General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union

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General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Russian: Генеральный секретарь ЦК КПСС) was the title given to the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. With some exceptions, the office was synonymous with leader of the Soviet Union. Throughout its history the office had four other names; Technical Secretary (1917–1918), Chairman of the Secretariat (1918–1919), Responsible Secretary (1919–1922) and First Secretary (1953–1964). From 1934 to 1952, the office of General Secretary was not occupied.[1] Joseph Stalin elevated the office to overall command of the Communist Party and by definition the whole Soviet Union.[2]

In its first two incarnations the office performed mostly secretarial work. The post of Responsible Secretary was then established in 1919 to perform administrative work.[3] In 1922 the office of General Secretary followed as a purely administrative and disciplinary position, whose role was to do no more than determine party membership composition. Stalin, its first incumbent, used the principles of democratic centralism to transform his office into that of party leader, and later leader of the Soviet Union.[2] In 1934, the 17th Party Congress did not elect a General Secretary [1] and Stalin was an ordinary secretary since then, although he remained a de-facto leader without diminishing his own authority.

In order to test Georgy Malenkov as a potential successor, in the 1950s, Stalin increasingly withdrew from Secretariat business, leaving the supervision of the body to him.[4] In October 1952 Stalin restructured the party's leadership and formally abolished the office of General Secretary.[5] When Stalin died on 5 March 1953, Malenkov was the most important member of the Secretariat, which also included Nikita Khrushchev among others. Malenkov became Chairman of the Council of Ministers but was forced to resign from the Secretariat on 14 March 1953, leaving Khrushchev in effective control of the body.[6] Khrushchev was elected First Secretary at the Central Committee plenum on 14 September 1953. Originally conceived as a collective leadership, Khrushchev removed his rivals from power in both 1955 and 1957 and reinforced the supremacy of the First Secretary.[7]

In 1964 opposition within the Politburo and the Central Committee led to Khrushchev's removal as First Secretary. Leonid Brezhnev succeeded Khrushchev to the post and the office was renamed General Secretary in 1966.[8] During the Brezhnev Era the collective leadership was able to limit the powers of the General Secretary.[9] Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko were obliged by protocol to rule the country in the same way as Brezhnev had.[10] Mikhail Gorbachev ruled the Soviet Union through the office of General Secretary until 1990, when the Communist Party lost its monopoly of power over the political system. The office of President of the Soviet Union was established so that Gorbachev still retained his role as leader of the Soviet Union.[11] Following the failed August coup of 1991, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary.[12] He was succeeded by his deputy, Vladimir Ivashko, who only served for five days as Acting General Secretary before Boris Yeltsin, the President of Russia, suspended all Communist Party activity.[13]

