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Continuity and Change in USSR Supreme Soviet Elections

  • Ronald J. Hill

This article examines the results of the USSR Supreme Soviet elections held in June 1970, and presents an analysis of the patterns of drop-out and re-election among deputies to the previous Supreme Soviet, elected in June 1966.

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1 See, for example, Churchward, L. G., Contemporary Soviet Government (London: Routledg & Kegan Paul, 1968), p. 229; Armstrong, John A., Ideology, Politics and Government in the Soviet Union:an Introduction (New York: Praeger, 1962), pp. 101–2; Scott, Derek J. R., Russian Political Institutions, 4th ed. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), p. 177.

2 Naida, S. F. et al. , Sovety za 50 let (Moscow, 1967), p. 9.

3 Lenin, , Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, vol. 41, p. 403, quoted in Naida, et al. , Sovety za 50 let p. 10.

4 See, for example, Carson, George Barr Jr, Electoral Practices in the USSR (New York: Praeger, 1955); Mote, Max E., Soviet Local and Republic Elections (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1965).

5 See, for example, Swearer, Howard R., ‘The Functions of Soviet Local Elections’, Midwest Journal of Political Science, v (1961), 129–49. Also Churchward, Contemporary Soviet Government, chap. 7.

6 Gilison, Jerome M., ‘Soviet Elections as a Measure of Dissent: the Missing One Percent’, The American Political Science Review, LXII (1968), 814–26.

7 Jacobs, Everett M., ‘Soviet Local Elections: What They Are, and What They Are Not’, Soviet Studies, XXII (1970), 6176.

8 Fainsod, Merle, How Russia is Ruled, revised ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), p. 384.

9 Jacobs, , ‘Soviet Local Elections’, p. 67.

10 Analyses of nationality, age, educational level, and titles and decorations awarded to deputies are also given in Vasil'ev, V. I. and Kalinychev, F. I., eds., Verkhovnyi Sovet SSSR (Moscow, 1967), and in Saifulin, M., ed., The Soviet Parliament (Moscow, 1967).

11 Jacobs, for example, concludes that there are certain levels of Party strength within the Soviets that the regime finds ‘adequate’, and that certain levels of female participation are appropriate; these norms are established on an all-USSR basis, while norms for occupational composition are established at the republican level. See Jacobs, , ‘Soviet Local Elections’, p. 67.

12 For the standard reasons see, for example, Churchward, Contemporary Soviet Government chap. 8; Armstrong, Ideology, Politics and Government, pp. 105–7.

13 Of these 894 deputies, rather more than thirty had died between June 1966 and June 1970, and so were not available for re-election. Some of these(e.g. the writer Ilya Ehrenburg, Marshal Timoshenko, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, and N. G. Ignatov, Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Presidium) would in all likelihood have been re-elected had they survived. Their number is comparatively small (less than 4 per cent of the drop-outs), and their social characteristics are fairly random (with the possible exception of age, since they were — not unexpectedly — older as a group than the average body of deputies), so for most purposes in this analysis they are ignored, and calculations are made on the basis of the total number of deputies who were not re-elected, rather than simply on those who were available for re-election. This is partly also because full details are not available on the deputies who replaced them in by-elections. See also next note.

14 See the reports of the chairmen of the Mandates Commissions at the first session of the newly-elected Supreme Soviet, Pravda, 15 July 1970, pp. 2–3. These figures do not coincide exactly with our own figures for turnover since they are made on the basis of more than 1,517 deputies, and take into account the thirty or more deputies who entered the Supreme Soviet following by-elections. See previous note.

19 It is of relevance here to refer again to the remarks in note 13. Of the deputies known to have died by June 1970, seven had been over seventy in 1966, and seven had been aged between sixty and sixty-nine. It seems at least possible that some of them would have been re-elected, since they held prestigious positions in Soviet society. Their numbers would have exaggerated the skewness even further, at the expense of the younger deputies.

20 For an analysis of a similar trend in the Party apparatus, see Lewytzkyj, Borys, ‘Generations in Conflict’, Problems of Communism, XVI (1967), No. 1, 3640; also Hough, Jerry, ‘In Whose Hands the Future’, Problems of Communism, XVI (1967), No. 2,1825.

21 The question of national representation is, of course, extremely important, but a full study of the nationalities in Supreme Soviet elections is beyond the scope of the present article.

