Council of People's Commissars

A Sovnarkom session between December 1917 and January 1918, with (from the left) Isaac Steinberg, Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov, Boris Kamkov, Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich, V. E. Trotsky, Alexander Shlyapnikov, P. P. Proshyan, Lenin, Stalin, Alexandra Kollontai, Pavel Dybenko, E. K. Kosharova, Nikolai Podvoisky, Nikolai Gorbunov, V. I. Nevsky, Alexander Shotman, Georgy Chicherin

The Council of People's Commissars (Russian: Совет народных коммиссаров or Совнарком, translit. Soviet narodnykh kommissarov or Sovnarkom, also as generic SNK) was a government institution formed shortly after the October Revolution in 1917. Created in the Russian Republic the council laid foundations in restructuring the country to form the Soviet Union. It evolved to become the highest government authority of executive power under the Soviet system in states which came under the control of the Bolsheviks.

The 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR formalised the role of the Sovnarkom of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR): it was to be responsible to the Congress of Soviets for the "general administration of the affairs of the state". The constitution enabled the Sovnarkom to issue decrees carrying the full force of law when the Congress was not in session. The Congress then routinely approved these decrees at its next session.

When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was established in December 1922, the USSR Sovnarkom was modelled on the RSFSR Sovnarkom. It was transformed in 1946 into the Council of Ministers.[1]

Original People's Commissars

Lenin and Stalin in 1922

The first council elected by the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was composed as follows:

People's Commissar Original incumbent Death
Chairman Vladimir Lenin Strokes caused by gunshot wound shrapnel 1924
Secretary Nikolai Gorbunov Executed 1938
People's Commissariat for Agriculture of the RSFSR Vladimir Milyutin Executed 1937
Council of People's Commissars on War and Navy Affairs Nikolai Krylenko (War College) Executed 1938
Pavel Dybenko (Navy College) Executed 1938
People's Commissariat for Trade and Industry of the RSFSR Viktor Nogin Natural causes 1924
People's Commissariat for Education of the RSFSR Anatoly Lunacharsky Natural causes 1933
People's Commissariat for Food Ivan Teodorovich Executed 1937
People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR Leon Trotsky Assassinated 1940
People's Commissariat for Interior Affairs of the RSFSR Alexei Rykov Executed 1938
People's Commissariat for Justice Georgy Oppokov Executed 1937
People's Commissariat for Labour Alexander Shlyapnikov Executed 1937
People's Commissariat of Nationalities Joseph Stalin Natural causes 1953
People's Commissariat for Posts and Telegraphs of the RSFSR Nikolai Glebov-Avilov Executed 1937
People's Commissariat for Railways (vacant)
People's Commissariat for Finance Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov Natural causes 1928
People's Commissariat for Social Welfare Alexandra Kollontai Natural causes 1952

All-Union Sovnarkom

Upon the creation of the USSR in 1922, the Union's government was modelled after the first Sovnarkom. The Soviet republics retained their own governments which dealt with domestic matters.


In 1946, the Sovnarkoms were transformed into the Council of Ministers (Sovmin) at both all-Union and Union Republic level.[1][2][3]

Councils by administrative division

Soviet republics

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Soviet Union

Autonomous republics

Failed or quasi


See also

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