The first state committees in the USSR, STO (Sovet truda i oborony, the Council of Labor and Defense) and Gosplan (State Planning Committee) were standing commissions of Sovnarkom (Council of People's Commissars). Their number grew during the 1930s, and the 1936 constitution granted Sovnarkom membership to the chairpersons of the All-Union Committee for the Arts (Komiskusstv or Vsesoyuzny komitet po delam iskusstv) and the All-Union Committee for Higher Education (Komvysshshkol or Vsesoyuzny komitet po delam vysshei shkoly). Chairpersons of other committees, such as the All-Union Committee for Physical Culture and Sport (Komfizkult or Vsesoyuzny komitet po delam fizkultury i sporta), were not granted this status. During World War II, the State Defense Committee (GKO or Gosudarstvenny komitet oborony), chaired by Josef Stalin, was created as the extraordinary supreme state body to direct military and civilian resources and the economy, in order to achieve victory. This body was very significant during the war, and was the most powerful of all state committees during the USSR's existence.
In the 1950s and 1960s, with the increasing complexity of the economy of the USSR, and the increased importance of science and technology, the system of state committees developed rapidly as central interdepartmental agencies that coordinated and supervised the work of ministries and other state departments in their areas of responsibility. Although the state committees were formed theoretically by the Supreme Soviet, and their structure was approved by the Council of Ministers, the real decisions concerning their existence and structure lay with the Politburo. State committees were allocated administrative powers to organize, coordinate, and supervise the state departments with which they were concerned, their instructions having the force of law within the area of their jurisdiction. Like ministries, they could be either all-Union, with plenipotentiaries in the republics, or union-republic, functioning through parallel apparatuses in the republics.
The State Committee of the USSR on Defence Technology (GKOT or Gosudarstvenny komitet SSSR po oboronu tekhnike) was created in 1957 but incorporated into a newly created Ministry of General Machine Building in 1965. The committee was responsible for all strategic ballistic missiles, spacecraft, and satellites developed in the USSR. By 1973 the following state committees existed:
State Planning Committee (Gosplan or Gosudarstvenny planovy komitet).
State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for Construction (Gosstroi or Gosudarstvenny komitet soveta ministrov SSR po delam stroitelstva). Formed in 1950 to secure increased efficiency in construction.
State Committee on Labor and Wages (Gosudarstvenny komitet po voprosam truda i zarabotnoi platy). Formed in 1955 to over-see wages and working conditions.
Committee for State Security (KGB or Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti.) Formed in 1954 when the police apparatus was reorganized. The much feared secret police acted with more autonomy than most other government bodies and with a large degree of independence from the Council of Ministers.
State Committee on Foreign Economic Relations (Gosudarstvenny komitet po vneshnim ekonomicheskim svyazam). Formed in 1957 to develop economic cooperation with foreign countries and ensure the fulfilment of obligations. It was also responsible for overseeing organizations responsible for exporting equipment to socialist and developing countries.
State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for the Supervision of Work Safety in Industry and for Mining Supervision (Gosgortekhnadzor or Gosudarstvenny komitet po nadzoru za bezopasnym vedeniem raboty promyshlennosti i gornomu nadzoru). Established in 1958.
State Committee for Vocational and Technical Education (Gosudarstvenny komitet po professionalno-tekhnicheskomu obrazivaniyu). Formed in 1959 to implement and supervize policy for training skilled workers both in vocational and technical institutions and in the workplace, to develop a system of educational institutions in this area, and to watch over students in these institutions.
State Committee for Science and Technology (Gosudarstvenny komitet po nauke i tekhnike). Formed in 1965 to coordinate policy to maximize the development and utilization of science and technology for economic purposes.
State Committee for Material and Technical Supply (Gossnab or Gosudarstvenny komitet po materialno-tekhnicheskomu snabzheniyu). Formed in 1965 to supervise distribution to consumers, coordinate cooperation in delivery, and ensure fulfilment of plans for supply of output.
State Price Committee (Gosudarstvenny komitet tsen). Formed in 1965 as a subcommittee of Gosplan, it became a full state committee in 1969. Its tasks included price regulation, pricing policy, and the use of prices to stimulate production.
State Forestry Committee (Gosudarstvenny komitet lesnogo khozyaistva). Formed in 1966 to manage state forests and coordinate the activities of forest agencies.
State Committee for Television and Radio (Gosudarstvenny komitet po televideniyu i radioveshchaniyu). Formed in 1970.
State Committee on Standards (Gossstandart or Gosudarstvenny komitet standartov). Established in 1970 to encourage standardization and ensure standards in the quality of output.
State Committee of the USSR Council of Ministers on Cinematography (Gosudarstvenny komitet po kinematografii). Created in 1972, its main task was to supervise the activities of film studios in the USSR.
State Committee of the USSR Council of Ministers on Publishing, Printing, and the Book Trade (Gosudarstvenny komitet po pechati). Established in 1972 to supervise publishing and the content of literature in the USSR.
State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries (Gosudarstvenny komitet po delam izobreteny i otkryty). Established in 1973.
A law of 1978 granted membership in the Council of Ministers to all chairpersons of state committees.
After the fall of the USSR, the RSFSR continued the use of state committees, forming the State Committee of the Russian Federation on Communications and Informatization (Goskomsvyaz or Gosudarstvenny Komitet Rossisskoi Federatsii po Svyazi i Informatizatsii) in 1997 from its Ministry of Communications. It was responsible for state management of communications and the development of many forms of telecommunications and postal services, including space communication in conjunction with the Federal Space Program of Russia.
See also: constitution of 1936; gosplan; politburo; sovnarkom; stalin, josef vissarionovich
Prokhorev, A. M., ed. (1975). Great Soviet Encyclopedia: A Translation of the Third Edition, vol. 7. New York: Macmillan.
Unger, Aryeh. (1981). Constitutional Development in the USSR: A Guide to the Soviet Constitutions. London: Methuen.
Watson, Derek. (1996). Molotov and Soviet Government: Sovnarkom, 1930–41. Basingstoke, UK: CREES-Macmillan.