The Constitution of the Soviet Union recognised the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the earlier Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Congress of Soviets as the highest organs of state authority in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Under the 1924, 1936 and 1977 Soviet Constitutions these bodies served as the collective head of state of the Soviet Union. The Chairman of these bodies personally performed the largely ceremonial functions assigned to a single head of state but held little real power.
The Soviet Union was established in 1922. However, the country's first constitution was adopted in 1924. Before that time, the 1918 Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was adopted as the constitution of the USSR. According to the 1918 Constitution, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (CEC), whose chairman was head of state, had the power to determine what matters of income and taxation would go to the state budget and what would go to the local Soviets. The CEC could also limit taxes. In periods between convocations of the Congress of Soviets the CEC held supreme power. In between sessions of the Congress of Soviets the CEC was responsible for all the affairs of the Congress of Soviets. The CEC and the Congress of Soviets was replaced by the Presidium and the Supreme Soviet by several amendments to the 1936 constitution in 1938.
Under the Constitution of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Soviet was the highest organ of state power and the sole organ in the country to hold legislative authority. Sessions of the Supreme Soviet were convened by the Presidium twice a year; however, special sessions could be convened on the orders of a Union Republic. In the event of a disagreement between the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities the Presidium could form a conciliation commission. If this commission failed, the Presidium could dissolve the Supreme Soviet and order new elections. According to the 1977 Soviet Constitution, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, along with the first and fifteen other vice chairmen, would be elected by the deputies of the Supreme Soviet. In practice, the Chairman of the Presidium held little influence over policy ever since the delegation of the office's power to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) during Joseph Stalin's rule.
The Presidency was established in 1990 and the President would, according to the altered constitution, be elected by the Soviet people by direct and secret ballot. However, the first and only Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, was elected by the democratically elected Congress of People's Deputies. In connection with the dissolution of the Soviet Union national elections for the office of President never took place. To be elected to the office a person must have been a Soviet citizen and older than thirty-five but younger than sixty-five years. The same person could not be elected president for more than two terms. The Presidency was the highest state office, and was the most important office in the Soviet Union by influence and recognition, eclipsing that of Premier and General Secretary. With the establishment of the Presidency executive power was shared between the President and the Prime Minister. The Presidency was given broad powers, such as being responsible for negotiating the membership of the Cabinet of Ministers with the Supreme Soviet; the Prime Minister, however, was responsible for managing the nomenklatura and economic matters.
|Heads of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics|
|Formation||30 December 1922|
|First holder||Mikhail Kalinin|
|Final holder||Mikhail Gorbachev|
|Abolished||25 December 1991|
|Succession||President of the Russian Federation|
Of the eleven individuals appointed head of state, three died in office of natural causes (Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko), one held the position in a temporary role (Vasili Kuznetsov), and four held posts of party leader and head of state simultaneously (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev). The first head of state was Mikhail Kalinin, who was inaugurated in 1922 after the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR. At over twenty years, Kalinin spent the longest time in office; he died shortly after his resignation in 1946. Andropov spent the shortest time in office.
|Portrait||Term of office||Convocations|
|Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets (1922–1938)|
|30 December 1922 – 12 January 1938||1st–8th Convocation|
|Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1938–1989)|
|17 January 1938 – 19 March 1946||1st Convocation|
|19 March 1946 – 15 March 1953||2nd–3rd Convocation|
|15 March 1953 – 7 May 1960||3rd–5th Convocation|
|7 May 1960 – 15 July 1964||5th–6th Convocation|
|15 July 1964 – 9 December 1965||6th Convocation|
|9 December 1965 – 16 June 1977||6th–9th Convocation|
|16 June 1977 – 10 November 1982||9th–10th Convocation|
|10 November 1982 – 16 June 1983||10th Convocation|
|16 June 1983 – 9 February 1984|
|9 February 1984 – 11 April 1984||11th Convocation|
|11 April 1984 – 10 March 1985|
|10 March 1985 – 27 July 1985|
|27 July 1985 – 1 October 1988|
|1 October 1988 – 25 May 1989||11th–12th Convocation|
|Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1990)[note 3]|
|25 May 1989 – 15 March 1990||12th Convocation|
|15 March 1990 – 25 December 1991||12th Convocation|
|Vice heads of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics|
|Residence||Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow|
|Formation||7 October 1977|
|First holder||Vasili Kuznetsov|
|Final holder||Gennady Yanayev|
|Abolished||21 August 1991|
There have been four individuals appointed vice head of state. At over eight years, Vasily Kuznetsov spent the longest time in office. Gennady Yanayev spent the shortest time in office.
