Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

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The Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), often referred to as the Secretariat of the CPSU Central Committee, was responsible for the central administration of the party as opposed to drafting government policy which was usually handled by the Politburo. Its members were elected by the Communist Party's Central Committee, although in all but the first years of its existence the elections were a formality since decisions were made by the senior leadership before the voting. The General Secretary of the CPSU, who was also a Politburo member, was the leader of the Secretariat and the Party. Dual membership in the Secretariat and the Politburo was reserved for two or three very senior members of the Soviet leadership and in the post-Joseph Stalin era was a stepping stone to the ultimate power. The last five Soviet leaders (Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Konstantin Chernenko and Mikhail Gorbachev) were all senior Secretaries before becoming First or General Secretaries. Additionally, Georgy Malenkov was briefly reckoned as the leader of the party for a week after Stalin's death by virtue of being the top member of the Secretariat.

The Secretariat was established by the Central Committee on 6 August 1917 and was initially composed of Felix Dzerzhinsky, Matvei Muranov and Yakov Sverdlov as full members and Adolph Joffe and Elena Stasova as candidate members (or alternates). Following the October Revolution of 1917, Sverdlov and Stasova in effect handled the work of the Secretariat as the other members of the body assumed other duties. At the time, the Secretariat was[1] responsible for technical issues such as coordination of the activities of regional party organizations and handling routine administrative affairs of the Party. Its staff increased from just 30 in 1919 to 600 in 1921 and 767 by 1925.

By 1922, the body had been transformed from a technical committee to one of the most important components of the party and from that point on it was responsible for day to day operations of the Communist Party. Also in 1922, the position of General Secretary was created, the General Secretary became the head of the Secretariat and, in the years following Lenin's death, became the most important figure in the party and the country.

See also Organization of the Communist Party of the USSR

Members of the Secretariat 1917–1991[edit]

