SPECIAL REPORT

THE SWIFT DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE

SOVIET REPUBLICS RUSH TO LEAVE

September 9 1991
SPECIAL REPORT

THE SWIFT DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE

SOVIET REPUBLICS RUSH TO LEAVE

September 9 1991

THE SWIFT DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE

SPECIAL REPORT

SOVIET REPUBLICS RUSH TO LEAVE

Ever since the 1917 Russian Revolution, Soviet leaders have paid lip service to the "free self-determination of nations" and the "voluntary association" of the country's constituent republics. That did not prevent

the Red Army from forcibly annexing Russia’s newly independent neighbors in the years following the First World War. Nor did it stop Soviet forces from seizing Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and most of Moldova in 1940 as part of a secret pact with Nazi Germany. And for most of the past seven decades, ironfisted Communist rulers struggled to strengthen the ties that bound the union, building a complicated web of economic interdependence and keeping ethnic aspirations in check with brutal efficiency.

When Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he changed all that. His political and economic reforms lit a fuse that ignited long-suppressed nationalist passions across the vast Soviet empire. The hard-liners who launched their coup last month, far from achieving their goal to keep the country intact, only fanned the flames. On the following two pages, Maclean's provides a pullout map that offers snapshots of the 15 Soviet republics, their peoples and some of their commercial products.

LITHUANIA

Pop. 3.7 million. Russia took it over 1795; became

dent after First World War and was forcibly annexed Aug. 3, 1940; declared full independence March 11, 1990. Produces electrical goods, including appliances, industrial robots, as well as construction materials, textiles, dairy products; has engineering and shipbuilding industries.

LATVIA

Pop. 2.7 million. Seized by Russia

1795; became independent after First World War, annexed by Soviet Union Aug. 5, 1940; declared full independence Aug. 21, 1991. Produces electrical goods, Including radios, railway cars, telephone exchange equipment, as well as consumer goods, paper, textiles, cattle, dairy products.

BYELORUSSIA

Pop. 10.2 million. Fell under Russian rule by 1795; eastern part a founding Soviet republic, western part annexed in 1939; Byelorussia declared independence Aug. 25, 1991. Agricultural products include dairy goods, flax, potatoes, hemp; also produces machine tools, electrical appliances, fertilizers, automobiles, tractors.

MOLDOVA

Pop. 4.3 million. Russians seized region then known as Bessarabia in 1812; annexed by Romania after First World War; retaken by Soviet Union in 1940 and merged with the small Moldavian autonomous region; declared independence Aug. 27, 1991. Known for its grapes and wine; also produces shoes, clothing, some electrical appliances, dairy products.

UKRAINE

Pop. 51.7 million. Parts of republic fell under Russian rule in 1650s; became briefly independent after First World War, until Soviet forces defeated nation alists and it became a republic in 1922; declared full independence Aug. 24, 1991, subject to December referendum. Produces about 16 per cent of net Soviet output; grain, potatoes, dairy products important; also produces agricultural machinery and electrical appliances and has food-processing, coal, iron, steel, chemical, other industries.

ARMENIA

Pop. 3.3 million. Russia took it over in 1828; became briefly independent after 1917 but joined the Soviet Union in 1920; declared sovereignty Aug. 23, 1990, as part of five-year process towards secession provided for in Soviet Constitution. President Levon Ter-Petrosyan said after the coup that Armenia will declare full independence this year. Produces fruit, wine, clothing, textiles, some electrical appliances.

GEORGIA

Pop. 5.4 million. Taken by Russia by the late 19th century; became briefly independent after the First World War, invaded by Soviet forces in 1921; declared full independence April 9, 1991. Has important manganese deposits; produces silk, grapes, wine, tea, tobacco, other agricultural products, as well as textiles, steel pipes, synthetic fibres.

AZERBAIJAN

Pop. 7 million. Fell under Russian rule by 1828; became briefly independent after 1917 revolution, until Soviet forces invaded in 1920; declared independence Aug. 30, 1991. Has some oil; produces steel pipes for petroleum industry, cotton, textiles, refrigerators, fruit.

TURKMENISTAN

Pop. 3.6 million. Fell under Russian rule in 1881 and became a republic in 1924; majority of population voted to remain in renewed Soviet federation in March, 1991, referendum. Produces sheep, goats, cotton, carpets, some natural gas; has food-processing industry.

ESTONIA

Pop. 1.6 million. Fell under Russian rule in 1721 ; independent after First World Wa, and annexed by the Soviet Union Aug. 6, 1940; declared full independence Aug. 20, 1991. Dairy farming is important; produces textiles, clothing, shoes, excavating equipment; has oil shale.

RUSSIA

Pop. 147.4 million. Formed Nov. 7, 1917; declared sovereignty June 12,1990. Produces about 70 per cent of total Soviet output, including most of its oil; also rich in natural gas, timber, gold, diamonds, coal, iron, other minerals; produces grain, dairy products and other agricultural goods; includes country’s major industrial centres, producing a wide variety of machines and equipment and other goods, ranging from woollen fabrics to steel and cars.

BREAKDOWN OF AN EMPIRE

SELECTED PRODUCTS

GRAIN

LIVESTOCK

OIL AND GAS

INDUSTRIAL CENTRES

FRUIT AND WINE

COTTON

MINING

NATIONALITIES IN THE REPUBLICS

(AS PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION)

ETHNIC GROUP FROM WHICH THE REPUBLIC TAKES ITS NAME

RUSSIAN ALL OTHER

KAZAKHSTAN

Pop. 16.5 million. Russia consolidated control over territory in 1850s; after 1917 revolution, nationalists demanded full autonomy, but Red Army occupied state in 1920; achieved republican status in 1936; declared sovereignty Oct. 25, 1990, but advocates united federation with greater republican autonomy. Produces grain and sheep, as well as agricultural and construction machinery; has some engineering and chemical industries, coal, some oil.

UZBEKISTAN

Pop. 19.9 million. Fell under Russian rule by 1870s and became republic in 1924; majority” of population voted to remain in renewed Soviet federation in March, 1991, referendum, but parliament declared independence Aug. 31. Produces more than 60 per cent of country’s cotton and cotton fibres, some dairy products; has chemical and textile factories, some gas, coal.

TADZHIKISTAN

Pop. 5.1 million. Russia conquered parts of territory in 1860s; some areas rebelled after' 1917 revolution, but Tadzhik autonomous republic was created in 1924 and won full republican status in 1929; declared sovereignty August, 1990, and majority of population voted to remain in renewed Soviet federation in March, 1991, referendum. After the coup, banned Communist party from workplaces. Produces refrigerators, cotton, cotton fabric, vegetable oil, dairy products.

KYRGYZSTAN

Pop. 4.4 million. Russia overran it in late 19th century; part of original union and achieved republican status in 1936. Voted to remain in a renewed Soviet federation March, 1991, but declared independence Aug. 31. Produces goats, sheep, wool, grain, cotton; has some coal, mercury ore, light industry.

Maclean's

Map: Giselle Sabatini and Eric Legge Research: Mary Nemeth and April Bulmer August 31,1991