First Union Constitution

Second Congress of Soviets, Constitution of the Soviet Union. Treaty. January 13, 1924

 

Original Source: Vestnik TsIK, SNK i STO Soiuza SSR, No. 2 (1924), Art. 24.

The Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic, the Socialist Soviet Republic of Ukraine, the Socialist Soviet Republic of White Russia, and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Transcaucasia (including the Socialist Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, the Socialist Soviet Republic of Georgia, and the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia) –unite themselves in one federal State–“The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.” [Amended April 18, 1925, “so as to include the Socialist Republic of Turkmenia and the Uzbek Socialist Republic.”]

Chapter I. Attributions of the Supreme Organs of Power of the Union

ARTICLE 1. The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics through its supreme organs has the following powers:

(a) To represent the Union in its international relations; to conclude all diplomatic relations; to conclude treaties, political and otherwise, with other States;
(b) To modify the exterior frontiers of the Union, as well as to regulate questions concerning the modification of frontiers between the member Republics;
(c) To conclude treaties concerning the reception of new Republics into the Union;
(d) To declare war and to conclude peace;
(e) To conclude internal and external loans of the Union and to authorize internal and external loans of the member Republics;
(f) To ratify international treaties;
(g) To direct commerce with foreign countries and to determine the system of internal commerce;
(h) To establish the bases and the general plan of all national economy of the Union; to define the domains of industry and industrial enterprises that are of federal interest; to conclude treaties of concession both federal and in the name of the member Republics;
(i) To direct transportation and the postal and telegraphic services;
(j) To organize and direct the armed forces of the Union;
(k) To approve the budget of the Federal State which includes the budgets of the member Republics; to establish duties and federal revenues, making additions and reductions in order to balance the member Republics’ budgets; to authorize duties and supplementary taxes to meet the member Republics’ budgets;
(l) To establish a uniform system of money and credit;
(m) To establish general principles of exploitation and use of the earth, as well as those of the subsoil, the forests, and the waters of the territories of the Union;
(n) To establish federal legislation on the emigration from the territory of one of the Republics to the territory of another and to set up a fund for such emigration;
(o) To establish principles of the judicial organization and procedure, as well as civil and criminal legislation for the Union;
(p) To establish the fundamental laws regarding work;
(q) To establish the general principles regarding public instruction;
(r) To establish the general measures regarding public hygiene;
(s) To establish a standard system of weights and measures;
(t) To organize federal statistics;
(u) To fix the fundamental legislation regarding federal nationality, with reference to the rights of foreigners;
(v) To exercise the right of amnesty in all territories of the Union;
(w) To abrogate the acts of the Congresses of the Soviets and the Central Executive Committees of the member Republics contrary to the present Constitution;
(x) To arbitrate litigious questions between the member Republics.

ARTICLE 2. The approval and modification of the fundamental principles of the present Constitution belong exclusively to the Congress of Soviets of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.

Chapter II. Sovereign Rights of the Member Republics

ARTICLE 3. The Sovereignty of the member Republics is limited only in the matters indicated in the present Constitution, as coming within the competence of the Union. Outside of those limits, each member Republic exerts its public powers independently; the USSR protects the rights of member Republics.

ARTICLE 4. Each one of the member Republics retains the right to freely withdraw from the union.

ARTICLE 5. The member Republics will make changes in their Constitutions to conform with the present Constitution.

ARTICLE 6. The territory of the member Republics cannot be modified without their consent; also, any limitation or modification or suppression of Article 4 must have the approval of all the member Republics of the Union.

ARTICLE 7. Just one federal nationality is established for the citizens of the member Republics.

Chapter III. Congress of Soviets of the Union

ARTICLE 8. The supreme organ of power of the USSR is the Congress of Soviets, and, in the recesses of the Congress of Soviets–the Central Executive Committee of the USSR which is composed of the Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities.

ARTICLE 9. The Congress of Soviets of the USSR is composed of representatives of the urban Soviets and of the Soviets of the urban type, on the basis of one deputy per 25,000 electors, and of representatives of the Congresses of Soviets of the rural districts on the basis of one deputy per 125,000 inhabitants.

ARTICLE 10. The delegates to the Congress of the Soviets of the USSR are elected in the Congresses of Soviets of the rural and urban governments. In the Republics where there does not exist a rural division, the delegates are elected directly to the Congress of Soviets of the respective Republic.

ARTICLE 11. Regular sessions of the Congress of the Soviets of the USSR are convoked by the Central Executive Committee of the Union once yearly; extraordinary sessions may be convoked on decision of the CEC (Central Executive Committee), or on the demand of the Federal Soviet, or of the Soviet of Nationalities, or on the demand of two member Republics.

