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The Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia (Russian : Деклара́ция прав наро́дов Росси́и) was a document promulgated by the Bolshevik government of Russia on November 15 (November 2 by Old Style), 1917 (signed by Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin).
Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism; his ideas were posthumously codified as Marxism-Leninism.
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Soviet revolutionary and politician of Georgian ethnicity. He led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952) and Premier (1941–1953). While initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, he ultimately consolidated enough power to become the country's de facto dictator by the 1930s. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.
The document proclaimed:
The meaning of the Declaration is still disputed in Russian historiography. In 1917 the Bolshevist thinking was still largely idealistic, dominated by vague ideas of "universal happiness". Also, at that moment Bolsheviks believed that the World revolution was imminent, so they did not care much about loss of territories.
World revolution is the Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism in all countries through the conscious revolutionary action of the organized working class. These revolutions would not necessarily occur simultaneously, but where and when local conditions allowed a revolutionary party to successfully replace bourgeois ownership and rule, and install a workers' state based on social ownership of the means of production. In most Marxist schools, such as Trotskyism, the essentially international character of the class struggle and the necessity of global scope are critical elements and a chief explanation of the failure of socialism in one country.
However, in the cold-war western literature, it is often argued that in fact Lenin and Stalin agreed to liberate mostly the territories they had no sovereignty over since Russia had lost them to Central Powers in 1915 and 1916. Many historians suggest that the purpose of the document was to limit the public dissent after Russia lost most of its western areas to the advancing German Empire and try to complicate the matters behind the front lines.
The Central Powers, consisting of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria—hence also known as the Quadruple Alliance —was one of the two main coalitions that fought World War I (1914–18).
But in reality, the declaration had the effect of rallying some ethnic non-Russians behind the Bolsheviks. Latvian riflemen were important supporters of Bolsheviks in the early days of Russian Civil War and Latvian historians recognize the promise of sovereignty as an important reason for that. The anti-revolutionary White Russians did not support self-determination and, as a result, few Latvians fought on the side of the White movement.
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future. The two largest combatant groups were the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik form of socialism led by Vladimir Lenin, and the loosely allied forces known as the White Army, which included diverse interests favoring political monarchism, economic capitalism and alternative forms of socialism, each with democratic and antidemocratic variants. In addition, rival militant socialists and nonideological Green armies fought against both the Bolsheviks and the Whites. Eight foreign nations intervened against the Red Army, notably the former Allied military forces from the World War and the pro-German armies. The Red Army eventually defeated the White Armed Forces of South Russia in Ukraine and the army led by Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak to the east in Siberia in 1919. The remains of the White forces commanded by Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel were beaten in Crimea and evacuated in late 1920. Lesser battles of the war continued on the periphery for two more years, and minor skirmishes with the remnants of the White forces in the Far East continued well into 1923. The war ended in 1923 in the sense that Bolshevik communist control of the newly formed Soviet Union was now assured, although armed national resistance in Central Asia was not completely crushed until 1934. There were an estimated 7,000,000–12,000,000 casualties during the war, mostly civilians. The Russian Civil War has been described by some as the greatest national catastrophe that Europe had yet seen.
The White movement and its military arm the White Army, also known as the White Guard, the White Guardsmen or simply the Whites, was a loose confederation of anti-communist forces that fought the Communist Bolsheviks, also known as the Reds, in the Russian Civil War (1917–1922/1923) and to a lesser extent continued operating as militarized associations insurrectionists both outside and within Russian borders in Siberia until roughly World War II (1939–1945).
Intended or not, the deceleration's provided right to secede was soon exercised by peripheral regions in western Russia, part or which had already been under German army's rather than Moscow's control. But as the revolution spread, also many areas within Russia that have long been integrated declared themselves independent republics. Bolshevist Russia would, however, attempt to establish Soviet power in as many of those as possible. All three Baltic states experienced wars between Soviet governments aiming to establish a Communist state allied with Bolshevist Russia and non-Communist governments aiming for an independent state. The Soviet governments received direct military support from Russia. After the non-Communist side won, Russia recognized them as the legitimate governments of the Baltic states in 1920.
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, previously known as the Russian Soviet Republic and the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, as well as being unofficially known as the Russian Federation, Soviet Russia, or simply Russia, was an independent state from 1917 to 1922, and afterwards the largest, most populous and most economically developed of the 15 Soviet socialist republics of the Soviet Union (USSR) from 1922 to 1991, then a sovereign part of the Soviet Union with priority of Russian laws over Union-level legislation in 1990 and 1991, during the last two years of the existence of the USSR. The Russian Republic comprised sixteen smaller constituent units of autonomous republics, five autonomous oblasts, ten autonomous okrugs, six krais and forty oblasts. Russians formed the largest ethnic group. The capital of the Russian SFSR was Moscow and the other major urban centers included Leningrad, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara.
