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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


Political Party: Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), only party permitted by Constitution, controlled government apparatus and decisions affecting economy and society. CPSU followed ideology of Marxism-Leninism and operated on principle of democratic centralism. Primary CPSU bodies: Politburo, highest decision-making organ; Secretariat, controller of party bureaucracy; and Central Committee, party's policy forum. CPSU membership more than 19 million (9.7 percent of adult population in 1987), dominated by male Russian professionals. Party members occupied positions of authority in all officially recognized institutions throughout country.

Government: As authorized by 1977 Constitution, fourth since 1918, government executed decisions of CPSU pertaining primarily to economy but also to security affairs and social issues. Congress of People's Deputies created in 1988 by amendment to Constitution; highest organ of legislative and executive authority; consisted of 2,250 deputies, about 87 percent of whom CPSU members or candidate members and some of whom selected in first multicandidate (although not multiparty) elections since early Soviet period; slated to meet once a year for a few days; met for first time in May 1989; deputies openly discussed issues, elected a chairman, and selected about 542 deputies from among its membership to constitute a reorganized, bicameral Supreme Soviet, a standing legislature slated to remain in session six to eight months annually. Prior to 1989, former Supreme Soviet was constitutionally highest organ of legislative and executive authority but met only a few days annually; its Presidium managed affairs throughout year. Council of Ministers administered party decisions, mainly regarding economic management, by delegating authority to its Presidium; chairman of Council of Ministers also sat on CPSU Politburo.

Judicial System: Supreme Court, highest judicial body, had little power, lacking authority to determine constitutionality of laws, to interpret laws, or to strike laws down.

Administrative Divisions: Country administratively divided into one soviet federated socialist republic (Russian) and fourteen soviet socialist republics (Armenian, Azerbaydazhan, Belorussian, Estonian, Georgian, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldavian, Tadzhik, Turkmen, Ukrainian, and Uzbek). Below republic level, administrative subdivisions complicated, varying with each republic and including following categories: autonomous oblast, autonomous okrug, autonomous republic, krai, oblast, and raion. Only Russian Republic had all categories.

Foreign Relations: Diplomatic relations with majority of world's nations. Main foreign policy objectives as determined by CPSU Politburo: enhance national security, maintain presence in Eastern Europe, continue "peaceful coexistence" with free world democracies, and seek increased influence in Third World.

International Agreements and Memberships: Dominant partner in Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) and Warsaw Pact. Active participant in United Nations and its specialized agencies. Signatory to Final Act of Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Accords) and many other multilateral and bilateral agreements.

Data as of May 1989