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According to my knowledge, borders between individual SSR's were generally open and consisted just of signs during Soviet times. With the breakup of the union, the problem of border security arose. Now, only the Russian-Belorussian border is free to cross, other borders being controlled borders with toll checkpoints and long queues.

My question is:

  • How did the border regime between the individual SSR's change during and after the breakup of the USSR? When were border controls imposed?
  • How did the first provisional border control posts look? How were roads changed to cater for the need to control traffic?
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You are right, under USSR there was no internal borders. They were introduced after the break up of Soviet Union. The situation is probably different on different state borders. But I can describe the Ukrainian-Russian border. Visas are not required for Russians and Ukrainians. But one has to carry a passport. Both countries have the so-called "internal passport", an analog of ID. It is this passport which is required, not the international one. There are check points, where the passports are checked, questions can be asked, and baggage checked. All this was introduced very shortly after the break up of Soviet Union. You can only cross the border legally at the designated crossing points. But really until 2014 there was no control of illegal crossing. After the beginning of the war, they try to control illegal crossing. In particular, Ukraine builds a fence. The plans to introduce visas are also discussed in Ukraine.

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Mind that in the USSR travel was seriously discouraged (and often not allowed at all) even between cities within the same SSR for most citizens. Not sure if this was true for the entirety of the lifetime of the USSR, but for a long time you needed a permit to travel at all.

That's where the internal passports came in, they were permits issued for typically a limited period and limited city pairs someone would be allowed to travel between.

I have traveled in the USSR and didn't see border posts between the SSRs, but the sample size was small. Simply put, there was no need for border posts as people were supposed to stay put and most of them did, because there'd be no real way to travel distances anyway what with fuel rationed, public transport between cities requiring you to show your internal passport, etc. etc.

After the USSR collapsed, border posts not dissimilar to those between any other country pair would have been set up as needed to enforce the travel agreements between those countries.

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    It is an exaggeration that the "travel was seriously discouraged". In the late Soviet Union (after 1960s) anyone could buy a train or plane ticket anywhere, no questions asked. One had to show the internal passport but all adult citizens had one. Except for some special zones near the borders. You could not legally stay for long time in another city however, because of the residence registration. But no registration was required for few weeks and in general this rule could not be enforced. – Alex Feb 7 at 3:36
  • "Internal passports… were permits issued for typically a limited period and limited city pairs someone would be allowed to travel between" - Bullshit. – ach Apr 12 at 15:15
  • @Alex, that is not entirely exact. 1) There were also a number of closed territories such as Sarov (Arzamas-16) or Snezhinsk (Chelyabinsk-70). You needed special permit to go there. 2) Passports were only required to fly. Train tickets started to bear names in 1992 (during the first couple of years - only first three letters), bus tickets around 2005. 3) Kolkhoz peasants only got their passports in 1974 (the last category to get passports). – ach Apr 12 at 15:23
  • @Alex, 4) My own memories are such that every time we went to a sea resort and rented a room from a local homeowner, they brought my parents' passports to the local militsiya for registration. Sanatoriums and hostels usually just registered them in their books. However, when we stayed with my uncle in Moscow, I don't remember anything done for registration - and my surmise is that it was considered Ok because there was no money involved. – ach Apr 12 at 15:28
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    @Alex, IIRC anyone who arrived to stay more than 3 days had to be registered within 24 hours. Apparently, in some cases it was strictly enforced, but not in others. So my conjecture is that where money was involved, landlords' activity (quite suspicious by itself, by Soviet ideology, albeit tolerated) was under scrutiny, so they were eager to comply because non-compliance could put them in legal jeopardy too easily. – ach Apr 13 at 18:58

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