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J. V. Stalin
THE QUESTION OF THE UNION
OF THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL
Interview With a Pravda Correspondent
Pravda, No. 261,
November 18, 1922
From J. V. Stalin, Works
Foreign Languages Publishing House,
Vol. 5, pp. 141-47.
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, firstname.lastname@example.org (April 2001)
THE QUESTION OF THE UNION
OF THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL
Interview With a Pravda Correspondent
Interviewed by our correspondent on questions concerning the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Comrade Stalin gave the following explanations:
Who initiated the movement for the union of the independent republics?
-- The republics themselves initiated the movement. About three months ago, leading circles of the Transcaucasian republics already raised the question of forming a united economic front of Soviet Socialist Republics and of uniting them in a single union state. The question was then put before wide Party meetings in some districts of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia and, as is evident from the resolutions that were passed, it roused unprecedented enthusiasm. At about the same time the question of union was raised in the Ukraine and in Byelorussia, and there too, as in Transcaucasia, it roused marked enthusiasm among wide Party circles.
These facts are indubitable evidence of the vitality of the movement and show that the question of uniting the republics has certainly matured.
What gave rise to the movement; what are its basic motives?
-- The motives are chiefly economic. Assistance to peasant farming, the raising of industry, improving means of transport and communication, financial questions, questions concerning concessions and other economic agreements, joint action in foreign markets as buyers or sellers of commodities -- such are the questions that gave rise to the movement for the formation of a Union of Republics. The exhaustion of the internal economic resources of our republics as a result of the Civil War, on the one hand, and the absence of any considerable influx of foreign capital, on the other, have created a situation in which none of our Soviet republics is in a position to restore its national economy by its own unaided efforts. This circumstance makes itself specially felt now when for the first time since the termination of the Civil War the Soviet republics have set to work in earnest to solve their economic problems, and here, in the course of this work, have, for the first time, realised the utter inadequacy of the isolated efforts of the individual republics, and how utterly inevitable is the combination of those efforts and the economic union of the republics as the sole way of really restoring industry and agriculture.
But in order really to combine the economic efforts of the individual republics to the degree of uniting them in a single economic union, it is necessary to set up appropriate permanently functioning Union bodies capable of directing the economic life of these republics along one definite road. That is why the old economic and commercial treaties between these republics have now proved to be inadequate. That is why the movement for a Union of Republics has outgrown these treaties and has brought up the question of uniting the republics.
Do you think that this trend towards unity is an entirely new phenomenon, or has it a history?
-- The movement for uniting the independent republics is not something unexpected and "unprecedented." It has a history. This unification movement has already passed through two phases of its development and has now entered the third.
The first phase was the period 1918-21, the period of intervention and civil war, when the existence of the republics was in mortal danger, and when the republics were compelled to combine their military efforts in order to defend their existence. That phase culminated in the military union, the military alliance of the Soviet republics.
The second phase was at the end of 1921 and beginning of 1922, the period of Genoa and The Hague, when the Western capitalist powers, disappointed in the efficacy of intervention, attempted to secure the restoration of capitalist property in the Soviet republics not by military but by diplomatic means, when a united diplomatic front of the Soviet republics was the inevitable means by which alone they could withstand the onslaught of the Western powers.<"p143"> On this ground arose the well-known agreement between the eight independent friendly republics and the R.S.F.S.R., concluded before the opening of the Genoa Conference, which cannot be called anything else than the diplomatic union of the Soviet republics. Thus ended the second phase, the phase of the diplomatic union of our republics.
Today, the movement for uniting the national republics has entered the third phase, the phase of economic union. It is not difficult to understand that the third
phase is the culmination of the two preceding phases of the movement for unification.
Does it follow from this that the union of the republics will end in re-union with Russia, in merging with her, as is happening with the Far Eastern Republic? <"p144">
-- No. It does not! There is a fundamental difference between the Far Eastern Republic and the above mentioned national republics:
a) whereas the former was established artificially (as a buffer), for tactical reasons (it was thought that the bourgeois-democratic form would serve as a reliable guarantee against the imperialist designs of Japan and other powers) and not at all on a national basis, the latter, on the contrary, arose as the natural result of the development of the respective nationalities, and have chiefly a national basis;
b) whereas the Far Eastern Republic can be abolished without in the least harming the national interests of the predominant population (for they are Russians, like the majority of the population of Russia), the abolition of the national republics would be a piece of reactionary folly, calling for the abolition of the non-Russian nationalities, their Russification, i.e., a piece of reactionary fanaticism that would rouse the protest even of obscurantist Russian chauvinists like the Black-Hundred member Shulgin.
This explains the fact that as soon as the Far Eastern Republic became convinced that the bourgeois-democratic form was useless as a guarantee against the imperialists, it was able to abolish itself and become a constituent part of Russia, a region, like the Urals or Siberia, without a Council of People's Commissars or
Central Executive Committee, whereas the national republics, which are built on an entirely different basis, cannot be abolished, cannot be deprived of their Central Executive Committees and Councils of People's Commissars, of their national bases, as long as the nationalities which gave rise to them exist, as long as the national languages, culture, manner of life, habits and customs exist. That is why the union of the national Soviet republics into a single union state cannot end in their re-union, their merging, with Russia.