The Baltic states, also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations or simply the Baltics, is a geopolitical term used for grouping the three sovereign states in Northern Europe on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The term is not used in the context of cultural areas, national identity, or language. The three countries do not form an official union, but engage in intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation.
Russian historiography often cited the document as one of the main bases for the liberation of Central European states. However, it is to be noted that Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Estonia were either created as puppet states by the Central Powers or liberated by the nations of the abovementioned countries themselves after the collapse of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Central Europe is the region comprising the central part of Europe. It is said to occupy continuous territory that are otherwise conventionally Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe. The concept of Central Europe is based on a common historical, social and cultural identity. Central Europe is going through a phase of "strategic awakening", with initiatives such as the CEI, Centrope and the Visegrád Four. While the region's economy shows high disparities with regard to income, all Central European countries are listed by the Human Development Index as very highly developed.
Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.
Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.
The following countries declared their independence soon after the Bolsheviks' declaration, establishing themselves as non-Communist states. Although the role this declaration played in their declared independence is doubtful, it eased Bolshevist Russia's recognition of their independence. Except for Finland, all of these areas were outside of Russian sovereignty following the Austro-German successes in the Great War and were officially ceded in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but note that the Bolsheviks could not have known this development at the time of the Declaration.
(exact dates need correction)
These countries declared their independence, as Communist states, soon after the declaration:
Several other independent republics were proclaimed but were short-lived:
Bolsheviks never rejected the idea of self-determination, but the Soviet Constitutions (of 1924, 1936 and 1977) limited the right of secession to the constituent republics only. In 1990 Lithuania declared its independence again, citing their right to secession as written down in the Soviet Constitution. This would be followed by Estonia and Latvia.
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Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, also commonly referred to in English as Byelorussia, was a federal unit of the Soviet Union (USSR). It existed between 1920 and 1922, and from 1922 to 1991 as one of fifteen constituent republics of the USSR, with its own legislation from 1990 to 1991. The republic was ruled by the Communist Party of Byelorussia and was also referred to as Soviet Byelorussia by a number of historians.
The Finnish Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Parliament of Finland on 6 December 1917. It declared Finland an independent nation, among nations ending its autonomy within Russia as its Grand Duchy of Finland, with reference to a simultaneously delivered bill to the Diet to make Finland an independent republic instead.
The Belarusian People's Republic, historically referred to as the White Ruthenian Democratic Republic was a failed attempt to create a Belarusian state on the territory controlled by the German Imperial Army during World War I. The BNR existed from 1918 to 1919.
The Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919 was part of the campaign by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic into areas abandoned by the Ober Ost garrisons that were being withdrawn to Germany following that country's defeat in World War I. The initially successful offensive against the Republic of Estonia ignited the Estonian War of Independence which ended with the Soviet recognition of Estonia. The war against Republics of Latvia and Lithuania was more successful for the Soviets, and resulted in the Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics being established. In Belarus, the Belarusian People's Republic was conquered and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia proclaimed.
In the Polish–Soviet War of 1919-1921, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine were in combat with the newly independent Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic. Both sides aimed to secure territory in the often disputed areas of today's Ukraine and parts of modern-day Belarus, in the context of the fluidity of borders in Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War I and the breakdown of the Russian and German empires. The first clashes between the two sides occurred in February 1919, but full-scale war did not break out until the following year. Especially at first, neither Soviet Russia, embroiled in the Russian Civil War, nor Poland, still in the early stages of state building, were in a position to formulate and pursue clear and consistent war aims.
The Lithuanian Wars of Independence, also known as the Freedom Struggles, refer to three wars Lithuania fought defending its independence at the end of World War I: with Bolshevik forces, Bermontians, and Poland. The wars delayed international recognition of independent Lithuania and the formation of civil institutions.
The Baltic Way or Baltic Chain was a peaceful political demonstration that occurred on 23 August 1989. Approximately two million people joined their hands to form a human chain spanning 675.5 kilometres (419.7 mi) across the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were considered at the time to be constituent republics of the Soviet Union.
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted on March 11, 1990, signed by all members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania led by Sąjūdis. The act emphasized restoration and legal continuity of the interwar-period Lithuania, which was occupied by the USSR and lost independence in June 1940. It was the first time that an occupied state declared independence from the dissolving Soviet Union.
