By 1922 in the territory of the former Russian Empire six republics had formed: RSFSR, Ukraine SSR, Belorussia SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Armenia SSR and Georgia SSR. From the very beginning they cooperated very closely due to the common historical faith. During the Civil war had formed the military and economical union and during the Genoa conference of 1922 the diplomatic one. To the unification also favored the common objective set by the republics’ leaders – building of socialism in the territory with “capitalistic environment”.
In March of 1922 Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia SSR united into the trans-Caucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In December of 1922 the trans-Caucasian Council conference addressed the Presidium of the All-Union Central Executive Committee suggesting to summon the united Council conference and discuss the issue on creating the Union of the Soviet Republics. The same decisions were made by the All-Ukrainian and All-Belorussian Council conferences.
These decisions were preceded with a sharp discussion regarding the issue of entering of republics into the single union state. The defenders of autonomy plan developed by I. V. Stalin supported the strong centralization of the power if the national and cultural autonomy of the republics remains. V. I. Lenin’s plan supported by the majority of the consolidation process participants, on the contrary, presumed creation of the federal state reserving the sovereign rights of the republics. The latter was taken as a basis.
On December 30, 1922 during the First All-Union congress of the Soviets, the representatives of the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belorussia Soviet Socialist republics, as well as the representatives of the trans-Caucasian federation signed the Declaration on the USSR foundation and the Treaty.
Declaration determined the main principles of consolidation: equal rights and voluntariness for consolidation, the right of the free withdrawal from the USSR and the right to join it for other Soviet Socialist republics.
The Treaty determined the relationship between republics and the center. The union agencies were in charge of the issues of foreign policy, foreign trade, finance, defense, communication lines, communication service. Other spheres were controlled by the union republics. The major body of the country was declared the All-Union Congress of Soviets. Between its sessions the main role in the state played the Central Executive Committee of the USSR which consisted of two chambers: Union Council and Nationality Council.
The first Central Executive Committee chairman was elected M.I. Kalinin, co-chairmen were G.I. Petrovsky, N.N. Narimov, A.G. Chervyakov. The Union government – the Peoples’ Commissars Council headed by V.I. Lenin - was also formed.
In January of 1924 the Second All-Union congress of the Soviets adopted the first Constitution of the USSR based on the Declaration and the Treaty of 1922. The Constitution established the single union citizenship: a citizen of every republic was a citizen of the USSR. In 1924-1925 on the basis of 1922 Constitution were adopted the Constitutions of the Union Republics.
The number of the Soviet Union members changed constantly: other Soviet republics joined it and the political division of the country also changed.
In spite of the federative principle of the state system enunciated at the USSR foundation already in 1930s the power centralization was taking place. Gradually more and more functions were transferred from the republics’ authority to the authority of the centre. The local residents’ interests were often ignored. All of this resulted into the necessity of the new treaty conclusion that would take into account the new realities. However it was never signed due to the “sovereignty parade” and the state breakdown.
Officially the USSR ceased to exist on December 8, 1991 after the Belavezha Accords had been signed.
Lit.: Гросул В. Я. Образование СССР (1917—1924). М., 2007; Декларация об образовании СССР// Хрестоматия по истории России с древнейших времён до наших дней. М., 1999; Каpа-Муpза С. Г. Истоpия советского госудаpства и пpава. М., 1999. Гл. 4. Советская власть и национально-государственное строительство; Кульчитский С. СССР. историческая неотвратимость распада // День. 2001. 22 дек.; Образование СССР // История Отечества: курс лекций. М., 2003.
Based on the Presidential Library’s materials: