Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union

The Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: Верховный Совет Союза Советских Социалистических Республик, tr. Verkhovnyy Sovet Soyuza Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik) was, beginning in 1936, the most authoritative legislative body of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and the only one with the power to approve constitutional amendments. Prior to 1936, the Congress of Soviets was the supreme legislative body. During 1989–1991 a similar, but not identical structure was the supreme legislative body. The Supreme Soviet elected the USSR's collective head of state, the Presidium;[1] and appointed the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Court, and the Procurator General of the USSR.

Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Верховный Совет Союза Советских Социалистических Республик
Legislative body in the Soviet Union
Badge of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.svg
ChambersSoviet of Nationalities
Soviet of the Union
Preceded byCongress of Soviets
Succeeded by
Seats542 (at dissolution)
Direct show elections (1937–1989)
Elected by the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union (1989–1991)
First election
12 December 1937
Last election
4 March 1984 (last direct election)
26 March 1989 (last—and only—indirect election)
Meeting place
Supreme Soviet 1982.jpg
Grand Kremlin Palace,Moscow Kremlin
(Joint sessions of both houses)


The Supreme Soviet was composed of two chambers, each with equal legislative powers, with members elected for four-year terms:[2]

  • The Soviet of the Union, elected on the basis of the population with one deputy for every 300,000 people in the Soviet federation.
  • The Soviet of Nationalities, which represented the ethnic populations as units, with members elected on the basis of 32 deputies from each union republic, 11 from each autonomous republic, five from each autonomous oblast (region), and one from each autonomous okrug (district). The administrative units of the same type would send the same number of members regardless of their size or population.

By the Soviet constitutions of 1936 and 1977, the Supreme Soviet was defined as the highest organ of state power in the Soviet Union and was imbued with great lawmaking powers. In practice, however, it did little more than approve decisions made already by the USSR's executive organs and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).[1] This was in accordance with the Communist Party's principle of democratic centralism, and became the norm for other Communist legislatures.

The Supreme Soviet convened twice a year, usually for less than a week. For the rest of the year, the Presidium performed its ordinary functions. Often, the CPSU bypassed the Supreme Soviet altogether and had major laws enacted as Presidium decrees. Nominally, if such decrees were not ratified by the Supreme Soviet at its next session, they were considered revoked. In practice, however, the principle of democratic centralism rendered the process of ratifying Presidium decrees a mere formality. In some cases, even this formality was not observed.[1]

After 1989 it consisted of 542 deputies (divided into two 271 chambers). (decreased from previously 1,500). The meetings of the body were also more frequent, from six to eight months a year. In September 1991, after the August Coup, it was reorganised into the Soviet (council) of Republics and the Soviet of The Union, which would jointly amend the Soviet Constitution, admit new states, near out the President of the Soviet Union on important home and foreign policy issues, approve the union budget, declare war and conclude peace. The Soviet of Republics would consist of 20 deputies from each union republic, plus 1 deputy to represent each autonomous region of each republic, delegated by the republics legislatures. Russia was an exception with 52 deputies. The Soviet Union consisted of deputies apportioned by the existing quotas.[3]

In 1989, its powers were:

  • Passing and initiating laws.
  • Submitting questions to the President of the Soviet Union, the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, scheduling elections of deputies.
  • Convening the Congress of People's Deputies.
  • Appointing the Chairman of the Council of Ministers on the submission of the president.
  • Ratifying the composition of the Council of Ministers and changes in it on the submission on the Chairman.
  • Forming and disbanding ministries and state committees on the Council of Ministers proposal.
  • Overriding a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority.
  • Ratifying presidential declarations of war.
  • Impeaching the President.
  • Hearing reports by organs of appointed officials.
  • Implementing laws regulating property, management of the economy, social and cultural issues, budget and finance, salaries, prices, taxes, environmental protection, natural resource, and civil rights,
  • Laying down the principals of local and republic state power and the legal status of social organisations,
  • Submitting for ratification (and ratifying and amending) by the congress long-term national and social and economic development plans, the national budget, monitoring implantation of the state plan and budget, and ratifying reports on their performance.
  • Ratifying international treaties.
  • Overseeing the granting of foreign aid and negotiating foreign loans.
  • Determining basic measures for national security, including declarations of war, mobilizing troops, and meeting international treaty obligations.

