Before anything else read my two prior blogs (especially if you don’t have at least a B.A. in Political Science and even then, if you didn’t have a specialization in international relations):
Now that you’ve boned up on some of the elements of international relations, foreign policy and constitutional history, think about the effect of the constitutional history of the former Soviet Union and how it affects the perceptions of common people, politicians, and academicians in the former Soviet states as they now all squabble over the Crimea, parts of Ukraine, Trans Dneister, and other areas that have majority populations of Russian language speakers. Pay special attention to my explanation of “Romantic Nationalism” in my blog on the “Mythology of Secession” and how that is playing out in the present day.
Russian and later Soviet constitutional history dates back at least to the Rus’Kaya Pravda of Kiev of 1280, the Pskov Judicial Charter adopted in 1397, and the Novgorod Judicial Charter of 1440 all of which led to Ivan III (“Ivan the Great” as opposed to Ivan IV, i.e. “Ivan the Terrible”) promulgating the Sudebnik of 1497. This in turn was revised by Ivan IV’s Sudebnik of 1550, followed by the 1649 Sobornoye Ulozheniye of Czar Alexy Mikhailovich. These documents were brought up to date in the 1833 promulgation of “The Code of Laws of the Russian Empire” by Czar Nicholai I.
Following the unsuccessful 1905 Russian Revolution, Czar Nicholai II was forced to cede some power to the legislative Duma with the “Russian Fundamental Laws of 1906,” seen as the beginning of modern constitutionalism in Russia. The 1906 document is very clear about the inseparable and autocratic nature of the Russian nation-state:
1. The Russian State is one and indivisible.
2. The Grand Duchy of Finland, while comprising as inseparable part of the Russian State, is governed in its internal affairs by special decrees based on special legislation.
3. The Russian language is the common language of the state, and its use is compulsory in the army, in the navy and in all state and public institutions. The use of local (regional) languages and dialects in state and public institutions are determined by special legislation.
Following the success of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution and Civil War, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed by Treaty in 1922 followed by a formal “Constitution” in 1924, that established a system which was a voluntary union amongst theoretically equal nation-states, i.e., Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Trans-Caucusus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). This constitutional arrangement was on paper at least, akin to the “Articles of Confederation” which governed the United States of America prior to adoption of the U.S. Constitution. As Wikipedia explains [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_on_the_Creation_of_the_USSR]:
Finally the declaration then specifies that the resultant Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is one that is created on free will of the peoples, that its purpose follows the ideals of the October Revolution, that each and every socialist republic has the right to join and leave the Union at its own will, and hinting at the Soviet foreign policy of socialist irredentism (see World Revolution), finishes stating that the treaty …will serve a decisive step on the path of unification of all workers into a “World Socialist Soviet Republic”.
Following the declaration, is the treaty itself consisting of a preface and 26 articles.
In the preface it is fixed that the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, the Byelorussian Socialist Soviet Republic and the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic(containing Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia) acting in free will, agree to form a single Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that is governed on articles listed in the treaty.
Note importantly: it was clear on paper that the participating Republics had the right of secession. In essence, to join or pull out of the USSR the individual sovereign polity (be sure to look up the terms “sovereign” and “polity” if you’re not familiar with those terms as used by political scientists) was ratifying or abrogating its responsibilities under this treaty. It is important from that standpoint to understand the timeline that Wikipedia puts together for the history of this treaty:
- December 21, 1922 – Treaty signed.
- December 30, 1922 – Treaty ratified.
- October 27, 1924 – Uzbek and Turkmen populated regions of the Turkestan ASSR (previously of RSFSR) elevated into union republics.
- October 16, 1929 – Tajik SSR created from the Tajik ASSR (previously part of the RSFSR).
- December 5, 1936 – Simultaneous split of the Transcaucasian SFSR into Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani SSRs. Simultaneous breakup of the RSFSR-administered Turkestan (then consisting of Kazakh and Kirgiz ASSRs) into Kazakh and Kirgiz SSRs.
- March 31, 1940 – RSFSR-administered Karelian ASSR raised into the Karelo-Finnish SSR.
- August 3, 1940 – Lithuanian SSR joins USSR.
- August 5, 1940 – Latvian SSR joins USSR.
- August 6, 1940 – Estonian SSR joins USSR.
- August 24, 1940 – Moldavian SSR created from the Ukrainian administered Moldavian ASSR and annexed Romanian territory of Bessarabia.
