According to its Constitution, Russia is divided into 85 federal subjects (constituent units), 22 of which are "". Most of the republics represent areas of non-Russian ethnicity, although there are several republics with Russian majority. The indigenous ethnic group of a republic that gives it its name is referred to as the "titular nationality". Due to decades (in some cases centuries) of human migration inside Russia, each nationality is not necessarily a majority of a republic's population.
The republics were established in early Soviet Russia. On 15 November 1917, Vladimir Lenin
issued the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, giving Russia's minorities the right to self-determination.
This declaration, however, was never truly meant to grant minorities the right to independence and was only used to garner support among minority groups for the fledgling Soviet state in the ensuing Russian Civil War.
Attempts to create independent states using Lenin's declaration were suppressed throughout the civil war by the Bolsheviks. When the Soviet Union
was formally created on 30 December 1922, the minorities of the country were relegated to Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSR), which had less power than the union republics. During the civil war and in its aftermath the Bolsheviks began a process of delimitation in order to draw the borders of the country. Through Joseph Stalin
's theory on nationality, borders were drawn to create national homelands for various recognized ethnic groups.
Early republics like the Kazakh ASSR and the Turkestan ASSR in Central Asia were dissolved and split up to create new union republics.
Ferdinand Feldbrugge (1985
, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 9789024730759
With delimitation came the policy of korenizatsiya
which encouraged the Russification
of the country and promotion of minority languages and culture.
This policy also affected ethnic Russians and was particularly enforced in ASSRs where indigenous people were already a minority in their own homeland, like the Buryat ASSR.
[ Bazarova V. V. On the problems of indigenization in the national autonomies of Eastern Siberia in the 1920s - 1930s. // Power. - 2013. - № 12. - p. 176.]
Language and culture flourished and ultimately institutionalized ethnicity in the state apparatus of the country.
Despite this, the Bolsheviks worked to isolate the country's new republics by surrounding them within Russian territory for fear of them seeking independence. In 1925 the Bashkir ASSR lost its border with the future Kazakh SSR with the creation of the so-called "Orenburg corridor".
The Komi-Zyryan Autonomous Oblast lost access to the Barents Sea
and became an enclave on 15 July 1929 prior to being upgraded to the Komi ASSR in 1936.
By the 1930s, however, the mood shifted as the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin stopped enforcing korenizatsiya and began purging non-Russians from government and intelligentsia. Thus, a period of Russification set in.
Russian language became mandatory in all areas of non-Russian ethnicity and the Cyrillic script became compulsory for all languages of the Soviet Union. [Timo Vihavainen: Nationalism and Internationalism. How did the Bolsheviks Cope with National Sentiments? in Chulos & Piirainen 2000, p. 85.] The constitution stated that the ASSRs had power to enforce their own policies within their territory, but in practice the ASSRs and their titular nationalities were some of the most affected by Stalin's purges and were strictly controlled by Moscow. From 1937, the "bourgeois nationalists" became the "enemy of the Russian people" and korenizatsiya was abolished. On 22 June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union, forcing it in to the Second World War, and advanced deep in to Russian territory. In response, Stalin abolished the Volga German ASSR on 7 September 1941 and exiled the Volga Germans to Central Asia and Siberia. When the Soviets gained the upper hand and began recapturing territory in 1943, many minorities of the country began to be seen as German collaborators by Stalin and were accused of treason, particularly in southern Russia. [Alexander Statiev, "The Nature of Anti-Soviet Armed Resistance, 1942–44", Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History (Spring 2005) 285–318] Between 1943 and 1945 ethnic Balkars, Chechens, Crimean Tatars, Ingush people,
and Kalmyks were deported en masse from the region to remote parts of the country. Immediately after the deportations the Soviet government passed decrees that liquidated the Kalmyk ASSR on 27 December 1943, the Crimean ASSR on 23 February 1944, the Checheno-Ingush ASSR on 7 March 1944, and renamed the Kabardino-Balkar ASSR the Kabardian ASSR on 8 April 1944. After Stalin's death on 5 March 1953 the new government of Nikita Khrushchev sought to undo his controversial legacy. During his Secret speech on 25 February 1956 Khrushchev rehabilitated Russia's minorities. The Kabardino-Balkar ASSR and the Checheno-Ingush ASSR were restored on 9 January 1957 while the Kalmyk ASSR was restored on 29 July 1958. The government, however, refused to restore the Volga German ASSR and the Crimean ASSR, the latter of which was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR on 19 February 1954.
The autonomies of the ASSRs varied greatly throughout the history of the Soviet Union but Russification would nevertheless continue unabated and internal Russian migration to the ASSRs would result in various indigenous people becoming minorities in their own republics. At the same time, the number of ASSRs grew; the Karelian ASSR was formed on 6 July 1956 after being a union republic from 1940
while the partially recognized state of Tuva was annexed by the Soviets on 11 October 1944 and became the Tuvan ASSR on 10 October 1961. By the 1980s General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's introduction of glasnost began a period of revitalization of minority culture in the ASSRs. From 1989 Gorbachev's Soviet Union and the Russian SFSR, led by Boris Yeltsin, were locked in a power struggle. Yeltsin sought support from the ASSRs by promising more devolved powers and to build a federation "from the ground up". On 12 June 1990 the Russian SFSR issued a Declaration of State Sovereignty, proclaiming Russia a sovereign state whose laws take priority over Soviet ones. The following month Yeltsin told the ASSRs to "take as much sovereignty as you can swallow" during a speech in Kazan, Tatar ASSR.
These events prompted the ASSRs to assert themselves against a now weakened Soviet Union. Throughout 1990 and 1991 each of the ASSRs followed Russia's lead and issued "declarations of sovereignty", elevating their statuses to that of union republics within a federal Russia.
The Soviet Union collapsed on 26 December 1991 and the position of the ASSRs became uncertain. By law, the ASSRs did not have the right to secede from the Soviet Union like the union republics did
but the question of independence from Russia nevertheless became a topic of discussion in some of the ASSRs. Yeltsin was an avid supporter of national sovereignty and recognized the independence of the union republics in what was called a "parade of sovereignties". In regards to the ASSRs, however, Yeltsin did not support secession and tried to prevent them from declaring independence. The Checheno-Ingush ASSR, led by Dzhokhar Dudayev, unilaterally declared independence on 1 November 1991 and Yeltsin would attempt to retake it on 11 December 1994, beginning the First Chechen War. When the Tatar ASSR held a referendum on whether to declare independence on 21 March 1992, he had the ballot declared illegal by the Constitutional Court.
On 31 March 1992, every subject of Russia except the Tatar ASSR and the de facto state of Chechnya signed the Treaty of Federation with the government of Russia, solidifying its federal structure and Boris Yeltsin became the country's first president.
The ASSRs were dissolved and became the modern day republics. The number of republics increased dramatically as former autonomous oblasts were elevated to full republics, including Altai Republic and Karachay-Cherkessia, while the Ingush portion of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR refused to be part of the breakaway state and rejoined Russia as the Ingushetia on 4 June 1992. The Tatarstan demanded its own agreement to preserve its autonomy within the Russian Federation and on 15 February 1994, Moscow and Kazan signed a power-sharing deal, in which the latter was granted a high degree of autonomy. 45 other regions, including the other republics, would go on to sign autonomy agreements with the federal center. Toward the end of the 1990s, the overly complex structure of the various bilateral agreements between regional governments and Moscow sparked a call for reform. The constitution of Russia was the supreme law of the country, but in practice, the power-sharing agreements superseded it while the poor oversight of regional affairs left the republics to be governed by Authoritarianism leaders who ruled for personal benefit. Meanwhile the war in Chechnya entered a stalemate as Russian forces were unable to wrest control of the republic despite capturing the capital Grozny on 8 February 1995 and killing Dudayev months later in an airstrike. Faced with a demoralized army and universal public opposition to the war, Yeltsin was forced to sign the Khasavyurt Accord with Chechnya on 30 August 1996 and eventually withdrew troops. A year later Chechnya and Russia signed the Moscow Peace Treaty, ending Russia's attempts to retake the republic. As the decade drew to a close, the fallout from the failed Chechen war and the subsequent financial crisis in 1998 resulted in Yeltsin resigning on 31 December 1999.
