USSR formed, December 30 1922: A look at its founding congress and decades of progress
Cover of Soviet Life Magazine in honour of the 60th anniversary of the formation of the USSR, December 1982
Today marks the anniversary of the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -- the world's first socialist and worker's state -- December 22, 1922 after the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917 and the victory of the Red forces during the Civil War.
Here we look at an account of the congress at which the USSR was formed that was published in Soviet Life magazine on the 50th anniversary as well as a look at the USSR's progress that was published 10 years later for its 60th anniversary.
This overview of the progress of the Soviet Union over those 60 years includes some remarkable facts such as that in 1981 in the USSR "the national income obtained in 2.2 days...was equivalent to that produced in the whole year of 1922" and that with its constitutional commitment to housing as a human right, on average housing costs accounted for only 2.7% of a Soviet family's budget.
Mikhail Kalinin: "At this moment the Importance of this event may not be fully realized, but its political significance will grow daily. There Is no doubt about it. Firstly, this unifying congress will enable us to build up our material resources in the face of the hostile bourgeois world. Secondly, in political terms the union of the Soviet republics vastly increases the real significance of the Soviet republics for the whole bourgeois world. And, thirdly and finally, we here are laying the cornerstone for a truly fraternal community."
Crest of the USSR from the cover of Soviet Life for the 50th anniversary, December 1972
The morning of December 30, 1922, thousands of people, many of them In colorful national costume, filled the Bolshoi Theater In Moscow. Among them were envoys from Russian towns and villages, sons and daughters of the Ukraine, delegates from the factories and fields of Byelorussia, representatives of the multinational Caucasus and of the many other nations and nationalities of what is now the Soviet Union.
There were 2,215 delegates all told. The congress opened at 11 A.M. As instructed by the conference of plenipotentiary delegations elected by the Congress of Soviets of the Russian Federation. the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Transcaucasian Federation. held the day before. the First Congress of Soviets of the USSR was opened by the oldest delegate from the Russian Federation, Pyotr Smidovich.
"A unanimous will of the working people of the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Byelorussia to unite the separate Soviet republics into a single whole, powerful state, a union of socialist Soviet republics, was expressed at the congresses of Soviets of the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Transcaucasian Federation. This will was supported with indescribable enthusiasm by representatives of the working people of the Russian Federation at the December 26 session of the Tenth All-Russia Congress of Soviets. A resolution adopted by that congress reaffirmed, as the basis for the Union, the principle of equality of the republics. their voluntary accession to the union state while reserving the right of free secession.
To this day our states have been like separate armies on a common front of struggle. We have been jointly upholding a common cause, the power of labor, the power of the Soviets. against a united front of imperialist governments, and building up a socialist economy In the face of advancing capitalism. And what colossal force of resistance we have been finding in this pooling of the efforts of the republics to face up to each new danger! Remember our struggle on the hunger front. Remember the trains from Petrograd to the Tatar Republic, or from Moscow to the Chuvash Region. Remember the ships from Georgia sailing to the Crimea and the trainloads of grain from Byelorussia and the Ukraine for the famine-stricken Volga area. We owe our victories on the external war fronts and the internal economic fronts to this joining of the forces of separate republics. Now we are uniting in a single state, forming a single political and economic organism...In this new degree of union of the Soviet republics lies the source of new colossal forces of resistance and creation - incomprehensible and awe-inspiring to the capitalist world but a joyful and inspiring marvel to the workers of all lands.... Long live the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which is now being established!"
Smidovich's last words drew stormy applause. The delegates rose to their feet and sang the "Internationale." Smidovich gave the floor to Avel Yenukidze who proposed, on behalf of the delegations of the four republics, a list of candidates for the presiding board of the congress.
Vladimir Lenin was nominated honorary president of the congress. The proposal was received with an ovation and shouts of "Hurrah." The delegates were expressing their love and gratitude for the man whose thoughts and deeds, whose whole life had been given to uniting in that auditorium and outside it, on the expanses of a vast country, the working
people of dozens of nations and nationalities. They now had the task of bringing to life Lenin's ideas for the construction of the world's first multinational state of workers and peasants. They knew that the drafts of the Declaration and the Treaty on the Formation of the USSR were based on the principles of a union of equal Soviet republics in a federation, elaborated by Lenin, on his theory of the national question. The congress sent Lenin, who was too ill to attend, this message of greeting:
"Beginning its work, the First Congress of Soviets of Workers,' Peasants' and Red Army men's Deputies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics extends ardent greetings to the honorary chairman of the First Congress of Soviets of the USSR and the leader of the world proletariat, Comrade Vladimir Ilyich Lenin."
