|President of the Union|
of Soviet Socialist Republics
|Президент Союза Советских Социалистических Республик|
|Type||Head of state|
|Residence||Kremlin Senate, Moscow|
|Precursor||Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (as head of state)|
|Formation||15 March 1990|
|First holder||Mikhail Gorbachev|
|Final holder||Mikhail Gorbachev|
|Abolished||25 December 1991|
|Succession||None (USSR dissolved)|
|Politics of the Soviet Union|
|Soviet Union portal|
The president of the Soviet Union (Russian: Президент Советского Союза, romanized: Prezident Sovetskogo Soyuza), officially the president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Президент Союза Советских Социалистических Республик), abbreviated as president of the USSR (Президент СССР), was the head of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 15 March 1990 to 25 December 1991.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the only person to occupy this office. Gorbachev was also General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between March 1985 and August 1991. He derived an increasingly greater share of his power from his position as president until he finally resigned as General Secretary after the 1991 coup d'état attempt.
The presidency was an executive post, based on a mixture of the US and French presidencies.
Prior to the creation of the post of president, the de jure head of state of the Soviet Union was the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, who was often called the "president" by non-Soviet sources. For most of the Soviet Union's existence, all effective executive political power was in the hands of the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with the chairman of the Presidium exercising largely symbolic and figurehead duties. Starting with Leonid Brezhnev in 1977, the last four general secretaries—Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko, and Gorbachev—simultaneously served as de jure head of state during their time in office.
The president was initially elected by the Congress of People's Deputies and served as ex officio chairman of that body, but all future elections were to have been by popular vote. The president reported to the Supreme Soviet. On 24 September 1990, Gorbachev persuaded the Supreme Soviet to give him the power to rule by unrestricted decree (on the economy, law and order, and the appointment of government personnel) until 31 March 1992. Another power was the right to declare direct presidential rule in troubled areas and abolish democratic elected bodies if necessary. During the election of the president several candidates were nominated, among leading contenders were KGB chairman Vadim Bakatin and Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov.
The president's powers were:
The vice president of the Soviet Union was the deputy head of state. If the president was killed or unable to be in office, the vice president would become president. The only person to hold this office was Gennady Yanayev, who the following year became the leader of the Gang of Eight which attempted the August coup, assuming the position of acting president of the Soviet Union on 19 August 1991. After three days the coup collapsed and Gorbachev was restored.
Following the coup attempt, Gorbachev remained president until the country's dissolution, when he resigned and declared his office to be extinct. The powers of the position were subsequently ceded to the new President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin.
With his right hand on a red bound copy of the Soviet Constitution, placed on a small table before the Congress, the president-elect (Gorbachev) took the following oath: "I solemnly swear to faithfully serve the peoples of our nations, to strictly observe the Soviet Constitution, to guarantee the rights and freedoms of citizens and to conscientiously fulfill the high responsibilities placed in me as president of the Soviet Union."
|Term of office||Political Party||Election||Vice President||Prime Ministers|
|Took office||Left office||Time in office|
(91 years old)
|15 March 1990||25 December 1991||1 year, 285 days||Communist Party of the
(until 27 December 1990)
|Gennady Yanayev||Valentin Pavlov|
(after 21 August 1991)
(73 years old)
|19 August 1991||21 August 1991||2 days||Communist Party of the
|—||Office vacant||Valentin Pavlov|
Members of the Communist Party voted on establishing a presidency on 7 February 1990. The first and only presidential election took place on 14 March 1990. The Congress of People's Deputies decided that they would elect the first president into a five-year term, then turn over presidential elections to the public beginning in the planned 1995 presidential election.