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List of heads of state of the Soviet Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heads of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
State Emblem of the Soviet Union.svg
Formation30 December 1922
First holderMikhail Kalinin
Final holderMikhail Gorbachev
Abolished25 December 1991
SuccessionPresident of the Russian Federation

The Constitution of the Soviet Union recognised the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the earlier Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Congress of Soviets as the highest organs of state authority in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Under the 1924, 1936 and 1977 Soviet Constitutions these bodies served as the collective head of state of the Soviet Union.[1] The Chairman of these bodies personally performed the largely ceremonial functions assigned to a single head of state[2] but held little real power.

The Soviet Union was established in 1922. However, the country's first constitution was adopted in 1924. Before that time, the 1918 Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was adopted as the constitution of the USSR. According to the 1918 Constitution, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (CEC), whose chairman was head of state, had the power to determine what matters of income and taxation would go to the state budget and what would go to the local Soviets. The CEC could also limit taxes.[3] In periods between convocations of the Congress of Soviets the CEC held supreme power.[4] In between sessions of the Congress of Soviets the CEC was responsible for all the affairs of the Congress of Soviets.[5] The CEC and the Congress of Soviets was replaced by the Presidium and the Supreme Soviet by several amendments to the 1936 constitution in 1938.[6]

The Supreme Soviet was the highest organ of state power, and was the sole organ to hold legislative power in the Soviet Union.[6] Sessions of the Supreme Soviet were convened by the Presidium twice a year; however, special sessions could be convened on the orders of a Union Republic.[6] In the event of a disagreement between the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities the Presidium could form a conciliation commission. If this commission failed the Presidium could dissolve the Supreme Soviet and order new elections.[6] The Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, along with the first and fifteen other vice chairmen, were, according to the 1977 Soviet Constitution, elected by the deputies of the Supreme Soviet.[7] Just as with the CEC under Joseph Stalin's rule, the Chairman of the Presidium had very little power because supreme power was in the hands of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).[8]

The Presidency was established in 1990 and the President would, according to the altered constitution, be elected by the Soviet people by direct and secret ballot. However, the first and only Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, was elected by the democratically elected Congress of People's Deputies.[9] In connection with the dissolution of the Soviet Union national elections for the office of President never took place. To be elected to the office a person must have been a Soviet citizen and older than thirty-five but younger than sixty-five years. The same person could not be elected president for more than two terms.[10] The Presidency was the highest state office, and was the most important office in the Soviet Union by influence and recognition, eclipsing that of Premier and General Secretary. With the establishment of the Presidency executive power was shared between the President and the Prime Minister. The Presidency was given broad powers, such as being responsible for negotiating the membership of the Cabinet of Ministers with the Supreme Soviet;[11] the Prime Minister, however, was responsible for managing the nomenklatura and economic matters.[12]

