Soviet Union Table of Contents
Until 1989 the Supreme Soviet was convoked for five-year terms but met in session only for a few days twice a year. Thus, each five-year convocation had ten or more sessions. The Supreme Soviet elected to a five-year term in early 1989 was the twelfth convocation. According to the 1988 amendments and additions to the Constitution, the Supreme Soviet was slated to meet daily, holding two sessions a year, with each lasting three to four months.
Councils of elder members, meeting briefly before sessions, have traditionally helped organize the meetings of both chambers. The staff of the Presidium has assisted in the preparatory paperwork. At the twelfth convocation in 1989, the two councils of elders met in a joint session chaired by Gorbachev to discuss procedures for opening the session, the leadership of the chambers, the agendas, and the composition and functions of commissions and committees. The councils have scheduled meetings of the two chambers in separate session--one after the other--in the same semicircular amphitheater of the Presidium building in the Kremlin, although joint sessions of both chambers have taken place in the Great Hall of the Palace of Soviets. The oldest deputy has opened the sessions. The two chambers then have elected chairmen and two vice chairmen on the recommendations of the councils of elders. The chairmen has set speaker lists and ensured the observance of the established schedule. Until the next session, when they faced another election, the chairmen of the two chambers worked with the Presidium and the chairman of the Supreme Soviet.
The sessions have followed a standard sequence of events. The Supreme Soviet first approved changes in the Council of Ministers and changes in its own membership. It then heard regular reports on the actions taken by the Council of Ministers and by its own Presidium since the last session. Debate and approval of these actions followed. The two regular sessions of the Supreme Soviet in the spring and fall have served different purposes. The spring session traditionally has heard reports from government bodies and its own commissions. It then has passed legislation based on these reports. The second session has approved the budget for the following year. The fall sessions have also ratified the annual and five-year economic plans of the government.
Data as of May 1989