What, in your opinion, should be the character and form of the union of the republics into a single Union?
-- The character of the union should be voluntary, exclusively voluntary, and every national republic should retain the right to secede from the Union. Thus, the voluntary principle must be made the basis of the Treaty on the Formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. <"p145">
The parties to the treaty of union are: the R.S.F.S. R . (as an integral federal unit), the Transcaucasian Federation (also as an integral federal unit), the Ukraine and Byelorussia. Bukhara and Khorezm, not being Socialist, but only People's Soviet Republics, may, perhaps, remain outside of the union until their natural development converts them into Socialist Republics.
The supreme organs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are: the Union Central Executive Committee, to be elected by the constituent republics of the Union with representation in proportion to population; and the Union Council of People's Commissars, to be elected by the Union Central Executive Committee, as its executive organ.
The functions of the Union Central Executive Committee are: to draw up the fundamental guiding principles of the political and economic life of the republics and federations constituting the Union.
The functions of the Union Council of People's Commissars are:
a) direct and undivided control of the military affairs, foreign affairs, foreign trade, railways, and posts and telegraphs of the Union;
b) leadership of the activities of the Commissariats of Finance, Food, National Economy, Labour, and State Inspection of the republics and federations constituting the Union; the Commissariats of Internal Affairs, Agriculture, Education, Justice, Social Maintenance, and Public Health of these republics and federations are to remain under the undivided and direct control of these republics and federations.
Such, in my opinion, should be the general form of union in the Union of Republics, so far as it can be perceived in the movement for the union of the national republics.
Some people are of the opinion that in addition to the two Union organs (Central Executive Committee and Council of People's Commissars) it is necessary to set up a third Union organ, an intermediary one, an Upper Chamber, so to speak, in which all the nationalities should be equally represented; but there can be no doubt that this opinion will not meet with any sympathy among the national republics, if only for the reason that a two chamber system, with an Upper Chamber, is incompatible with the structure of the Soviet system, at all events in its present stage of development.
How soon, in your opinion, will the Union of Republics be formed, and what will be its international significance?
-- I think that the day of the formation of the Union of Republics is not far off. It is quite possible that the formation of the Union will coincide with the forthcoming convocation of the Tenth Congress of Soviets of the R.S.F.S.R.
As for the international significance of this Union, it scarcely needs special explanation. If the military alliance of the Soviet republics in the period of the Civil War enabled us to repulse the military intervention of our enemies, and the diplomatic alliance of those republics in the period of Genoa and The Hague facilitated our struggle against the diplomatic onslaught of the Entente, the union of the Soviet republics in a single union state will undoubtedly create a form of all-round military and economic co-operation that will greatly facilitate the economic progress of the Soviet republics and convert them into a citadel against attacks by international capitalism.
<"en41"> J. V. Stalin headed the commission set up by the Plenum of Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) on October 6, 1922, to draft the Bill for uniting the R.S.F.S.R., the Ukrainian S.S.R., the Transcaucasian Federation and the Byelorussian S.S.R. into a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This commission directed all the preparations for the First Congress of Soviets of the U.S.S.R. [p. 141]
<"en42"> This refers to the agreement signed in Moscow on February 22, 1922, by the plenipotentiary representatives of the independent republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Byelo-
russia, the Ukraine, Khorezm, Bukhara, the Far Eastern Republic and the R.S.F.S.R., authorising the R.S.F.S.R. to represent these republics at the European economic conference in Genoa. [p. 143]
<"en43"> The Far Eastern Republic included the Pribaikal, the Transbaikal, the Amur Region, and the Maritime Province, Kamchatka, and the northern part of Sakhalin. It existed from April 1920 to November 1922. [p. 144]
<"en44"> The Transcaucasian Federation -- the Federative Union of Socialist Soviet Republics of Transcaucasia, was founded on March 12, 1922, at a plenipotentiary conference of representatives of the Central Executive Committees of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. In December 1922, the Federative Union was transformed into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (T.S.F.S.R.). The Transcaucasian Federation existed until 1936. In conformity with the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. adopted in 1936, the Armenian, Azerbaijanian and Georgian Soviet Socialist Republics entered the U.S.S.R. as Union Republics. (Concerning the Transcaucasian Federation, see this volume, pp. 231-36, 256-62. [Transcriber's Note: See Stalin's "The Twelfth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)". -- DJR]) [p. 145]
<"en45"> The Bukhara and Khorezm People's Soviet Republics were formed in 1920 as a result of the successful people's insurrections in the former Khanates of Bukhara and Khiva. At the end of 1924 and beginning of 1925, as a result of the demarcation of states in Central Asia on a national basis, the territory of the Bukhara and Khorezm Republics became part of the newly formed Turkmenian and Uzbek Union Soviet Socialist Republics, the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Region. [p. 145]