Federalism. Political and constitutional system based on partnership and co-operation that results from the integration of geographically, historically, and culturally related regions or countries, which are united by common interests into one polity while preserving their autonomy and state character; also any movement that aims at establishing a federated state or federation. Some unitary states, particularly multinational ones, attempt to avoid fragmentation and to preserve unity through federation, that is, by creating self-governing, constituent states for each nationality.
Modern federated states date back to the founding of the United States of America in 1787. The oldest such state in existence is Switzerland, which arose in 1291 out of a confederation of separate cantons that was formed for mutual defense and that evolved into a federated state based on a constitution. The nation-states that are members of a federation participate in setting up a common, supreme, federal government. Usually the constituent states share power equally. In a federation the powers and prerogatives of the central government and of the constituent states are defined and guaranteed by the constitution. The purpose of federation is to decentralize the political system and to diffuse political power. Federalism is a higher form of autonomy and is the result of the striving for self-government. Autocratic systems and imperial concepts are incompatible with federalism, while democratic systems, particularly those with republican and liberal-constitutional doctrines, are compatible.
Federalism in Ukraine before the 19th century. According to the historian Mykola Kostomarov, Kyivan Rus’, which was a union of lands and principalities, had certain attributes of a federation and a tendency toward federalism. Its development was cut short, however, by the Mongol conquests and the subsequent rise in Muscovy of a different state system—a unitary state with centralized power. The Russian historian N. Danilevsky saw the Kyivan state as an ‘autocratic-Slavic federation.’ Vasilii Kliuchevsky defined Kyivan Rus’ not as a political federation but rather as a dynastic federation based on the consanguinity of the rulers. The German historian G. von Rauch called it simply ‘princely federation.’ The Ukrainian historians of law Rostyslav Lashchenko and Mykola Chubaty agree with Kostomarov that the Kyivan union of principalities manifested federative tendencies.
The state of Muscovy was not based on the principle of federation. Even when Muscovy granted temporary autonomy to those principalities and non-Russian states (the Hetman state, the Don Cossack Host, Georgia) it had annexed, usually by force, this autonomy was based on the system of vassalage.
Ukrainian territories within the Polish or Lithuanian state cannot be regarded as members of a federation, because the Ruthenians never acquired an equal status and the Polish Commonwealth was never a federal state. Some aspects of federalism may have been present in Hetman Ivan Vyhovsky's thought and in the Treaty of Hadiach (1658), but they were never implemented beyond the preliminary stage.
Federalism in the 19th century. Modern theories of federation developed in Ukraine and Russia only in the 19th century. Among the Decembrists only the Society of United Slavs raised the idea of a federation of Slavic nations, but it omitted Ukraine as a separate member, treating it as an indivisible part of Russia (in N. Muravev's draft for a constitution). The Russian Slavophiles rejected federalism on principle, for they adopted the ideal of a strong Russian tsar and autocrat as the protector of all Slavs against the non-Slavic world.
In contrast, Ukrainian Slavophilism, represented by the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, highlighted in its program the free and equal federation of the Slavic nations in a democratic republic. Under the influence of romantic messianism, the brotherhood believed that Ukraine would play a central role in the Slavic federation (as expressed in Mykola Kostomarov's Knyhy bytiia ukraïns’koho narodu [The Books of Genesis of the Ukrainian People]). The strongest proponent of federalism among the brotherhood's members was Kostomarov. These ideas were not very popular in the 1840s, but eventually they inspired many important political thinkers and activists.
Certain Russian liberal and revolutionary circles of the 19th century looked to federalism for a solution of the numerous problems that beset autocratic tsarism. Aleksandr Herzen vigorously propagated the idea of federalism, including Ukraine's right to autonomy in a new Russian federation and even secession. A. Shchapov, a professor at Kazan University, and the writers and journalists N. Ogarev (proponent of a free union of indigenous peoples) and Nikolai Chernyshevsky, who envisioned a union of equal ethnic states based on self-government, were federalists. M. Bakunin represented anarchist federalism among the Russians.
