Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union

Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union
Верховный Совет Советского Союза
Legislative body in the Soviet Union
Chambers Soviet of Nationalities
Soviet of the Union
Established 1938
Disbanded 1991
Preceded by Congress of Soviets and the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Seats 542 (at dissolution)
Direct non-competitive elections (1936—1989)
Elected by Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union (1989—1991)
Last election
4 March 1984 (last direct election)
26 March 1989 (last - and only - indirect election)
Meeting place
Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow Kremlin

The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union (Russian: Верхо́вный Сове́т Сове́тского Сою́за, tr. Verkhóvny Sovét Sovétskogo Soyúza, IPA: [vʲɪrˈxovnɨj sɐˈvʲet sɐvʲˈetskəvə sɐˈjuzə]) was the highest legislative body in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics[1] and the only one with the power to pass constitutional amendments. It elected the Presidium serving as the collective head of state of the Soviet Union,[2] formed the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Court, and appointed the Procurator General of the Soviet Union.


The Supreme Soviet was made up of two chambers, each with equal legislative powers, with members elected for four-year terms:[3]

  • The Soviet of the Union, elected on the basis of population with one deputy for every 300,000 people in the Soviet federation
  • The Soviet of Nationalities, represented the ethnic populations, 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 in the same number of members regardless of their size or population.

Under the Soviet constitutions of 1936 and 1977, the Supreme Soviet was imbued with great lawmaking powers. In practice, however, it did little more than rubber-stamp decisions already made by the Soviet Union's executive organs and the CPSU.[4] This was in accordance with the CPSU principle of democratic centralism, and became the norm for other Communist legislatures.

The Supreme Soviet sat twice a year, usually for less than a week. For the rest of the year, the Presidium carried out its day-to-day functions. Often, the CPSU bypassed the Supreme Soviet altogether and had major laws enacted as Presidium decrees. Nominally, such decrees had to be ratified by the full Supreme Soviet–a process that was usually a mere formality. However, in some cases, even this formality was not observed.[4]

After 1989 it consisted of 542 deputies (down from previously 1,500). The meetings of the body were also more frequent, from six to eight months a year.[5]

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.[6]


Chairmen of the Presidium (1938–1989)

  1. Mikhail Kalinin 1938–1946
  2. Nikolay Shvernik 1946–1953
  3. Kliment Voroshilov 1953–1960
  4. Leonid Brezhnev 1960–1964
  5. Anastas Mikoyan 1964–1965
  6. Nikolai Podgorny 1965–1977
  7. Leonid Brezhnev (second term) 1977–1982
  8. Yuri Andropov 1982–1984
  9. Konstantin Chernenko 1984–1985
  10. Andrei Gromyko 1985–1988
  11. Mikhail Gorbachev 1 October 1988 – 25 May 1989

Chairmen of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1991)


  • 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[7] (unofficially 12th convocation), sessions were conducted in the form of Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union
  • New composition 1991,[8] (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 were headed by their 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 historic or to emphasise the importance of the council as a national parliament, while others went through some major restructuring by changing to double-chamber assemblies. All republics in the Soviet Union 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

Supreme councils of autonomous republic

List of known autonomous republics councils

  • Supreme Council of the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, existed in 1938–1994, except for the 1940–1956 when Karelian ASSR was a union republic the Karelo-Finnish SSR
  • Supreme Council of Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, in 1938–1946 and 1991, transitioned to Verkhovna Rada of Autonomous Republic of Crimea (in Ukraine)

See also


  1. The Congress of Soviets was the supreme legislative body from 1917 to 1936. In 1989-1991 a similar, but not identical (elected directly by the people instead of local Soviets) structure (Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union) was the supreme legislative body.
  2. Ideology, Politics, and Government in the Soviet Union: An Introduction– Google Knihy. January 1, 1978. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  3. Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, entry on "Верховный Совет СССР", available online here
  4. 1 2 John Alexander Armstrong (1986). Ideology, Politics, and Government in the Soviet Union: An Introduction. University Press of America. ISBN 0819154059.
  5. Peter Lentini (1991) in: The Journal of Communist Studies, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 69-94
  6. «Avante!», newspaper of Portuguese Communist Party, February 22nd, 1990, section «Em Foco», page IX
  7. Supreme Council of the Soviet Union. "Portal SSSR".
  8. Supreme Council of the Soviet Union new composition. "Portal SSSR".
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