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Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union
Съезд народных депутатов СССР
Type Congress of Soviets
Country  Soviet Union
Established 1989
Preceded by Various
Succeeded by Several post-Soviet parliaments
In Russia: Congress of People's Deputies of Russia
Disbanded 1991
Leadership and Structure
Members 2250 deputies total (1989)
Voting system Direct elections
Last election 1989 (two-round elections):
  • 26 March 1989 (first round)
  • 9 April 1989 (second round)
Meeting place
Troitskaya Tower and State Kremlin Palace.jpg
Kremlin Palace of Congresses, Moscow Kremlin

The Congress of Soviets was the supreme governing body of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union in two periods, from 1917 to 1936 and from 1989 to 1991. Its initial full name was the "Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies." It was also known as the "Congress of People's Deputies."


RSFSR/USSR Congress of Soviets, 1917–1936

The Congress of Soviets was an assembly of representatives of local councils. In theory, it was the supreme power of the Soviet State, an organ of the dictatorship of the proletariat. No bourgeoisie, no noble, no aristocrat, no priest could vote – only working people. Officially, 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 VTsIK. In practice the Congress became increasingly deferential to the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution.[1]

By the time of Lenin's death in 1924 the Congress of Soviets effectively only rubber-stamped the decisions of the RCP(b) and served as a propaganda tribune.[2] The 1936 Constitution eliminated the Congress of Soviets, making the Supreme Soviet of the USSR the legislative institution. During this time the Central Committee of the AUCP(b) held de facto control over the government.

USSR 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 of the Soviet Union 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.

Congress of Soviets of the Russian SFSR

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. It met at the Russian White House. 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.


Bolsheviks convened an All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies in Kyiv, on December 17, 1917, and in Kharkiv on December 25, 1917. See Ukraine after the Russian Revolution.

See also


  1. ^ Schapiro, L. The Origin of the Communist Autocracy: Political Opposition in the Soviet State, First Phase, 1917-1922. 1st ed. New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1965. p. 66.
  2. ^ Schapiro, pp. 162-163.

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