Mykhailo Drahomanov, who preserved and developed the main ideas of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, attained the status of the leading theoretician of federalism in Ukraine and Russia. In spite of certain affinities with the position of Russian liberal federalists, Drahomanov's concept of federalism was deeper and more solidly grounded. It was designed to meet the specific needs of both Russia and Eastern Europe.
Political federalism (in contrast to P.-J. Proudhon's economic federalism) was, according to Drahomanov, the best solution to the nationalities problem in the Russian Empire and Austrian Empire and also the highest form of democracy. Drahomanov's federalism was based on the self-government of communities (hromady) and larger territories (zemli), which would unite to form a ‘free association or union’ built on modern constitutional principles and governed by representative bodies at various levels. Centralism, even of the republican and parliamentary form, is alien to true federalism. Drahomanov's ideal of political federalism was to be realized through the decentralization and debureaucratization of the state ‘from the bottom upwards’ and the full recognition of self-governing entities. A two-chamber parliament representing the whole population and the constituent nation-states was to be the central governing body of the federation. Drahomanov advocated this form of federation not only for Russia, but for all Europe and eventually for the world. In his time he encouraged the zemstvo movement and municipal government (city autonomy), through which, he hoped, Russia would eventually evolve into a federal system.
The ‘free communities’ (vilni hromady) and free, contractual relations among these communities and territories form the basis of Mykhailo Drahomanov's federalism. It is quite likely that his research in Roman history and his investigation of Swiss federalism and British self-government had an influence on his ideas. In one of his projects he divided Russia on the basis of economic and geographic criteria into 20 autonomous territories, 4 of which lay in Ukraine: the Polisia, Kyiv, Odesa, and Kharkiv regions. Drahomanov recommended federalism, based on Austria's crown lands, for Galicia, but he believed that in the long run a Dnieper Ukraine federated with Russia could become attractive to Galicia.
Serhii Podolynsky expounded his idea of federalism, based on Drahomanov's free communities, in the journal Hromada (Geneva), published by Drahomanov in Geneva. According to Podolynsky Ukraine would form a federated republic of voluntarily united communities that in turn would join a world federation. The constituent elements of the state, the communities, would determine obligatory norms in all areas for themselves, while the central ‘council of communities’ would serve only as an arbitrator among them in the event of conflict. Judicial, as well as legislative and executive, powers would be decentralized. The police, army, statistical office, and certain departments of economic planning and administration would be federal agencies.
Federalism in the 20th century. The most active political leaders in Dnieper Ukraine at the end of the 19th century and particularly at the beginning of the 20th century, when political parties began to be formed, shared Mykhailo Drahomanov's and Serhii Podolynsky's views. Only the Revolutionary Ukrainian party at first and the Ukrainian People's party advocated independence for Ukraine. Other parties, such as the Ukrainian Social Democratic Workers' party, the Ukrainian Democratic Radical party, and the Society of Ukrainian Progressives, offered only a program of autonomy, sometimes mentioning federation as an ultimate demand. Most of the other non-Russian factions in the Russian State Duma (see Autonomists' Union) offered a similar program. During the first stage of the Revolution of 1917 the Congress of the Peoples of Russia, which convened in September 1917 under the chairmanship of Mykhailo Hrushevsky, demanded that the state be reconstructed on the federal principle. Among the Russian parties only the Socialist Revolutionaries, probably because of the influence of Drahomanov's ideas, were prepared to accept a federated Russian republic. The Social Democrats (Mensheviks and Bolsheviks) and Octobrists were centralists, while the Constitutional Democratic (kadet) party accepted a limited autonomy for the non-Russian nations. The non-Russian socialist parties, including the Jewish Bund, defended federalism, however.