22 For a complete breakdown by nationality according to chamber, see Vasil’ev, and Kalinychev, , Verkhovnyi Sovet SSSR, pp. 77–8; also Saifulin, , The Soviet Parliament, pp. 3940.

23 Occupation is also a key variable in selecting Party Central Committee members: see Gehlen, Michael P. and Mcbride, Michael, ‘The Soviet Central Committee: an Elite Analysis’, The American Political Science Review, LXII (1968), 1232–41, and especially 1235–7. The correlations between education, age and other variables as factors influencing co-option to the Central Committee are discussed in pp. 1238–40.

24 Fainsod, , How Russia is Ruled, p. 377; Scott, , Russian Political Institutions, p. 166

25 Fainsod, , How Russia is Ruled, pp. 246–7; Rigby, T. H., Communist Party Membership in the USSR, 1917–1967 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), passim.

26 See Gehlen, and Mcbride, , ‘ The Soviet Central Committee ’, pp. 1238–9.

27 See, for example, Conquest, Robert, ed., Soviet Nationalities Policy in Practice (London: Bodley Head, 1967), pp. 129 – 31; Scott, , Russian Political Institutions, pp. 68, 166; and especially Belinsky, Yaroslav, ‘ The Rulers and the Ruled’, Problems of Communism, XVI (1967), No. 5,16–26.

28 For a brief outline of the position of medical staff and their earnings in relation to other professions, see Sorlin, Pierre, The Soviet People and Their Society: From 1917 to the Present (New York: Praeger, 1968), pp. 215, 233. On the low status of the teaching profession, see p. 226 of the same work.

29 Cf. the following statement from Vestnik Statistiki, 1968, no. 1, p. 89: ‘In 1967 among doctors in all branches of medicine, 440,000 or 73 per cent were women.’

30 Sorlin, , The Soviet People and Their Society, p. 226. For figures see Vestnik Statistiki, 1968, no. 1, p. 90.

31 A further statistic supports this: four-fifths of the CPSU Central Committee members among the deputies, and three-fifths of republican Central Committee members, were re-elected in 1970.

32 Cf. Scott, , Russian Political Institutions, pp. 104–7, 109; Churchward, , Contemporary Soviet Government, pp. 122–4.

33 Scott, , Russian Political Institutions, p. 110.

34 One might ask, however, whether Mrs Furtseva had a hand in the awarding of the Red Banner of Labour to the town at the end of 1970. See Pravda, 4 January 1971, p. 1; Sovetskaya Moldaviya, 5 January 1971, p. 1.

35 The question of how deputies – especially government and central Party figures – are allotted their constituencies remains obscure, and would merit investigation. It does, of course, deprive local selection committees of the possibility of putting forward ‘local’ candidates. However, if the local populace takes these elections seriously, they might be flattered by the ‘honour’, rather than feel deprived, much in the way that voters used to go to a constituency where Stalin was standing, rather than vote for their own local candidates: see Carson, , Electoral Practices in the USSR, p. 84; Jacobs, , ‘Soviet Local Elections’, p. 69.

36 Scott, , Russian Political Institutions, pp. 109–10.

37 Churchward, , Contemporary Soviet Government, pp. 126–9, 132; also Vasil'ev, and Kalinychev, , Verkhovnyi Sovet SSSR, p. 103.

38 Vasil'ev, and Kalinychev, , Verkhovnyi Sovet SSSR, p. 103.

39 Soviet sources indicate a certain pride on this renewal. See, for example, the report of the chairman of the Mandates Commission, Soviet of the Union, Pravda, 15 July 1970, p. 3: ‘As a result of the elections, the composition of the Soviet of the Union has been considerably renewed.’ The report of the chairman of the Mandates Commission, Soviet of the Nationalities, on the same page contains an almost identical formulation.In the Party apparatus, by contrast, less emphasis has been placed on renewal since the abolition of the Party rule which specified 25 per cent turnover for higher organs: see Hough, Jerry P., ‘Reforms in Government and Administration’ in Dallin, Alexander and Larson, Thomas B., eds., Soviet Politics Since Khrushchev (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1968), p. 29.

* Trinity College, Dublin. I am grateful to Professor Brian Barry and Peter Frank, University of Essex, for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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British Journal of Political Science
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