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Encyclopedia > Autonomous Republics of the Soviet Union

In its final decades of its existence, the Soviet Union consisted of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics (SSR), often called simply Soviet republics. All of them were socialist republics, and all of them, with the exception of Russia had their own Communist parties. They are all independent countries now; 12 of them (all except the Baltic states) are very loosely organized under the heading Commonwealth of Independent States.

Constitutionally, the Soviet Union was a confederation. In accordance with article 72 of the Soviet constitution adopted in 1977, each republic retained the right to secede from the USSR. Throughout the Cold War, this right was widely considered to be meaningless, however Article 72 was used in December 1991 to effectively dissolve the Soviet Union, when Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus seceded from the USSR.

In practice, the USSR was a highly centralised entity from its creation in 1922 until the 1980s when political forces unleashed reforms undertaken by Mikhail Gorbachev resulted in the loosening of central control and its ultimate collapse. 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.

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. General practice in the republics outside of Russia was that the head of state in a republic was a local official while the party general secretary was from outside the republic.

Each republic had the a full set of states symbols: a flag, a coat of arms, and, with the exception of Russia, an anthem.


The Republics and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

The republics played an important role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, glasnost and perestroika were intended to revive the Soviet Union. However, they had a number of effects which caused the power of the republics to increase. First, political liberalization allowed the governments within the republics to gain legitimacy by invoking democracy, nationalism or a combination of both. In addition, liberalization led to fractures within the party hierarchy which reduced Soviet control over the republics. Finally, peristroika allowed the governments of the republics to control economic assets in their republics and withhold funds from the central government.

Throughout the late 1980s, the Soviet government attempted to find a new structure which would reflect the increasing power of the republics. These efforts proved unsuccessful, and in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed as the republic governments seceded. The republics then all became independent states, with the post-Soviet governments in most cases consisting largely of the govenment personnel of the former Soviet republics.

Soviet Union in its final state

Soviet Republics

  1. Armenian SSR
  2. Azerbaijan SSR
  3. Byelorussian SSR
  4. Estonian SSR
  5. Georgian SSR
  6. Kazakh SSR
  7. Kirghiz SSR
  8. Latvian SSR
  9. Lithuanian SSR
  10. Moldavian SSR
  11. Russian SFSR
  12. Tadzhik SSR
  13. Turkmen SSR
  14. Ukrainian SSR
  15. Uzbek SSR

Independent Countries


Sorted by region

Russia is by far the largest in area, it spans both Europe and Asia. Of the other 14, Kazakhstan is by far the largest. Russia is also by far the most populated, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are next, in that order.

See the ranked List of Soviet Republics

Other Soviet republics

Autonomous republics of the Soviet Union

A number of nations had autonomy within the main Soviet republics and called Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics, or ASSRs. Their number and status have been changing over time.

Autonomous oblasts of the Soviet Union

A number of smaller nations had autonomy within the main Soviet republics and called Autonomous Oblasts, or AO.


  Results from FactBites:
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: Definition and Much More From Answers.com (8347 words)
The Soviet Union was formally dissolved in 1991.
The Soviet Union became the primary model for future Communist states during the Cold War; the government and the political organization of the country were defined by the only permitted political party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union was established in December 1922 as the union of the Russian (colloquially known as Bolshevist Russia), Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Transcaucasian Soviet republics ruled by Bolshevik parties.
Russia - Minority Peoples and Their Territories (6057 words)
It was redesignated as the Republic of Adygea in 1992.
In 1924 North Ossetia became an autonomous region of the Soviet Union; in 1936 it was declared an autonomous republic.
In 1920 Chuvashia became an autonomous oblast, and in 1925 it was redesignated an autonomous republic.
  More results at FactBites »



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