861.03/6: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union ( Harriman ) to the Secretary of State

302. An official of the Foreign Office told me last night at a social gathering, in response to my question, that the second item on the agenda for consideration at the current meeting of the Supreme Soviet,28 namely, changing the People’s Commissariats for Defense and Foreign Affairs from All-Union Commissariats to Union-Republican Commissariats, envisages as one aspect giving the Union Republics the right to exchange diplomatic representatives with foreign countries in cases where the Union Republic and the foreign country concerned so desire. He remarked that the Soviets had in mind the practice of the British Commonwealth.

A similar statement was made to an officer of my staff by another Foreign Office official as an expression of personal opinion. This official added that the proposal would mean the establishment of individual Commissariats for Foreign Affairs in each of the 16 constituent republics. He said further that separate Commissariats for Defense and separate armies would also be organized in the individual republics.

We have no information as yet on the degree of control that the central Commissariats will exercise and on how much real autonomy will be given the individual republics.

  1. The opening session of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union had taken place on the evening of January 28. At this session the budgets for the Soviet Union and the constituent republics had been presented. The last previous meeting of the Supreme Council had been a brief session held on June 18, 1942.