- July 16, 1956 – Karelo-Finnish SSR downgraded into an autonomous republic and re-annexed by RSFSR.
- December 8, 1991 – Treaty termination agreed by three of the four founding republics.
- December 25, 1991 – Treaty terminated.
Crimea was originally, within the context of the USSR, a part of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) until the regime of Ukrainian Nikita Krushchev at which time, as pointed out in my last blog on this subject, it was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954.
The principles of the treaty were incorporated into Chapter II of the Soviet Constitution of 1924 and pay close attention to these provisions:
CHAPTER II Sovereign Rights of the Member Republics
The sovereignty of the member Republics is limited only in the matters indicated in the present Constitution, as coming within the competence of the Union. Outside of those limits, each member Republic exerts its public powers independently; the USSR protects the rights of the member Republics.
Each one of the member Republics retains the right to freely withdraw from the Union.
The member Republics will make changes in their Constitutions to conform with the present Constitution.
The territory of the member Republics cannot be modified without their consent; also, any limitation or modification or suppression of Article 4 must have the approval of all the member Republics of the Union.
Just one federal nationality is established for the citizens of the member Republics
Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/1924-constitution-of-the-ussr#ixzz2wSjb3EVp
In 1936 under the rule of Joseph Stalin (my genetic cousin who was Y Chromosome Haplogroup G, subclade G2a, while I’m G2b), a new constitution was adopted with the following relevant Articles:
ARTICLE 13. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a federal state, formed on the basis of the voluntary association of Soviet Socialist Republics having equal rights, namely:
The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic
The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Azerbaidjan Soviet Socialist Republic
The Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic
The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic
The Tadjik Soviet Socialist Republic
The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic
The Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic
The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic
The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
The Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.
ARTICLE 15. The sovereignty of the Union Republics is limited only within the provisions set forth in Article 14 of the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. Outside of these provisions, each Union Republic exercises state authority independently. The U.S.S.R. protects the sovereign rights of the Union Republics.
ARTICLE 17. To every Union Republic is reserved the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R.
ARTICLE 18. The territory of a Union Republic may not be altered without its consent.
ARTICLE 19. The laws of the U.S.S.R. have the same force within the territory of every Union Republic.
ARTICLE 20. In the event of a discrepancy between a law of a Union Republic and an all-Union law, the all-Union law prevails.
ARTICLE 21. A single Union citizenship is established for all citizens of the U.S.S.R.
Every citizen of a Union Republic is a citizen of the U.S.S.R.
ARTICLE 22. The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic consists of the Altai, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Ordjonikidze, Maritime and Khabarovsk Territories; the Archangel, Vologda, Voronezh, Gorky, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kalinin, Kirov, Kuibyshev, Kursk, Leningrad, Molotov, Moscow, Murmansk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orel, Penza, Rostov, Ryazan, Saratov, Sverdlovsk, Smolensk, Stalingrad, Tambov, Tula, Chelyabinsk, Chita, Chkalov and Yaroslavl Regions; The Tatar, Bashkir, Daghestan, Buryat-Mongolian, Kabardino-Balkarian, Kalmyk, Komi, Crimean, Mari, Mordovian, Volga German, North Ossetian, Udmurt, Checheno-Ingush, Chuvash and Yakut Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics; and the Adygei, Jewish, Karachai, Oirot, Khakass and Cherkess Autonomous Regions.
ARTICLE 23. The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Vinnitsa, Volynsk, Voroshilovgrad, Dnepropetrovsk, Drogobych, Zhitomir, Zaporozhe, Izmail, Kamenets-Podolsk, Kiev, Kirovograd, Lvov, Nikolaev, Odessa, Poltava, Rovno, Stalino, Stanislav, Sumy, Tarnopol, Kharkov, Chemigov and Chernovitsy Regions.
ARTICLE 24. The Azerbaidian Soviet Socialist Republic includes the, Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region.
ARTICLE 25. The Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic includes the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, the Adjar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and the South Ossetian Autonomous Region.
ARTICLE 26. The Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Ferghana, and Khorezm Regions, and the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.
ARTICLE 27. The Tadjik Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Garm, Kuliab, Leninabad and Stalinabad Regions, and the Gomo-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.
ARTICLE 28. The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Akmolinsk, Aktyubinsk, Alma-Ata, East Kazakhstan, Guryev, Djambul, West Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Kzyl-Orda, Kustanai, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan. Semipalatinsk, and South Kazakhstan Regions.
