Supreme Soviet of the USSR

Верховный Совет СССР
ChambersSoviet of Nationalities
Soviet of the Union
Established12 January 1938; 86 years ago (12 January 1938)
Disbanded25 December 1991; 32 years ago (25 December 1991)
Preceded byCongress of Soviets
Succeeded by
Seats1,500 (after 1984 election)
542 (at dissolution)
Soviet of Nationalities political groups
After the 1984 election:
  Communist Party of the Soviet Union (521)
  Independents (229)
Soviet of the Union political groups
After the 1984 election:
  Communist Party of the Soviet Union (551)
  Independents (199)
Direct elections (1937–1989)
Elected by the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union (1989–1991)
Direct elections (1937-1989)
Elected by the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union (1989–1991)
12 December 1937
4 March 1984 (last direct election)
26 March 1989 (last—and only—indirect election)
Meeting place
Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow Kremlin
(Joint sessions of both houses)[1][2]

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, from 1936 to 1991, the highest body of state authority of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and based on the principle of unified power was the only branch of government in the Soviet state.

Prior to 1936,[3] 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 appointed the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Court, and the Procurator General of the USSR as well as elected the Presidium which served as the USSR's collective head of state by the both 1936 and 1977 Soviet Constitution.[3]

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 was a toy parliament which did nothing other than ratify decisions already made by the USSR's executive organs and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) — always by unanimous consent[3] — and listen to the General Secretary's speeches.[3] This was in accordance with the Stalinist CPSU's principle of democratic centralism and became the norm for other Communist legislatures.


The Supreme Soviet was composed of two chambers, each with equal legislative powers:[4]

Under the 1936 Constitution, the Supreme Soviet was elected for a four-year term, and the Soviet of the Union had one deputy for every 300,000 people.[4] This was changed by the 1977 constitution; the term was extended to five years, and the number of seats in the Soviet of the Union was changed to be the same as the Soviet of Nationalities, regardless of the population size.[5][6]

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.[3]

After 1989 it consisted of 542 deputies (divided into two 271 chambers) decreased from a previous 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 one 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.[7]

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.[8]


Chairman 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
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
25 May 198915 March 1990294 days
Anatoly Lukyanov
Anatoly Lukyanov
15 March 19904 September 19911 year, 160 days


Supreme Soviets of union and autonomous republics

Beside the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, each of its constituting union republics and each autonomous republic had a supreme soviet. These supreme soviets also had presidiums, but all consisted of only one chamber. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, some soviets of the succeeded independent republics simply changed their name to their more historic name or to emphasise their importance as a national parliament, while others changed to double-chamber assemblies.

Supreme soviets of union republics

Main article: Supreme Soviet

  Soviet Republics dissolved before the dissolution of the Soviet Union   Parliaments not formally recognized by some countries such as the Western Bloc

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

Верховный Совет РСФСР

1938 1993 Russia Constitutional Conference (1993)
Russia Federal Assembly (1993–present)
 Ukraine Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR

Верховный Совет Украинской ССР
Верховна Рада Української РСР

1937 1996 Ukraine Verkhovna Rada
 Byelorussia Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR

Верховный Совет Белорусской ССР
Вярхоўны Савет Беларускай ССР

1938 1994 Belarus Supreme Council (1994–96)
Belarus National Assembly (1996–present)
 Uzbekistan Supreme Soviet of the Uzbek SSR

Верховный Совет Узбекской ССР
Ўзбекистон ССР Олий Совети

1938 1992 Uzbekistan Supreme Council (1992–1995)
Uzbekistan Oliy Majlis (1995–present)
 Kazakhstan Supreme Soviet of the Kazakh SSR

Верховный Совет Казахской ССР
Қазақ ССР Жоғарғы Советі

1937 1993 Kazakhstan Supreme Council (1993–95)
Kazakhstan Parliament (1996–present)
 Georgia Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR

Верховный Совет Грузинской ССР
საქართველოს სსრ უმაღლესი საბჭო

1938 1992 Georgia (country) State Council (1992–1995)
Georgia (country) Parliament (1995–present)
 Azerbaijan Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR

Верховный Совет Азербайджа́нской ССР
Азәрбаjҹан ССР Али Совети

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

Верховный Совет Литовской ССР
Lietuvos TSR Aukščiausioji Taryba

1940 1990 Lithuania Supreme Council (1990–1992)
Lithuania Seimas (1992–present)
 Moldavia Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR

Верховный Совет Молдавской ССР
Совиетул Супрем ал РСС Молдовеняскэ (Moldovan Cyrillic)
Sovietul Suprem al RSS Moldovenească (Latin alphabet)

1941 1993 Moldova Parliament
 Latvia Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR

Верховный Совет Латвийской ССР
Latvijas PSR Augstākā Padome

1940 1990 Latvia Supreme Council (1990–1993)
Latvia Saeima (1993–present)
 Kirghizia Supreme Soviet of the Kirghiz SSR

Верховный Совет Киргизской ССР
Кыргыз ССР Жогорку Совети

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

Верховный Совет Таджикской ССР
Совети Олӣ РСС Тоҷикистон

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

Верховный Совет Армянской ССР
Հայկական ՍՍՀ Գերագույն Խորհուրդ

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

Верховный Совет Туркменской ССР
Түркменистан ССР Ёкары Советы

1938 1992 Turkmenistan Assembly (1992–2021, 2023–present)
Turkmenistan National Council (2021–2023)
 Estonia Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR

Верховный Совет Эстонской ССР
Eesti NSV Ülemnõukogu

1940 1990 Estonia Supreme Council (1990–92)
Estonia Riigikogu (1992–present)
 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)

Верховный Совет Башкирской АССР
Башҡорт АССР-ы Юғары Советы

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

Верховный Совет Бурятской АССР
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)

Верховный Совет Татарской АССР
Татарстан АССР Югары Советы

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

Верховный Совет Тувинской АССР
Тыва АССР-ниң Дээди Соведи

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

Верховный Совет Чувашской АССР
Чӑваш АССР Верховнӑй Совечӗ

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

Верховный Совет Каракалпакской АССР
Қарақалпақстан АССР Жоқарғы Совети

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

Верховный Совет Абхазской АССР
Аҧснытәи АССР Иреиҳаӡоу Асовет

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

Верховный Совет Аджарской АССР
აჭარის ასსრ უმაღლესი საბჭო

1938 1991 Georgia (country)Adjara Supreme Council
Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet of the Nakhichevan ASSR

Верховный Совет Нахичеванской АССР
Нахчыван МССР Али Совети

1938 1990 Azerbaijan Supreme Assembly (Nakhchivan)

See also


  1. ^ "Совместное заседание Совета Союза и Совета Национальностей Верховного Совета СССР восьмого созыва. Кремль". RIA Novosti Mediabank. Rossiya Segodnya media group. 18 December 1972. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Совместное заседание Совета Союза и Совета Национальностей третьей сессии Верховного Совета СССР девятого созыва. Кремлевский Дворец Съездов (ныне - Государственный Кремлевский дворец)". RIA Novosti Mediabank. Rossiya Segodnya media group. 22 July 1975. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e 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.
  4. ^ a b Верховный Совет СССР, Great Soviet Encyclopedia
  5. ^ "The 1977 Soviet Constitution: A Historical Comparison". Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law. 12 (3). 1979.
  6. ^ Osakwe, Christopher (1979). "The Theories and Realities of Modern Soviet Constitutional Law: An Analysis of the 1977 USSR Constitution". University of Pennsylvania Law Review. 127 (5): 1414. doi:10.2307/3311636. JSTOR 3311636. S2CID 5783531.
  7. ^ Peter Lentini (1991) in: The Journal of Communist Studies, Vol. 7, No.1, pp. 69–94
  8. ^ «Avante!», newspaper of Portuguese Communist Party, February 22, 1990, section «Em Foco», page IX
  9. ^ Supreme Council of the Soviet Union. "Portal SSSR".
  10. ^ Supreme Council of the Soviet Union new composition. "Portal SSSR".

Further reading