Soviet Union Table of Contents
The Council of Ministers and its agencies carried out the following tasks of government: internal and external security of the state; economic development, management, and administration; and ideological instruction and education. The council enacted the decisions of the party and therefore administered, through its bureaucratic regulatory and management arms, every aspect of Soviet life. As its primary task, however, the council managed the economy.
The Supreme Soviet ratified council membership as submitted by the chairman of the Council of Ministers. However, the actual selection of council ministers was made by the party leadership as part of its nomenklatura authority and was only later confirmed by a vote of the Supreme Soviet. Until recently, the Supreme Soviet endorsed such decisions unanimously and without debate. In mid-1989, however, Ryzhkov was forced to withdraw some candidates for ministerial posts because some of the committees of the Supreme Soviet objected that the candidates were unqualified, thus forcing him to submit alternative candidates.
The Council of Ministers had the power to issue decrees, which carried the same force of law as legislative acts of the Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Soviet or, indirectly, the Congress of People's Deputies, could annul a decree if it found the decree to be in violation of the Constitution or an existing statute (perhaps upon the recommendation of the Constitutional Oversight Committee). Orders of the Council of Ministers on administrative matters technically did not carry the force of law, but they were binding on the ministerial apparatus. Although some decrees were published, most remained secret.
In 1989 the Council of Ministers had more than 100 members, including the ministers, the heads of government bureaus and state committees, and the chairmen of the councils of ministers of the fifteen constituent republics. Soviet scholars maintained that the Council of Ministers met "regularly," but reports in the press indicated that full meetings occurred only quarterly to hear and ratify a plan or a report from the chairman. In reality, the Council of Ministers delegated most of its functions to its Presidium or to the individual ministries.
Data as of May 1989