The overthrow of the Russian Empire in 1917 brought with it years of chaos. Independent nation states sprung up along the fringes of the old empire, while the newly created socialist republics of Belarus, Ukraine and the Transcaucus clung on to their ties with Moscow.
No sooner had the Tsar been deposed than a bloody civil war broke out. Foreign armies camped on Russian soil, and to add to the country’s misery, the fledgling government in Moscow was at war with Poland from 1919.
‘War communism’ – an unpopular economic policy designed to keep the army and factory workers fed – was enacted. This required farmers to surrender any crop surpluses to the state. But with peace came the ‘New Economic Policy’, and a limited return to capitalism.
A period of relative prosperity and stability followed. The “commissar for nationality affairs”, one Joseph Stalin, turned his thoughts to unifying the republics.
In late 1922, Stalin convened a joint session of the Congress ofthe Soviets in Moscow. Representatives from Ukraine, Belarus and the Transcaucus agreed to harmonise the judiciary, state funding – and most importantly, establish a common Soviet citizenship.
By the end of December, the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR and the Declaration of the Creation of the USSR had been approved by the delegates of all four republics. The Soviet Union was born.
Provision was made for other republics to join later, which they did, and the treaty remained in force right up until the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.