|Portrait||Term of office||Convocations|
|First Vice Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1977–1989)|
|7 October 1977 – 18 June 1986||9th–11th Convocation|
|—||18 June 1986 – 1 October 1988||11th Convocation|
|1 October 1988 – 25 May 1989||11th–12th Convocation|
|Vice Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1990)|
|25 May 1989 – 15 March 1990||12th Convocation|
|Vice President (1990–1991)|
|27 December 1990 – 21 August 1991[note 4]||12th Convocation|
|—||Office abolished||21 August 1991 – 26 December 1991[note 5]|
The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: Правительство СССР, Pravitel'stvo SSSR) was the main part of the executive branch of government of the USSR. Its head of government was the officeholder known generally in the West as the Premier of the Soviet Union. However, the USSR was a one-party state governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the power of which was derived from the Constitution of the Soviet Union. The Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was de facto the most important policy-making organ of the country and made government policy, with the Government being subordinate to the Party.The members of the Soviet Government—- people's commissars, ministers, and directors of state committees—- were recommended by the Premier and appointed by the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet. The Government of the USSR exercised its executive powers in conformity with the Soviet Constitution and legislation enacted by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.
During the period between when the USSR was established on December 30, 1922, and the first Government of the USSR was formed on July 6, 1923, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic's government acted as an interim government of the USSR.List of leaders of Russia
Leaders of Russia are political heads of state.List of leaders of the Russian SFSR
The following is a list of leaders of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR). It lists heads of state, heads of government and heads of the local branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Commonly referred to as Soviet Russia or simply Russia, the Russian SFSR was a sovereign state in 1917–22, the largest, most populous, and most economically developed republic of the Soviet Union in 1922–91, having its own legislation within the Union in 1990–91.List of leaders of the Soviet Union
During its seventy-year history, the Soviet Union usually had a de facto leader who would not necessarily be head of state, but would lead while holding an office such as Premier or General Secretary. Under the 1977 Constitution, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, was the head of government and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was the head of state. The office of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers was comparable to a prime minister in the First World whereas the office of the Chairman of the Presidium was comparable to a president. In the ideology of Vladimir Lenin, the head of the Soviet state was a collegiate body of the vanguard party (see What Is To Be Done?).
Following Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power in the 1920s, the post of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party became synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union because the post controlled both the Communist Party and the Soviet government both indirectly via party membership and via the tradition of a single person holding two highest posts in the party and in the government. The post of the General Secretary was abolished in 1952 under Stalin and later re-established by Nikita Khrushchev under the name of First Secretary. In 1966, Leonid Brezhnev reverted the office title to its former name. Being the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the office of the General Secretary was the highest in the Soviet Union until 1990. The post of General Secretary lacked clear guidelines of succession, so after the death or removal of a Soviet leader the successor usually needed the support of the Politburo, the Central Committee, or another government or party apparatus to both take and stay in power. The President of the Soviet Union, an office created in March 1990, replaced the General Secretary as the highest Soviet political office.Contemporaneously to establishment of the office of the President, representatives of the Congress of People's Deputies voted to remove Article 6 from the Soviet Constitution which stated that the Soviet Union was a one-party state controlled by the Communist Party which in turn played the leading role in society. This vote weakened the party and its hegemony over the Soviet Union and its people. Upon death, resignation, or removal from office of an incumbent President, the Vice President of the Soviet Union would assume the office, though the Soviet Union collapsed before this was actually tested. After the failed August 1991 coup, the Vice President was replaced by an elected member of the State Council of the Soviet Union.Politics of the Soviet Union
For information about the government, see Government of the Soviet Union.
