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Encyclopedia > Politics of the Soviet Union

The political system of the Soviet Union was characterized by the superior role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the only party permitted by Constitution. As authorized by Constitution, the Soviet government, called the Council of People's Commissars until 1946 and the Council of Ministers of the USSR afterwards, executed decisions of CPSU pertaining primarily to economy but also to security affairs and social issues. Constitutionally highest organ of legislative authority was the Congress of Soviets until 1936 and the Supreme Soviet from 1936 to 1989. But it met only a few days annually, while its Presidium managed affairs throughout year. [1] A political system is a social system of politics and government. ... The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Russian: Коммунисти́ческая Па́ртия Сове́тского Сою́за = КПСС) was the name used by the successors of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party from 1952 to 1991, but the wording Communist Party was present in the partys name since 1918 when the Bolsheviks became the Russian... Sovnarkom (Russian language СовНарКом, the abbreviation of the phrase Совет Народных Комиссаров, Sovet Narodnykh Komissarov, the Council of Peoples Commissars, sometimes... This article or section should be merged with Peoples Commissar Sovnarkom (Russian language СовНарКом, the abbreviation of the phrase Совет Народных Комиссар&#1086... The Congress of Soviets was the supreme governing body of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union in two periods, from 1917 to 1936 and from 1989 to 1993. ... 1936 (MCMXXXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... The Supreme Soviet (Russian: , Verhovniy Sovet, literally the Supreme Council) comprised the highest legislative body in the Soviet Union in the interim of the sessions of the Congress of Soviets, and the only one with the power to pass constitutional amendments. ... The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (Президиум Верховного Совета СССР in Russian, or Prezidium Verkhovnogo Soveta) was a Soviet governmental body. ...

Contents

Background

The Bolsheviks who took power during the October Revolution, the final phase of the Russian Revolution, were the first Communist Party to take power and attempt to apply Marxism (to be more specific, the Leninist variant of Marxism) in a practical way. Although they grew rapidly during the Revolution, from 24,000 to 100,000 members, and had some support, 25% of the votes for the Constituent Assembly in November, 1917, the Bosheviks were a minority party when they seized power in Petrograd and Moscow. Their advantages were discipline and a platform supporting the broad based movement of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors who had seized factories, organized soviets, appropriated the lands of the aristocracy and other large landholders, deserted from the army and mutinied against the navy during the Revolution. Bolshevik Party Meeting. ... For other uses, see October Revolution (disambiguation). ... This article needs additional references or sources to facilitate its verification. ... In modern usage, the term communist party is generally used to identify any political party which has adopted communist ideology. ... Marxism takes its name from the praxis (the synthesis of philosophy and political action) of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. ... Vladimir Lenin in 1920 Leninism refers to various related political and economic theories elaborated by Bolshevik revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, and by other theorists who claim to be carrying on Lenins work. ... The Russian Provisional Government was formed in Petrograd after the deterioration of the Russian Empire and the abdication of the Tsars. ... In classical economics and all micro-economics labour is one of three factors of production, the others being land and capital. ... In a detail of Brueghels Land of Cockaigne (1567) a soft-boiled egg has little feet to rush to the luxuriating peasant who catches drops of honey on his tongue, while roast pigs roam wild: in fact, hunger and harsh winters were realities for the average European in the... A soviet (Russian: , IPA: , council[1]) originally was a workers local council in late Imperial Russia. ...


Karl Marx made no detailed proposals for the structure of a socialist or communist government and society other than the replacement of capitalism with socialism, and eventually communism, by the victorious working class. Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, had developed the theory that a Communist Party should serve as the vanguard of the proletariat, ruling in their name and interest, but, like Marx, had not developed a detailed economic or political program. The new Communist government of the Soviet Union faced daunting concrete problems: extending practical control beyond the major cities, combatting counter-revolution and opposing political parties, coping with the continuing war, and setting up a new economic and political system. Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818, Trier, Germany – March 14, 1883, London) was a German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. ... It has been suggested that Definitions of capitalism be merged into this article or section. ... Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines or political movements that envisage a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community. ... Communism is an ideology that seeks to establish a classless, stateless social organization based on common ownership of the means of production. ... The term working class is used to denote a social class. ... “Lenin” redirects here. ...


Despite their relative discipline, the Bolsheviks were not of one mind, the Party being a coalition of committed revolutionaries, but with somewhat differing views as to what was practical and proper. These diverging tendencies resulted in lively debates within the Party over the next decade, followed by a period of consolidation of the Party as definite programs were adopted.


Soviet state

Communist Party

Main article: Communist Party of the Soviet Union The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Russian: Коммунисти́ческая Па́ртия Сове́тского Сою́за = КПСС) was the name used by the successors of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party from 1952 to 1991, but the wording Communist Party was present in the partys name since 1918 when the Bolsheviks became the Russian...


