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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Provincial and District Levels

Below the union-republic level of territorial administration, subdivisions were complex, varied with each republic, and included the following categories: autonomous oblast, autonomous okrug, autonomous republics, krai, oblast, and raion. Only the Russian Republic had all categories of subdivision. Western specialists often termed the administrations of the autonomous subdivisions, kraia, and oblasts generically as provincial and that of the raion as district. Provincial and district governments shared the same structure. For example, oblast and district soviets--single chambers elected for two and one-half years--exercised all legislative authority. These soviets met up to four times a year for one-day sessions. Between sessions, each soviet delegated its authority to an executive committee (ispolnitel'nyi komitet--ispolkom), which combined the functions of a council of ministers and a presidium. Ispolkom chairmen were the chief executives in the oblast and in the district. These officials normally sat on the party bureaus at these respective hierarchical levels (see Oblast-Level Organization; District- and City-Level Organization , ch. 7).

The ispolkom lacked decision-making authority. Although members of the ispolkom headed departments that managed oblast and district services such as education, health, and culture, the central government controlled the more important tasks of the administration of justice, the budget, and economic planning and heavy industry. In addition, a substantial number of other social services were controlled by industrial enterprises and were thus beyond the control of local governments. Finally, the party first secretaries exercised power at both the oblast and the district levels. These officials, not the ispolkom chairmen, were obliged to answer to the party for the economic performance of their domain of authority.

The approximately 52,500 soviets at the provincial and urban and rural district levels had little power. These soviets, however, were important as vehicles for large-scale citizen participation in the government. The size of these soviets ranged from 200 deputies in rural areas to more than 1,000 in large cities. Thus, more than 2.3 million people served on local soviets at any one time, and, given the high turnover rate, more than 5 million citizens served on the local soviets each decade.

Although sessions of the full soviets at the provincial and district levels were strictly ceremonial, their commissions had some influence. The constituencies of these commissions were small, enabling them to respond to the needs of the people. Practical expertise often determined assignment to these commissions. For example, a teacher could serve on an education commission. Deputies served as channels for criticism and suggestions from constituents, and the deputies' expertise could qualify them as problem solvers on issues that confronted the commission.

Data as of May 1989