The political system of the Soviet Union took place in a single-party socialist republic framework which was characterized by the superior role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the only party permitted by the Constitution.Premier of the Soviet Union
The Premier of the Soviet Union (Russian: Глава Правительства СССР) was the head of government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Twelve individuals became Premier during the time span of the office. Two of the twelve Premiers died in office of natural causes (Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin), three resigned (Alexei Kosygin, Nikolai Tikhonov and Ivan Silayev) and three had the offices of party secretary and Premier simultaneously (Lenin, Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev). The first Premier was Lenin, who was inaugurated during 1922 after the Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union. Ivan Silayev spent the briefest time in office at 126 days during 1991. At more than fourteen years, Kosygin spent the longest time in office and became the only premier to serve in more than two government cabinets. He died soon after his resignation during 1980.
The Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) was established on 8 November 1917 by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) Government. Article 38 of the 1924 Soviet Constitution stated that the Council's powers, functions and duties were given to it by the Central Executive Committee (CEC) which supervised the Council's work and legislative acts. The Council of People's Commissars published decrees and decisions that were binding throughout the USSR. During 1946, the Council of People's Commissars was transformed into the Council of Ministers (Sovmin) at both all-Union and Union Republic levels.After the ousting of Khrushchev in 1964, a plenum of the Party's Central Committee (CC) forbade any single person to hold the two most powerful jobs in the country (the offices of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Premier) and Kosygin was placed in charge of economic administration in his role as Premier of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. However, Kosygin's prestige was weakened when he proposed the economic reform of 1965. Under the 1977 Soviet Constitution, the Premier of the Council of Ministers was the head of government of the USSR. The Premier was the chief of the executive branch and head of the Soviet government as a whole, the premiership was the most powerful governmental office in the USSR by influence and recognition until the establishment of the presidency during 1990. The Premier was responsible and accountable to the Supreme Soviet and during the period between sessions of the Supreme Soviet he was also accountable to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. The Premier was tasked with resolving all state administrative duties within the jurisdiction of the USSR to the degree which were not the responsibility of the Supreme Soviet or the Presidium. The Premier managed the national economy, formulated the five-year plans and ensured socio-cultural development.When Nikolai Ryzhkov was replaced as premier by Valentin Pavlov, the Council of Ministers was renamed the Cabinet of Ministers. The premier's title was changed to Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, though most non-Soviet sources had referred to the job as "Premier" or "Prime Minister" for some time before then. After the failed August coup of 1991 and the revelation that the majority of the cabinet members endorsed the coup, the Cabinet of Ministers was dissolved and replaced by the Committee on the Operational Management of the Soviet economy during 1991. The Operational Management Committee was renamed the Inter-Republican Economic Committee of the USSR and it was replaced later by the Interstate Economic Committee (IEC). The IEC was also known officially as the Economic Community.President of the Soviet Union
The President of the Soviet Union (Russian: Президент Советского Союза, Prezident Sovetskogo Soyuza), officially called President of the USSR (Russian: Президент СССР) or President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: Президент Союза Советских Социалистических Республик), was the head of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 15 March 1990 to 25 December 1991. Mikhail Gorbachev was the only person to occupy the office. Gorbachev was also General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between March 1985 and August 1991. He derived an increasingly greater share of his power from his position as president until he finally resigned as General Secretary after the 1991 coup d'état attempt.Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (Russian: Президиум Верховного Совета or Prezidium Verkhovnogo Soveta) was a Soviet governmental institution – a permanent body of the Supreme Soviets (parliaments). This body was of the all-Union level (Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union), as well as in all Soviet republics (e.g., Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR) and autonomous republics. Structure and functions of the presidiums in these republics were virtually identical. The presidiums were elected by the Supreme Soviet to act on its behalf while the Supreme Soviet was not in session. By the 1936 and 1977 Soviet Constitution the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet served as the collective head of state of the USSR.
Heads of state of the Soviet Union
|Heads of state|
|Vice heads of state|
|Military figures and explorers|
|Artists and writers|
Heads of state and government of Europe