USSR: Communist Party: Presidium - Archontology

USSR: Communist Party: Presidium

The apogee of Stalin's tyranny in 1940s and early 1950s witnessed virtual destruction of the party structure founded during the revolution and the Civil War. The party congress had not been convened for 13 years as compared with annual convocations in 1917-1925. A small group of Stalin's closest aides decided all key issues and the work of the Politburo was practically paralyzed. Realizing that the party structure should be re-organized to become yet more flexible and subordinate to the few chosen leaders, Stalin ordered to make amendments to the party charter at the 19th congress (1952).

The Central Committee elected by the 19th congress on 14 Oct 1952, nominated the Presidium of 25 members and 11 candidate members on 16 Oct 1952. This new body included all the old Politburo members except Andreev and a number of new members. At the same Central Committee plenum Stalin formed an unofficial Bureau of the Presidium (Buro Prezidiuma) not mentioned in the part charter.

The joint session of the Central Committee, USSR Council of Ministers and Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet on the eve of Stalin's death on 5 Mar 1953, virtually revoked the changes adopted by the 19th congress. It cut the number of the Presidium members and de facto turned it again into the old Politburo.

The beginning of post-Stalin period was marked by the emphasis on collective leadership. While Nikita Hruščëv was consolidating his personal power, a group of party conservatives led by Molotov, Malenkov and Kaganovic tried to dismiss him by a vote of the Presidium on 18 Jun 1957, but Hruščëv appealed to the Central Committee, which supported him and expelled the anti-party group. Hruščëv completed this new purge by expelling two old Bolsheviks, Bulganin and Voroilov in 1958 and 1960 respectively. He used his post of First secretary to remove his rivals from the Presidium and staffed it with his supporters. However, his controversial politics led to a plot within the Presidium, which was strong enough to remove Hruščëv from the party's leadership in 1964.

The new party leader, Leonid Brenev, in attempt to revive the old party principles took course for conservatism and abolished most of the structures existed during Hruščëv. The 23rd part congress (1966) voted for new amendments to the party charter and replaced the Presidium with Politburo.