List

Name
(birth–death)
Portrait Term of office Notes
Technical Secretary of the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (1917–1918)
Elena Stasova
(1873–1966)[14]
A woman wearing dark clothes and using a pair of glasses April 1917 – 1918 As Technical Secretary, Stasova and her staff of four women, were responsible for maintaining correspondence with provincial party cells, assigning work, keeping financial records, distributing Party funds,[15] formulating party structure policy and appointing new personnel.[16]
Chairman of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (1918–1919)
Yakov Sverdlov
(1885–1919)[17]
A man in a black suit, black shirt and wearing a pair of glasses 1918 – 16 March 1919 Sverdlov remained in office until his death on 16 March 1919. During his tenure he was mainly responsible for technical rather than political matters.[18]
Elena Stasova
(1873–1966)[14]
A woman wearing dark clothes and using a pair of glasses March 1919 – December 1919 When her office was dissolved, Stasova was not considered a serious competitor for the post of Responsible Secretary, the successor office to the Chairman of the Secretariat.[19]
Responsible Secretary of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (1919–1922)
Nikolay Krestinsky
(1883–1938)[20]
A man in a grey suit, light shirt and dark tie December 1919 – March 1921 The office of Responsible Secretary functioned like a secretary, a somewhat menial position given that Krestinsky was also a member of the Party's Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat. Nevertheless, Krestinsky never tried to create an independent power base as Joseph Stalin later did during his time as General Secretary.[3]
Vyacheslav Molotov
(1890–1986)[21]
A man in a dark suit, light shirt and dark tie, smiling March 1921 – April 1922 Was elected Responsible Secretary at the 10th Party Congress held in March 1921. The Congress decided that the office of Responsible Secretary should have a presence at Politburo plenums. As a result Molotov became a candidate member of the Politburo.[22]
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (bolsheviks) (1922–1952)
Joseph Stalin
(1878–1953)[23]
A man with a thick moustache wearing a military tunic and cap 3 April 1922 – 16 October 1952 Stalin used the office of General Secretary to create a strong power base for himself. Vladimir Lenin later accused him of manipulating the powers of the General Secretary. Stalin nearly lost his post at the 17th Party Congress in 1934, but the death of his chief rival Sergey Kirov weakened the motion to remove him.[24] He offered his resignation in 1934, but was re-elected as an ordinary secretary and was rarely referred to as General Secretary after that.[12] The office was abolished at the 19th Party Congress in October 1952.[5]
First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1953–1966)
Nikita Khrushchev
(1894–1971)[25]
An elderly man in a suit, with three medals pinned on it 14 September 1953 – 14 October 1964 Khrushchev reestablished the office on 14 September 1953 under the name First Secretary. In 1957 he was nearly removed from office by the Anti-Party Group. Georgy Malenkov, a leading member of the Anti-Party Group, worried that the powers of the First Secretary were virtually unlimited.[26] Khrushchev was removed as leader on 14 October 1964, and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev.[8]
Leonid Brezhnev
(1906–1982)[27]
A man with dark, wavy hair in a suit, applauding 14 October 1964 – 8 April 1966 The office of First Secretary was renamed General Secretary at the 23rd Party Congress.[9]
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1966–1991)
Leonid Brezhnev
(1906–1982)[27]
A man with dark, wavy hair in a suit, applauding 8 April 1966 – 10 November 1982 At first there was no clear leader of the collective leadership with Brezhnev and Premier Alexei Kosygin ruling as equals.[28] However, by the 1970s Brezhnev's influence exceeded that of Kosygin's and he was able to retain this support by avoiding any radical reforms. The powers and functions of the General Secretary were limited by the collective leadership during Brezhnev's tenure.[29]
Yuri Andropov
(1914–1984)[30]
A man in a suit wearing glasses 12 November 1982 – 9 February 1984 He was seen as the most likely candidate for the General Secretary when it became known he had been the chairman of the committee in charge of arranging, managing and preparing Brezhnev's funeral.[31] Andropov was obliged by protocol to rule the country in the same way Brezhnev had before he died.[10]
Konstantin Chernenko
(1911–1985)[27]
A elderly man, balding with white hair, in a suit 13 February 1984 – 10 March 1985 Chernenko was 72 years old when elected to the post of General Secretary and in rapidly failing health.[32] Chernenko was also obliged by protocol, as Yuri Andropov had been, to rule the country in the same way Brezhnev had.[10]
Mikhail Gorbachev
(born 1931)[33]
A man in a grey suit, white shirt and dark tie, he has a birthmark on his forehead 11 March 1985 – 24 August 1991 The 1990 Congress of People's Deputies voted to remove Article 6 from the 1977 Soviet Constitution. This meant that the Communist Party lost its position as the "leading and guiding force of the Soviet society" and the powers of the General Secretary were drastically curtailed. Throughout the rest of his tenure Gorbachev ruled through the office of President of the Soviet Union.[11] He resigned from his post on 24 August 1991 in the aftermath of the August Coup.[12]
Vladimir Ivashko
(1932–1994)[34]
Vladimir Ivashko.jpg 24 August 1991 – 29 August 1991 He was elected Deputy General Secretary, another name for deputy leader, at the 28th Party Congress. Ivashko became acting General Secretary following Gorbachev's resignation, but by then the Party was politically impotent and on 29 August 1991 it was banned.[13]

