Consider this: before WWII, France controlled a vast number of colonies around the globe. They have since lost most of their territory, however their official name remains as French Republic and they're considered to be the same state as they were before.

Now let's take the situation in the USSR: in 1991 the 12 Soviet Republics split up and formed independent states, with Russia becoming the successor state to the USSR. Does this mean that the USSR merely changed it's name and lost a few territories? Or did the USSR completely cease to exist, while brand new states were created in it's territory?

I'm looking for a legal/historical answer, not a subjective one.


3 Answers 3


More than a question of Soviets/no soviets (which is a mostly internal affair), the situation is that the USSR did effectively cease to exist.

To clarify the concepts, USSR was never Russia other than in informal talk. The USSR was a federation of several countries, one of which (and the one which most political weight) was Russia.

In 1991 the states members of the USSR agreed to its dissolution, which brought an end to it. It was also agreed that Russia would be its successor state, replacing the SU at the international level.

  • USSR embassies became Russian embassies

  • Russia retained USSR place at the UN (including permanent member of the Security Council and veto power)

  • Russia was bound by the treaties that the USSR was part of (notably, nuclear disarmament treaties).

  • 4
    No, the Soviet Union as a whole was formally the successor of the Russian Empire, for example it was the SU which paid the outstanding WWI debt to the Entente. And transitivity does not apply well here. You may think of it in human terms: if you are your father's only heir and your father was your grandfather's only heir, that is not the same that being your grandfather's heir (maybe your father wasted all of his inheritance, leaving you with none of grandpa's assets).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 14:31
  • 1
    At first glance I would say that it is, but it is a case complex enough (for a time after its surrender Germany ceased to exist as an state) that I do not dare to give an authoritative answer.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 14:42
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    @SJuan76 you are correct in all but the nuclear armament part - Ukraine did inherit ownership(but not control) of a huge chunk of the former USSR's nuclear arsenal. They have since been destroyed with the help(financial and industrial) of USA, Russia, UK and France. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Ukraine Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 15:38
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    +1, but one might say that USSR was Russia after all, in the sense that all its constituent republics had been parts of the Russian empire. When Lenin designed the federal USSR it was a clever ploy on his part to coopt the local elites instead of having to coerce them (as Stalin and other hard-liners wanted to do in their "autonomization" plan). He most certainly did not expect the republics to ever exercise their formal right of secession as they have done in 1991. Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 18:34
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    One could say that the USSR wasn't really a federation, but Russia and its colonies. On the other gand, the Q. misses more apparent cases of "inheritance", where there were no formal regime change - British Empire, the US that engaged in slavery, fascist Spain.
    – Roger V.
    Commented May 30 at 5:22

That's a difficult question to answer. Many of the institutions that existed under the USSR were effectively retained (eg, the KGB is now the FSB). While there have certainly been reforms, there are many who are in power (either politically or economically) who still adhere to the old Soviet ways, which essentially boils down to systemic corruption within a police state fueled by paranoia. In addition, decades of repression and propaganda have had a large impact on the collective psyche of the population.


The USSR does no longer exists. In fact, when Gorbachov resigns the flag of the USSR is removed from the Kremlin, and the flag of Russia takes its place.

Basically the USSR ends in 1990 when the constitution removes the article that declares that the Comunist Party is the only political party, this was done by the new Congress, not by the soviets. This event means that the soviet no longer had any power. Therefore from now the Soviet Union no longer works as a soviet. Later Russia and the other states declare their self-government.

The new states actually always existed, the difference is that they declared their independence during the fall of the USSR. The concept would be similar to a disintegration of present day Spain.

Before the revolution of 1917 one might have said that the different states where colonies or territories of Russia, but during the communist age they where states of the Union, after all, the communists were against any form of colonization.

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    It looks like you misunderstand what "Soviet" means. It basically meant "parliament". The Russian parliament was still called "Supreme Soviet" until 1993, when it was renamed to "State Duma".
    – vpekar
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 18:35
  • 1
    Not parliament, rather just a council .
    – user904
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 0:42
  • This answer is wrong in so many ways... Commented May 31 at 15:34

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