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10 DARKEST SOVIET UNION SECRETS 10) World War Three Plans At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the Soviet Union hatched a secret plan to launch 131 nuclear missiles to destroy political and communication centers across Europe. The plan outlined that after the nuclear fallout, Soviet troops were expected to invade Nuremburg, Stuttgart, Munich, and Lyon, before dying from the nuclear radiation. The plan was signed by the Czech defense minister and remained an option until 1990, when Czech president Václav Havel [Vart-slarv Ha-vel (lean on the vell)] scrapped it. However, the colossal plan wasn’t revealed until 2007, when historian Petr Lunak [Peter Loo-nak] stumbled on the 17-page plan while sifting through declassified communist-era documents. Source: Telegraph 9) Secret Cities During The Cold War, the USSR closed over 100 cities across the state and wiped them off the map. The cities were home to the state’s most advanced military and nuclear developments, so were kept secret to hide their location from the enemy. The 1.2 million citizens of these cities were forbidden to leave and barred from the outside world by barbed wire and heavily armed guards. At the collapse of the Soviet State, most of these cities were opened, freeing their citizens into the outside world. However, to this day, over 40 cities still remain closed. Source: The Telegraph 8) Small Pox Accident In 1971 a fatal accident occurred at the Soviet Union’s top-secret bio-weapons lab, and it was hidden for over thirty years. While developing a weapon designed to cause an outbreak of smallpox in open air, the deadly virus was accidentally released, killing one woman and two children. The Soviet Union hid the accident to protect information about their bio-weapons from their neighboring enemy countries. It wasn’t until 2002, when the Monterey Institute of International Studies researched into Soviet documents, that the accident was made known. However, to this day, Moscow denies the event. Source: New York Times 7) Balaklava Submarine Base In 1957 the Soviet Union built a secret submarine base in the city of Balaklava. It had underwater access, so submarines could come and go freely without leaving a trace. The base was kept secret to prevent military knowledge leaking to enemies in Europe. This included one of its programs that trained dolphins to attach explosives and tracking devices to enemy ships and submarines. During the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, all submarines, torpedoes, and warheads were from the base, revealing the Soviet’s underground secret. Source: Business Insider 6) Cosmonaut death In 1961, Cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko [Valenteen] was killed in a failed training exercise, after being trapped in a low-pressure altitude chamber that caught fire. It left him with fatal third-degree burns all over his body. The Soviet Union founded a policy, which stated that space programs would only be made public if successful, and so Bondarenko’s death was kept a secret. The Soviet government airbrushed Bondarenko’s image out of public photographs of the cosmonauts to conceal his death. It wasn’t until journalist Yaroslav Golovanov published his research on Russia’s secret space program in 1986 that Bondarenko’s death came to light. Source: Discovery News 5) Human Experiments During the Cold War, Soviet Secret Services established laboratories for human experimentation on Gulag prisoners. The aim was to find a tasteless, odorless, deadly poison that couldn’t be detected in a post mortem. Research was conducted by disguising potential poisons in the medication or food and drink of the prisoners. According to historian Dr. Vadim J. Birstein, [Bur-stine], a poison named C-2 was successfully created, killing any victim in fifteen minutes. The laboratories were kept a secret to hide plans to poison prominent figures of enemy countries. It wasn’t until the dissolution of the Soviet Union that the disturbing experiments were revealed. Source: Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons, Ken Alibek, Stephen Handelman 4) Kyshtym Nuclear Disaster [Cush-tim (as in cushion)] One of the worst nuclear disasters ever recorded was hidden by the Soviet Union for almost two decades. On 29th September 1957, the cooling systems of a secret nuclear plant in Russia failed, resulting in a chemical explosion. 10,000 people were exposed to toxic radiation, causing approximately 6,000 deaths from radiation-related diseases. To avoid public backlash against building nuclear weapons, the Soviet regime kept the accident a secret by telling evacuated locals that the contaminated area was to become a nature preserve. It wasn’t until 1976, when Soviet researcher Zhores Medvedev [jh-or-ez med-vay-dev] published a book about his findings, that the disaster was brought to light. Source: BBC 3) Nedelin Disaster [Ned-ay-lin (lean on the ay)] On October 24th 1960, the launch of a top-secret Soviet rocket missile ended in disaster, after a leak of nitric acid caused a huge explosion. Over 100 people were killed, some instantly. Others died while attempting to flee, after they got stuck in tarmac that had been melted in the explosion. The Soviet regime hid the disaster from the public to prevent exposing the development of their weapons to the enemy. As a result, news publications stated that victims had died in a plane crash. It wasn’t until thirty years later, in a report published by Russian magazine Ogoniok [og-on-yok], that the truth was publicly revealed. Source: NASA 2) The Katyn Massacre The 1940 Katyn massacre was one of the Soviet Union’s darkest secrets. Stalin ordered the Soviet secret police to execute over 22,000 Polish prisoners of war, whom he believed were a threat to the communist movement. Handcuffed prisoners were taken into soundproof cells and shot in the back of their heads. The bodies were then piled into a mass grave. The Soviets denied responsibility for the massacre until 1990, when Soviet Union President Gorbachev publicly acknowledged the crimes. Source: BBC 1) The Holodomor Famine In 1932 a secret famine killed 8 million Ukrainians. New Soviet policy at the time hindered crop growth and transportation, leaving peasants starving. These were the very people who Stalin thought were a threat to the Soviet regime. Knowing they were at risk of damaging their international reputation, the Soviet Union kept the famine a closely guarded secret for half a century. They hired journalists to write that reports of a famine were merely anti-Soviet propaganda, and they implemented laws that made speaking up about the famine punishable by 5 years in prison. The famine was not made public knowledge until an investigation conducted by the World Congress of Free Ukrainians in the post-Soviet era. Source: The Guardian


List of heads of state

Of the eleven individuals appointed head of state, three died in office of natural causes (Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko), one held the position in a temporary role (Vasili Kuznetsov), and four held posts of party leader and head of state simultaneously (Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev). The first head of state was Mikhail Kalinin, who was inaugurated in 1922 after the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR. At over twenty years, Kalinin spent the longest time in office; he died shortly after his resignation in 1946. Andropov spent the shortest time in office.

