Slavic Heart of the Soviet Union
A brief look at the three Slavic republics that formed a new commonwealth Sunday. Together, they have about 210 million citizens out of the total Soviet population of 290 million. Chart s show the ethnic composition of each republic based on a CIA report.
* RUSSIAN FEDERATION--The dominant Soviet republic has a population of 147.4 million and controls most of the Soviet Union’s natural resources. It stretches across the entire Eurasian land mass, from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan. President Boris N. Yeltsin’s administration steadily has taken power from the central government since the August coup. But Russia faces many internal problems, including high inflation, food shortages and secessionist movements in its own ethnic regions.
* UKRAINE--The second most-populous Slavic state, with 52 million people and about a quarter of the country’s industrial and agricultural might, Ukraine voted for independence Dec. 1. Since then, Ukrainian statehood has been recognized by Poland, Canada, Hungary and other several other countries. Newly elected President Leonid M. Kravchuk said last week that he would consider forming an economic and military union with the other Slavic republics as long as the entity had only a “coordinating” body, not a central government.
* BELARUS--Once a staunch ally of the Kremlin, Belarus has been increasingly defiant since April, when 200,000 workers went on strike to protest nationwide price increases. The heavily industrialized republic of 10.2 million people borders Poland, with the newly independent Baltic states to the north and Ukraine to the south. It absorbed much of the radiation from the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine and many ordinary Belarussians blame the Soviet central government for the accident.