The 1936 Soviet Constitution: The right to secede

I (RH) asked: How exactly did Moscow decide to allow the secession proviso in the constitution to go into effect? From Paris, David Pike rrplies: The answer is simple. In his address in 1936 to the Supreme Praesidium, Stalin said that the draft as presented to him denied the 16 Republics the right to secede. He proposed that the clause be deleted. If the people of Georgia or Ukraine should wish to secede, he explained, they needed only to say so. Stalin added that the draft was remiss in another area, where it proposed to merge the powers of the President of the USSR with the powers of the chief executive. This was equally intolerable, said Stalin, insisting (rightly in my opinion) that unless a clear separation of powers was established between the  the President and the Chief Executive, the USSR could finish up as a dictatorship.

RH: I was referring to a much later period. At the San Francisco in 1945, Gromyko said the USSR could not sign the UN Charter because it did not include the right to secede provided for in the Soviet constitution. Everyone assumed that this was just a ploy to allow her USSR to leave the UN if it wished.  The idea that in fact a Soviet republic would be allowed to secede was considered grotesque. Given a free choice, some would have.  It was much later, when the USSR broke up, that the Kremlin decided to allow that proviso to go into effect, since it could not hang on much longer.  It is that decision I referred to.

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Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 8, 2004