[note 1]
Portrait Term of office Convocations
[note 2]
Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets (1922–1938)
Mikhail Kalinin
Калинин М. И. (1920).jpg
30 December 1922 – 12 January 1938 1st–8th Convocation
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1938–1989)
Mikhail Kalinin
Калинин М. И. (1920).jpg
17 January 1938 – 19 March 1946 1st Convocation
2 Nikolay Shvernik
A picture taken by the Soviet Government of Nikolai Shvernik in grey
19 March 1946 – 15 March 1953 2nd–3rd Convocation
3 Kliment Voroshilov
A photo taken in 1937 of Kliment Voroshilov
15 March 1953 – 7 May 1960 3rd–5th Convocation
4 Leonid Brezhnev
An official portrait of Leonid Brezhnev dating back to 1977
7 May 1960 – 15 July 1964 5th–6th Convocation
5 Anastas Mikoyan
Mikoyan AI.jpg
15 July 1964 – 9 December 1965 6th Convocation
6 Nikolai Podgorny
Nikolai Podgorny as depicted during his visit to the German Democratic Republic in 1963
9 December 1965 – 16 June 1977 6th–9th Convocation
(4) Leonid Brezhnev
An official portrait of Leonid Brezhnev dating back to 1977
16 June 1977 – 10 November 1982 9th–10th Convocation
Vasili Kuznetsov
Kuznetzov 43062X8X18.JPG
10 November 1982 – 16 June 1983 10th Convocation
7 Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov - Soviet Life, August 1983.jpg
16 June 1983 – 9 February 1984
Vasili Kuznetsov
Kuznetzov 43062X8X18.JPG
9 February 1984 – 11 April 1984 11th Convocation
8 Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Chernenko1.jpg
11 April 1984 – 10 March 1985
Vasili Kuznetsov
Kuznetzov 43062X8X18.JPG
10 March 1985 – 27 July 1985
9 Andrei Gromyko
Gromyko at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
27 July 1985 – 1 October 1988
10 Mikhail Gorbachev
RIAN archive 850809 General Secretary of the CPSU CC M. Gorbachev (crop).jpg
1 October 1988 – 25 May 1989 11th–12th Convocation
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1990)[note 3]
Mikhail Gorbachev
RIAN archive 850809 General Secretary of the CPSU CC M. Gorbachev (crop).jpg
25 May 1989 – 15 March 1990 12th Convocation
President (1990–1991)
Mikhail Gorbachev
RIAN archive 850809 General Secretary of the CPSU CC M. Gorbachev (crop).jpg
15 March 1990 – 25 December 1991 12th Convocation

List of vice heads of state

Vice heads of state of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
State Emblem of the Soviet Union.svg
ResidenceGrand Kremlin Palace, Moscow
Formation7 October 1977
First holderVasili Kuznetsov
Final holderGennady Yanayev
Abolished21 August 1991

There have been four individuals appointed vice head of state. At over eight years, Vasily Kuznetsov spent the longest time in office. Gennady Yanayev spent the shortest time in office.

[note 1]
Portrait Term of office Convocations
[note 2]
First Vice Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1977–1989)
1 Vasili Kuznetsov
Kuznetzov 43062X8X18.JPG
7 October 1977 – 18 June 1986 9th–11th Convocation
2 Pyotr Demichev
18 June 1986 – 1 October 1988 11th Convocation
3 Anatoly Lukyanov
Anatoliy Lukjanov foto.jpg
1 October 1988 – 25 May 1989 11th–12th Convocation
Vice Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (1989–1990)
Anatoly Lukyanov
Anatoliy Lukjanov foto.jpg
25 May 1989 – 15 March 1990 12th Convocation
Vice President (1990–1991)
4 Gennady Yanayev
Gennady Yanayev (grave).JPG
27 December 1990 – 21 August 1991[note 4] 12th Convocation
Office abolished[28] 21 August 1991 – 26 December 1991[note 5]

See also

Soviet Union-related


  1. ^ a b Repeat head of state and vice heads of state are numbered only once; subsequent terms are marked with their original number italicised. Acting heads of state are not numbered. These numbers are not official.
  2. ^ a b A convocation in the Soviet sense of the word were elected members of Parliament in between elections.
  3. ^ On 15 March 1990 most constitutional powers were transferred to the newly created office of President of the Soviet Union. Anatoly Lukyanov was elected Chairman of the Supreme Soviet to replace Mikhail Gorbachev. Although the Chairman's office retained its name, it was now that of a parliamentary speaker, not a head of state. Real executive powers were retained by Gorbachev.[23]
  4. ^ Yanayev was Acting President of the Soviet Union during the August Coup of 1991, but was jailed following the coup's collapse and Gorbachev returned to his post as President.[27]
  5. ^ Following the failed August Coup of 1991 the State Council was given the power to elect a Vice President in the temporary absence of the President.[28]


