Congress of Soviets

From Academic Kids

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.

Congress of Soviets, 1917-1936

The initial full name was Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies. It is also known as Congress of People's Deputies.

The Congress of Soviets was an assembly of representatives of local councils elected by workers, peasants and soldiers. In theory, it was the supreme power of the Soviet State, an organ of the dictatorship of the proletariat. No bourgeois, no noble, no aristocrat, no priest could vote - only working people. The Congress of Soviets created laws and elected the Council of People's Commissars, which was the government.

In the interim its functions were performed by designated executive bodies, see Supreme Soviet.

In the Stalin period, the Congress of Soviets effectively only rubber-stamped the decisions of the CPSU and served as a propaganda tribune. The 1936 Soviet Constitution eliminated the Congress of Soviets, making the Supreme Soviet the USSR's governing body.

Congress of Soviets, 1989-1991

The Congress of Soviets was recreated as part of Gorbachev's reforms, via a 1988 amendment to the 1977 Soviet Constitution. The official name of the re-created Congress was the Congress of People's Deputies. The Congress consisted of 2,250 deputies elected in three different ways:

  • 750 deputies were elected according to the system used in Soviet of the Union elections in the 1936-1989 period.
  • 750 deputies were elected according to the system used in Soviet of Nationalities elections in the 1936-1989 period.
  • 750 deputies representing "public organizations", such as the Communist Party, Komsomol and the labor unions. The election law would allocate a fixed number of seats to organizations - for example, 100 to the Communist Party and 100 to Komsomol - and the organizations would appoint deputies to those seats.

The congress would gather twice a year and would then elect the Supreme Soviet consisting of a smaller number of deputies. The Supreme Soviet would then serve as a permanent legislature, deciding all but the most important issues, such as amendments to the Soviet constitution, which were left to the full Congress only.

Only one Congress was elected, in March 1989. The fundamental difference from previous elections in Soviet Union was that elections were actually competitive. Instead of one Communist Party-approved candidate for each seat, multiple candidates were allowed. A variety of different political positions, from Communist to pro-Western, were represented in the Congress, and lively debates took place with different viewpoints expressed. The Congress existed until the end of Soviet Union in 1991.

During the same period, a similar two-level structure, with a Congress of Soviets meeting twice a year and Supreme Soviet meeting all year, was established in the Russian SFSR. One Congress was elected, in March 1990. It existed until it was dissolved by President Boris Yeltsin during the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993. No Congress structure was established in the other republics of the Soviet Union during this period.

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