The Estonian Declaration of Independence, also known as the Manifesto to the Peoples of Estonia, is the founding act of the Republic of Estonia from 1918. It is celebrated on 24 February, the National Day or Estonian Independence Day.
State continuity of the Baltic states describes the continuity of the Baltic states as legal entities under international law while under Soviet rule and German occupation from 1940 to 1991. The prevailing opinion accepts the Baltic thesis of illegal occupation and the actions of the USSR are regarded as contrary to international law in general and to the bilateral treaties between the USSR and the Baltic states in particular.
The Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 refers, according to the European Court of Human Rights, the Government of Latvia, the United States Department of State, and the European Union, to the military occupation of the Republic of Latvia by the Soviet Union ostensibly under the provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany.
The Declaration "On the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia" was adopted on 4 May 1990, by the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR. The Declaration stated that, although Latvia had de facto lost its independence in 1940, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union, the country had de jure remained a sovereign country as the annexation had been unconstitutional and against the will of the people of Latvia. Therefore it resolved that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940 were illegal, and annulled the declaration on the accession of Latvia to the Soviet Union of 21 July 1940, re-instituted the Constitution of Latvia of 1922, which was thereupon partly suspended, and set a period of transition to de facto independence, which would end upon the first session of Saeima. It also ruled that during the transitional period the Constitution of the Latvian SSR and other laws would remain applicable as long as they did not contradict articles 1, 2, 3, and 6 of the Constitution of Latvia, which were reinforced by the declaration. It was provided that a committee to elaborate a new edition of the Constitution of Latvia should be created. Social, economic, cultural, and political rights were granted to citizens and residents of Latvia in accordance with international human rights. The declaration also stated that Latvia would form its relationship with the Soviet Union on the basis of the Latvian–Soviet Peace Treaty of 1920, in which the Soviet Union had recognized the independence of Latvia as inviolable "for all future time". The 4th of May is a national holiday in Latvia.
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (LSSR) was a short-lived Soviet republic declared on December 16, 1918, by a provisional revolutionary government led by Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas. It ceased to exist on February 27, 1919, when it was merged with the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia to form the Lithuanian–Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Litbel). While efforts were made to represent the LSSR as a product of a socialist revolution supported by local residents, it was largely a Moscow-orchestrated entity created to justify the Lithuanian–Soviet War. As a Soviet historian, adhering to official propaganda, put it: "The fact that the Government of Soviet Russia recognized a young Soviet Lithuanian Republic unmasked the lie of the USA and British imperialists that Soviet Russia allegedly sought rapacious aims with regard to the Baltic countries." Lithuanians generally did not support Soviet causes and rallied for their own national state, declared independent on February 16, 1918, by the Council of Lithuania.
The Estonian Sovereignty Declaration, fully: Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Estonian SSR, was issued on November 16, 1988 during the Singing Revolution in Estonia. The declaration asserted Estonia's sovereignty and the supremacy of the Estonian laws over the laws of the Soviet Union. Estonia's parliament also laid claim to the republic's natural resources: land, inland waters, forests, mineral deposits and to the means of industrial production, agriculture, construction, state banks, transportation, municipal services, etc. in the territory of Estonia's borders. November 16 is now celebrated annually as the "Day of Declaration of Sovereignty".
Relevant events began regarding the Baltic states and the Soviet Union when, following Bolshevist Russia's conflict with the Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—several peace treaties were signed with Russia and its successor, the Soviet Union. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Soviet Union and all three Baltic States further signed non-aggression treaties. The Soviet Union also confirmed that it would adhere to the Kellogg–Briand Pact with regard to its neighbors, including Estonia and Latvia, and entered into a convention defining "aggression" that included all three Baltic countries.
The background of the occupation of the Baltic states covers the period before the first Soviet occupation on 14 June 1940, stretching from independence in 1918 to the Soviet ultimatums in 1939–1940. The Baltic states gained their independence during and after the Russian revolutions of 1917; Lenin's government allowed them to secede. They managed to sign non-aggression treaties in the 1920s and 1930s. Despite the treaties, the Baltic states were forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 in the aftermath of the German–Soviet pact of 1939.
This Baltic states were under Soviet rule from the end of World War II in 1945, from Sovietization onwards until independence was regained in 1991. The Baltic states were occupied and annexed, becoming the Soviet socialist republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. After their annexation by Nazi Germany, the USSR reoccupied the Baltic territories in 1944 and maintained control there until the Baltic states regained their independence nearly 50 years later in the aftermath of the Soviet coup of 1991.
The Operation Faustschlag, also known as the Eleven Days' War, was a Central Powers offensive in World War I. It was the last major action on the Eastern Front.