The Congress of People's Deputies on Monday endorsed the concept of a new Union Treaty designed to hold the 15 republics together, and it voted to keep the word "socialist" in the country's name.
The 2,250-member Congress endorsed the idea of preserving the Soviet Union as a federation of equal, sovereign states, guaranteeing the rights of all nationalities. The treaty now must be approved by the republics in popular referendums.In the 1,365-to-189 vote with 170 abstentions, the deputies also agreed to retain the name Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A legislative committee had proposed changing the name to the "Union of Sovereign Republics" to reflect the republics' growing autonomy.
Alexander Zhuravlev, a deputy from the Byelorussian capital, Minsk, set off a raucous debate by suggesting that the country call itself simply "Russia."
Zhuravlev said "our fatherland is Russian, and so I propose that we call ourselves as we did in the past, Russia."
His suggestion was greeted by a chorus of hisses.
Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak proposed instead that the Congress adopt the name favored by the late Nobel Prize winning dissident Andrei Sakharov: "The Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia."
Other delegates chipped in with "Union of Soviet Republics" and "The Treaty Between Russia and Its Colonies."
Congress Chairman Anatoly Lukyanov cut off the debate, telling the deputies to "put your emotion back in your pocket."
In a second, non-binding measure, the Congress voted 1,491 to 88 with 141 abstentions to back the Union Treaty, which President Mikhail Gorbachev has said is needed to keep the Soviet state from breaking apart.
The Congress, the country's highest lawmaking body, began the second week of its session Monday and is expected to vote on the constitutional amendments to strengthen Gorbachev's presidency.
Gorbachev wants direct control over a reorganized executive branch of government to deal with a worsening economy and a fragmenting union.
He also is expected to make changes in the leadership before the end of the week is out, including naming a vice president.
The Union Treaty, which would replace a 1922 document, would give more economic autonomy to the republics while the central government in Moscow retains control over foreign policy, banking, taxation, defense, transportation and communications.
The treaty must be adopted by the 15 republics, all of which have have declared some form of independence or sovereignty and seek first off to wrest economic control from central authorities.
The Congress later voted to require every republic to hold a referendum on the Union Treaty and private property ownership. The Supreme Soviet, the smaller standing legislature, was asked to draft the precise wording of both referendums and set dates for voting.