1936 Soviet Constitution

1936 Soviet Constitution

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The 1936 Soviet constitution, adopted on December 5, 1936, and also known as the "Stalin" constitution, redesigned the government of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

.

Basic provisions


The constitution repealed restrictions on voting and added universal direct suffrage and the right to work to rights guaranteed by the previous constitution. In addition, the Constitution recognized collective social and economic rights including the rights to work, rest and leisure, health protection, care in old age and sickness, housing, education, and cultural benefits.
The constitution also provided for the direct election of all government bodies and their reorganization into a single, uniform system. It was written by a special commission of 31 members of which Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 chaired. Those who participated included (among others) Andrei Vyshinsky, Andrei Zhdanov
Andrei Zhdanov
Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov was a Soviet politician.-Life:Zhdanov enlisted with the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1915 and was promoted through the party ranks, becoming the All-Union Communist Party manager in Leningrad after the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934...

, Maksim Litvinov, Kliment Voroshilov
Kliment Voroshilov
Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov , popularly known as Klim Voroshilov was a Soviet military officer, politician, and statesman...

, Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

, Lazar Kaganovich
Lazar Kaganovich
Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich was a Soviet politician and administrator and one of the main associates of Joseph Stalin.-Early life:Kaganovich was born in 1893 to Jewish parents in the village of Kabany, Radomyshl uyezd, Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire...

, Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Bukharin
Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin , was a Russian Marxist, Bolshevik revolutionary, and Soviet politician. He was a member of the Politburo and Central Committee , chairman of the Communist International , and the editor in chief of Pravda , the journal Bolshevik , Izvestia , and the Great Soviet...

 and Karl Radek
Karl Radek
Karl Bernhardovic Radek was a socialist active in the Polish and German movements before World War I and an international Communist leader after the Russian Revolution....

, though the latter two had less active input.

Nomenclature changes


The 1936 constitution replaced the Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union
Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union
The All-Union Congress of Soviets, officially known as Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union was the supreme governing body in the Soviet Union since the formation of the USSR and until adoption of the 1936 Soviet Constitution....

 and its Central Executive Committee by the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Like its predecessor, the Supreme Soviet contained two chambers: the Soviet of the Union
Soviet of the Union
Soviet of the Union , was one of the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot in accordance with the principles of Soviet democracy, and with the rule that there be one deputy for...

 and the Soviet of Nationalities
Soviet of Nationalities
The Soviet of Nationalities , was one of the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot in accordance with the principles of Soviet democracy...

. The constitution empowered the Supreme Soviet to elect commissions, which performed most of the Supreme Soviet's work. As under the former constitution, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet exercised the full powers of the Supreme Soviet between sessions and had the right to interpret laws. The Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet became the titular head of state. The Sovnarkom (after 1946 known as the Council of Ministers) continued to act as the executive arm of the government.

Of the four Soviet constitutions, the 1936 constitution survived longest. It was amended in 1944 but replaced in 1977. (See 1977 Soviet Constitution
1977 Soviet Constitution
At the Seventh Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Ninth Convocation on October 7, 1977, the third and last Soviet Constitution, also known as the "Brezhnev Constitution", was unanimously adopted...

.)

Leading role of Communist Party


For the first time, the role of the Communist Party was clearly defined. Article 126 stated that the party was "vanguard of the working people in their struggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system and is the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state." This provision was used to justify banning all other parties from functioning in the Soviet Union.

Soviet portrayal


The constitution provided economic rights not included in constitutions in the western democracies. The constitution was presented as a personal triumph for Stalin, who on this occasion was described by Pravda
Pravda
Pravda was a leading newspaper of the Soviet Union and an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991....

 as "genius of the new world, the wisest man of the epoch, the great leader of communism." Western historians and historians from former Soviet countries have seen the constitution as a meaningless propaganda document. Leonard Schapiro
Leonard Schapiro
Leonard Bertram Naman Schapiro was a British academic and scholar of Russian politics. He taught for many years at the London School of Economics, where he was Professor of Political Science with Special Reference to Russian Studies...

, for example, writes that "The decision to alter the electoral system from indirect to direct election, from a limited to a universal franchise, and from open to secret voting, was a measure of the confidence of the party in its ability to ensure the return of candidates of its own choice without the restrictions formerly considered necessary," and that "...a careful scrutiny of the draft of the new constitution showed that it left the party's supreme position unimpaired, and was therefore worthless as a guarantee of individual rights."

Freedom of religion


Article 124 of the constitution guaranteed freedom of religion, the inclusion of which was opposed by large segments of the Communist Party. The article resulted in members of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 petitioning to reopen closed churches, gain access to jobs that had been closed to them as religious figures, and the attempt to run religious candidates in the 1937 elections
Soviet Union legislative election, 1937
On 12 December 1937 elections were held to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. It was the first election held under the 1936 Soviet Constitution, which had formed the Supreme Soviet to replace the old legislature, the Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union....

.

Reorganization of the armed forces and the republics


The 1944 amendments to the 1936 Constitution established separate branches of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 for each Soviet Republic
Republics of the Soviet Union
The Republics of the Soviet Union or the Union Republics of the Soviet Union were ethnically-based administrative units that were subordinated directly to the Government of the Soviet Union...

. They also established Republic-level commissariats for foreign affairs and defense, allowing them to be recognized as de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

independent states in international law. This allowed for two Soviet Republics, Ukraine and Byelorussia, to join the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

as founding members in 1945.

External links

Full Text and All Subsequent Laws Amending the 1936 Constitution of the U.S.S.R.