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The Nomenklatura

"Gorbachev Factor"

It is impossible to understand how the Communist Party maintained its grip on power without the mention of the role of the so-called nomenklatura principle. This denoted the party’s monopoly on filling positions of power and authority in the party itself, in government, and in all organized areas of social life. All important posts in the country, from high state officialdom, army and police officers, to local and regional bosses and enterprise directors, were filled or “elected to” on the party’s recommendation or approval. In this way, the Communist Party and ultimately its leader—the general secretary—managed to control the entire Soviet Union. 

For this to be managed, the system of elite recruitment evolved in such a way that party bosses controlled the personnel policy at their corresponding levels. Bosses at various levels were responsible for a defined nomenclature of important jobs (hence the Russian word nomenklatura). High party officials controlled the higher reaches of the state, whereas regional and local party functionaries controlled appointments at their local or regional levels. The party itself was run on these principles—only trusted members were promoted to key full-time party posts by their superiors.

To occupy a nomenklatura position for the first time, a person had to have been approved by the appropriate party committee’s personnel department. Once a person had succeeded in entering the ranks of the nomenklatura, however, he or she had a certain degree of job security and social status. Nomenklatura members tended to move up the career ladder to higher-level positions or, at worst, to other nomenklatura positions at the same level. Such people came to be regarded as members of a privileged social-political elite with access to power and material perquisites. In everyday language, they were collectively called the nomenklatura and thought of as a ruling class. They were, however, a ruling class with a difference, for they did not technically own productive resources but used their position of authority to grab the biggest share of social product.

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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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