Supreme Soviet of the USSR

Верховный Совет СССР
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]

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:

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
17 January 193819 March 19468 years, 61 days
Nikolai Shvernik
19 March 194615 March 19536 years, 361 days
Kliment Voroshilov
15 March 19537 May 19607 years, 53 days
Leonid Brezhnev
7 May 196015 July 19644 years, 69 days
Anastas Mikoyan
15 July 19649 December 19651 year, 147 days
Nikolai Podgorny
9 December 196516 June 197711 years, 189 days
Leonid Brezhnev
16 June 197710 November 1982 †5 years, 147 days
Vasili Kuznetsov
10 November 198216 June 1983218 days
Yuri Andropov
16 June 19839 February 1984 †238 days
Vasili Kuznetsov
9 February 198411 April 198462 days
Konstantin Chernenko
11 April 198410 March 1985 †333 days
Vasili Kuznetsov
10 March 198527 July 1985139 days
Andrei Gromyko
27 July 19851 October 19883 years, 66 days
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
(born 1931)
25 May 198915 March 1990294 days
Anatoly Lukyanov
15 March 19904 September 19911 year, 160 days


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

Main article: Supreme Soviet

  Soviet Republics dissolved before the dissolution of the Soviet Union

Soviet Republic Supreme Soviet Established Disbanded Succeeded by
 Russian SFSR Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR

Верховный Совет РСФСР

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

Верховна Рада Української РСР

1937 1991 Ukraine Verkhovna Rada
 Byelorussia Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR

Вярхоўны Савет Беларускай ССР

1938 1991 Belarus Supreme Soviet
 Uzbekistan Supreme Soviet of the Uzbek SSR

Ўзбекистон ССР Олий Совети

1938 1991 Uzbekistan Supreme Council
 Kazakhstan Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR

Қазақ ССР Жоғарғы Советі

1937 1993 Kazakhstan Supreme Council
 Georgia Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR

საქართველოს სსრ უმაღლესი საბჭო

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

Азәрбаjҹан ССР Али Совети

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

Lietuvos TSR Aukščiausioji Taryba

1940 1990 Lithuania Supreme Council
 Moldavia Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR

Совиетул Супрем ал РСС Молдовеняскэ

1941 1993 Moldova Parliament
 Latvia Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR

Latvijas PSR Augstākā Padome

1940 1990 Latvia Supreme Council
 Kirghizia Supreme Soviet of the Kirghiz SSR

Кыргыз ССР Жогорку Совети

1938 1994 Kyrgyzstan Supreme Council
 Tajikistan Supreme Soviet of the Tajik SSR

Совети Олӣ РСС Тоҷикистон

1937 1994 Tajikistan Supreme Assembly
 Armenia Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR

Հայկական ՍՍՀ Գերագույն Խորհուրդ

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

Түркменистан ССР Ёкары Советы

1938 1992 Turkmenistan Assembly
 Estonia Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR

Eesti NSV Ülemnõukogu

1940 1992 Estonia Riigikogu
 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
Bashkiria Supreme Soviet of the Bashkir ASSR (ru)

БАССР Юғары Советы

1938 1995 RussiaBashkortostan State Assembly
Buryatia Supreme Soviet of the Buryat ASSR (ru)

Буряадай АССР-эй Верховно Совет

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

Верховный Совет Карельской АССР

RussiaRepublic of Karelia Legislative Assembly
Tatarstan Supreme Soviet of the Tatar ASSR (ru)

ТАССР Югары Советы

1938 1995 RussiaTatarstan State Council
Tuva Supreme Soviet of the Tuvan ASSR (ru)

Тыва АССР-ниң Дээди Соведи

1961 1993 RussiaTuva Great Khural
Chuvashia Supreme Soviet of the Chuvash ASSR (ru)

Чӑваш АССР Верховнӑй Совечӗ

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

Қарақалпақстан АССР Жоқарғы Совети

1938 1994 UzbekistanKarakalpakstan Supreme Council
Abkhazia Supreme Soviet of the Abkhaz ASSR

Аҧснытәи АССР Иреиҳаӡоу Асовет

1938 1996 Abkhazia People's Assembly
Adjara Supreme Soviet of the Adjarian ASSR

აჭარის ასსრ უმაღლესი საბჭო

1938 1991 Georgia (country)Adjara Supreme Council
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