The First Day of the Sovnarkom

Iurii Larin, Recollections. November 1917


Original Source: “U kolybeli,” Narodnoe khoziaistvo, No. 11, November 1918, pp. 16-17.

During the first days of its existence the Sovnarkom met in room No. 36 in the Smolnyi Institute. The room was small and dirty. During these days the Sovnarkom and the party Central Committee were not clearly differentiated.

The first law was published in No. 1 of the Gazette of the Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government … It authorized the local organs of administration … to requisition warehouses, stores, restaurants, and other trading and industrial establishments … This decree was, the only legal basis for the numerous requisitions which local “Sovdeps” afterwards undertook … The government held no regular sessions at that time. The first decree of the Sovnarkom was drafted by Kamenev, Stalin, and myself … There was much talk how to sign it, “Lenin,” “Ul’ianov,” or both. Stalin signed “Vladimir Ul’ianov-Lenin” and sent it to the press …

Of the first fifteen decrees which are found in No. I of the Collection of Laws only two were actually considered by the Sovnarkom … I remember Lenin’s astonishment when he first saw … decree No. 12, under his signature, which conferred legislative powers on the Sovnarkom (the Congress of Soviets granted only executive powers) and gave the Central Executive Committee the right to annul the decisions of the government. (The Congress had given the Central Executive Committee only the right of recall and of supervision.) …

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 185-186.

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