Presidential Council

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In March 1990, when the Communist Party of the Soviet Union lost its political monopoly and Mikhail Gorbachev was elected president of the USSR, he created a new Presidential Council to replace the Politburo as the major policy-making body in the Soviet Union. The council's task, according to the newly revised Soviet constitution, was to determine the USSR's foreign and domestic policy. This was a major institutional innovation. The Presidential Council was to be independent of the Communist Party, which at this stage was viewed as incapable of reform, and was intended to challenge the power of the Defense Council (subsequently abolished) and to increase and reinforce Gorbachev's new presidential power. Gorbachev's choice of members to compose the Council was very controversial. The sixteen members, only five of whom were Politburo members, included Chin-giz Aitmatov, a Kyrghiz writer; Vadim Bakatin, minister of the interior; Valery Boldin, head of the Central Committee General Department; KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov; Anatoly Lukyanov, chair of the Supreme Soviet; Yuri Maslyukov, chairman of the state planning commission; Yevgeny Primakov, chairman of the Soviet of the Union; Valentin Rasputin, the nationalist writer and only noncommunist; Prime Minister Nikolay Ryzhkov; Stanislav Shatalin, economist; Eduard Shevardnadze, the foreign minister; Alexander Yakovlev, a senior secretary of the Central Committee and minister without portfolio; Venyamin Yarin, leader of the United Workers Front; and Marshal Dmitry Yazov, minister of defense. Depending upon which source one consults, the council also included two of the following: Yuri Osipian, physicist; Georgy Revenkov, chair of the Council of the Union of the Supreme Soviet; and Vadim Medvedev. The council experiment did not work because the members could not act collectively and the council's policies were rarely put into practice. As a result, making the necessary changes in the Soviet constitution, Gorbachev abolished the Presidential Council in November 1990. The council was resurrected several times during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin but had no clearly defined functions and little political clout.

See also: gorbachev, mikhail sergeyevich; politburo; presidency


Brown, Archie. (1996). The Gorbachev Factor. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gill, Graeme. (1994). The Collapse of a Single-Party System: The Disintegration of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Sakwa, Richard. (1990). Gorbachev and His Reforms, 19851990. New York: Philip Allan.

Christopher Williams

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Presidential Council

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Presidential Council