УДК 93/94

Background and reasons for the emergence of congresses of people's deputies of the USSR during the period of perestroika

Пилосян Маринэ Каровна – студентка магистратуры Института истории Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета

Abstract: The article analyzes the prerequisites and causes of the perestroika period. The author dwells on the role of M.S. Gorbachev, "the father of perestroika", in the socio-political processes of 1986-1989.

Keywords: perestroika, political reforms M.S. Gorbachev, Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR.

After a long period of stagnation in the economic and political spheres, the USSR needed reforms. One of the primary tasks for eliminating the consequences of the crisis was the creation of a renewed supreme state authority, which became the Congress of People's Deputies. The political crisis was expressed in the absence of publicity, in the bureaucratization of the apparatus. Shortcomings in the political system, according to the country's leadership, hindered the successful implementation of "perestroika" innovations undertaken in the economy. According to the researcher A.V. Buyanova, the concentration of economic and managerial functions in the hands of the party-political apparatus created a situation in which "departments and other structures held in their hands the execution of decisions taken, their own hindered the successful implementation of "perestroika" innovations undertaken in the economy [4, p. 43].

The official beginning of Gorbachev's "perestroika" is considered to be 1987. In January 1987, the plenum of the CPSU Central Committee was held, at which the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee announced the need for "a deep renewal of all aspects of the country's life, giving socialism the most modern forms of public organization, the fullest disclosure of the humanistic nature of our system in all its crucial aspects – economic, socio-political and moral" [3, c. 30]. Political slogans appeared: "More socialism! More democracy!". So, criticism of the former political system began to sound. M.S. Gorbachev noted that the situation was indeed complicated and contradictory "due to subjective reasons, it did not assess the need for change in a timely manner, did not understand the danger of the growth of crisis phenomena and did not take the necessary measures, failing to use the opportunities inherent in the socialist system" [7]. Thus, reforms began in the USSR on a broad reorganization of the state and public life of the country. It is important to note that it is after this plenum that the revolutionary nature of perestroika and qualitative change of the state apparatus begins.

In general, it is customary to distinguish 4 stages in perestroika: the first, which includes the period from March 1985 to January 1987, was considered as a desire to realize the idea of "more socialism" [10, p. 215]. The second stage, which lasted from 1987 to 1988, was characterized by a number of political reforms based on the concept of political democracy. The third stage dates back to 1989 – 1990, when there was a certain split in the supreme power due to the formation of alternative views on perestroika. Finally, the fourth stage, characterized by the period since 1991. led to a change in the political course due to the coming to power of radical reform groups, which entailed a symbiosis of ideological and political changes with radically characteristic socio-economic reforms [11, p. 133].

Of particular interest is the political reform of Mikhail Gorbachev, as it was the driving force for the implementation of other planned reforms. It was the transition from party democracy to political democratization that was conceived by the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee as modernization and renewal of the state and public system [11, p. 135]. The discussion of the new political reform took place at the XIX Party Conference of the CPSU, held from June 28 to July 1, 1988. The organization of such an event was not accidental, since M.S. Gorbachev sought to gain support in his ideas not only from members of the Central Committee of the CPSU, but among representatives of the entire party. During the discussion, the Secretary-General repeatedly emphasized the need to democratize the political sphere through reforms. Thus, one of M.S. Gorbachev's ideas was to hold elections to state authorities on an alternative basis, which involved the participation of several candidates from various official organizations [1, p. 91]. This proposal of the Secretary General found a response in Soviet society, in which popular fronts and political organizations began to be actively created, seeking to be in power [11, p. 135].

Specific tasks of political reform were also discussed at the conference. Thus, Mikhail Sergeyevich noted that everything should be done so that millions and millions of workers are included in the management of the country not in words, but in deeds, about creating conditions for the full development of the initiative of citizens, representative authorities, party and public organizations [1, p. 96]. Thus, the political renewal of the state was not far off. One of the most important results of the XIX Party Conference was the support of the idea of M.S. Gorbachev and other party representatives on the creation of a new supreme state body – the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR. The Secretary General characterizes the meaning of this political reform in his own writings as follows: "the transfer of power from the hands of the Communist party that monopolistically owned it into the hands of those to whom it should have belonged under the Constitution — the Soviets through free elections of people's deputies" [5, p. 178]. In addition, Mikhail Sergeyevich put forward a proposal: "The role of representative bodies would be enhanced by the recommendation of the chairmen of the Councils, as a rule, the first secretaries of the relevant party committees." Thus, this provision allowed combining the positions of General Secretary and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, which would strengthen influence in the state. This proposal, despite the considerable dissatisfaction of the participants, passed.

All this indicates the high importance of this state body in the state. M.S. Gorbachev initially assumed that the granting of such powers to an elected body could be negatively perceived by the party representation, therefore, the following measures were put forward by the Secretary General, which helped to implement this political reform. Firstly, M.S. Gorbachev considered it necessary to put pressure on representatives of the party-state bureaucracy on behalf of society [5, p. 178]. Thus, at the XXVII Congress of the CPSU, held from February 25 to March 6, 1986, he expressed the idea of introducing the principle of publicity in the country. Mikhail Sergeyevich stressed that the issue of expanding publicity is fundamental. "This is a political issue. There is no democracy, political creativity of the masses, and their participation in governance without glasnost" [6, p. 211]. Secondly, there is a change of party cadres. Thus, it was decided to put adherents of liberal views in important positions of supreme power, thereby reducing the influence of the conservative part [5, p. 175]. The long era of stagnation and the subsequent five-year plan of lavish funerals forced to reconsider the personnel policy of the state. In this regard, in April 1985, new representatives entered the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, such as E.K. Ligachev, N.I. Ryzhkov, V.M. Chebrikov. At the same time, S.L. Sokolov was elected a member of the Politburo, and V.P. Nikonov, B.N. Yeltsin, and L.N. Zaikov were the secretaries of the CPSU Central Committee. At the same time, M.S. Gorbachev dismissed G.V. Romanov, whose place was taken by E.A. Shevarnadze, also N.A. Tikhonov, who will soon be replaced by N.V. Talyzin [2, p. 72].

