Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union

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Supreme Soviet of the USSR

Верховный Совет СССР
Badge of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.svg
ChambersSoviet of Nationalities
Soviet of the Union
Established1938; 84 years ago (1938)
Disbanded1991; 31 years ago (1991)
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
Kremlin Presidium
(Joint sessions of both houses)

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.


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, hear 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 of the Supreme Soviet (1938–1989)

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

Chairmen of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1991)

No. Portrait Name
Term of office
Took office Left office Time in office
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
(born 1931)
25 May 198915 March 1990294 days
Anatoly Lukyanov
Anatoly Lukyanov
15 March 19904 September 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 republics

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 republics

  Soviet Republics dissolved before the dissolution of the Soviet Union

Soviet Republic Supreme Soviet Established Disbanded Succeeded by
Emblem of the Russian SFSR.svg  Russian SFSR Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR

Верховный Совет РСФСР

1938 1993 Russia Federal Assembly
Emblem of the Ukrainian SSR.svg  Ukraine Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR

Верховна Рада Української РСР

1937 1991 Ukraine Verkhovna Rada
Emblem of the Byelorussian SSR (1981-1991).svg  Byelorussia Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR

Вярхоўны Савет Беларускай ССР

1938 1991 Belarus Supreme Soviet
Emblem of the Uzbek SSR.svg  Uzbekistan Supreme Soviet of the Uzbek SSR

Ўзбекистон ССР Олий Совети

1938 1991 Uzbekistan Supreme Council
Emblem of Kazakh SSR.svg  Kazakhstan Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR

Қазақ ССР Жоғарғы Советі

1937 1993 Kazakhstan Supreme Council
Emblem of the Georgian SSR.svg  Georgia Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR

საქართველოს სსრ უმაღლესი საბჭო

1938 1990 Georgia (country) Supreme Council
Emblem of the Azerbaijan SSR.svg  Azerbaijan Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR

Азәрбаjҹан ССР Али Совети

1938 1995 Azerbaijan National Assembly
Emblem of the Lithuanian SSR.svg  Lithuania Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR

Lietuvos TSR Aukščiausioji Taryba

1940 1990 Lithuania Supreme Council
Emblem of the Moldavian SSR (1981-1990).svg  Moldavia Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR

Совиетул Супрем ал РСС Молдовеняскэ

1941 1993 Moldova Parliament
Emblem of the Latvian SSR.svg  Latvia Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR

Latvijas PSR Augstākā Padome

1940 1990 Latvia Supreme Council
Emblem of the Kirghiz SSR.svg  Kirghizia Supreme Soviet of the Kirghiz SSR

Кыргыз ССР Жогорку Совети

1938 1994 Kyrgyzstan Supreme Council
Emblem of the Tajik SSR.svg  Tajikistan Supreme Soviet of the Tajik SSR

Совети Олӣ РСС Тоҷикистон

1937 1994 Tajikistan Supreme Assembly
Emblem of the Armenian SSR.svg  Armenia Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR

Հայկական ՍՍՀ Գերագույն Խորհուրդ

1938 1995 Armenia National Assembly
Emblem of the Turkmen SSR.svg  Turkmenia Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen SSR

Түркменистан ССР Ёкары Советы

1938 1992 Turkmenistan Assembly
Emblem of the Estonian SSR.svg  Estonia Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR

Eesti NSV Ülemnõukogu

1940 1992 Estonia Riigikogu
Emblem of the Karelo-Finnish SSR.svg  Karelo-Finnish SSR Supreme Soviet of the Karelo-Finnish SSR

Верховный Совет Карело-Финской ССР

1940 1956 Republic of Karelia Supreme Soviet (ru)

Supreme councils of autonomous republic

List of known autonomous republics councils:

Autonomous Republic Supreme Soviet Established Disbanded Succeeded by
Coat of arms of Bashkir ASSR.svg Bashkiria Supreme Soviet of the Bashkir ASSR (ru)

БАССР Юғары Советы

1938 1995 RussiaBashkortostan State Assembly
Coat of arms of the Buryat ASSR.svg Buryatia Supreme Soviet of the Buryat ASSR (ru)

Буряадай АССР-эй Верховно Совет

1938 1994 RussiaBuryatia People's Khural
Coat of arms of Karelian ASSR.svg Karelia Supreme Soviet of the Karelian ASSR (ru)

Верховный Совет Карельской АССР

RussiaRepublic of Karelia Legislative Assembly
Coat of Arms of Tatarstan ASSR.png Tatarstan Supreme Soviet of the Tatar ASSR (ru)

ТАССР Югары Советы

1938 1995 RussiaTatarstan State Council
Coat of arms of the Tuvan ASSR (1978-1992).svg Tuva Supreme Soviet of the Tuvan ASSR (ru)

Тыва АССР-ниң Дээди Соведи

1961 1993 RussiaTuva Great Khural
Coat of Arms of Chuvash ASSR.svg Chuvashia Supreme Soviet of the Chuvash ASSR (ru)

Чӑваш АССР Верховнӑй Совечӗ

1938 1994 RussiaChuvashia State Council
QoraqalpogistonASSRgerbi.png Karakalpakstan Supreme Soviet of the Karakalpak ASSR

Қарақалпақстан АССР Жоқарғы Совети

1938 1994 UzbekistanKarakalpakstan Supreme Council
Emblem of the Abkhaz ASSR (1978–1992).svg Abkhazia Supreme Soviet of the Abkhaz ASSR

Аҧснытәи АССР Иреиҳаӡоу Асовет

1938 1996 Abkhazia People's Assembly
Emblem of the Adjar ASSR.svg Adjara Supreme Soviet of the Adjarian ASSR

აჭარის ასსრ უმაღლესი საბჭო

1938 1991 Georgia (country)Adjara Supreme Council
Coat of Arms of Nakhichevan ASSR.png Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet of the Nakhichevan ASSR

Нахчыван МССР Али Совети

1938 1990 Azerbaijan Supreme Assembly (Nakhchivan)

See also


  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 reading

External links