Soviet Union Table of Contents
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had responsibility for administering the diplomatic relations of the Soviet Union. Once the Council of Ministers had approved diplomatic recognition of a state, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would establish embassies and consulates, provide the core staffs serving abroad, and serve as a conduit for formal communications between the Soviet political leadership and the host state. A Soviet ambassador serving abroad would be regarded under international law as the personal representative of the chairman of the Supreme Soviet to the head of government of the host state. In practice, the Soviet diplomatic service carried out CPSU policy as set forth by the general secretary and the Politburo.
The Bolshevik Revolution (see Glossary) of 1917 resulted in a virtually complete break in diplomatic staffing from the tsarist period because the majority of tsarist diplomatic personnel refused to work for the Bolsheviks. Another discontinuity in staffing occurred in the late 1930s, when the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs (known after 1946 as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) was purged and the resulting vacancies filled by young, professionally trained and politically reliable personnel such as Andrei Gromyko. The ministry experienced continuity in personnel and structure throughout Gromyko's tenure as minister (1957-85). Eduard Shevardnadze, who succeeded Gromyko as foreign minister in 1985, reorganized the ministry and made major personnel changes among the Collegium members and ambassadors.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was organized into geographical and functional departments and administrations reflecting Soviet ideological and pragmatic concerns with various geographical regions or world problems. Departments and administrations of the ministry included geographical ones, dealing with the regions of Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and functional ones, dealing with such concerns as international organizations and cultural affairs. Shevardnadze restructured some of the geographical and functional departments, mainly by grouping countries into categories reflecting modern world realities. For example, he grouped communist countries into Asian and European departments, put the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into a single department, and created another African office consisting almost entirely of the "frontline states" proximal to South Africa.
Data as of May 1989