All-Russian Congress of Soviets

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All-Russian Congress of Soviets
Всероссийский Съезд Советов
Coat of arms or logo
Established 1917
Disbanded 1937
Preceded by Russian Provisional Government
Russian Constituent Assembly
Succeeded by Supreme Soviet of Russia

Varies in every congress:

  • 1090 at first (I) Congress
  • 1338 at last (XVII) congress
Indirect elections
Meeting place
Congress of Soviets (1917).jpg
Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets (November 7–9) in Petrograd, Smolny
The Congress had no permanent location.

The All-Russian Congress of Soviets was the supreme governing body of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1917–22 and of the Soviet Union until 1936. The 1918 Constitution of the Russian SFSR mandated that Congress shall convene at least twice a year. The 1925 constitution lowered the minimum to once a year. The October Revolution ousted the provisional government, making the Congress of Soviets the sole, and supreme governing body.

For the earlier portion of its life, the Congress was a democratic body. Over Russia there were hundreds of soviets, democratic local governing bodies in which the surrounding population could participate. The soviets elected the delegates to the Congress, and then in turn the Congress held the national authority, making the highest decisions. There were several political parties represented in the various sessions of the Congress, each of which fought for increasing their own influence in the soviets. However, as the civil war progressed, the soviets' authority was progressively reduced, with the rise to power of Stalinism effectively cementing this situation[1] and decisively turning the Congress into a rubber-stamp parliament. The Congress was formed of representatives of city councils (1 delegate per 25,000 voters) and the congresses of the provincial (oblast) and autonomous republican councils (1 deputy for every 125,000 inhabitants).

The exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress consisted of the election of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, adoption of the Constitution of the Russian SFSR and amendments to it, approval of amendments proposed by the central executive committee, and approval of the autonomous republics' constitutions. On the other issues, the Congress and the Central Executive Committee had the same authority. The Congress ceased to exist at the end of the constitutional reform of 1936-1937, when first on the union and then at the republican levels indirect election to Soviets were replaced by direct elections at all levels with the Supreme Soviet as the highest body.


First Congress[edit]

The First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies (June 16 - July 7, 1917) was convened by the National Conference of the Soviets. It was dominated by pro-government parties (Socialist-Revolutionaries, etc.) and confirmed the supremacy of the Russian Provisional Government.

There were 1090 delegates, 822 with a right to vote, representing 305 workers', soldiers' and peasant soviets, and 53 regional, provincial and district soviets. The breakdown of delegates by party was thus: 285 Socialist-Revolutionaries, 248 Mensheviks, 105 Bolsheviks, 32 Menshevik Internationalists, and others.[2] The right to vote was given to these soviets containing at least 25,000 persons, and a voice was given to these containing from 10,000 to 25,000. Historian and revolutionary Leon Trotsky estimates, on the basis of this rule, that 20,000,000 persons stood behind the soviets, although he notes that the rule was "not too strictly observed".[3]

Second Congress[edit]

Circle frame.svg

Breakdown of delegates at the Second Congress by party (includes estimation)

  Bolsheviks (60%)
  Left SR (15.4%)
  Mensheviks (11.09%)
  Other SR (9.2%)
  Other (3.41%)

Following the overthrow of the Provisional Government of Russia in the October Revolution, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies (November 7–9, 1917) ratified the revolutionary transfer of state power. 649 delegates were elected to the Congress, representing 318 local soviets; 390 were Bolsheviks, about 100 left SRs, about 60 other SRs, 72 Mensheviks, 14 United Socialist Democrat-Internationalists, 6 Menshevik Internationalists and 7 of other factions.[4] On the first day of the Congress, the Socialist Revolutionaries split into two groups - the Left Social Revolutionaries and the Right Social Revolutionaries. Also on the first day, the Menshevik delegation and Right Socialist Revolutionary deputies walked out in protest. 505 delegates voted in favour of the transfer of power to the Soviets. The All-Russian Central Executive Committee and Council of People's Commissars was elected by the Congress, naming Lenin the Chairman, and thus making him the head of government.[4]

Third Congress[edit]

The Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies (January 23–31, 1918) was attended by delegates from 317 Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' with a further 110 delegates from army, corps and divisional committees. The Bolsheviks comprised 441 of the 707 delegates. On the fourth day January 13 (26), more delegates who had been at the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies arrived. By the end there were 1,587 delegates.

The Congress had a Praesidium composed of ten Bolsheviks and three Left Socialist-Revolutionaries with a further delegate from each other group (Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, etc.)

The Swiss, Rumanian, Swedish and Norwegian Social-Democratic parties, the British Socialist Party and the Socialist Party of America sent messages of solidarity.

Occurring shortly after the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved by order of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK), the Congress resolved to expunge any references to the forthcoming Constituent Assembly from all new editions of decrees and laws of the Soviet Government. The Congress received:

The Mensheviks, Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Menshevik internationalists used the Congress to indicate their opposition to the domestic and foreign policy which the Bolsheviks passed. The Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People was passed and this went on to become the basis of the Soviet Constitution. It was also agreed to establish the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on the basis of a free union of the peoples of Russia. The Congress also approved the Decree on Land which provided the basic provisions of the redistribution and nationalization of land.[5]

Fourth Congress[edit]

At the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets (March 14–16, 1918), the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was ratified.[6]

Fifth Congress[edit]

The Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ Peasants’, Soldiers’ and Red Army Deputies was held July 4–10, 1918.

Sixth Congress[edit]

The Extraordinary Sixth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Cossacks’ and Red Army Deputies was held November 6–9, 1918.

Seventh Congress[edit]

The Seventh All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Cossacks’ and Red Army Deputies was held December 5–9, 1919.

Eighth Congress[edit]

Officially called the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Red Army and Cossack Deputies was held in Moscow on December 22–29, 1920. It was at this Congress that Gleb Krzhizhanovsky presented his report on the GOELRO plan. This was the first economic plan which focused on significant electrification of Russian industry.

Lenin criticised Trotsky's pamphlet, The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions at the subsequent preliminary joint meeting of Bolshevik delegates.[7]


  1. ^ Models of Democracy, David Held, p. 225. "Stalinism destroyed the possibility of a radical workers' democracy, installed briefly in the Soviet Union in October 1917 under Lenin's leadership"
  2. ^ First All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, Saint Petersburg Encyclopaedia. A. M. Kulegin.
  3. ^ Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, translated by Max Eastman, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2008, p. 316
  4. ^ a b All-Russian Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Soviet Deputies, Second. A. M. Kulegin. Encyclopaedia of St. Petersburg.
  5. ^ Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies (January 23-31, 1918) accessed 2 October 2010
  6. ^ Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress Of Soviets (March 14-16, 1918) accessed 2 October 2010
  7. ^ Lenin, Vladimir. "The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes". Lenin’s Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 32, pages 19-42. Progress Publishers. Retrieved 27 December 2013.