Staunton, August 23 – Most Russians are inclined to blame the disintegration of the USSR on the non-Russians, the dissidents, a nomenklatura conspiracy, Gorbachev’s failings, or Western special services. But the real truth, Pavel Svyatenkov says, is that the Soviet system did more to destroy the USSR than “a thousand Banderas.”
In a commentary on the APN portal today, the Moscow commentator provides new details about a point others have made before and one with obvious implications for Russia now: there were many proximate causes for the collapse of 1991, but “the basis for the country’s disintegration was laid down by Lenin and Stalin” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=35375).
The Soviet Union “arose as a result of the conclusion of a Treaty on the Formation of the USSR … signed on December 29, 1922, by delegations of the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the Belarusian SSR, and the Transcaucasian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (which included Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia),” Svyatenkov recalls.
The very next day, the treaty was approved by the First Congress of Soviets of the USSR which “assigned to the Central Executive Committee to adopt amendments to the Treaty and finally ratify it at the next Congress.” But the Moscow commentator points out, that didn’t happen.
Instead, “the Central Executive Committee unexpectedly decided to create a USSR Constitution” consisting of “two documents, the Declaration about the Formation of the USSR and the Treaty about the Formation of the USSR.” That effectively meant that the Treaty became the basic law or constitution of the Soviet Union. In 1924, the Second Congress agreed to that.
“It is curious that earlier Ukraaine ratified not only the Constitution of the USSR but also and separately the Union Treaty … The remaining union republics ratified the Constitution of the USSR without making any mention of the Union Treaty,” a difference that raises questions about the legal status of these documents.
The most important of these questions, Svyatenkov says, is the following: “Did the Union Treaty of 1922 exist as a separate document after the adoption of the 1924 USSR Constitution?” There are two possible answers: yes and no. But the Soviet authorities took care to muddy the waters about this.
That was an obvious mistake, he say. “If it had been clearly stated that the USSR Constitution replaced the Union Treaty, the latter could calmly be thrown into the dustbin of history.” But that didn’t happen, and right through the Soviet period, with all the new constitutions, no one could answer this question for certain.
Some might ask why such “scholasticism” is appropriate. “What difference does it make whether it exists or doesn’t exist? But the legality of actions of the authorities are based on legal documents,” and failure to be clear about which ones exist and which ones have primacy can lead to disaster.
That is exactly what happened in August 1991 and in the ensuing weeks, Svyatenkov continues. And it happened because “the communists, having left this question about the Union Treaty unresolved destroyed the Soviet Union. Over the course of 70 years of Soviet power, there were at least ten occasions on which this could have been done. But it wasn’t.”
Similarly, Stalin allowed Ukraine and Belarus to have seats at the United Nations, something his defenders say gave Moscow two extra votes and was thus a clever stratagem on his part. But in fact it set the stage for the dismemberment of the USSR as well because those two republics could easily gain international recognition for breaking from the Soviet Union because they were already in the UN.
For these reasons, Svyatenkov says, no one should believe the communists when they say their party fought against the disintegration of the USSR. In fact, it was precisely they who “created all the legal precedents for such a collapse. Lenin and Stalin put a delayed-action bomb under the USSR. For 70 years, it ticked and finally it blew up.”
Those who wished the USSR ill only had to wait while it destroyed itself, he argues.
“Now, Ukraine and Russia are at the brink of war,” again something that isn’t surprising given that for 70 years, “the communists taught us to be enemies and set one against the other in the framework of the USSR by trying to give Ukraine more sovereignty than it ever had in its history.”
Again, Svyatenkov concludes, those who wish Russia ill simply have to sit back and watch because they can see that it was precisely the Soviets who gave Ukraine “more sovereignty than 1,000 Banderas” and thus set the stage both for the Soviet collapse in 1991 and the war now.