Acts by the Supreme Soviet entered into force after signature by the President and publication.

Between 1938 and February 1990, more than 50 years, only 80 laws were passed by the Supreme Soviet, less than 1% of total legislative acts.[4]


Chairmen of the Presidium (1938–1989)Edit

No. Portrait Name
Term of office
Took office Left office Time in office
1Mikhail Kalinin
17 January 193819 March 19468 years, 61 days
2Nikolai Shvernik
19 March 194615 March 19536 years, 361 days
3Kliment Voroshilov
15 March 19537 May 19607 years, 53 days
4Leonid Brezhnev
7 May 196015 July 19644 years, 69 days
5Anastas Mikoyan
15 July 19649 December 19651 year, 147 days
6Nikolai Podgorny
9 December 196516 June 197711 years, 189 days
(4)Leonid Brezhnev
16 June 197710 November 1982 †5 years, 147 days
Vasili Kuznetsov
10 November 198216 June 1983218 days
7Yuri Andropov
16 June 19839 February 1984 †238 days
Vasili Kuznetsov
9 February 198411 April 198462 days
8Konstantin Chernenko
11 April 198410 March 1985 †333 days
Vasili Kuznetsov
10 March 198527 July 1985139 days
9Andrei Gromyko
27 July 19851 October 19883 years, 66 days
10Mikhail Gorbachev
(born 1931)
1 October 198825 May 1989236 days

Chairmen of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1991)Edit

No. Portrait Name
Term of office
Took office Left office Time in office
1Mikhail Gorbachev
(born 1931)
25 May 198915 March 1990294 days
2Anatoly Lukyanov
15 March 199022 August 19911 year, 160 days


  • 1st convocation session 1938–1946, World War II
  • 2nd convocation session 1946–1950
  • 3rd convocation session 1950–1954
  • 4th convocation session 1954–1958
  • 5th convocation session 1958–1962
  • 6th convocation session 1962–1966
  • 7th convocation session 1966–1970
  • 8th convocation session 1970–1974
  • 9th convocation session 1974–1979
  • 10th convocation session 1979–1984
  • 11th convocation session 1984–1989
  • 1st convocation 1989–1991[5] (unofficially 12th convocation), sessions were conducted in the form of Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union
  • New composition 1991,[6] (unofficially 13th convocation) unlike previous convocations, there were no elections for the new composition of the Supreme Council instead members of the council were delegated from the council of union republics that continued to be members of the Soviet Union.

Supreme councils of union and autonomous republicsEdit

Beside the Supreme Council, in the Soviet Union supreme councils also existed in each of the union and autonomous republics. The supreme councils of republican level also had presidiums, but all those councils consisted of one chamber. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, some councils of the succeeded independent republics simply changed their name to their more historic name or to emphasise the importance of the council as a national parliament, while others changed to double-chamber assemblies. All republics in the USSR were soviet (as soviet national), yet 15 were of union level, while the other, autonomous republics, were subordinated to the union republics.

Supreme councils of union republicsEdit

Supreme councils of autonomous republicEdit

List of known autonomous republics councils:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Armstrong, John Alexander (1986) [1978]. Ideology, Politics, and Government in the Soviet Union: An Introduction (fourth ed.). Lanham, MD / New York City / London: University Press of America. ISBN 0-8191-5405-9. Retrieved November 26, 2016.
  2. ^ Верховный Совет СССР, Great Soviet Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Peter Lentini (1991) in: The Journal of Communist Studies, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 69-94
  4. ^ «Avante!», newspaper of Portuguese Communist Party, February 22, 1990, section «Em Foco», page IX
  5. ^ Supreme Council of the Soviet Union. "Portal SSSR".
  6. ^ Supreme Council of the Soviet Union new composition. "Portal SSSR".

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit