Soviet (sovet ) is the Russian word for "council" or "advice."
Its political usage began during the Revolution of 1905 when it was applied to the councils of deputies elected by workers in factories throughout Russia. Although suppressed in 1905, the soviets reappeared in nearly every possible setting immediately following the February Revolution of 1917. With the soviet in Petrograd setting the tone, they very quickly became the organs of power that the majority of the population saw as legitimate. Although the moderate socialists who initially led the soviets were reluctant to take executive power from the Provisional Government, most Russians seem to have favored rule by the soviets alone; the Bolsheviks' call for "All Power to the Soviets" may well have been their most successful slogan. The October Revolution was timed to coincide with the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, both to forestall its taking power without Bolshevik initiative and to gain legitimacy from its approval. The new Bolshevik-led government was thus initially based on soviets, and the state structure formally remained so until Mikhail Gorbachev. For most of the Soviet era, the Supreme Soviet was theoretically the highest legislative organ, although the Communist Party held practical power. Throughout their history, soviets generally proved too large for day-to-day governance, a role filled by a permanent executive committee elected by the full soviet. Some scholars have suggested that the soviet became so popular an institution because it was an urban counterpart to the village commune assembly, a governing system with which most Russians, even in the cities, were familiar.
See also: communist party of the soviet union; february revolution; october revolution; provisional government; revolution of 1905
Anweiler, Oskar. (1974). The Soviets: The Russian Workers, Peasants, and Soldiers Councils, 1905–1921, tr. Ruth Hein. New York: Pantheon Books.
so·vi·et / ˈsōvēit; -ˌet/ • n. 1. an elected local, district, or national council in the former USSR. ∎ a revolutionary council of workers or peasants in Russia before 1917.2. (Soviet) a citizen of the former USSR.• adj. (So·vi·et) of or concerning the former Soviet Union: the Soviet leader.DERIVATIVES: So·vi·et·i·za·tion / ˌsōvēitiˈzāshən/ n.So·vi·et·ize / -ˌtīz/ v.ORIGIN: early 20th cent.: from Russian sovet ‘council.’