Date Comments
6 August 1917 Felix Dzerzhinsky, Matvei Muranov and Yakov Sverdlov (full members); Adolph Joffe and Elena Stasova (candidate members)
16 March 1919 Sverdlov dies
25 March 1919 Stasova elected Chief Secretary by the Central Committee
November 1919 Nikolai Krestinsky added; becomes Chief Secretary
5 April 1920 Krestinsky, Yevgeny Preobrazhensky, Leonid Serebryakov
16 March 1921 Grigory Zinoviev, Vyacheslav Molotov, Yemelyan Yaroslavsky added; Krestinsky, Preobrazhensky, and Serebryakov removed
3 April 1922 Valerian Kuibyshev and Molotov with Joseph Stalin as General Secretary
26 April 1923 Molotov, Yan Rudzutak, Stalin
February 1924 Rudzutak replaced by Andrei Andreyev
2 June 1924 Andreyev, Isaac Zelensky, Lazar Kaganovich, Molotov, Stalin
August 1924 Zelensky replaced by Nikolai Uglanov
30 April 1925 Kaganovich replaced by Andrei Bubnov
1 January 1926 Grigory Yevdokimov, Stanislav Kosior, Molotov, Stalin, Uglanov with Artukhina and Bubnov as candidate members
9 April 1926 Yevdokimov replaced by Shvernik
16 April 1927 Shvernik replaced by Kubyak
19 December 1927 Kosior, Kubyak, Molotov, Stalin, Uglanov with Aleksandra Artyukhina, Bubnov and Moskvin as candidate members
11 April 1928 Kubyak replaced by Smirnov; Bauman elected candidate member
12 July 1928 Kosior replaced by Kaganovich
30 April 1929 Uglanov replaced by Bauman
13 July 1930 Bauman, Kaganovich, Molotov, Postyshev, Stalin with Moskvin and Shvernik as candidate members.
21 December 1930 Molotov removed
2 October 1932 Bauman and Moskvin removed
10 February 1934 Andrei Zhdanov, Kaganovich, Sergei Kirov, Stalin The term General Secretary is no longer used; Stalin remains the de facto leader of the Secretariat
1 December 1934 Kirov assassinated
February 1935 Nikolai Yezhov and Andreyev join
22 March 1939 Andreyev, Zhdanov, Georgy Malenkov, Stalin
4 May 1941 Alexander Shcherbakov joins
10 May 1945 Shcherbakov dies
18 March 1946 Zhdanov, Kuznetsov, Malenkov, Popov, Stalin
6 May 1946 Malenkov replaced by Patolichev
24 May 1947 Patolichev replaced by Mikhail Suslov
1 July 1948 Georgy Malenkov and Panteleimon Ponomarenko join
31 August 1948 Zhdanov dies
28 January 1949 Alexey Kuznetsov removed
16 December 1949 Popov replaced by Nikita Khrushchev
16 October 1952 Aristov, Leonid Brezhnev, Ignatov, Malenkov, N. Mikhaylov, Pegov, Ponomarenko, Stalin, Suslov, Khrushchev
5 March 1953 Stalin dies
5 March 1953 Brezhnev, Ignatov, Pegov and Panteleimon Ponomarenko replaced by Ignatyev, Pospelov and Shatalin. Note: Malenkov becomes the de facto senior secretary by virtue of the fact that he is also Prime Minister
14 March 1953 Georgy Malenkov removed
14 March 1953 Ignatyev, Pospelov, Suslov, Khrushchev, Shatalin
5 April 1953 Ignatyev removed
7 September 1953 Khrushchev elected First Secretary by the Central Committee
8 March 1955 Shatalin removed
12 July 1955 Aristov, Belyaev, Dmitri Shepilov join
27 February 1956 Aristov, Belyaev, Brezhnev, Pospelov, Suslov, Yekaterina Furtseva, Khrushchev, Shepilov
24 December 1956 Shepilov removed
14 February 1957 Shepilov rejoins
18 June 1957 Presidium of the Central Committee votes to dismiss Khrushchev as First Secretary (7 in favor, 4 against), but the decision is revoked on the same day and the issue is postponed until the June 1957 Central Committee Plenum which reaffirms Khrushchev
29 June 1957 Shepilov replaced by Otto Kuusinen
17 December 1957 Ignatov, Kirichenko, Mukhitdinov join
12 November 1958 Belyaev removed
4 May 1960 Aristov, Ignatov, Kirichenko, Pospelov and Yekaterina Furtseva removed; Kozlov joins
16 July 1960 Brezhnev removed
31 October 1961 Pyotr Demichev, Ilyichev, Kozlov, Kuusinen, Boris Ponomarev, Spiridonov, Suslov, Khrushchev, Shelepin
23 April 1962 Spiridonov removed
23 November 1962 Andropov, Polyakov, Rudakov and Titov added
21 June 1963 Brezhnev and Podgorny added
17 May 1964 Kuusinen dies
14 October 1964 Khrushchev removed, Brezhnev elected First secretary at the Central Committee plenum
16 November 1964 Frol Kozlov and Polyakov removed
26 March 1965 Ilyichev replaced by Ustinov
29 September 1965 Titov replaced by Fyodor Kulakov
6 December 1965 Podgorny replaced by Kapitonov
8 April 1966 Yuri Andropov, Leonid Brezhnev, Demichev, Kapitonov, Andrei Kirilenko, Kulakov, Boris Ponomarev, Rudakov, Mikhail Suslov, Dmitriy Ustinov, Shelepin; Brezhnev's title changes from First Secretary to General Secretary
10 July 1966 Rudakov dies
13 December 1966 Solomentsev joins
21 June 1967 Yuri Andropov removed
26 September 1967 Alezander Shelepin removed
10 April 1968 Katushev joins
9 April 1971 Leonid Brezhnev, Pyotr Demichev, Kapitonov, Katushev, Andrei Kirilenko, Kulakov, Ponomarev, Solomentsev, Suslov, Ustinov
23 November 1971 Solomentsev removed
18 December 1972 Dolgikh joins
16 December 1974 Demichev relieved of duties at the Central Committee plenum
5 March 1976 Brezhnev, Dolgikh, Mikhail Zimyanin, Kapitonov, Katushev, Kirilenko, Fyodor Kulakov, Ponomarev, Suslov, Ustinov, Konstantin Chernenko elected secretaries at the Central Committee plenum
October 1976 Ustinov replaced by Ryabov
24 May 1977 Katushev replaced by Rusakov
17 July 1978 Kulakov dies
27 November 1978 Mikhail Gorbachev joins
17 April 1979 Ryabov removed
3 March 1981 Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Dolgikh, Zimyanin, Kapitonov, Kirilenko, Ponomarev, Rusakov, Suslov, Chernenko
25 January 1982 Suslov dies
24 May 1982 Andropov joins
10 November 1982 Brezhnev dies
12 November 1982 Andropov elected General secretary at a Central Committee extraordinary plenum
22 November 1982 Kirilenko replaced by Ryzhkov
29 May 1983 Arvīds Pelše dies
15 June 1983 Romanov joins
26 December 1983 Ligachev joins
9 February 1984 Andropov dies
13 February 1984 Konstantin Chernenko elected General secretary at a Central Committee extraordinary plenum
10 March 1985 Chernenko dies
11 March 1985 Gorbachev, elected General secretary at a Central Committee extraordinary plenum
23 April 1985 Nikonov joins
1 July 1985 Romanov replaced by Boris Yeltsin and Zaikov
15 October 1985 Ryzhkov removed
18 February 1986 Yeltsin and Rusakov removed
6 March 1986 Biryukova, Gorbachev, Anatoly Dobrynin, Dolgikh, Zaikov, Zimyanin, Yegor Ligachev, Medvedev, Nikonov, Razumovsky, Alexander Yakovlev
28 January 1987 Zimyanin replaced by Lukyanov and Slyunkov
18 February 1988 Baklanov joins
30 September 1988 Biryukova, Dobrynin, Dolgikh and Lukyanov removed; Viktor Chebrikov joins
20 September 1989 Nikonov and Chebrikov removed; Girenko, Manayenkov, Stroyev and Usmanov join
9 December 1989 Frolov joins
10 July 1990 Gorbachev, re-elected General Secretary, Ivashko Deputy general secretary at the 28th party Congress by secret ballot
14 July 1990 Baklanov, Gidaspov, Girenko, Dzasokhov, Kuptsov, Manayenkov, Semyonova, Stroyev, Falin, Shenin, Gennady Yanayev, Aniskin, Gayvoronsky, Melnikov, Teplenichev and Turgunova join
31 January 1991 Yanayev replaced by Luchinsky
25 April 1991 Gorbachev, tendered his resignation to the joint plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission, but it was declined; Baklanov removed
26 July 1991 Kalashnikov Melnikov and Maltsev join
24 August 1991 After failure of the August coup Gorbachev resigns as General Secretary and is succeeded by Ivashko, CPSU in the Russian SFSR banned by Yeltsin
29 August 1991 CPSU activity suspended by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, effectively ceases to exist


  1. ^ Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin parallel lives, p. 121-124.