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Soviet Government

"Gorbachev Factor"

Once elected, a soviet, in its turn, elected a set of executive officials to manage the government in its jurisdiction. In reality, the soviet simply ratified a choice that had been made by the Communist Party authorities. At lower levels of the soviet structures the executive arm of each soviet was called the executive committee. It consisted of a chairman, the deputy chairs, and the heads of government departments responsible for such areas as finance, transportation, public catering, and education. The executive officials were formally accountable to the soviets, but, in reality, they were answerable to two sets of superior authorities: higher level government executive officials and Communist Party officials.


At the highest levels, such as the level of union republics administration and the all-union central government, the model of soviet and executive committee took on a more elaborate form. Instead of a soviet, there was a Supreme Soviet; instead of an executive committee, there was a Council of Ministers. The USSR Supreme Soviet had the formal authority to enact laws, but its function was not in principle different from the ceremonial character of lower level soviets. The Supreme Soviet met only twice a year, and then for a few days each time, to hear official reports and rubber-stamp motions proposed by the leadership.

At the apex of the state executive was the USSR Council of Ministers. Formally, it was equivalent to the cabinet of a parliamentary government in a Western democracy. In reality, all major strategic decisions were taken by the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), in effect the cabinet, whereas the Council of Ministers was, in effect, a committee of administrators entrusted with carrying out the strategies of the Politburo and running the state economy. A similar system was replicated in all constituent republics of the Soviet Union.

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The Soviet System


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
The Soviet System
Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
The Socialist Experiment
"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
Stalin's Legacy
Brezhnev's Stagnation
The Economy in Crisis
Political Reform
The USSR's Collapse

Models of Soviet Power

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