Organization

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the only party permitted by Constitution, controlled the government apparatus and took decisions affecting economy and society. The CPSU followed the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and operated on the principle of democratic centralism. The primary CPSU bodies were the Politburo, the highest decision-making organ; the Secretariat, the controller of party bureaucracy; and the Central Committee, the party's policy forum. CPSU membership reached more than 19 million (9.7 percent of the adult population) in 1987, and was dominated by male Russian professionals. Party members occupied positions of authority in all officially recognized institutions throughout the country. Vladimir Lenin in 1920 Leninism is a political and economic theory which builds upon Marxism; it is a branch of Marxism (and it has been the dominant branch of Marxism in the world since the 1920s). ... Democratic centralism is the name given to the principles of internal organization used by Leninist political parties, and the term is sometimes used as a synonym for any Leninist policy inside a political party. ... Politburo is short for Political Bureau. ... The Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee was a key body within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was responsible for the central administration of the party as opposed to drafting government policy which was usually handled by the Politburo. ... The Central Committee, abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, Tseka, was the highest body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). ... 1987 (MCMLXXXVII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Single party rule, combined with democratic centralism, which, in practice, consisted of a hierarchal structure which with the aid of a secret police organization enforced decisions made by the ruling party as well on the personnel of all governmental institutions, including the courts, the press, cultural and economic organizations and labor unions. The Soviet Union is considered by many to have been a totalitarian state for much of its existence. Critics include Western authors such as Robert Conquest and Russian critics such as Alexander Yakovlev. A single-party state or one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system and form of government where only a single political party dominates the government and no opposition parties are allowed. ... Democratic centralism is the name given to the principles of internal organization used by Leninist political parties, and the term is sometimes used as a synonym for any Leninist policy inside a political party. ... A hierarchy (in Greek: , it is derived from -hieros, sacred, and -arkho, rule) is a system of ranking and organizing things or people, where each element of the system (except for the top element) is subordinate to a single other element. ... This article is about secret police as organizations. ... Totalitarianism is a term employed by political scientists, especially those in the field of comparative politics, to describe modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. ... Dr. George Robert Ackworth Conquest (born July 15, 1917), British historian, became one of the best-known writers on the Soviet Union with the publication, in 1968, of his account of Stalins purges of the 1930s, The Great Terror. ... Alexander Yakovlev (left) with Mikhail Gorbachev. ...


Ideology

Education and political discourse proceeded on the assumption that it was possible to mold people using collectivist institutional forms into an ideal Soviet man or woman. The validity of ideas, public discourse, and institutional form were evaluated in terms of the official ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism, as interpreted by the Communist Party. Stalinism is a brand of political theory, and the political and economic system implemented by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. ...


Government

As authorized by the 1977 Soviet Constitution, the fourth since 1918, the government executed decisions of the CPSU pertaining primarily to the economy but also to security affairs and social issues. The Congress of People's Deputies created in 1988 by amendment to Constitution was the highest organ of legislative and executive authority, consisting of 2,250 deputies, about 87 percent of whom were CPSU members or candidate members and some of whom were elected in the first multicandidate (although not multiparty) elections since the early Soviet period. It was slated to meet once a year for a few days. It met for the first time in May 1989; deputies openly discussed issues, elected a chairman, and selected about 542 deputies from among its membership to constitute a reorganized, bicameral Supreme Soviet, a standing legislature slated to remain in session six to eight months annually. Prior to 1989, the former Supreme Soviet was constitutionally the highest organ of legislative and executive authority but met only a few days annually; its Presidium managed affairs throughout the year. The Council of Ministers administered party decisions, mainly regarding economic management, by delegating authority to its Presidium; the chairman of Council of Ministers also sat on CPSU Politburo. At the Seventh (Special) Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Ninth Convocation on October 7, 1977, the fourth and last Soviet Constitution, also known as the Brezhnev Constitution, was unanimously adopted. ... 1918 (MCMXVIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar (see link for calendar) or a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. ... The Congress of Soviets was the supreme governing body of the RSFSR and the USSR in two periods, from 1917 to 1936 and from 1989 to 1991. ... 1988 (MCMLXXXVIII) was a leap year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Supreme Soviet (Russian: , Verhovniy Sovet, literally the Supreme Council) comprised the highest legislative body in the Soviet Union in the interim of the sessions of the Congress of Soviets, and the only one with the power to pass constitutional amendments. ... The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (Президиум Верховного Совета СССР in Russian, or Prezidium Verkhovnogo Soveta) was a Soviet governmental body. ... This article or section should be merged with Peoples Commissar Sovnarkom (Russian language СовНарКом, the abbreviation of the phrase Совет Народных Комиссар&#1086...


Ministries of Soviet Union This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...


Judicial system

Main article: Soviet law. The Law of the Soviet Union—also known as Soviet Law, or Socialist Law—was the law that developed in the Soviet Union following the Russian October Revolution of 1917; modified versions of it were adopted by many Communist states (see below) following the Second World War. ...


The Supreme Court, the highest judicial body, had little power, lacking authority to determine constitutionality of laws, to interpret laws, or to strike laws down.


