December 25 in Russian history


On 25 December 1991 the president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev handed the case with the “nuclear button” to the president of Russia Boris Yeltsin. At 19:00 MSK, in a TV address to the nation, Gorbachev announced that he resigned the position of the president of the USSR because the Commonwealth of the Independent States had been formed. At 19:38, the flag of the USSR was replaced with the new flag of Russia on the dome of the Kremlin Palace.

Half a year earlier, on 17 March 1991, during the referendum, 76.43% of the Soviet citizens who participated in the referendum voted Yes to preserve the Soviet Union in the form of the federation of equal republics. After the GKChP coup attempt it seemed impossible to comply with the results of the referendum and on the 8 December the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia signed the agreement on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and creation of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS). All this ended with the resignation of M. Gorbachev.

Eventually, the nationalists superseded communists in all former republics of the USSR. Same thing only different.

On the same day in 1991, Boris Yeltsin signed the bill on the renaming of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic to Russian Federation. Tajikistan ratified the agreement on the creation of CIS.

Just think that all this happened 17 years ago... Sorry for the triviality, the time flies.


On 25 December 2000, the second president of Russian Federation V. Putin signed three laws: on the national anthem, on the national flag and the national coat of arms. The new anthem was the anthem of the Soviet Union (with slightly modified lyrics), the new coat of arms was borrowed from the tsarist Russia (it even has the royal crown), and the new flag was the flag of democratic Russia (it had been used also by the White Guard).


Alec L said...

Crazy stuff. We still see this nostalgia for the Soviet Union today, but it's interesting to imagine that even in this time of upheaval the vast majority of citizens were in favor of keeping the Union intact. Why was this the prevailing sentiment?

Dmitri Minaev said...

To a certain degree it may be explained by a slightly contrived wording of the question: "Do you find it necessary to retain the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a modernized federation of equal sovereign republics, where the rights and freedoms of the people of all nationalities would be guaranteed?" Would you say no to the rights and freedoms? :)

On the other hand, the nationalism was on the rise in all republics, but it was not yet a dominating political power. I think that for a huge number of people the USSR was the country where they were born and lived and they were not interested in living in a smaller country. Yes, they wanted their republic to be promoted to a higher status, they wanted to be in charge of everything in their republic. Those were hard days for the economy and a myth popular across all republics said that if some certain republic bans export of all goods to the other republics (especially the greedy Russia), they will live in the lap of luxury. I remember the last time I visited Latvia somewhere in 1989 or 1990, I couldn't buy a pen and a notebook anywhere. They sold them to the citizens of Latvia only.

In spite of this desire of the autarchy, the complete secession was way too much. After the Baltic states proclaimed independence, we used to joke that Russia should quit the USSR, too. It was a funny joke...

I honestly do not remember how I voted on that referendum, but I'm almost sure I said "Nay". If I had a chance to elaborate, I would've said that I want to keep the Union, but not the socialist soviet one. Even now I would've said the same.

I rarely agree with Putin, but when he said that the dissolution of the USSR was a geopolitical catastrophe he was right. It overturned everything for everyone. For better or for worse, there had been a country which was no more. Isn't it a catastrophe?

Michael Averko said...

The way it broke up caused great suffering.

For accuracy sake, be careful when monitoring "nostalgia."

Slovenia is considered the most economically advanced of former Yugoslav republics. Yet, there's nostalgia for Yugoslavia to be found in that former Yugoslav republic.

A good part of such nostalgia relates to the not so un-typical human trait of fondly recalling the past, while downplaying how the "good old days" weren't always so good.

Regarding the USSR breakup, keep in mind that much of its land mass comprised teritory and people who lived as one nation for a period longer than the Soviet Union's existence.

One can be against much of the overall manner of the Soviet Union, but still sympathize with much of its territory remaining close to each other in one form or another.

nimh said...

What was the breakdown of the vote by republic, I wonder?

As in: were the 75% who voted in favour of the referendum perhaps overwhelmingly Russians, to whom the dissolution of the Soviet Union arguably primarily represented the loss of empire, while the residents of the other republics, many of which were already striving for independence, voted against?

Also: do I remember correctly (it's been a long time) that independence-minded Estonians, Latvians etc actively boycotted the referendum? Which would also skew the end result towards a high percentage of "yes" votes - because many of the opponents simply did not vote? It would be interesting to compare turnout numbers in different republics ...