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Plural, short for glavnoye upravlenie, or chief administration.

Glavki are subordinate administrative units or departments of Soviet state planning and existed in economic, military, and cultural ministries, such as tourism. In the economy these subdivisions of central or local industrial ministries dealt with specific industrial branches in formulating and administering the annual and perspective plans.

These departments appeared originally as parts of the Supreme Council of National Economy (VSNKh or Vesenkha) controlling particular sectors, such as the match, soap, oil, and timber industries (Glavspichki, Tsentromylo, Glavneft, Glovles, and so forth). They replaced the corresponding People's Commissariats by early 1918. During the civil war period, the glavki controlled distribution of scarce materials and ordered new production of items for war, subject to interference from the Party's Politburo and without a national plan, wages, or bookkeeping. By 1921 this had become a bureaucratic chaos (called glavkism). Nevertheless, these units survived reorganizations during the New Economic Policy of the 1920s and thereafter, emerging once again in 1931. Now under the commissariats (called ministries after 1946) and Gosplan in the Stalinist planning period, they acquired direct power over their subordinate enterprises until Nikita Khrushchev's reorganization in 1957.

As a result of subdivisions, some glavki became new ministries, whose number in the industrial and construction branches alone reached thirty-three in 1946 and 1947, but about a year later the number was again reduced by unification. For instance, the Ministry of Textiles sometimes reverted to a chief administration within the Ministry of Light Industry, or the reverse. These continual organizational changes had questionable practical effect. Some of these glavki such as those for finance or laborwere responsible for functional administration, and some were specialized subdivisions, such as the glavki for woolens in the Ministry of Textiles. Enterprises received their plans from the chief administration, usually in Moscow, and submitted their requirements to it. So-called funded inputs, which were especially scarce, were allocated to enterprises by the glavki, which set up their own supply arrangements to make sure their firms met the planned targets. They set up workshops to produce spare parts on an inefficiently small scale, a practice that also led to duplication. The chiefs of these chief administrations, usually called Deputy Ministers, became nonpolitical technical specialists, like most of the ministers over them, subject only to occasional intervention from party officials in the Kremlin. Their incentives were linked informally to the success of the enterprises under them, but not necessarily their profit or productivity. Accordingly, they could be relied on to support enterprises' requests for more investments and supplies and easier plans, even when they knew higher productivity would be possible. Sometimes they reallocated profits among their subordinated enterprises to allow all of them to meet their financial obligations. Even during the regional reorganization instituted by Khrushchev, the more important allocation decisions were made in the republican or sectoral glavki of the all-Union Gossnab (supply agency) in Moscow. This was necessary to prevent "localism," a preference for enterprises within one's region over the needs of enterprises elsewhere.

See also: gosplan; industrialization, soviet


Bergson, Abram. (1964). The Economics of Soviet Planning. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Carr, Edward Hallett, and Davies, R. W. (1969[1978]). Foundations of a Planned Economy, 19261929. 3 vols. London: Macmillan.

Nove, Alec. (1961). The Soviet Economy. New York: Praeger.

Martin C. Spechler