A large secret police organization monitored public activities closely; substantial efforts were made to discover expressions of dissent especially by government employees and Communist Party members and their families using a network of informers. Control over overt expressions of dissent was achieved through imprisonment, commitment to mental hospitals, and especially during establishment of the regime by death. During the first decades of the regime an extensive system of labor camps was maintained, the Gulag. The judicial system was controlled by the Party. Travel was tightly controlled with borders closed to both entrance or exit. Gulag ( , Russian: ) was the government body responsible for administering prison camps across the former Soviet Union. ... Border stone at Passo San Giacomo between Val Formazza in Italy and Val Bedretto in Switzerland Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, states or subnational administrative divisions. ...


All publications and electronic media were censored, use of copying machines was rigidly controlled, imports of written material tightly controlled, foreign electronic media jammed. Access to government documents and press archives was strictly limited. The term Jamming can refer to several things: Jamming as an electronic warfare (EW) - a technique to limit the effectiveness of an opponents communications and/or detection equipment, like Radio Jamming and Radar Jamming E-Mail Jamming- used by electronic political activists or hackers to disable e-mail systems...


Administrative divisions

The country was administratively divided into one soviet federated socialist republic (Russian) and fourteen soviet socialist republics (Armenian, Azerbaydzhan, Belarusian, Estonian, Georgian, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Tadzhik, Turkmen, Ukrainian, and Uzbek). Below the republic level, administrative subdivisions complicated, varying with each republic and including the following categories: autonomous oblast, autonomous okrug, autonomous republic, krai, oblast, and raion. Only the Russian Republic had all categories.


Internal politics

Perestroika and glasnost

In the final years of the Soviet Union attempts were made by the Politburo under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev to reform the political system (first instigated by Yuri Andropov, successor of Leonid Brezhnev). Calls were made for glasnost (transparency or openness) and perestroika (restructuring), which also included economic reforms. A somewhat representative legislative body was created, the Congress of People's Deputies, and major reform of the executive branch of the government and the economy attempted. These reforms were resisted by conservative forces within the Communist Party and interrupted by an attempted coup, followed by the outlawing of the Communist Party and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (Russian: ), surname more accurately romanized as Gorbachyov; born March 2, 1931) is a Russian politician. ... Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov (Russian: Ю́рий Влади́мирович Андро́пов; 15 June [O.S. 2 June] 1914 – February 9, 1984) was a Soviet politician and General Secretary of the CPSU from November 12, 1982 until his death just sixteen months later. ... Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev Russian: ; January 1, 1907 [O.S. December 19, 1906] – November 10, 1982) was the effective ruler of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, at first in partnership with others. ...   (Russian: IPA: ) is a Russian word for transparency or openness. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... The Congress of Soviets was the supreme governing body of the RSFSR and the USSR in two periods, from 1917 to 1936 and from 1989 to 1991. ... During the Soviet Coup of 1991, also known as the August Putsch, Vodka Putsch or August Coup, a group of hardliners within the Soviet Communist party briefly deposed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and attempted to take control of the country. ... The rise of Gorbachev Although reform stalled between 1964–1982, the generational shift gave new momentum for reform. ...


External politics

A Soviet propaganda poster; the slogan says People and Army united!

Diplomatic relations with majority of world's nations. Main foreign policy objectives as determined by CPSU Politburo: enhance national security, maintain presence in Eastern Europe, continue "peaceful coexistence" with free world democracies, and seek increased influence in Third World. Download high resolution version (600x900, 141 KB)Soviet propaganda. ... Download high resolution version (600x900, 141 KB)Soviet propaganda. ...


The regime maintained close relationships on a world wide basis with revolutionary parties continuing support for an international movement to supplant capitalism with communism. It saw itself as subject to attack by developed capitalist countries and maintained massive defensive forces over many decades in anticipation of war. It has been suggested that Definitions of capitalism be merged into this article or section. ... Communism is an ideology that seeks to establish a classless, stateless social organization based on common ownership of the means of production. ...


International agreements and memberships

Dominant partner in Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) and Warsaw Pact. Active participant in United Nations and its specialized agencies. Signatory to Final Act of Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Accords) and many other multilateral and bilateral agreements. A Soviet propaganda poster reading COMECON: Unity of Goals, Unity of Action The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON / Comecon / CMEA / CEMA), 1949 – 1991, was an economic organisation of communist states and a kind of Eastern European equivalent to the European Economic Community. ... Unofficial Seal of the Warsaw Pact Distinguish from the Warsaw Convention, which is an agreement about airlines financial liability and the Treaty of Warsaw (1970) between West Germany and the Peoples Republic of Poland. ... The foundation of the U.N. The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate co-operation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress and human rights issues. ... The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is an international organization for security. ... The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, known as the Helsinki Final Act, Helsinki Accords or Helsinki Declaration, was the final act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki, Finland in August, 1975 between the United States and Canada...


See also

The economy of the Soviet Union was based on a system of state ownership and administrative planning. ... The History of the Soviet Union begins with the Russian Revolution of 1917. ...

Further reading

  • Alexander N. Yakovlev, Anthony Austin, Paul Hollander, Century of Violence in Soviet Russia, Yale University Press (September, 2002), hardcover, 254 pages, ISBN 0-300-08760-8

References

  1. ^ Soviet Union: POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT the LOC Country Studies
 - Soviet Union 

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