Law on Secession from the USSR

Law on Procedure for Resolving Questions Connected with a Union Republic’s Secession from the USSR. April 3, 1990

Original Source: Ведомости Съезда народных депутатов СССР и Верховного Совета СССР, 1990, № 15, ст. 252

Article 1: The procedure for resolving questions connected with a Union republic’s secession from the USSR in accordance with Article 72 of the USSR Constitution is defined by the present law.

Article 2: The decision on a Union republic’s secession from the USSR is made by a free expression of the will of the Union republic’s people by means of a referendum (popular vote). The decision on holding a referendum is made by the Union republic’s Supreme Soviet on its own initiative or at the demand of a petition signed by one-tenth of the USSR citizens permanently resident on the republic’s territory and possessing the right to vote under USSR legislation.

The referendum is held under the procedure defined by the USSR law on Union or autonomous republic law on referenda, provided that their provisions do not run counter to the present law.

The referendum is held by secret ballot no sooner than six and no later than nine months after the adoption of the decision to raise the question of the republic’s secession from the USSR.

USSR citizens permanently resident on the republic’s territory at the moment when the question of secession from the USSR is raised and possessing the right to vote according to USSR legislation take part in the referendum.

No campaigning whatever on the question submitted to the referendum is permitted during the holding of the vote.

Article 3. In a Union republic which includes within its structure autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts, or autonomous okrugs, the referendum is held separately for each autonomous formation. The people of autonomous republics and autonomous formations retain the right to decide independently the question of remaining within the USSR or within the seceding Union republic, and also to raise the question of their own state-legal status.

In a Union republic on whose territory there are places densely populated by ethnic groups constituting a majority of the population of the locality in question, the results of the voting in these localities are recorded separately when the results of the referendum are being determined.

Article 4. In order to organize a referendum on secession from the USSR, determine the date of the referendum, and sum up its results, the Union republic Supreme Soviet forms a commission including representatives of all interested parties, including those mentioned in Parts 1 and 2 of Article 3 of the present law.

Article 5. In order to ensure full freedom in the expression of the will of the Union republic’s peoples in preparing, holding, and determining the results of the referendum on secession from the USSR, the USSR Supreme Soviet, in coordination with the Union republic’s Supreme Soviet, decides the question of the presence, as observers on the republic’s territory, of plenipotentiary representatives of the USSR, Union and autonomous republics, and autonomous formations. The USSR Supreme Soviet can, if it deems this to be necessary, invite UN representatives onto the republic’s territory for the duration of the poll.

Article 6. The decision on the Union republic’s secession from the USSR is deemed to be adopted by means of the referendum if at least two-thirds of the USSR citizens permanently resident on the republic’s territory at the moment when the question of secession from the USSR is raised and possessing the right to vote according to USSR legislation vote in favor of it.

The results of the referendum are examined by the Union republic’s Supreme Soviet.

In a Union republic including within its structure autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts, autonomous okrugs, or places densely populated by the ethnic groups mentioned in Article 3 of the present law, the results of the referendum are examined by the Union republic Supreme Soviet together with the autonomous republic Supreme Soviet and the relevant Soviets of People’s Deputies.

Article 7. The Union republic Supreme Soviet submits the results of the referendum to the USSR Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Soviet of a Union republic possessing within its structure autonomous republics, autonomous formations, or places densely populated by the ethnic groups mentioned in Part 2 of Article 3 of the present law submits to the USSR Supreme Soviet the results of the referendum for each autonomous republic and for each autonomous formation or place densely populated by ethnic groups along with the conclusions and proposals of the relevant organs of state power.

If it is established that the referendum was carried out in accordance with the law, the USSR Supreme Soviet submits the questions for examination by the Congress of USSR’s People’s Deputies.

In the event of a violation of the law in holding the referendum the USSR Supreme Soviet schedules within a three-month period a repeat referendum for the republic, or for part of the republic, or for the autonomous formation, of for the place densely populated by the ethnic groups mentioned in Part 2 of Article 3 of the present law.

Article 8. Within one month the USSR Supreme Soviet sends the results of the referendum on the Union republics’s secession from the USSR and the proposals received from interested parties to the supreme organs of state power of all Union and autonomous republics and also to the organs of state power of autonomous formations for study and evaluation of the consequences arising for each Union and autonomous republic and autonomous formation from the fact of the possible secession of the Union republic in question from the USSR.

Article 9. The Congress of USSR People’s Deputies examines the results of the referendum in the Union republic on the question of secession from the USSR, and also the opinions of the supreme organs of state power of Union and autonomous republics and the organs of state power of autonomous oblasts and okrugs regarding this matter. At the submission of the USSR Supreme Soviet, coordinated with the Supreme Soviet of the seceding republic, the Congress of USSR’s People’s Deputies lays down a transitional period not exceeding five years within which questions arising in connection with the republic’s secession from the USSR must be resolved.

The USSR Constitution and USSR laws retain their force on the seceding republic’s territory during the transitional period.

Article 10. In the event that a referendum does not result in the adoption of a decision on the Union republic’s secession from the USSR, a new referendum on the question may be held not less than ten years after the holding of the previous referendum.

Article 11. With a view to safeguarding the rights and interests of the USSR, of the seceding Union republic and other Union republics, and also of autonomous republics, autonomous formations, and the ethnic groups mentioned in Part 2 of Article 3 of the present law in connection with the resolution of questions arising in the context of a republic’s secession from the USSR, the USSR Supreme Soviet, the Supreme Soviets of the Union republics, and the supreme organs of state power of the seceding republic set up conciliation commissions for the transitional period.

Article 12. In the transitional period the USSR Council of Ministers, with the participation of the government of the seceding republic, prepares proposals on questions concerning the USSR state border and also military facilities and units of the USSR Armed Forces on the territory of the seceding republic and submits them for examination by the USSR president and the USSR Supreme Soviet, after which they are passed on for examination by the Congress of USSR People’s Deputies.

Article 13. The seceding republic must observe the generally recognized principles and norms of international law, as well as human rights and freedoms enshrined in international treaties to which the USSR is a party. The question of the seceding republic’s participation in multilateral treaties concluded by the USSR that are open for accession is resolved according to the rules stipulated by the relevant treaty. Multilateral and bilateral treaties concluded by the USSR and in force at the time of a Union republic’s secession from the USSR continue to apply to the seceding republic unless an agreement is reached to the contrary.

The USSR Council of Ministers, after examining and settling all questions connected with the USSR’s participation in international treaties in the context of the secession of a Union republic, submits its findings to the USSR president and the USSR Supreme Soviet.

Article 14. In the transitional period the USSR Council of Ministers and the organs of state administration of Union and autonomous republics and autonomous formations, in conjunction with the government of the seceding republic, examine and resolve questions of ownership and material and financial settlements.

In relations between the seceding republic on the one hand, and the USSR, as well as the other Union republics, autonomous republics, autonomous formations, and the ethnic groups mentioned in Part 2 of Article 3 of the present law, on the other, in the transitional period the following questions must be resolved:

  1. The fate of facilities under Union-wide ownership … that are located on the republic’s territory, as well as the property of Union-wide social organizations, must be decided;
  2. Financial and credit settlements between the seceding republic and the USSR and relations between banks must be regulated;
  3. The property and financial credit relations of the republic in question with other Union republics and also with autonomous republics and autonomous formations must be settled;
  4. The procedure for the fulfillment by the seceding republic’s enterprises and organizations of the preexisting contractual commitments with regard to enterprises and organizations located on the territory of other Union republics as well as autonomous republics and autonomous formations must be defined;
  5. The legal status and ways of settling accounts of joint enterprises or branches of enterprises organized on the basis of Union-wide property or the property of other Union republics, as well as autonomous republics and autonomous formations, must be defined;
  6. A procedure for settling accounts with other state and international organizations with regard to credits and loans received for the construction of facilities on the seceding republic’s territory or the satisfaction of the needs of that republic and its population, and also with regard to the relevant part of credits and loans spent on Union-wide purchases and programs from which the seceding republic has benefited, must be agreed;
  7. The status of territories not belonging to the seceding republic at the moment of its entry into the USSR must be agreed;
  8. The status of the territories densely populated by the ethnic groups mentioned in Part 2 of Article 3 of the present law must be agreed, taking into account the results of their expression of their will in the referendum;
  9. Guarantees of the maintenance of historical and cultural monuments and burial sites on the territory of the seceding republic must be secured;
  10. Other questions requiring mutual settlement must be resolved.

Article 15: USSR citizens living on the seceding republic’s territory are given the right to choose their citizenship and their place of residence and work. The seceding republic pays compensation for all costs incurred in connection with citizens’ resettlement outside the republic.

Article 16. In conformity with universally recognized principles and norms of international law and international pledges given by the USSR, the seceding republic guarantees the civic, political, social, economic, cultural, and other rights of USSR citizens who remain resident on its territory without any discrimination whatsoever on the grounds of race, color, sex, language, religion, political and other beliefs, national and social origins, property status, and place or date of birth. [ … ]

Article 19. During the last year of the transitional period, on the initiative of the seceding republic’s supreme organ of state power a repeat referendum may be held once on the question of confirming the decision on the Union republic’s secession from the USSR. The holding of a repeat referendum is mandatory if this is demanded by one-tenth of USSR citizens permanently resident on the republic’s territory and entitled to vote under USSR legislation.

In the event that fewer than two-thirds of USSR citizens permanently resident on the republic’s territory at the moment the question of holding a repeat referendum is raised and entitled to vote under USSR legislation vote in favor of confirming the decision on the Union republic’s secession, the decision on the Union republic’s secession from the USSR is deemed to be repealed and the procedures envisaged by this law are terminated.

Article 20. At the end of the transitional period or earlier, if the questions envisaged by this law are settled ahead of schedule, the USSR Supreme Soviet convenes a Congress of USSR People’s Deputies to adopt a decision confirming the completion of the process for coordinating the interests and satisfying the claims of the seceding republic, on the one hand, and of the USSR, Union republics, or autonomous republics, autonomous formations, and ethnic groups mentioned in Part 2 of Article 3 of this law, on the other hand.

From the moment of the adoption of such a decision by the Congress of USSR People’s Deputies, the Union republic’s secession from the USSR is deemed accomplished and USSR people’s deputies from the republic which has seceded lose their powers.

Source: Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report. U.S. Dept. of Commerce; National Technical Information Service, 1991.

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