References

  1. ^ a b "Secretariat, Orgburo, Politburo and Presidium of the CC of the CPSU in 1919–1990 – Izvestia of the CC of the CPSU." (in Russian). 7 November 1990. http://vivovoco.rsl.ru/VV/PAPERS/HISTORY/KPSS/HISTORY.HTM#1924. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Hough, Jerry; Fainsod, Merle (1979). How the Soviet Union is Governed. Harvard University Press. pp. 142–146. ISBN 978–0674410300. 
  3. ^ a b Hough, Jerry; Fainsod, Merle (1979). How the Soviet Union is Governed. Harvard University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978–0674410300. 
  4. ^ Medvedev, Zhores; Medvedev, Roy (2006). The Unknown Stalin. I.B. Tauris. p. 40. ISBN 978–185043980X. 
  5. ^ a b Brown, Archie (2009). The Rise & Fall of Communism. Bodley Head. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978–1–845–95076–5. 
  6. ^ Ra'anan, Uri (2006). Flawed Succession: Russia's Power Transfer Crises. Lexington Books. pp. 29–31. ISBN 978–0739114034. 
  7. ^ Ra'anan, Uri (2006). Flawed Succession: Russia's Power Transfer Crises. Lexington Books. p. 58. ISBN 978–0739114034. 
  8. ^ a b Service, Robert (2009). History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 378. ISBN 978–0141037970. 
  9. ^ a b McCauley, Martin (1997). Who's who in Russia since 1900. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 0415138981. 
  10. ^ a b c Baylis, Thomas A. (1989). Governing by Committee: Collegial Leadership in Advanced Societies. State University of New York Press. pp. 98. ISBN 978–0887069444. 
  11. ^ a b Kort, Michael (2010). The Soviet Colossus: History and Aftermath. M.E. Sharpe. p. 394. ISBN 978–0765623874. 
  12. ^ a b c Ulam, Adam (2007). Stalin: The Man and His Era. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 734. ISBN 978–1845114220. 
  13. ^ a b McCauley, Martin (1997). Who's who in Russia since 1900. Routledge. p. 105. ISBN 0415138981. 
  14. ^ a b McCauley, Martin (1997). Who's who in Russia since 1900. Routledge. p. 117. ISBN 978–0415138981. 
  15. ^ Evans Clements, Barbara (1997). Bolshevik Women. Cambridge University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978–0521599202. 
  16. ^ Fairfax, Kaithy (1999). Comrades in Arms: Bolshevik Women in the Russian Revolution. Resistance Books. p. 36. ISBN 978–090919694X. 
  17. ^ Williamson, D.G. (2007). The Age of the Dictators: A Study of the European Dictatorships, 1918–53. Pearson Education. p. 42. ISBN 978–0582505801. 
  18. ^ Zemtsov, Ilya (2001). Encyclopedia of Soviet Life. Transaction Publishers. p. 132. ISBN 978–0887383505. 
  19. ^ Noonan, Norma (2001). Encyclopedia of Russian Women's Movements. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 183. ISBN 978–0313304386. 
  20. ^ Rogovin, Vadim (2001). Stalin's Terror of 1937–1938: Political Genocide in the USSR. Mehring Books. p. 38. ISBN 978–1893638049. 
  21. ^ Phillips, Steve (2001). The Cold War: conflict in Europe and Asia. Heinemann. p. 20. ISBN 978–0435327364. 
  22. ^ Grill, Graeme (2002). The Origins of the Stalinist Political System. 74. Cambridge University Press. p. 72. ISBN 978–0521529360. 
  23. ^ Brown, Archie (2009). The Rise & Fall of Communism. Bodley Head. p. 59. ISBN 978–1–845–95076–5. 
  24. ^ Rappaport, Helen (1999). Joseph Stalin: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978–1576072088. 
  25. ^ Taubman, William (2003). Khrushchev: The Man and His Era. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 258. ISBN 978–0393324842. 
  26. ^ Ra'anan, Uri (2006). Flawed Succession: Russia's Power Transfer Crises. Lexington Books. p. 69. ISBN 978–0739114034. 
  27. ^ a b c Chubarov, Alexander (2003). Russia's Bitter Path to Modernity: A History of the Soviet and post-Soviet Eras. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 60. ISBN 978–0826413501. 
  28. ^ Brown, Archie (2009). The Rise & Fall of Communism. Bodley Head. p. 403. ISBN 978–1845950765. 
  29. ^ Baylis, Thomas A. (1989). Governing by Committee: Collegial Leadership in Advanced Societies. State University of New York Press. pp. 98–99, and 104. ISBN 978–0887069444. 
  30. ^ Nikolaevna Vasilʹeva, Larisa (1994). Kremlin Wives. Arcade Publishing. p. 218. ISBN 978–1559702605. 
  31. ^ White, Stephen (2000). Russia's New Politics: The Management Of a Postcommunist Society. Cambridge University Press. p. 211. ISBN 978–0521587379. 
  32. ^ Service, Robert (2009). History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century. Penguin Books Ltd. pp. 433–435. ISBN 978–0141037970. 
  33. ^ Service, Robert (2009). History of Modern Russia: From Tsarism to the Twenty-first Century. Penguin Books Ltd. p. 435. ISBN 978–0141037970. 
  34. ^ McCauley, Martin (1998). Gorbachev. Pearson Education. p. 314. ISBN 978–058243758X. 

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