Yeltsin declared Vladimir Putin as interim president and his successor. Despite maintaining de facto independence following the war, Chechnya under Aslan Maskhadov proved incapable of fixing the republic's devastated economy and maintaining order as the territory became increasingly lawless and a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism.
Using this lawlessness extremists invaded neighboring Dagestan and bombed various apartment blocks in Russia, resulted in Putin sending troops into Chechnya again on 1 October 1999. Chechen resistance quickly fell apart as federal troops captured Grozny on 6 February 2000 and pushed rebels in to the mountains. Moscow reimposed direct rule on Chechnya on 9 June 2000 and the territory was officially reintegrated in to the Russian Federation as the Chechnya on 24 March 2003. Putin would participate in the 26 March 2000 election on the promise of completely restructuring the federal system and restoring the authority of the central government. The power-sharing agreements began to gradually expire or be voluntarily abolished and after 2003, only Tatarstan and Bashkortostan continued to negotiate on their treaties' extensions. Bashkortostan's power-sharing treaty expired on 7 July 2005, leaving Tatarstan as the sole republic to maintain its autonomy, which was renewed on 11 July 2007. After an attack by Chechen separatists at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Putin abolished direct elections for governors and assumed the power to personally appoint and dismiss them. Throughout the decade, influential regional leaders like Mintimer Shaimiev of Tatarstan and Murtaza Rakhimov of Bashkortostan, who were adamant on extending their bilateral agreements with Moscow, were dismissed, removing the last vestiges of regional autonomy from the 1990s. On 24 July 2017, Tatarstan's power-sharing agreement with Moscow expired, making it the last republic to lose its special status. After the agreement's termination, some commentators expressed the view that Russia ceased to be a federation.
Republics differ from other federal subjects in that they have the right to establish their own official language,
[Article 68 of the Constitution of Russia]
have their own constitution, and have a national anthem. Other federal subjects, such as krais and oblasts, are not explicitly given this right. During Boris Yeltsin's presidency, the republics were the first subjects to be granted extensive power from the federal government, and were often given preferential treatment over other subjects, which has led to Russia being characterized as an "asymmetrical federation
Jorge Martinez-Vazquez (2020). 082134840X, International Bank for Reconstruction. 082134840X
The Treaty of Federation signed on 31 March 1992 stipulated that the republics were "sovereign states" that had expanded rights over natural resources, external trade, and internal budgets.
The signing of bilateral treaties with the republics would grant them additional powers, however, the amount of autonomy given differed by republic and was mainly based on their economic wealth rather than ethnic composition.
, for example, was granted more control over its resources, being able to keep most of its revenue and sell and receive its profits independently due to its vast diamond deposits.
North Ossetia on the other hand, a poorer republic, was mainly granted more control over defense and internal security due to its location in the restive North Caucasus.
Tatarstan and Bashkortostan had the authority to establish their own foreign relations and conduct agreements with foreign governments.
This has led to criticism from oblasts and krais. After the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, the current constitution was adopted but the republics were no longer classified as "sovereign states" and all subjects of the federation were declared equal, though maintaining the validity of the bilateral agreements.
In theory, the constitution of Russia was the ultimate authority over the republics, but the power-sharing treaties held greater weight in practice. Republics often created their own laws which contradicted the constitution.
Yeltsin, however, made little effort to rein in renegade laws, preferring to turn a blind eye to violations in exchange for political loyalty. Vladimir Putin's election on 26 March 2000 began a period of extensive reforms to centralize authority with the federal government and bring all laws in line with the constitution. His first act as president was the creation of federal districts on 18 May 2000, which were tasked with exerting federal control over the country's subjects. Putin later established the so-called "Kozak Commission" in June 2001 to examine the division of powers between the government and regions. The Commission's recommendations focused mainly on minimizing the bases of regional autonomy and transferring lucrative powers meant for the republics to the federal government. Centralization of power would continue as the republics gradually lost more and more autonomy to the federal government, leading the European Parliament to conclude that despite calling itself a federation, Russia functions as a unitary state. On 21 December 2010, the State Duma voted to overturn previous laws allowing the leaders of the republics to hold the title of President while a bill was passed on 19 June 2018 that elevated the status of the Russian language at the expense of other official languages in the republics. The bill authorized the abolishment of mandatory minority language classes in schools and for voluntary teaching to be reduced to two hours a week.
