 June 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
- Russia denies Baltic 'occupation' by BBC News
- Volkogonov, Dmitri Antonovich (1998). Autopsy for an Empire: the Seven Leaders who Built the Soviet Regime. New York: Free Press/Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684834207.
- Butler, William E.; Kahn, Jeffrey (May 2002). "Federalism or Federationism. A book review of: Federalism, Democratization and the Rule of Law in Russia by Jeffrey Kahn". Michigan Law Review. 100 (6): 1444–1452. doi:10.2307/1290449.
- European parliament: Resolution on the situation in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (No C 42/78) (1983). Official Journal of the European Communities. European Parliament.
- Aust, Anthony (2005). Handbook of International Law. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-53034-7.
- Ziemele, Ineta (2005). State Continuity and Nationality: The Baltic States and Russia. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 90-04-14295-9.
- Elster, Jon (1996). The roundtable talks and the breakdown of communism. University of Chicago Press. p. 179. ISBN 0-226-20628-9.
- Held, Joseph (1994). Dictionary of East European history since 1945. Greenwood Press. p. 84. ISBN 0-313-26519-4.
- Gökay, Bülent (2001). Eastern Europe since 1970. Longman. p. 19. ISBN 0-582-32858-6.
- Soviets may be poised to annex the Afghan North - Chicago Tribune. 19 August 1984. Retrieved on 10 December 2016. "Miraki said then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev urged Afghan President Babrak Karmal to win Afghan Communist Party approval for Moscow's annexation of eight northern provinces and their formation into the 16th Soviet republic, the Socialist Republic of Afghanistan. The defector said Brezhnev envisioned the southern half of the country as a powerless, Pa-than-speaking buffer with U.S.-backed Pakistan."
- "СОЮЗ СОВЕТСКИХ СОЦИАЛИСТИЧЕСКИХ РЕСПУБЛИК. ЗАКОН О порядке решения вопросов, связанных с выходом союзной республики из СССР" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 12 September 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
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