chapter  16
3 Pages

Former Soviet Union

The USSR was never what its title asserted. It was under even tighter central control than its predecessor, the pre-1917 tsarist Russian empire. But on paper it was a federation of 15 ‘union republics’, each, in theory, free to secede. The biggest, the Russian republic, was itself a federation, containing 16 ‘autonomous republics’ and 15 ‘autonomous’ regions and areas. Ostensibly, forms of self-government were thus provided for dozens of national groups, ranging from the Baltic Estonians to the Yakuts of eastern Siberia. In reality, the communists’ political monopoly meant that power was concentrated in Moscow.