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Republics of the Soviet Union
|Republics of the USSR|
|Created by||Treaty on the Creation of the USSR|
|Number||15 (as of 1989)|
|Populations||Smallest: 1,565,662 (Estonian SSR)
Largest: 147,386,000 (Russian SFSR)
|Areas||Smallest: 29,800 km2 (11,500 sq mi) (Armenia)
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 ethnically based administrative units of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet Union was created by the treaty between the soviet socialist republics of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and the Transcaucasian Federation, by which they became its constituent republics. For most of its history, the USSR was a highly centralized state despite its nominal structure as a federation of republics; the decentralization reforms during the era of Perestroika ("Restructuring") and Glasnost ("Openness") conducted by Mikhail Gorbachev are cited as one of the factors which led to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.
There were two different 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 the union republics and representing ethnic minorities.
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.
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 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 the 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.
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.
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. 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.
|Emblem||Name||Flag||Capital||Official languages||Joined||Sovereignty /
|Area (km2) (1991)||Area
|Post-Soviet and de facto states||No.|
|Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic||Yerevan||Armenian, Russian||1922||August 23, 1990
September 21, 1991
|Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic||Baku||Azerbaijani, Russian||1922||September 23, 1989
August 30, 1991
|Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic||Minsk||Byelorussian, Russian||1922||July 27, 1990
August 25, 1991
|Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic[a]||Tallinn||Estonian, Russian||1940||November 16, 1988
August 20, 1991
|Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic||Tbilisi||Georgian, Russian||1922||November 18, 1989
April 9, 1991
|Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic||Alma-Ata||Kazakh, Russian||1936||October 25, 1990
December 10, 1991
|Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic||Frunze||Kirghiz, Russian||1936||December 15, 1990
August 31, 1991
|Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic[a]||Riga||Latvian, Russian||1940||July 28, 1989
May 4, 1990
|Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic[a]||Vilnius||Lithuanian, Russian||1940||May 18, 1989
March 11, 1990
|Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic||Kishinev||Moldavian, Russian||1940||June 23, 1990
August 27, 1991
|Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic||Moscow||Russian||1922||June 12, 1990
December 12, 1991
|Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic||Dushanbe||Tajik,
|1929||August 24, 1990
September 9, 1991
|Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic||Ashkhabad||Turkmen, Russian||1924||August 27, 1990
October 27, 1991
|Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic||Kyiv||Ukrainian, Russian||1922||July 16, 1990
August 24, 1991
|Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic||Tashkent||Uzbek,
|1924||June 20, 1990
August 31, 1991
Former Union Republics of the Soviet Union
|Emblem||Name||Flag||Capital||Titular nationality||Years of membership||Population||Area (km2)||Soviet successor|
|Bukharan People's Soviet Republic||Bukhara||Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmens||1920–1925||2,000,000||182,193|| Uzbek SSR
|Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic||Petrozavodsk||Karelians, Finns||1940–1956||651,300
|Khorezm People's Soviet Republic||Khiva||Uzbeks, Turkmens||1920–1925||800,000||62,200|| Turkmen SSR
|Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic||Tiflis||Azeris, Armenians, Georgians||1922–1936||5,861,600
|186,100|| Armenian SSR
Republics not recognized by the Soviet Union
|Emblem||Name||Flag||Capital||Official languages||Independence from Moldavian 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
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
- The Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic
- The Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee
- The Korean ASSR
- The Volga Germans Workers' Commune
- The Estland Workers' Commune
- The Karelian Workers' Commune
- The Petrograd Workers' Commune, later the Northern Oblast Communes Association
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.
Former Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union
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 namely USSR or Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics. On 25th 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
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- National delimitation in the Soviet Union
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