Autonomous Republic

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Autonomous Republic


an autonomous Soviet socialist republic (ASSR), a Soviet socialist national state which is included in a Union republic and exercises state power within the limits of competence of a Union republic on the basis of autonomous principles.

In the USSR in 1969 there were 20 autonomous republics, of which 16 were in the RSFSR: Bashkir, formed Mar. 23, 1919; Buriat, formed May 30, 1923; Chechen-Ingush, formed Dec. 5, 1936; Chuvash, formed Apr. 21, 1925; Dagestan, formed Jan. 20, 1921; Kabarda-Balkar, formed Dec. 5, 1936; Kalmyk, formed Oct. 22, 1935; Karelian, formed July 25, 1923; Komi, formed Dec. 5, 1936; Mari, formed Dec. 5, 1936; Mordovian, formed Dec. 20, 1934; Severnaia Osetiia, formed Dec. 5, 1936; Tatar, formed May 27, 1920; Tuva, formed Oct. 9, 1961; Udmurt, formed Dec. 28, 1934; and Yakut, formed Apr. 27, 1922. In the Georgian SSR there are two ASSR’s: Abkhazian, formed Mar. 4, 1921, and Adzhar, formed July 16, 1921. In the Uzbek SSR there is Kara-Kalpak, formed Mar. 20, 1932. In the Azerbaijan SSR there is the Nakhichevan ASSR, formed Feb. 9, 1924.

The ASSR’s differ from one another in size of territory, size and density of population, and national composition as well as in a number of other characteristics, such as historical past and level of economic development. At the same time, the ASSR’s have some significant common features. The most important of these is that each ASSR is a state, having its own citizenship, its own territory and constitution, its own higher organs of state power (the supreme soviet and the presidium of the supreme soviet), its own government (the council of ministers), and its own supreme court. In each ASSR there is an attorney who heads the administrative structures of the attorney’s office. The constitutions of the ASSR’s affirm the propositions that each citizen of an ASSR is a citizen of the USSR and of a corresponding union republic and that the citizens of all Union republics on the territory of a given ASSR enjoy the same rights as citizens of that ASSR.

The constitution of an ASSR affirms the bases of its legal position as a state included in a Union republic. The constitution of an ASSR is subject to ratification by the supreme soviet of its corresponding Union republic. In contrast to the Union republic, the ASSR does not have the right to secede from the USSR; that is, it is not a subject of the federation—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. However, given the appropriate objective conditions, an ASSR can transfer from one Union republic to another on the basis of a definite expression of sovereign will by the people of the ASSR, agreement of the two interested Union republics, and the decision of higher organs of state power of the USSR. Thus, with the ratification of the USSR Constitution of 1936, the Kara-Kalpak ASSR went from the RSFSR to the Uzbek SSR.

The ASSR is itself one of the forms of national state organization in which the sovereignty of nations is embodied, and in this respect it resembles the Union republic. As a political form of autonomy, the ASSR possesses certain exceptional powers, those of the Union republic. The competence of the ASSR is defined by its constitution. The following powers lie within the competence of the supreme organs of state power and administration of the ASSR: establishment of a constitution of the ASSR. its presentation for adoption to the supreme soviet of its corresponding Union republic, and control over its implementation; establishment of raion division of the ASSR, limits of raions and cities, and presentation of this division for ratification to the supreme soviet of its Union republic; legislation of the ASSR and protection of the state order and citizens’ rights; approval of the national economic plan and budget of the ASSR and accounting for its fulfillment; establishment, in accordance with the laws of the USSR and the Union republic, of state and local taxes, duties, and nontax incomes; management of budget spending for raions, cities, and rural Soviets; management of insurance and savings; management of industrial, agricultural, and trade enterprises and organization directly subordinate to the republic and also the management of local industries; control and supervision over the condition and management of enterprises subordinated to organs of the USSR and Union republic; and management and control over the use of land, minerals, forests, and waters in accordance with the laws of the USSR and the Union republic. In implementation of its competence the ASSR issues laws in strict accordance with the laws of the USSR and its Union republic.

In the event of discrepancy between a law of the ASSR and USSR or Union republic, the all-Union law or the law of the Union republic prevails. Laws of an ASSR are published in two or more languages, but first and foremost in the language of a given ASSR.

There exist special guarantees of the judicial power of statutes promulgated by the governments of the ASSR’s. The constitutions of the Union republics (RSFSR, Uzbek SSR, Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR) establish that a statute of the council of ministers of an ASSR cannot be repealed by the council of ministers of a Union republic; it can only be suspended. Only the presidium of the supreme soviet of an ASSR or the presidium of the supreme soviet of a Union republic is empowered to repeal a statute of an ASSR council of ministers.

The ASSR has its representatives in the higher organs of state power of the USSR and the Union republic in which it is included. The population of each ASSR elects 11 deputies to the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Deputies from the ASSR to the Soviet of the Union of Supreme Soviets of the USSR are elected in proportion to the size of the population of the republic. The presence of deputies from each ASSR in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR is one of the most important guarantees which ensure consideration of specific national interests and needs in all-state decision-making. The ASSR is also represented in the supreme soviet of its Union republic in proportion to the size of its population. The ASSR is also represented in the presidium of the supreme soviet of its corresponding Union republic. The Constitution of the RSFSR establishes that the number of vice-presidents of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR is determined by the number of autonomous republics in the RSFSR. An analogous provision is contained in the Constitution of the Georgian SSR.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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