Union Republic

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Union Republic


in the USSR, a sovereign Soviet socialist state that has united with other Soviet socialist republics in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, an integral, federal, multinational state formed on the principle of socialist federalism as a result of the free self-determination of nations on the basis of voluntary association and equality for the purpose of building communism, strengthening the economic and political unity, and safeguarding the country’s security and defense.

The USSR consists of 15 Union republics, namely the RSFSR, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Uzbek SSR, Kazakh SSR, Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Latvian SSR, Kirghiz SSR, Tadzhik SSR, Armenian SSR, Turkmen SSR, and Estonian SSR. Each Union republic has its own territory, constitution, higher bodies of state, legislation, republic citizenship, capital city, and state symbols, such as emblem, flag, and hymn.

Mutual relations between the Union republics and the USSR are built on the principles of democratic centralism, socialist federalism and Soviet socialist democracy. The Union republics, as equal partners in the federation, have the same rights and same duties in relation to the USSR. Each republic assures to the USSR, as represented by its higher bodies of state authority and administration, the rights defined in Article 73 of the Constitution of the USSR. Outside the spheres defined in Article 73, each Union republic exercises state power independently. In turn, the USSR is constitutionally bound to safeguard the sovereign rights of the Union republics (art. 81).

The sovereignty of a Union republic is secured by the full economic, political, and military might of the USSR and by a series of legal guarantees prescribed in the Constitution of the USSR. Each Union republic retains the right freely to secede from the USSR (art. 72). Each possesses sovereign power and adopts its own constitution independently, without subsequent ratification by the supreme body of authority of the federation (art. 76). The constitution of a Union republic conforms to the Constitution of the USSR, which gives expression to the unity of the Soviet union state and the socioeconomic order common to the USSR. At the same time, a republic constitution takes account of the republic’s history, national features, economy, customs, and other features. The territory of a Union republic may not be altered without its consent (art. 78). A Union republic determines its own division into krais, oblasts, okrugs, and raions and decides other matters relating to its administrative and territorial structure.

Each Union republic has the right to confer republic citizenship and, thereby, USSR citizenship. Because the USSR has established a single Union citizenship, every citizen of a Union republic is also a citizen of the USSR. Within each Union republic, citizens of all other Union republics have the same rights as citizens of the republic itself.

Each Union republic has the right to enter into relations with foreign states, to conclude treaties and exchange diplomatic and consular representatives with them, and to take part in the work of international organizations (art. 80). Each Union republic is represented in the higher bodies of state in the federation, with 32 representatives in the Soviet of Nationalites of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (art. 110) and with representation in the Soviet of the Union of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in proportion to population. Each Union republic has the right to demand the convocation of an extraordinary session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (art. 112) and to submit bills and other very important matters of state for nationwide discussion (art. 114). The right to initiate legislation in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR is vested in Union republics through their highest bodies of state authority (art. 113). Union republics take part in decision-making in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the government of the USSR, and other bodies of the USSR in matters that come within the jurisdiction of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (art. 77).

The laws of the USSR are published in the languages of the Union republics and have the same force within every Union republic (arts. 116 and 74). Each Union republic is represented on the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR by one of the vice-presidents of the Presidium (art. 120). The chairmen of the Union republic councils of ministers are members ex officio of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (art. 129). The chairmen of the Union republic supreme courts are members ex officio of the Supreme Court of the USSR (art. 153).

The higher bodies of state authority in a Union republic are the supreme soviet, elected for a term of five years on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot, and the presidium of the supreme soviet, elected by and accountable to the supreme soviet. The supreme soviet is the Union republic’s sole legislative body. The higher executive and administrative body of state authority in a Union republic is the council of ministers, formed by and accountable to the supreme soviet. The ministries of a Union republic may be Union-republic ministries, such as internal affairs, foreign affairs, communications, culture, public health, and finance; or they may be republic ministries, such as local industry, social security, housing and municipal services, and public service facilities.

The local bodies of state authorities in the krais, oblasts, and other administrative-territorial units of a Union republic are the soviets of people’s deputies, elected for a term of two and a half years.

Justice in a Union republic is administered by judicial bodies, headed by the republic’s supreme court, which is elected by the republic supreme soviet for a term of five years. Higher supervision as to whether the ministries, state committees and departments, enterprises, institutions and organizations, the executive and administrative bodies of local soviets, kolkhozes, cooperative and other public organizations, officials strictly and uniformly observe the law within the republic rests, directly and indirectly, with the procurator-general of the USSR—indirectly through the republic procurator, who is appointed by the procurator-general of the USSR for a term of five years. Republic procurator’s offices are independent of all local bodies and subordinate only to the procurator-general of the USSR.

As defined by the republic constitution in conformity with the Constitution of the USSR, each Union republic—that is, its higher bodies of state authority and administration—has broad competence in several spheres. Each Union republic adopts and amends the republic constitution, monitors observance of the constitution, and ensures conformity of the constitutions of the ASSR’s within its boundaries to the republic’s constitution. It presents the new ASSR’s and autonomous oblasts as constituent parts of the Union republic for the endorsement of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. It has competence over republic legislation, maintenance of state order, and the safeguarding of the rights and freedoms of citizens.

The Union republic establishes the general principles for the organization and functioning of republic and local bodies of state authority and administration, pursues a uniform social and economic policy, manages the republic’s economy, and promotes scientific and technological progress and general measures for the rational use and conservation of natural resources. It drafts and approves state plans for its economic and social development and its state budget and endorses reports on the plans’ execution. It controls the execution of the state budgets of autonomous republics and the budgets of krais, oblasts, and cities under republic jurisdiction. In conformity to the legislation of the USSR, it sets revenues that form its state budget and manages the economic sectors under Union-republic and republic jurisdiction, as well as associations and enterprises under republic jurisdiction.

The Union republic establishes procedures for the use of the land, mineral resources, forests, and water and for environmental protection. It supervises housing and municipal services, trade, public catering, service facilities, residential construction, improvements in cities and other populated areas, road construction, and transportation. It has charge of public education, cultural and scientific institutions, public health, physical culture and sports, and social security. It oversees the preservation of historical and cultural monuments. The Union republic may grant amnesties and pardons to persons convicted by its courts. Finally, in addition to their other functions, Union republic bodies of state authority and administration represent the Union republic in international relations.


Brezhnev, L. I. O Konstitutsii SSSR. Moscow, 1977.
Konstitutsiia SSSR, Konstitutsii Soiuznykh Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik. Moscow, 1978.


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