MIA: History: USSR: Government

Soviet Government


The Government of the Soviet Union, formally the All-Union Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was the executive and administrative organ of state in the Soviet Union. It was referred to by different names in different periods of its existence: Council of People's Commissars (1923–1946), Council of Ministers (1946–1991) and Cabinet of Ministers (1991). To differentiate it from the government structures of the Soviet republics, it is also sometimes referred to as the All-Union Council or All-Union Government.

USSR Organs of State Power, 1956 arrangementThe government was led by a Chairman, commonly referred to as "Premier" by outside observers. The chairman was nominated by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and elected by delegates at the first plenary session of a newly elected Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. High government officials, such as first deputy premiers, deputy premiers, government ministers, or heads of state committees or commissions, were chosen by the premier and confirmed by the Supreme Soviet.

The Government of the Soviet Union exercised its executive powers in conformity with the Constitution of the Soviet Union and legislation enacted by the Supreme Soviet. It was thus responsible to the Supreme Soviet and its Presidium, and regularly reported to the Supreme Soviet on its work.

The relationship between the different bodies did, however, change over time.

Initially, the All-Union Congress of Soviets held legislative responsibilities and was the highest organ of state power, while its Central Executive Committee (CEC) was to exercise the powers of the Congress of Soviets whenever it was not in session. The government, named the Council of People's Commissars, was to be the executive arm of the CEC.

After the promulgation of the 1936 Constitution, under Stalin, the Council of People's Commissars was defined as the Soviet government and the "highest executive and administrative organ of state power". However, at the same time, the Constitution also stripped the Council of People's Commissars of its ability to enact laws, and instead confined it to issuing "decrees and regulations on the basis and in execution of the laws currently in force". Legislative power was shifted to the Supreme Soviet and its Presidium, who alone could alter laws, having replaced the Congress of Soviets and the Central Executive Committee respectively.

Lenin had sought to create a governmental structure that was independent of the party apparatus. Grigory Zinoviev, however, maintained that the Politburo was the principal body of the state, and from Stalin’s tenure until Mikhail Gorbachev’s, there existed an informal system of government by which appointment of People's Commissars came to be made by the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, and ratified later by the Council of People's Commissars.

  The Revolutionary Soviet Government (1917-1924)

Soviet Declarations prior to the October Revolution

1917: Petrograd Soviet: Order No. 1
1917: Petrograd Soviet: Call to the Peoples of the World

Early Soviet Government Decrees and Declarations

To Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants!
Decree on Peace
Decree on Land
Decree on Suppression of Hostile Newspapers
Declaration of the Rights of the People of Russia
[Expelling] the Opposition within the C.C.

Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy 1917-1918
Documents from the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs (1917-1918)
Further Decrees and Declarations (1917-1918)


  Constitutions of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

1918 Constitution

1936 Constitution

1977 Constitution


  On Organization of the Soviet Government

How the Soviets Were Formed, by Vitaly Startsev (Moscow, 1982)

On the Soviet State Apparatus: Articles and Speeches, by V. I. Lenin (Moscow, 1975)

The Social and State Structure of the USSR, by V. Karpinsky (Moscow, 1952)

How the Soviet Union is Governed, by V. Karpinsky (Moscow, 1954)

Soviet Democracy: Principles and Practice, by Konstantin Chernenko (Moscow, 1977)

Soviet Democracy in the Period of Developed Socialism (Moscow, 1979)

The Soviet Political System Under Developed Socialism, by E. Chekharin (Moscow, 1977)


On the Judiciary

The Soviet Court, by V. Terebilov (Moscow, 1973)

Law in the USSR, by Roy Turner (Moscow, 1981)


On the Legislature

The Soviet Representative System, by Viktor Kotok (Moscow, n.d.)

Soviets of People's Deputies: Democracy and Administration, by Georgi Barabashev and Konstantin Sheremet (Moscow, 1989)

Soviet Deputy (Legal Status), by A. Bezuglov (Moscow, 1973)


On Legislation in the USSR

Legislation in the USSR, edited by P. P. Gureyev and P. I. Sedugin (Moscow, 1977)

Fundamentals of Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics (Moscow, 1974)

Fundamentals of Civil Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics / Fundamentals of Civil Procedure of the USSR and the Union Republics (Official texts) (Moscow, 1968)

Civil Law and the Protection of Personal Rights in the USSR, by Nikolai Malein (Moscow, 1985)


The Labor Laws of Soviet Russia (Third Edition, Revised and Enlarged), by The Russian Government Bureau (New York, 1920)

The Labor Laws of Soviet Russia (Fourth Edition, Revised), by Soviet Russia magazine (New York, 1921)

Principal Current Soviet Labor Legislation. A Compilation of Documents. Edmund Nash (ed.) (Washington DC, 1962)


First Decrees of Soviet Power: A Collection of the first major Acts of Legislation adopted by the Soviet Government, November 1917-July 1918, compiled by Yuri Akhapin  (1970)

USSR: Sixty Years of the Union, 1922-1982. A Collection of Legislative Acts and Other Documents (Moscow, 1982)

Legislative Acts of the USSR, Book 1 (Moscow, 1981)

Legislative Acts of the USSR, Book 2 (Moscow, 1982)

Legislative Acts of the USSR, Book 3 (Moscow, 1983)

Legislative Acts of the USSR, Book 4 (Moscow, 1984)

Legislative Acts of the USSR, Book 5 (Moscow, 1986)


  On Economic Policy

The Planning of the National Economy of the USSR, by A. Kursky (Moscow, 1949)

Planning in the U.S.S.R., by L. Yevenko (Moscow, n.d.)

