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Soviet Union

The 1918 Constitution

The first constitution, which governed the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, described the regime that assumed power in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (see Revolutions and Civil War , ch. 2). This constitution formally recognized the Bolshevik (see Glossary) party organization as the ruler of Russia according to the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat (see Glossary). The constitution also stated that under the leadership of the Bolsheviks the workers formed a political alliance with the peasants. This constitution gave broad guarantees of equal rights to workers and peasants. It denied, however, the right of social groups that opposed the new government or supported the White armies in the Civil War (1918-21) to participate in elections to the soviets or to hold political power.

Supreme power rested with the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, made up of deputies from local soviets across Russia. The steering committee of the Congress of Soviets--known as the Central Executive Committee--acted as the "supreme organ of power" between sessions of the congress and as the collective presidency of the state.

The congress recognized the Council of People's Commissars (Sovet narodnykh kommissarov--Sovnarkom) as the administrative arm of the young government. (The Sovnarkom had exercised governmental authority from November 1917 until the adoption of the 1918 constitution.) The constitution made the Sovnarkom responsible to the Congress of Soviets for the "general administration of the affairs of the state." The constitution enabled the Sovnarkom to issue decrees carrying the full force of law when the congress was not in session. The congress then routinely approved these decrees at its next session.

Data as of May 1989