Soviet Union Table of Contents
The Constitution placed the chairman of the Council of Ministers at the head of government. As such, the chairman acted as the prime minister and therefore was responsible for enacting party decisions and ensuring that their implementation conformed to the intentions of the party leadership. Three party leaders have served concurrently as the chairman of the Council of Ministers. Lenin chaired the Sovnarkom when he was the de facto head of the party. Stalin, who was the party's first general secretary, became chairman during World War II and remained in that position until his death in 1953. In March 1958, Nikita S. Khrushchev, who had been first secretary since 1953 (the title changed to first secretary after Stalin's death and reverted to general secretary in 1966), took over the position of chairman of the Council of Ministers also. After Khrushchev's ouster in 1964, in order to avoid too much concentration of power, the party established a policy that the positions of chairman of the Council of Ministers and first (general) secretary of the party had to be filled by two different persons.
Because of the heavy involvement of the government in economic administration, chairmen of the Council of Ministers since Khrushchev have been experienced industrial administrators rather than political decision makers. Although the chairman occupied a seat on the Politburo and thus had a voice in decision making at the highest level, this official was obliged to defer to other leaders in matters not pertaining to the economy. Thus, the chairman of the Council of Ministers had less power than the general secretary and perhaps less power than party secretaries who were members of the Politburo (see Secretariat , ch. 7).
Data as of May 1989