New Methods of Economic Management in the USSR, by Central Committee of the CPSU (Moscow, 1965)

How the USSR Began to Manage the Economy, by Vladimir Drobizhev (Moscow, 1981)

Soviet Financial System, Moscow Financial Institute (Moscow, 1966)

Control Figures for the Economic Development of the USSR for 1959-1965. Report Delivered at the 21st Extraordinary Congress of the CPSU, by N. Khrushchev (Moscow, 1959)

Guidelines for the Economic and Social Development of the USSR for 1986-1990 and for the Period Ending in 2000, Report of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, by Nikolai Ryzhkov (Moscow, 1986)


On the Five-Year Plans

The Results of the First Five-Year Plan. Report delivered on January 7, 1933, by J. V. Stalin

The Second Five-Year Plan. Resolution Adopted by the XVIIth Party Conference of the CPSU, January, 1932

Law on the Five-Year Plan for the Rehabilitation of the National Economy of the USSR. Adopted at the 1st Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on March 18, 1946

Results of Fulfilment of Five-Year Plan of the USSR for 1946-1950, by Embassy of the USSR (Washington DC, 1950)

Report on the Directives for the Five-Year Economic Development Plan of the USSR for 1966-1970, by Alexei Kosygin (Moscow, 1966)


On Industry and Industrialization

On the Development of Heavy Industry and Electrificiation, by V. I. Lenin (Moscow, 1972)

Socialist Nationalisation of Industry, by Vinogradov (Moscow, 1966)

Law of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the State Enterprise (Amalgamation), Soviet News, 22 July 1987, pages 263-271


On Agriculture

The Restoration of Agriculture in the Famine Area of Russia, by State Economic Planning Commission of the Council for Labour and Defence of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (Moscow, 1922)

Grain Procurements and the Prospects for the Development of Agriculture, by J. V. Stalin (1928)

Concerning Questions of Agrarian Policy in the USSR, by J. V. Stalin (1929)

How Collective Farming Was Established in the USSR: Facts and Fiction, by Valeria Selunskaya and Vladimir Tetyushev (Moscow, 1982)

Historical Experience of the CPSU in Carrying Out Lenin's Co-Operative Plan  (Volume II of Lenin and the Agrarian and Peasant Question, In Two Volumes), by S. P. Trapeznikov (Moscow, 1976)

Soviet Land Legislation, by N. Syrodoyev (Moscow, 1975)

Make Fuller use of Potentialities for Further Progress in Agriculture, speech by N. Khrushchev, and For Further Progress in Agriculture, Resolution of the Plenary Meeting of the CC of the CPSU Adopted December 25, 1959 (Moscow, 1960)


On Perestroika

Mikhail Gorbachev's report to the plenary meeting of the CPSU Central Committee, in Soviet News, July 1, 1987, pages 221-231, 240-241, 244.

Main Provisions for Fundamentally Reorganising Economic Management, adopted by Plenary Meeting of the CPSU Central Committee; in Soviet News, July 1, 1987, pages 232-237.


  On Education

Education and Art in Soviet Russia In the Light of Official Decrees and Documents (1919)

Public Education in the Russian Socialistic Federation of Soviet Republics, by Anatoly Lunacharsky (Moscow, 1926)

New Schools of New Russia, by Lucy L. W. Wilson (1929)

On Curricula and Regime in Primary and Secondary Schools, by Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (1932)

Public Education in the USSR, by Mikhail Prokofyev (Moscow, 1969)

Teaching: Calling and Skills, by Yuri Azarov (Moscow, 1988)

Stanislav Shatsky: A Teacher's Experience - A Collection (Moscow, 1981)



  On Foreign Policy

Soviet Foreign Policy. Volume 1: 1917-1945, by History of the USSR Institute (Moscow, 1981)

Soviet Foreign Policy. Volume 2: 1945-1980, by History of the USSR Institute (Moscow, 1981)

Soviet Peace Efforts on the Eve of World War II, edited by Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the USSR (Moscow, 1973)

The Tehran, Yalta, & Potsdam Conferences (Documents) (Moscow, 1969)

Soviet Foreign Policy: A Brief Review, 1955-65 (Moscow, 1966)

See also: Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy 1917-1918 index


On Peace and Disarmament

For the Peace and Friendship of Nations, Against the Instigators of a New War, by A. Y. Vyshsinsky (1947)

Materials of the Fifth Session of the USSR Supreme Soviet Concerning Disarmament and Prohibition of Atomic Weapons and Hydrogen Weapons (Moscow, 1956)

Disarmament Conference of the Soviet Public, February 15-16, 1960. Speeches and Documents (Moscow, 1960)

 On Peaceful Co-Existence, by Nikita Khrushchev (Moscow, 1961)

For peace, security, cooperation and social progress in Europe (1976)

The Path to Peace - a View From Moscow, by Andrei Yermonsky (Moscow, 1981)

To Ban Chemical Weapons, by Yuri Tomilin (1984)

The USSR Proposes Disarmament (1920s-1980s) (Moscow, 1986)



More information and related documents may be found in:

The History of the Comintern Archive

The Sino-Soviet Split Archive