There are secessionist movements in most republics, but these are generally not very strong. The constitution makes no mention on whether a republic can legally secede from the Russian Federation. However, the Constitutional Court of Russia ruled after the unilateral secession of Chechnya in 1991 that the republics do not have the right to secede and are inalienable parts of the country.
Despite this, some republican constitutions in the 1990s had articles giving them the right to become independent. This included Tuva, whose constitution had an article explicitly giving it the right to secede. However, following Putin's centralization reforms in the early 2000s, these articles were subsequently dropped. The Kabardino-Balkar Republic, for example, adopted a new constitution in 2001 which prevents the republic from existing independently of the Russian Federation. After Russia's annexation of Crimea, the State Duma adopted a law to penalize people calling for the separation of any part of the country on 5 July 2014.
Imogen Bell (2020). 185743191X, Europa Publications. 185743191X
Status of Crimea
On 18 March 2014, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea of Ukraine
was annexed by Russia after a disputed referendum.
The peninsula subsequently became the Republic of Crimea, the 22nd republic of Russia. However, Ukraine and most of the international community do not recognize Crimea's annexation
and the United Nations General Assembly declared the vote to be illegitimate.
| || ||Adygea|
Republic of Adygea
|Адыгея — Республика Адыгея ( ) |
Адыгэ — Адыгэ Республик ()
Майкоп ( )
|Adyghe people||439,996|| ||1991-07-03|
| || ||Altai Republic|
|Алтай — Республика Алтай ( ) |
Алтай — Алтай Республика ()
Горно-Алтайск ( )
Туулу Алтай ()
|Altai people||206,168|| ||1991-07-03|
| || ||Bashkortostan|
Republic of Bashkortostan
|Башкортостан — Республика Башкортостан ( ) |
Башҡортостан — Башҡортостан Республикаһы ()
Уфа ( )
|Bashkirs||4,072,292|| ||1919-03-23|Lenore Grenoble (2020
, Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9780306480836
| || ||Buryatia|
Republic of Buryatia
|Бурятия — Республика Бурятия ( )|
Буряадия — Буряад Улас ()
Улан-Удэ ( )
Улаан Үдэ ()
| || ||Chechnya|
|Чечня — Чеченская Республика ( )|
Нохчийчоь — Нохчийн Республика ()
Грозный ( )
| || ||Chuvashia|
|Чувашия — Чувашская Республика ( )|
Чӑваш Ен — Чӑваш Республики ()
Чебоксары ( )
|Chuvash people||1,251,619|| ||1925-04-21|
| || ||Crimea|
Republic of Crimea
|Крым — Республика Крым ( )|
Крим — Республіка Крим ()
Къырым — Къырым Джумхуриети ( )
Симферополь ( )
Акъмесджит ( )
| || ||Dagestan|
Republic of Dagestan
|Дагестан — Республика Дагестан ( )||Makhachkala|
Махачкала ( )
|Nine indigenous nationalities||2,910,249|| ||1921-01-20|
| || ||Ingushetia|
Republic of Ingushetia
|Ингушетия — Республика Ингушетия ( )|
ГӀалгIайче — ГIалгIай Мохк ()
Магас ( )
|Ingush people||412,529|| ||1992-06-04|
| || ||Kabardino-Balkaria|
|Кабардино-Балкария — Кабардино-Балкарская Республика ( )|
Къэбэрдей-Балъкъэрия — Къэбэрдей-Балъкъэр Республикэ ()
Къабарты-Малкъария — Къабарты-Малкъар Республика ( )
Нальчик ( )
Нальчик ( )
|Kabardians, Balkars||859,939|| ||1936-12-05|
| || ||Kalmykia|
Republic of Kalmykia
|Калмыкия — Республика Калмыкия ( )|
Хальмг — Хальмг Таңһч ()
Элиста ( )
| || ||Karachay-Cherkessia|
|Карачаево-Черкесия — Карачаево-Черкесская Республика ( )|
Къарачай-Черкесия — Къарачай-Черкес Республика ()
Къэрэшей-Шэрджэсия — Къэрэшей-Шэрджэс Республикэ ( )
Черкесск ( )
