chapter  7
14 Pages

The structure of power

The Soviet polity was made up of a unique blend of institutions and procedures which were later adopted by some sixteen countries which proclaimed themselves to be Marxist-Leninist states on the road to communism. There were three interlocking hierarchies of power: the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), which we examined in the previous chapter; the state system of soviets crowned by the Supreme Soviet; and the governmental system of ministries, headed by the Council of Ministers. They operated in a markedly different way from the practices of liberal democracies but confusion is often caused by the use of similar terminology. Hence for convenience the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was often called ‘President’, and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers was called ‘Prime Minister’, although neither office officially existed until the last days in the Soviet Union. The apparent clarity of the threefold division between party, state and government in fact covered a highly complex power structure in which a series of institutions competed for influence.