Vladimir Lenin's Cabinet

Council of People's Commissars
(Lenin Government)

1st cabinet of Soviet Russia (since 1917)
Date formed November 8, 1917
Date dissolved January 21, 1924
People and organisations
Head of government Vladimir Lenin
Head of state Communist Party of Russia
(as head of Proletariat)
Member party Communist
Status in legislature Majority
Incoming formation Provisional Government
Outgoing formation Sovnarkom USSR
Rykov Government
Predecessor Alexander Kerensky
Successor Alexei Rykov
An early Sovnarkom decree, introducing the "Western European calendar" in Russia. The decree prescribed that February 14, 1918 (New style) would immediately follow January 31, 1918 (Old style)

The Government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was known officially as the Council of People's Commissars (1917–1946), the Council of Ministers (1946–1978) and the Council of Ministers – Government (1978–1991).

Council of People's Commissars

The Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR (Russian: Совет народных комиссаров РСФСР) was government cabinet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from 1917 through 1946, when it was renamed the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR. In 1922 state powers of the institution were technically somewhat superseded by the Council of People's Commissars of USSR.

By September 1917, the councils (soviets) of workers, peasants and soldiers acquired considerable political and military power. The leaders of the Petrograd Soviet conspired to overthrow the Russian Provisional Government; the uprising started on 7 November 1917, when Red Guards units captured the Winter Palace. On the next day, 8 November 1917, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets recognized the success of the uprising, and formally established the new government that reflected the capture of the soviets by the Bolsheviks.

The government was formally called the Council of People's Commissars (Совет народных коммиссаров), abbreviated as Sovnarkom (Совнарком). It was Leon Trotsky who devised the council and commissar names, thereby avoiding the more "bourgeois" terms, minister and cabinet.

The People's Commissars (Russian: Народный комиссар, translit.: Narodny komissar, or Narkom) functioned as government ministers; a ministry was therefore called a People's Commissariat (Russian: Народный комиссариат, translit.: Narodny komissariat, abbreviated to narkomat).


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. Trutovsky, Alexander Shlyapnikov, P.P. Proshyan, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Alexandra Kollontai, Pavel Dybenko, E.K. Kosharova, Nikolai Podvoisky, Nikolai Gorbunov, V.I. Nevsky, Alexander Shotman, Georgy Chicherin

Traditionally, a government is a council of ministers nominated by a ruler or by a president, but the Bolsheviks saw this as a bourgeois institution, and wanted to create what they thought a new government of workers and peasants, a 'soviet' government.

The role and structure of the Sovnarkom was formalized in the 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR. The Sovnarkom of the RSFSR was 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.

Each People's Commissar was head of commissariat and had several deputies and a collegium which functioned as a deliberative body to advise the commissar.

The Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, also elected by the Congress, had a function similar to that of a prime minister. The first Chairman of the Sovnarkom was Vladimir Lenin.

The original People's Commissars

The first council elected by the Second All-Russian congress was composed as follows:

People's Commissar Original incumbent Death
Chairman Vladimir Lenin Natural causes 1924
Executive Officer Nikolai Gorbunov Executed 1938
People's Commissariat for Agriculture of the RSFSR Vladimir Milyutin Died in prison 1937
People's Commissariat for Military Affairs of the RSFSR Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko

Nikolai Krylenko

Executed 1939

Executed 1938

People's Commissariat for Naval Affairs of the RSFSR Pavel Dybenko 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 of the RSFSR Georgy Oppokov Executed 1938
People's Commissariat for Labour of the RSFSR 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 of the RSFSR (vacant)
People's Commissariat for Finance Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov Natural causes 1928

Council of Ministers

The Council of People's Commissars was renamed Council of Ministers in 1946.

External links

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