Шэрджэс къалэ ( )
|Karachays, Kabardians||477,859|| ||1991-07-03|
| || ||Karelia|
Republic of Karelia
|Карелия — Республика Карелия ( )|
Karjala — Karjalan tazavaldu
Петрозаводск ( )
| || ||Khakassia|
Republic of Khakassia
|Хакасия — Республика Хакасия ( )|
Khakas language: Хакасия — Хакас Республиказы ( Khakasiya — Khakas Respublikazy)
Абакан ( )
Khakas language: Абахан ( Abakhan)
|Khakas people||532,403|| ||1991-07-03|
| || ||Komi Republic|
|Коми — Республика Коми ( )|
Коми — Коми Республика ()
Сыктывкар ( )
|Komi peoples||901,189|| ||1936-12-05|
| || ||Mari El|
Mari El Republic
|Марий Эл — Республика Марий Эл ( )|
Мары Эл — Мары Эл Республик ()
Марий Эл — Марий Эл Республик ( )
Йошкар-Ола ( )
Йошкар-Ола ( )
|Mari people||696,459|| ||1936-12-05|
| || ||Mordovia|
Republic of Mordovia
|Мордовия — Республика Мордовия ( )|
Мордовия — Мордовия Pеспубликсь ()
Мордовия — Мордовия Республикась ( )
Саранск ( )
Саран ош ( )
| || ||North Ossetia–Alania|
Republic of North Ossetia–Alania
|Северная Осетия–Алания — Республика Северная Осетия–Алания ( )|
Цӕгат Ирыстон–Алани — Республикӕ Цӕгат Ирыстон–Алани ()
Владикавказ ( )
| || ||Yakutia|
|Якутия — Республика Саха ( )|
Caxa Сирэ — Саха Өрөспүүбүлүкэтэ ()
Якутск ( )
| || ||Tatarstan|
Republic of Tatarstan
|Татарстан — Республика Татарстан ( )|
Татарстан — Татарстан Республикасы ()
Казань ( )
|Volga Tatars||3,786,488|| ||1920-06-25|
| || ||Tuva|
|Тува — Республика Тyва ( )|
Тыва — Тыва Республика ()
Кызыл ( )
| || ||Udmurtia|
|Удмуртия — Удмурт Республика ( )|
Удмуртия — Удмурт Элькун ()
Ижевск ( )
|Udmurt people||1,521,420|| ||1934-12-28|
In response to the apparent federal inequality, in which the republics were given special privileges during the early years of Yeltsin's tenure at the expense of other subjects, Eduard Rossel
, then governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast and advocate of equal rights for all subjects, attempted to transform his oblast into the Ural Republic
on 1 July 1993 in order to receive the same benefits.
Initially supportive, Yeltsin later dissolved the republic and fired Rossel on 9 November 1993.
The only other attempt to formally create a republic occurred in Vologda Oblast
when authorities declared their wish to create a "Vologda Republic" on 14 May 1993. This declaration, however, was ignored by Moscow and eventually faded from public consciousness.
Other attempts to unilaterally create a republic never materialized. These included a "Pomor Republic" in Arkhangelsk Oblast,
a "Southern Urals Republic" in Chelyabinsk Oblast,
a "Chukotka Republic" in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug,
a "Yenisei Republic" in Irkutsk Oblast
a "Leningrad Republic" in Leningrad Oblast
a "Nenets Republic" in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug,
a "Siberian Republic" in Novosibirsk Oblast,
a "Primorsky Republic" in Primorsky Krai
a "Neva Republic" in the city of Saint Petersburg
and a republic consisting of eleven regions in western Russia centered around Oryol Oblast
Other attempts to create republics came in the form of splitting up already existing territories. After the Soviet Union's collapse, a proposal was put forth to split the Karachay-Cherkess Republic in to multiple smaller republics. The idea was rejected by referendum on 28 March 1992.
A similar proposal occurred in the Mordovia to divide it to separate Erzyan and Mokshan homelands. The proposal was rejected in 1995.
Entities outside Russia
Republics of the Soviet Union