The proclamation of the Russian republic under Aleksandr Kerensky on 14 September 1917 did not specify its political system, including whether it would be a unitary or a federated state. Most of the non-Russian nations, particularly the peoples on the borderlands of the former empire, quickly adopted the position of political independence. The Bolshevik coup accelerated their evolution from autonomy to independence. This is illustrated by the four universals of the Central Rada. Although the Third Universal still endorsed the idea of federation, the proclaimed Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) actually had no one with whom to federate. The authors of the Fourth Universal were faithful to the principles of ‘self-determination’ and respect for the ‘will of the people’ and hence left it for the constituent assembly (see Constituent Assembly of Ukraine) to decide about the UNR's possible federation with other parts of Russia. By the beginning of 1918, practically all Ukrainian parties, including the Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Federalists, had adopted the position of Ukraine's independence. Russian parties in Ukraine still insisted on federation in theory, but there were few unequivocal and convinced federalists in the Russian anti-Bolshevik movement. When the Ukrainian state had been almost completely rejected by the Allied Powers, Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky, as a result of the influence of his Russian milieu, proclaimed on 14 November 1918 Ukraine's federation with Russia. But even those Russians who collaborated with the hetman did not believe in a genuine federation, but rather regarded it as a tactical maneuver to restore a centralized Russian state.
After the struggle for independence (1917–20) and the short-lived Ukrainian state (in the form of the Ukrainian National Republic or Hetman monarchy [see Hetman government]), no important Ukrainian group remained that advocated federalism. The one notable exception was the Galician politician Vasyl Paneiko, who in 1922 presented a plan of confederation with Russia as an alternative to Polish domination in Western Ukraine in his work Z'iedyneni derzhavy skhidn’oï Evropy: Halychyna i Ukraïna suproty Pol’shchi i Rosiï (The United States of Eastern Europe: Galicia and Ukraine in Relation to Poland and Russia).
The unification of the Ukrainian National Republic and the Western Ukrainian National Republic was not federative in form but was envisioned, rather, after 21 January 1919, as a merger of the two states with a temporary continuation of their separate political and military structures. An internal Ukrainian federation was proposed as the future system for Ukraine by two jurists—Stanyslav Dnistriansky and Otto Eikhelman—in their respective draft constitutions for the UNR (see Constitution of the Ukrainian National Republic).
The Czechoslovak Republic to which Carpatho-Ukraine belonged was on the way to becoming a federated state, but its period of reorganization in October 1938–March 1939 was too brief for it to develop the classical federal structure. In the 1950s, during the cold war, some American political circles tried to use anti-Soviet immigrants for propaganda purposes and made attempts to create a federalist trend among Ukrainians (through the fictitious federalist groups, ephemeral publications, etc). The American-inspired Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, which promoted federalism for the non-Russian peoples of the USSR, met with strong opposition from Ukrainian émigré circles.
Soviet federalism in theory and practice. The Russian Marxists G. Plekhanov, R. Luxemburg, and Vladimir Lenin followed Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in rejecting federalism as incompatible with their central idea of the concentration of power in the hands of the working class (ie, the Communist party) and with the principles of socialism in general. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were also opposed to the federated structure of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' party, which was made clear in their conflict with the Ukrainian Social Democratic Spilka and the Jewish Bund. In 1913 Lenin declared that he was opposed to federalism on principle and was ready to accept publicly instead the right of ‘self-determination up to and including secession.’ The Bolsheviks met the February Revolution of 1917 and prepared their coup in an antifederalist spirit, although they criticized the Provisional Government for its policy towards non-Russian nations. When the latter were well on the way to independence, the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets adopted a resolution on 25 January 1918 to the effect that ‘the Soviet Russian Republic is founded on the principles of a voluntary union of free nations in a federation of Soviet national republics.’ In 1920 the Comintern confirmed federalism as a transitional form of Soviet statehood preceding full unification. The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic that was proclaimed in 1918 was regarded as a federation of peoples rather than states, and the peoples were granted autonomy.
Having created in December 1917 a Soviet government for Ukraine in Kharkiv, the Bolsheviks announced that Ukraine was in a federated union with Russia. After the abrogation of this union (Russia's Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers) and the proclamation of the ‘independence’ of Soviet Ukraine, as well as the attempts by the Bolsheviks to fragment Ukraine by creating separate Soviet republics such as the Donets–Kryvyi Rih Soviet Republic, Tavryda, Crimean, and Odesa republics, the Ukrainian national Communists (see National communism), and the Left Social Democrats and Socialist Revolutionaries who sympathized with them, reacted by planning, in February–April 1918, to transform the Ukrainian National Republic into an ‘independent, federated, Soviet republic.’ The Provisional Workers' and Peasants' Government of Ukraine again approved, on 25 January 1919, Ukraine's union with the Russian SFSR ‘on the principles of Soviet federalism.’ This was confirmed by a separate agreement and by legislative acts in June 1919 and later. In spite of the ‘federative ties’ among the Soviet republics, the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) remained centralized with one central committee, while the parties of the individual republics, such as the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine, acquired the status of regional organizations.
