From the USSR to Russia
From the USSR to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CSI). – The Russia is the most important of the successor states of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, known more briefly as the Soviet Union or, in acronym, as the USSR. The USSR, which entered into crisis following Gorbačëv’s reforms in the second half of the 1980s, began in 1990-91 by changing its name repeatedly, first taking on the name of Union of Sovereign Socialist Republics (1990: still USSR in the Italian acronym), then of the Union of Sovereign States (1991: USS), finally of the Union of Independent States (again 1991: USI), to be later declared dissolved, “as a subject of international law and as a geopolitical reality”, at the end of 1991 by presidents of the three most historically important former Soviet republics (R., Ukraine and Belarus).
In place of the USSR there exists today, established in 1991 with the Alma-Ata agreements and strengthened by the 1993 economic treaty, a voluntary association of states (not a federal state, not even a confederal one) called the “ Community of Independent States ”. The three Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) and Georgia until 1994 remained out of the way. Today, in a more or less convinced way (due to reservations and distancing, Moldova and especially Georgia and Azerbaijan have been noticed, at least initially), 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics are part of it. Between them there is no hierarchical or even symbolic link, but only an objective economic interdependence, a certain financial and monetary cooperation, finally a military link (e.g. of the Russia with Belarus, with the countries of Central Asia, in particular with Tajikistan, and even with Georgia): all in relation to the weight of the past, with territorial continuity, with some common ethnic and cultural character, with objective common interests. Moreover, in this set of states, cooperation does not exclude collaboration agreements between more limited groups (for example between all and only the countries of Central Asia), nor gravitational forces towards other groups (such as for example the European Union or the Turkish-Islamic world), and therefore at the limit disintegrating tendencies; in some cases, as we will see later, we finally arrive at forms of real conflict. Element of common interest, and at the same time at least potential source of discord, it is the presence of strong minorities of Russians (estimated at about 25 million people, of which almost half in Ukraine) in the other former Soviet republics; towards these minorities, Russia feels and declares to have special responsibilities. Some Russian circles and various political groups do not hide the aspiration to reinforce the bonds of the CIS, to reaffirm Russian influence there, or even to reintegrate or reconstitute on a new basis some federative link between member states. In the latter, however, this aspiration does not seem to receive much approval.
Russia, a new state. – The Soviet state is therefore finished; the attempt to make a Soviet people exist, a new historical community indifferent to ethnic groups and held together by ideology (even if a substantial heir of the Tsarist Empire); the independence of as many as 14 states was established or re-established among the Baltics, Caucasians, Turkish-Mongols, and also Slavs but not Russians; in the end that right of secession was realized which the Soviet Constitutions of 1936 and 1977 had formally recognized for the federated republics of the USSR, but which was substantially contradicted and prevented by any means; the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was the true element of cohesion and ruler of the USSR, was dissolved.
The Russia is today a state in itself, completely distinct from the other states that emerged from the dissolution of the USSR into 15 equally independent and sovereign entities, corresponding to the 15 former federated republics of the USSR. It remains the colossus of the world by surface, with its 17 million km 2, but falls to 6th place (from the 3rd in which the USSR was placed) in the ranking by population: the 149 million residents estimated in 1993 they rank not only after China and India, but also after the United States, Indonesia and, recently, Brazil. Its population density does not reach 9 residents/km 2, naturally with the well-known strong differences between Russia Europea and Siberia.
A further novelty also emerges with regard to the geographical form of the Russia: after the detachment of the Baltic states and Belarus, the Kaliningrad oblast (province) is now an exclave, i.e. a physically separated territory, through other states, from the main body of the Russian state (also reachable by sea). Instead, the traditional outlets to the sea of the Russia remain all five, even if three of them, those on the Baltic and the Black Sea and the sui generis one on the Caspian Sea, are very reduced following the independence of the Baltic states and Ukraine respectively. and Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
The Russia, which was already a federal republic when it was part of the larger federative state called the USSR, maintains this federal structure even today, assuming, with the founding treaty of 1992, the official name of Russian Federation alongside that of Russia. However, the number of member states (federated) increases: from 17 that were at the time of the USSR (the Russia in the strictest sense, plus 16 autonomous republics), the republics of the Russia become 21 or 22 (situation still fluid in 1994, also due to the non-ratification of the founding treaty by two republics), having added to the pre-existing ones the republics of Adige, Altai, Hakassia, Karačajevo-Cerkessia (previously simple autonomous provinces or territories) and having split into two (split, however disputed: and from this derives the uncertainty of the total number) the republic of Chechen-Ingushetia. Among these federated units, in any case, the Russia is clearly the preponderant one, both in terms of surface (72% of the total of the Federation), and even more in terms of population (84% of the total). The administrative subdivision also remained in about fifty oblasti (provinces), which in less developed areas are replaced by krai (territories, currently 6 in number). Some provinces are, today as yesterday, endowed with a limited form of autonomy, as are the okrugi (10 districts). The upper house of the Russian Parliament ensures, on the model of the United States Senate, equal representation for each of these subjects (from republics to districts) of the Federation.