Mikhail Frunze proposed that Mikhail Kalinin be elected chairman of the congress. The proposal was carried.
Back in 1919 when Kalinin was elected president of the All-Union Central Executive Committee, Lenin said of him: "Here we have a comrade who has been engaged in party work for nearly 20 years. He is a peasant from Tver Cluberniya..Petrograd workers have witnessed his ability to approach wide sections of the working masses...."
Then the delegates approved the agenda. There were three Items:
1) consideration of the Declaration on the Formation of the USSR,
2) consideration of the Treaty on the Formation of the USSR, and
3) elections to the Central Executive Committee of the Union.
Joseph Stalin reported on the first point and read the drafts of the declaration and the treaty, which had been discussed the day before by the conference of plenipotentiary delegations of all the Soviet republics.
Mikhail Frunze was the first to take the floor:
"One can see after even a cursory acquaintance with the declaration and the Union treaty which have been read here that in building our Soviet slate we differ considerably from what is to be observed in this field in the bourgeois countries of the world," he said. "This is natural, for in all our efforts we are forced to search for new ways. those conforming to the nature of the new class that has taken power - the proletariat."
Frunze moved that the declaration and the treaty be approved, and read the draft of the decision of the congress:
1. To approve in substance the declaration and the Union treaty.
2. In view of the extraordinary importance of the adopted declaration and the concluded treaty and the desirability of hearing the final opinions of all the constituent union republics regarding the text of the present treaty, to submit the declaration and the treaty to the Central Executive Committees of the union republics for additional consideration, so that the opinions of the union republics can be communicated to the next regular session of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR.
3. To Instruct the next regular session of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR to examine the opinions received, approve the text of the declaration and the Union treaty, and immediately put it Into effect.
4. To instruct the Central Executive Committee of the USSR to prepare for the Second Congress of Soviets of the USSR the final text of the declaration and the Union treaty and to submit It to the Second Congress for final approval."
The historic moment for the adoption of the decisions arrived.
"Chairman: Comrades, does anyone wish to speak on Comrade Frunze's proposal? (Voices: No.) Allow me to put this proposal to the vote. I shall have it voted upon as a whole, thereby both the declaration and the treaty of the Union of Soviet Republics will be endorsed. I now proceed to take a vote. Those for the adoption of this proposal. My against? Any abstentions? None. Carried unanimously. (Applause)."
Thus, by the will of the Soviet peoples, the formation of the Union el Soviet Socialist Republics was proclaimed.
Speaking for the workers of the Transcaucasian republics, Sergei Kirov devoted his speech to the international friendship of nations. "We now have every possibility for gathering into a single whole, Into a close-knit family" he said.
On behalf of the peasantry the congress was greeted by Grigori Odinets, a Ukrainian grain grower.
Then the verbatim report notes that the congress unanimously elected the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, consisting of 371 members and 138 alternate members.
In his closing speech, Mikhail Kalinin said:
"At this moment the Importance of this event may not be fully realized, but its political significance will grow daily. There Is no doubt about it. Firstly, this unifying congress will enable us to build up our material resources in the face of the hostile bourgeois world. Secondly, in political terms the union of the Soviet republics vastly increases the real significance of the Soviet republics for the whole bourgeois world. And, thirdly and finally, we here are laying the cornerstone for a truly fraternal community. For thousands of years mankind's best minds have been struggling with the theoretical problem of finding forms In which peoples might live In friendship and fraternity, without great anguish and internecine struggle. Only today, at this moment, has the first stone of such a life actually been laid.... The most difficult thing is to make a start, to lay the foundation. And today the four independent Soviet republics have laid the foundation. I am convinced that, given the support of the working people, the success of the work we have started will be assured."
That same day. December 30, 1922, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR elected by the congress met for its first session. On the proposal of the bureau of the communist group in the Central Executive Committee, the session unanimously approved members and alternate members of the CEC Presidium, four presidents (one representing each republic) - Mikhail Kalinin, Grigori Petrovsky, Nariman Narimanov and Alexander Chervyakov - and the secretary, Avel Yenukidze.
The problem of a single union of the republics was so ripe for solution, the desire of all the peoples for that union was so great - the need for it had been demonstrated so clearly in the battles against invasion, hunger and incredible economic difficulty - that the entire agenda took only one day to complete.
December 30. 1922. celebrated ever since as the anniversary of the Soviet Union.