ARTICLE 29. The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Baranovichi, Byelostok, Brest, Vileika, Vitebsk, Gomel, Minsk, Moghilev, Pinsk and Polessye Regions.
ARTICLE 29a. The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Ashkhabad, Krasnovodsk, Mari, Tashauz and Chardzhou Regions.
ARTICLE 29b. The Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic consists of the Dzhalal-Abad, Issyk-Kul, Osh, Tian-Shan and Frunze Regions.
The question arises with all this of whether society ever actually “consented” to any of these constitutional arrangements that were imposed over Czarist and later Soviet society. Note for example that Nagorno Karabakh was granted to Azerbaijan, in spite of 90% of its inhabitants being Armenians and despite the fact that the Soviet Union’s commission on nationalities itself had decided to put Nagorno Karabakh in Armenia–until it was overruled by Stalin when he was Commissioner of Nationalities. Note also that areas like North Ossetia (now part of the disputes with the Republic of Georgia) and the Crimea were expressly then parts of Russia; Abkhazia and South Ossetia were expressly part of Georgia.
As with the 1922 Treaty and the 1924 Constitution, the right of secession of Republics was preserved as was the provision of Article 18 that “The territory of a Union Republic may not be altered without its consent.” From the Russian perspective, the 1954 transfer of Crimea with its majority of Russian speakers to Ukraine by Ukrainian Soviet Premier and Communist Party Chief Nikita Krushchev was not really with Russian consent and was frankly shoved down Russia’s throat.
Chapter 8 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution which superseded Stalin’s 1936 Constitution is likewise relevant to this discussion:
Article 70. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is an integral, federal, multinational state formed on the principle of socialist federalism as a result of the free self-determination of nations and the voluntary association of equal Soviet Socialist Republics.
The USSR embodies the state unity of the Soviet people and draws all its nations and nationalities together for the purpose of jointly building communism.
Article 71. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics unites:
the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republicthe Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic,the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic,the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Azerbeijan Soviet Socialist Republic,the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Moldovian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic,the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic,the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic,the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic,the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Article 72. Each Union Republic shall retain the right freely to secede from the USSR.
- the admission of new republics to the USSR; endorsement of the formation of new autonomous republics and autonomous regions within Union Republics;
- determination of the state boundaries of the USSR and approval of changes in the boundaries between Union Republics;
- establishment of the general principles for the organisation and functioning of republican and local bodies of state authority and administration;
- the ensurance of uniformity of legislative norms throughout the USSR and establishment of the fundamentals of the legislation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Union Republics;
- pursuance of a uniform social and economic policy; direction of the country’s economy; determination of the main lines of scientific and technological progress and the general measures for rational exploitation and conservation of natural resources; the drafting and approval of state plans for the economic and social development of the USSR, and endorsement of reports on their fulfilment;
- the drafting and approval of the consolidated Budget of the USSR, and endorsement of the report on its execution; management of a single monetary and credit system; determination of the taxes and revenues forming the Budget of the USSR; and the formulation of prices and wages policy;
- direction of the sectors of the economy, and of enterprises and amalgamations under Union jurisdiction, and general direction of industries under Union-Republican jurisdiction;
- issues of war and peace, defence of the sovereignty of the USSR and safeguarding of its frontiers and territory, and organisation of defence; direction of the Armed Forces of the USSR;
- state security;
- representation of the USSR in international relations; the USSR’s relations with other states and with international organisations; establishment of the general procedure for, and co-ordination of, the relations of Union Republics with other states and with international organisations; foreign trade and other forms of external economic activity on the basis of state monopoly;
- control over observance of the Constitution of the USSR, and ensurance of conformity of the Constitutions of Union Republics to the Constitution of the USSR;
- and settlement of other matters of All-Union importance.
Article 74. The laws of the USSR shall have the same force in all Union Republics. In the event of a discrepancy between a Union Republic law and an All-Union law, the law of the USSR shall prevail.
Article 75. The territory of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a single entity and comprises the territories of the Union Republics.
The sovereignty of the USSR extends throughout its territory.
With all that constitutional water under the bridge it’s not shocking that Russians, Ukrainians, and all sorts of other players see things differently than each other and from the United States and other nations throughout the world. How many people in the United States government, whether the executive branch or the legislative branch, do you think actually understands this history? If they don’t, do you trust them to make decisions about United States Foreign Policy in connection with these disputes?