  1. ^ Ideology, Politics, and Government in the Soviet Union: An Introduction– Google Knihy. January 1, 1978. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  2. ^ Isham, Heyward (1995). Remaking Russia. M.E. Sharpe. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-56324-436-0.
  3. ^ Всероссийский съезд Советов. Статья №81 от 10 июля 1918 г. «Бюджетное право». (All-Russian Congress of Soviets. Article #81 of 10 July 1918 The Budget. ).
  4. ^ Всероссийский съезд Советов. Статья №30 от 10 июля 1918 г. «О Всероссийском съезде Советов рабочих, крестьянских, казачьих и красноармейских депутатов». (All-Russian Congress of Soviets. Article #30 of 10 July 1918 The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Peasants', Cossacks', and Red Army Deputies. ).
  5. ^ Всероссийский съезд Советов. Статья №29 от 10 июля 1918 г. «О Всероссийском съезде Советов рабочих, крестьянских, казачьих и красноармейских депутатов». (All-Russian Congress of Soviets. Article #29 of 10 July 1918 The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Peasants', Cossacks', and Red Army Deputies. ).
  6. ^ a b c d Съезд Советов СССР. Статья №30–56 от 10 июля1918 г. «Высшие органы государственной власти Союза Советских Социалистических Республик». (Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union. Article #30–56 of 10 July 1918 The Highest Organs of State Authority of The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. ).
  7. ^ Верховный Совет СССР. Статья №120 от 7 октября 1977 г. «Верховный Совет СССР». (Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. Article #120  The Supreme Soviet of the USSR. ).
  8. ^ Service, Robert (2005). Stalin: A Biography. Harvard University Press. p. 363. ISBN 978-0-674-01697-2.
  9. ^ Kort, Michael (2010). The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath. M.E. Sharpe. p. 394. ISBN 978-0-7656-2387-4.
  10. ^ Верховный Совет СССР. Статья №127.1 от 26 декабря 1990 г. «Президент СССР». (Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. Article #127.1 of 26 December 1990 President of the USSR. ).
  11. ^ Huskey, Eugene (1992). Executive Power and Soviet Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Soviet State. M.E. Sharpe. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-56324-059-1.
  12. ^ Huskey, Eugene (1999). Presidential Power in Russia. M.E. Sharpe. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-56324-536-7.
  13. ^ a b Shepilov, Dmitri; Austin, Anthony; Bittner, Stephen (2007). The Kremlin's Scholar: A Memoir of Soviet Politics under Stalin and Khrushchev. Yale University Press. p. 413. ISBN 978-0-300-09206-6.
  14. ^ Shepilov, Dmitri; Austin, Anthony; Bittner, Stephen (2007). The Kremlin's Scholar: A Memoir of Soviet Politics under Stalin and Khrushchev. Yale University Press. p. 441. ISBN 978-0-300-09206-6.
  15. ^ Shepilov, Dmitri; Austin, Anthony; Bittner, Stephen (2007). The Kremlin's Scholar: A Memoir of Soviet Politics under Stalin and Khrushchev. Yale University Press. p. 406. ISBN 978-0-300-09206-6.
  16. ^ a b Bliss Eaton, Katherine (2004). Daily Life in the Soviet Union. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-313-31628-9.
  17. ^ Shepilov, Dmitri; Austin, Anthony; Bittner, Stephen (2007). The Kremlin's Scholar: A Memoir of Soviet Politics under Stalin and Khrushchev. Yale University Press. p. 404. ISBN 978-0-300-09206-6.
  18. ^ Ploss, Sidney (2010). The Roots of Perestroika: the Soviet Breakdown in Historical Context. McFarland & Company. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-7864-4486-1.
  19. ^ a b c d Кузнецов Василий Васильевич [Vasili Vasilyevich Kuznetsov] (in Russian). World History on the Internet. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  20. ^ a b Ploss, Sidney (2010). The Roots of Perestroika: the Soviet Breakdown in Historical Context. McFarland & Company. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-7864-4486-1.
  21. ^ Ploss, Sidney (2010). The Roots of Perestroika: the Soviet Breakdown in Historical Context. McFarland & Company. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-7864-4486-1.
  22. ^ a b c Bliss Eaton, Katherine (2004). Daily Life in the Soviet Union. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-313-31628-9.
  23. ^ Anderson, John (1994). Religion, state, and politics in the Soviet Union and successor states. Cambridge University Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-521-46784-1.
  24. ^ Петр Демичев : Умер министр культуры СССР Петр Демичев [The Minister of Culture of the USSR Pyotr Demichev dies] (in Russian). (Lenta.Ru). Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  25. ^ a b Evtuhov, Catherine; Stites, Richard (2004). A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces since 1800. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 474. ISBN 978-0-395-66073-7.
  26. ^ Schwirz, Michael (24 September 2010). "Gennadi I. Yanayev, 73, Soviet Coup Plotter, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  27. ^ Staff writer (10 February 2011). "Soviet Coup Leader Gennady Yanayev Dies". BBC Online. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  28. ^ a b Government of the USSR: Gorbachev, Mikhail (5 September 1991). Закон "Об органах государственной власти и управления Союза ССР в переходный период" [Law: On the bodies of State Authority and Administration of the USSR in the Period of Transition] (in Russian). Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik. Retrieved 13 February 2011.

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