Country Listing

Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union


Until September 1988, the Secretariat headed the CPSU's central apparatus and was solely responsible for the development and implementation of party policies. The Secretariat also carried political weight because many of its members sat on the Politburo (see fig. 13). In 1989 eight members of the Secretariat, including the general secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPSU, served as full members of the Politburo. One member, Georgii P. Razumovskii, was a candidate member of the Politburo. Those officials who sat on the Politburo, served in the Secretariat, and chaired a party commission were the most powerful in the Soviet Union.

After the formation of the party commissions in the fall of 1988, lines of authority over the central party bureaucracy became very unclear because the responsibilities of the secretaries and the responsibilities of the commissions considerably overlapped. Of the nine secretaries, excluding the general secretary, six chaired party commissions. One Western observer, Alexander Rahr, believed that this factor limited the power of the Secretariat because the influence of the secretaries who chaired the commissions was restricted to specific areas of competence as defined by their commission chairmanships. In addition, the secretaries became answerable to the commissions they chaired. Finally, in one case, a secretary served as a subordinate to another secretary in the latter's role as the chairman of a commission. Viktor P. Nikonov, a secretary responsible for agriculture, was deputy chairman of the Agrarian Policy Commission, which was chaired by Egor K. Ligachev, another party secretary.

Western specialists poorly understood lines of authority in the Secretariat. It was clear that the members of the Secretariat supervised the work of the Central Committee departments. Department chiefs, who normally sat on the Central Committee, were subordinate to the secretaries. For example, in 1989 Aleksandr S. Kapto, the chairman of the Ideological Department, answered to Vadim A. Medvedev, party secretary for ideology, and Valentin A. Falin, the head of the International Department, answered to Iakovlev, party secretary for international policy. Most department heads were assisted by a first deputy head (a first deputy administrator in the case of the Administration of Affairs Department) and from one to six deputy heads (deputy administrators in the case of the Administration of Affairs Department). However, the International Department had two deputy heads.

In 1989 a variety of departments made up the CPSU's central apparatus. Some departments were worthy of note. The Party Building and Cadre Work Department assigned party personnel in the nomenklatura system (see Nomenklatura , this ch.). The State and Legal Department supervised the armed forces, the Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti--KGB), the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the trade unions, and the Procuracy.

Before 1989 the apparatus contained many more departments responsible for the economy. These departments included one for the economy as a whole, one for machine building, and one for the chemical industry, among others. The party abolished these departments in an effort to remove itself from the day-to-day management of the economy in favor of government bodies and a greater role for the market. In early 1989, Gorbachev suggested that the agrarian and defense industry departments might be disbanded as well as part of his ongoing reform efforts.

Data as of May 1989