Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
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The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (Russian: Президиум Верховного Совета or Prezidium Verkhovnogo Soveta) was a Soviet governmental institution – a permanent body of the Supreme Soviets (parliaments). This body was of the all-Union level (Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union), as well as in all Soviet republics (e.g., Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR) and autonomous republics. Structure and functions of the presidiums in these republics were virtually identical. The presidiums were elected by the Supreme Soviet to act on its behalf while the soviet was not in session. The chairman of the presidium was the de jure head of state.
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was elected by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR at a joint session of both chambers at the first session of each following convocation. The deputies of the Presidium were appointed for the duration of the term of office of the Supreme Soviet. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR consisted of a chairman, his 15 deputies (one from each republic of the Soviet Union), a secretary, and 20 members. The Presidium was accountable to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR for all its activities.
According to the Constitution of the USSR, the basic powers of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR were:
- promulgation of decrees;
- interpretation of current Soviet laws;
- dissolution of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the basis of Article 47 of the Constitution of the USSR and setting new elections: carrying out a national referendum on its own initiative or at the request of one of the republics of the Union;
- abrogation of decrees, issued by the Council of Ministers and Council of Ministers of the republics of the Union in case there is a discrepancy with the law;
- relieving Chairman of the Council of Ministers of his post and appointing Ministers of the USSR (between sessions of the Supreme Soviet) with the subsequent submittal for the Supreme Soviet’s approval;
- establishment of orders and medals of the USSR and carrying out the awarding procedures;
- establishment of honorary titles of the USSR and their assignment;
- realization of the right to pardon;
- appointment and dismissal of the highest command of the Soviet Armed Forces;
- establishment of military and diplomatic ranks and other special ranks;
- declaration of the general and partial mobilization;
- declaration of war in case of an attack on the USSR or in case when it was necessary to implement obligations of international mutual defense treaties;
- ratification and denunciation of international treaties, signed by the USSR;
- representation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (between its sessions) in its relations with parliaments of foreign countries;
- appointment and dismissal of Soviet plenipotentiaries in foreign countries;
- receiving of Letters of Credence and Letters of Recall from foreign diplomatic representatives, accredited in the USSR;
- declaration of the martial law in a given region or across the USSR in the interest of defending the USSR or preserving public order and state security.
The presidium also dealt with questions regarding the acquisition of the Soviet citizenship, its forfeiting or voluntary rejection.
Relation with the Politburo
In practice, the Presidium had little to no de facto influence in the use of any of its theoretical powers, which were exercised almost exclusively by the Politburo instead, often without the Presidium's knowledge. When the Presidium did meet, it merely rubber stamped decisions the Politburo had taken weeks or months earlier without its knowledge.
The chairman of the Presidium was nominally the head of state of the Soviet Union, sometimes referred to as the "President of the Soviet Union" in western sources. In practice, the chairman had little to no power; the de facto head of state was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Leonid Brezhnev decided to become Chairman of the Presidium in 1977 in addition to General Secretary, which he had already been for some years, eliminating the quasi-independent role of the Chairman; his successors continued this practice until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
According to Viktor Suvorov, the government maintained the Presidium as a showpiece for both foreign and domestic consumption, so that propaganda might depict a superficially democratic government rather than an autocratic institution controlled by the Politburo.
- List of heads of state of the Soviet Union
- First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
- Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR