Council of People's Commissars

The Council of People's Commissars (Russian: Совет народных комиссаров or Совнарком, translit. Soviet narodnykh kommissarov or Sovnarkom, also as generic SNK) was a government institution formed shortly after the October Revolution in 1917. Created in the Russian Republic, the council laid foundations in restructuring the country to form the Soviet Union. It evolved to become the highest government authority of executive power in the government of the Soviet Union. The chairman of this council was thus the head of government (whereas the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was head of state).

The 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR formalised the role of the Sovnarkom of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR): it was to be responsible to the Congress of Soviets for the "general administration of the affairs of the state". The constitution enabled the Sovnarkom to issue decrees carrying the full force of law when the Congress was not in session. The Congress then routinely approved these decrees at its next session.

When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was established in December 1922, the USSR Sovnarkom was modelled on the RSFSR Sovnarkom. It was transformed in 1946 into the Council of Ministers.

The first council elected by the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was composed as follows. Many early comissars later ended up in opposition to the party majority led by Stalin and allegedly conspired with the Trotskyist opposition or some other opposition group, which led to their expulsion from the party or being arrested. The party had banned factional opposition groups at the Eleventh Party Congress in 1921. Still the original People's Comissariat included Left-Communists, Trotskyists and other ex-oppositionists. Most alleged conspirators were executed for treason in the Great Purge, some had sentences reduced to imprisonment.

Upon the creation of the USSR in 1922, the Union's government was modelled after the first Sovnarkom. The Soviet republics retained their own governments which dealt with domestic matters.

In 1946, the Sovnarkoms were transformed into the Council of Ministers (Sovmin) at both all-Union and Union Republic level.

This page was last edited on 22 January 2018, at 10:01.
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