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The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia$
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Robert V. Daniels

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780300106497

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300106497.001.0001

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Soviet Federalism and the Breakup of the USSR

Soviet Federalism and the Breakup of the USSR

(p.372) Chapter 32 Soviet Federalism and the Breakup of the USSR
The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia

Robert Daniels

Yale University Press

When the Communist Party of the Soviet Union collapsed and the Union itself was dissolved in 1991, many interpreted both events as the triumph of democracy and national self-determination. In reality, the disintegration of the Soviet Union was a failure of federalism. Ethnic minorities, the original reason why a nominally federal structure was adopted in the first place, presented a significant challenge in realizing Soviet federalism. The minorities viewed democracy as the opportunity to escape from Russian rule. The nationality question was always a hindrance to democratic reform in the Russian Empire. The totally centralized dictatorship of the Communist Party was the reason why the federal structure of the USSR, enshrined in the Stalin Constitution of 1936, was an utter failure. Nevertheless, the reforms of perestroika provided an impetus to the dummy federalism of the USSR. With the surge of minority nationalism after the electoral reforms of 1989, the federalism question turned into one of confederation at best.

Keywords:   democracy, Communist Party, Soviet Union, federalism, ethnic minorities, nationality, perestroika, nationalism, confederation

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