In 1918–23 the relations between the Russian SFSR and the other republics, including the Ukrainian SSR, were officially defined as federative, based on a political, economic, military, and diplomatic union. Yet, in reality they were quite unique, and they can be considered only as quasifederative. The role of the common federal agencies was fulfilled by the agencies of one of the constituent states; hence, the relations among the members of the federation were asymmetrical. There were no guarantees of the ‘sovereign’ rights of the constituent republics, and their relations were based either on contractual principles or on the de facto interventions of the RSFSR government in the affairs of the other Soviet republics. Later on Soviet jurists described the relations between the RSFSR and the other republics as federative, but this view was not generally accepted in the 1920s. Writers such as Mykhailo Reikhel, Oleksander Malytsky, Mykola I. Paliienko, D. Magerovsky, and E. Korovin argued that the relations among the Soviet republics in 1919–23 were confederative. Certain Western scholars (V. Gsovski) and Ukrainian émigré scholars of law (Bohdan Halaichuk, Oleksander Yurchenko, and Roman Yakemchuk) share this opinion.
When the Soviet Union was being formed, there was a tendency to annex the hitherto formally independent Soviet republics to the RSFSR by means of the process of autonomization (a term used by Joseph Stalin and others). The representatives of some republics (Ukraine and Georgia), particularly Khristian Rakovsky, Mykola Skrypnyk, Volodymyr Zatonsky, B. Mdivani, and Tsivtsivadze, preferred a confederative relationship with the retention of the broadest rights by the national republics. With his unquestioned authority Vladimir Lenin put an end to the discussion between the two extremes by deciding on federation, which was established in an almost classical form as far as its structure was concerned (see Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The new federation was formed on the basis of a union treaty and, later, of a constitution, and it encompassed unitary and composite states such as the RSFSR. Because of this, certain scholars distinguished two types of Soviet federations: state alliances of a higher type, such as the USSR, and of a lower type, such as the RSFSR and certain other republics, which had autonomous components. In 1924–40 the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which at the time included the territory of the Moldavian ASSR, was one of the latter federations.
The constitutions of the USSR (1924, 1936) and the Ukrainian SSR (1925, 1929, and 1937; see Constitution of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) were constructed on the principle of a formal federation and a de facto centralized state. The latter aspect of the Soviet political system was confirmed by the fact that there were no guarantees of the republics' rights, which, without any formal, constitutional process, were gradually usurped by the central agencies. Because of the persistent tendency towards the centralization of power and the arbitrary substitution of Union agencies for republican agencies, certain Western scholars (Livingston, R. Maurach, H. Finer, and V. Aspaturian) denied that the Soviet Union was a federation. Most writers, including Ukrainian ones, agreed that it was a special type of federation (Soviet federalism), which had a tendency to be a de facto unitary state while preserving institutional and functional federal forms. This general tendency was not deflected by two attempts to broaden the rights of the Union republics—in 1944 the republics were granted some foreign-policy powers and some prerogatives in the military sphere, and in 1956–9 their economic rights were expanded—because these reforms were to a large degree never implemented. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the USSR was actually undergoing a process of defederalization, although the constitution of 1977 formally reaffirmed the principle and institutions of federation. During the discussion of the proposed new constitution some authorities (P. Semenov and D. Zlatopolsky) asserted that the federation would gradually wither away as nations ‘merged.’ At the same time, M. Kulychenko, S. Yakubovskaia, Hlib Aleksandrenko, and others defended the permanency of the federalist principle. The nature of this discussion and the future of Soviet federalism were influenced by the evolution of the nationality policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as well as by the concept of the so-called Soviet people, which was introduced after the 22nd CPSU Congress.
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]