Russia, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: the referendum as a flexible political instrument



On 17 March 1991 the Soviet people voted in a referendum for the first and last time in their history, to express their views on a subject that could not have been more momentous: the very future of their country. As it turned out, whereas they voted in favour of the question put — for a reformed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics — events over the next few months, partly in consequence of that referendum, made the exercise redundant: by the end of the year the Soviet Union no longer existed. The referendum is part of the political practice of post-Soviet Russia, and it has been used considerably in other former communist countries of Eastern Europe before, during and after communist rule (17 questions were submitted to nationwide referendum from the beginning of the century up to 1986, and a further 33 between 1987 and the end of 1993, including 25 on the territory of the former Soviet Union (Brady and Kaplan, 1994, p. 176; for a full listing to 1993 see the tables in ibid., pp. 178–9, 193–4)).


Communist Party Direct Democracy Sovereign State Communist Country Registered Electorate 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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