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The Baltic Constitutional Right to Secede

"Each Union Republic shall retain the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R." So reads Article 72 of the Soviet Constitution. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are three of the fifteen republics explicitly listed as retaining this right of secession. The Soviet constitution does not even require a Republic to seek the consent of the national Union in order to secede. Article 70 specifies that all Soviet Republics have entered the Union, "as a result of free self-determination of nations and the voluntary association of equal Soviet Socialist Republics."

Of course such claims are false and typical of modern mega-States. As we now see, a Soviet Republic may not "freely secede" unless this means free of a really big number of tanks. And we know that the Baltic states did not "voluntarily associate" with the Soviets but were taken in 1940 as a result of the pact between socialists Hitler and Stalin. At first, the Soviets only sought permission to set up military bases in the Baltic states, but once that was successful the camel was in the tent.

So even though the Soviet constitution has an explicit constitutional sanction that would make Alexander Stephens' head spin, Gorbachev has finally attempted to foist the veneer of unconstitutionality onto the Baltic Republics. Yes, everyone wants to take the moral high ground. But the recent Moscow May Day protests are more evidence of Gorbachev's lack of credibility with the Soviet peoples. A Lithuanian joke making the rounds expresses this truth well: "What is the difference between the Soviet Union and the United States?" Answer: "In the U.S., Gorbachev would probably be elected president." DMJ


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