However, a number of researchers note that, despite the appointment of new persons to government posts, liberal-minded members of the Politburo did not adhere to the same ideas. Thus, the political struggle between Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin soon began, which became the basis for the formation of the conflict between the Russian leadership and the union center [12, p. 340].

A further necessary step to consolidate the new political transformations was their normative and legal consolidation. In this regard, on December 1, 1988, the law "On Elections of People's Deputies of the USSR" was adopted at the XII extraordinary session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The adopted document regulated the order of elections, the organization of polling stations, the elections themselves, the counting of votes and summing up, as well as the announcement of results, determined the rights of voters and candidates, took into account the possibility of repeated elections and their conduct [9]. This law became one of their most important steps in the conduct of a new political system in the USSR.

At the same time , there was a need to amend the 1977 Constitution . They were implemented on December 1 , 1988 . Information about the activities of the Congress of People's Deputies was contained in sections IV "Councils of People's Deputies and the procedure for their election", V "Supreme bodies of state power and administration of the USSR" and VI "Fundamentals of building state authorities and administration in the Union Republics" [9]. The amended Constitution proclaimed the Congress of People's Deputies to be the highest body of state power, which was empowered both to resolve any issues that were assigned to its jurisdiction and to discuss those issues that were exclusive to the Congress. These included the following:

  1. Adoption of the Constitution of the RSFSR, discussion of its amendments and additions;

  2. Determination of the directions of domestic and foreign policy of the country;

  3. Resolution of issues on the national state structure of the country;

  4. Discussion of issues related to the administrative-territorial structure of the RSFSR;

  5. Resolution of issues related to changes in the state borders of the RSFSR and borders with other Union republics;

  6. Adoption of basic state plans and republican programs related to the economic and social development of the country;

  7. Election of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR;

  8. Appointment to such positions as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Chairman of the Committee of People's Control of the USSR, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the USSR, Prosecutor General of the USSR, Chief State Arbitrator of the USSR;

  9. Election of the Committee of Constitutional Supervision of the USSR; 10) The right to cancel acts adopted By the Supreme Soviet of the USSR; 11) Resolving issues related to holding a referendum [9].

At the same time, the Constitution and the law "On the Election of People's Deputies of the USSR" regulated the number of deputies, which in total numbered about 2,250 members of the Congress. During the elections, 750 territorial and 750 national-territorial electoral districts were formed, from each of which 1 people's deputy was elected. At the same time, the law regulated the division of national-territorial districts into the following parts: 32 districts of the Union republics, 11 districts of autonomous republics, 5 districts of the autonomous region and 1 district of autonomous districts [9]. At the same time, 750 people's deputies were elected from various all-Union public organizations, which included: 100 deputies from the CPSU, 100 deputies from trade unions, 100 deputies from cooperative organizations or collective farms, etc., and 75 deputies from the Komsomol, women's councils, organizations of war and labor veterans, associations of scientists, creative unions and from other officially registered public organizations [9].

Soon, on October 27, 1989, the law "On Amendments and Additions to the Constitution (Basic Law) of the RSFSR", adopted by the XI session of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, came into force. The law amended chapters 10 "System and principles of activity of Councils of People's Deputies", 11 "Electoral system" and 13 "Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR and the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR" [8]. In this document, unlike the version of December 1, 1988, there are changes that are related to issues exclusive to the congress. So, the following innovations are noted:

  1. Election by the Congress of People's Deputies of the Constitutional Court of the RSFSR;

  2. Appointment to the post of Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR;

  3. The right to exercise legislative initiative [8].

New amendments to the Constitution related to the activities of the Congress of People's Deputies also concerned the size of the Congress. Thus, it was assumed that the body would consist of 1,068 deputies, among whom 900 deputies represented territorial electoral districts, 168 deputies were appointed from national-territorial electoral districts. At the same time, 4 deputies from autonomous republics, 2 deputies from autonomous regions, 1 deputy from autonomous districts, as well as 84 deputies from the territories, regions, Moscow and Leningrad were to be elected [8].

It is worth noting separately the participation of the Secretary General in the meeting of the Congress of People's Deputies. Mikhail Gorbachev himself writes the following about this issue in his memoirs: "I confess, at first I myself hesitated – what to do? But on reflection, I came to the conclusion that the Secretary General should not go to parliament in a personal capacity, namely as the head of the party" [5, p. 182].


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  2. Bezborodov A. B., Eliseeva N. V., Shestakov V. A. Perestroika and collapse of the USSR. 1985-1993. – St. Petersburg: Norma, 2010. – 216 p.

  3. Brochure "Materials of the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU on January 27-28, 1987". – M.: Politizdat, 1987. – 92 p.

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  8. Law of the RSFSR of October 27, 1989 "On amendments and additions to the Constitution (Basic Law) of the RSFSR".

  9. Law of the USSR of December 1, 1988 "On the elections of people's deputies of the USSR" // Vedomosti of the USSR Armed Forces. – 1988. – №. 49.

  10. Latsis O.T. Get out of the box: Notes of an economist. – M.: Politizdat, 1989. – 414 p.

  11. Sogrin V.V. Perestroika: results and lessons // Social sciences and modernity. 1992. № 1. S. 133-147.

  12. Khasbulatov R.I. Great Russian tragedy. M.: SIMS LLP, 1995. – 463 p.

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