With everything currently happening in the world there is a lot of talk of Russia trying to recreate the USSR. What many do not realise is that the USSR was very close to surviving as the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics – USSR and CCCP in cyrillic.
Origins and nomenclature of the USSR
The treaty that formed the original USSR was signed in 1922 between Soviet Russia, Ukraine and the Byelorussian and Transcaucasian Republics. This created what was to be known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.
This state would be one of the two main players of the Cold War and would eventually expand to include 15 “sovereign” republics. In actual fact the country was a one party state, highly centralised, communist and firmly in the control of the Communist party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
To read about Soviet tours click here.
The disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
By the end of the 1980’s Glasnost and Perestroika had largely been a failure, with economic reforms bringing about inequalities in the countries and giving rise to nationalist sentiment.
The “Sinatra” policy of Gorbachev had led to the end of the Eastern Bloc and the Baltic states had all but become independent. With limited democracy now in place and growing demands for independence from a number of quarters, Gorbachev needed a miracle to preserve the Soviet Union in some way shape, or form.
This is where the idea for the Union of Sovereign States, or the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics came into being.
Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics
In 1990 Gorbachev drew up a draft constitution that would have given sweeping powers to the republics, whilst keeping a unified presidency, military, and for the most part foreign policy. Nine of the republics took part in its drafting, with the exception of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, who were all moving towards independence, or in the case of Moldova union with Romania.
Gorbachev though was extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about maintaining the Union and despite failing to get it passed by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR managed to get it put to a referendum in 9 of the republics, or the so-called 9 + 1.
(Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan + Soviet Union. The referendum which was done in a free and fair fashion was supported by 76 percent of the population, with opposition tending to be biggest in places that had more money.
Central Asia in particular were extremely pro-preservation of the Soviet Union, something which later be event after its eventual fall.
Thus the “9 + 1” agreement, was signed in Novo-Ogaryovo on April 23. The New Union Treaty would have converted the Soviet Union into a confederation of independent republics, perhaps not all that dissimilar to the United States of America, although fate was to ensure this was not to be seen.
The treaty was due to be signed by President Gorbachev and take effect on August 20th, but on the 18th he was arrested by CPSU hardliners as part of a coup. While popular myth states that the people revolted en-masse in fact in many parts of the then USSR the coup was popular, but Yeltsin garnered the support of the Russian people and he not only thwarted the coup, but by declaring Russian independence also essentially ended the USSR.
How long did the USSR survive for?
By December 8th Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus had all recognized each others independence and created the Commonwealth of Independent States, an impotent insinuation that held no power.
All other constituent republics declared independence thereafter, with Kazakhstan being the last to do so. This meant that for a few days at least Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union.
On December 25th Gorbachev handed over his presidential powers, which included control of the nuclear arsenal to big friend of the west and notorious alcoholic Boris Yeltsin. The USSR was no more.
Naming of the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics
The initial name of the state was the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics (Russian: Союз Советских Суверенных Республик, romanized: Soyuz Sovetskikh Suverennykh Respublik), laterally changed to the Union of Sovereign States (Russian: Союз Суверенных Государств, romanized: Soyuz Suverennykh Gosudarstv).
Both of these names would have preserved the USSR in Latin and the CCCP in Cyrillic, which was good thing as it would have saved a lot on stationary. They were a few proposed flags, but as the nation never came to be what it would have been is not known.
Could the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics been a success?
Putin among many others of the USSR have called the dissolution of the USSR the “biggest catastrophe of the 20th century”. Many of the countries have remained politically and economically aligned and through both the Union Treaty and the Eurasian Economic Union there is still some semblance of cooperation between e number of former constituent parts of the USSR.
Had the Soviet Union survived there is every chance that it might have moved to privatisation much slower, perhaps avoiding the whole oligarch situation, the poverty that followed and grown economically as China did.
It could also have arguably created a military alliance that would have been able to protect its eastern borders and thwart diplomatically the spread of NATO to its doorstep, something very relevant right now.
Of course the flip side to this argument is that nationalist sentiment would have eventually risen and the state was always doomed to failure, although with recent events in the world this is also up for debate.
Soviet Union 2.0 and Cold War 2.0
Russia and the west have been gearing up for conflict for a while now and while the invasion of Ukraine came as a shock it did have an air of inevitability about it.
Many have painted this as Putin trying to recreate the USSR. If this is the case and we take into account the Union Treaty and the Eurasian Economic Union, then USSR 2.0 could stretch all the way from Russia to most of the former Central Asian Republics, as well as including the breakaway states of Transnistria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
To read about living in Transnistria click here.
Up for debate now would be if some kind of rump Ukrainian state would also be part of this mix, as well as countries such as Moldova and Armenia that have retained strong ties to Russia. And then of course there are nations such as Serbia, already extremely pro-Russian that if they are not accepted into the EU could well look East.