ARTICLE 12. In cases where extraordinary circumstances interfere with the meeting of the Congress of Soviets of the USSR on the date set, the CEC of the Union has the power to adjourn the meeting of Congress.

Chapter IV. The Central Executive Committee of the Union

ARTICLE 13. The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the USSR is composed of the Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities.

ARTICLE 14. The Congress of Soviets of the USSR elects the Federal Soviet from among the representatives of the member Republics in proportion to the population of each one to make a grand total of 371 members.

ARTICLE 15. The Soviet of Nationalities is composed of representatives of the member Republics and associated autonomous Republics of the RSFSR on the basis of five representatives for each member Republic, and one representative for each associated autonomous Republic. The composition of the Soviet of Nationalities in its entirety is approved by the Congress of the USSR.

(The autonomous Republics of Adzharia, and Abkhazia and the autonomous region of Ossetia, each send a representative to the Soviet of Nationalities.)

ARTICLE 16. The Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities examine all decrees, codes, and acts that are presented to them by the Presidium of the CEC and by the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, by the different Commissions of the People of the Union, by the CEC of the member Republics, as well as those that owe their origin to the Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities.

ARTICLE 17. The CEC of the Union publishes the codes, decrees, acts, and ordinances; orders the work of legislation and administration of the USSR, and -defines the sphere of activity of the Presidium of the CEC and of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR

ARTICLE 18. All decrees and acts defining the general rules of the political and economic life of the USSR, or making radical modifications in the existing practices of public organs of the USSR must obligatorily be submitted for examination and approval to the CEC of the USSR

ARTICLE 19. All decrees, acts, and ordinances promulgated by the CEC must be immediately put into force throughout all the territory of the USSR

ARTICLE 20. The CEC of the USSR has the right to suspend or abrogate the decrees, acts, and orders of the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR, as well as those of the Congress of Soviets and of the CEC of the Member Republics, and all other organs of power throughout the territory of the USSR

ARTICLE 21. The ordinary sessions of the CEC of the USSR are convoked by the Presidium of the CEC three times yearly. The extraordinary sessions are convoked by the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR on the demand of the Presidium of the Federal Soviet of the Presidium of the Soviet nationalities, and also on demand of one of the CEC of the member Republics.

ARTICLE 22. The projects of law submitted for examination to the CEC of the USSR do not have the force of law until adopted by the Federal Soviet and by the Soviet of Nationalities; they are published in the name of the CEC of the USSR

ARTICLE 23. In case of disagreement between the Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities, the question is transmitted to a compromise committee chosen by the two of them.

ARTICLE 24. If an accord is not reached by the compromise committee, the question is transferred for examination to a joint meeting of the Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities; and, if neither the Federal Soviet nor the Soviet of Nationalities get a majority, then the question may be submitted, on the demand of one of these organs to the decision of an ordinary or extraordinary Congress of the USSR

ARTICLE 25. The Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities elect for the preparation of their sessions and the direction of their work- -their Presidiums, composed of seven members each.

ARTICLE 26. Between sessions of the CEC of the USSR, the supreme organ of power is the Presidium of the USSR, constituted by the CEC to the extent of 21 members, including the Presidium of the Federal Soviet and the Presidium of the Soviet of Nationalities.

To form the Presidium of the CEC and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, conforming to Articles 26 and 37 of the present Constitution, joint sessions of the Federal Soviet and of the Soviet of Nationalities are convoked. In the joint session of the Federal Soviet and the Soviet of Nationalities, the vote is taken separately within each group.

ARTICLE 27. The CEC elects, in accordance with the number of member Republics, 4 Presidents of the CEC of the USSR from among the members of the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR

ARTICLE 28. The CEC of the USSR is responsible before the Congress of Soviets of the USSR

Chapter V. The Presidium of the CEC of the Union

ARTICLE 29. Between sessions of the CEC of the USSR, the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR is the supreme organ of legislative, executive, and administrative power of the USSR

ARTICLE 30. The Presidium of the CEC of the USSR oversees the enforcement of the Constitution of the USSR and the execution of all decisions of the Congress of Soviets and the CEC of the USSR by all the public agents.

ARTICLE 31. The Presidium of the CEC of the USSR has the right to suspend and abrogate the orders of the Council of People’s Commissars and of the different Councils of the People of the Union of the S. S. R. as well as those of the CEC and CPC (Councils of People’s Commissars) of the member Republics.

ARTICLE 32. The Presidium of the CEC of the USSR has the right to suspend the acts of the Congresses of Soviets of the member Republics submitting afterwards these acts for the examination and approval of the CEC of the USSR

ARTICLE 33. The Presidium of the CEC of the USSR promulgates the decrees, acts, and orders; examines and approves the projects of decrees and acts deposited by the CPC, by the different authorities of the USSR, by the CEC of the member Republics, by their Presidiums and by other organs of power.

ARTICLE 34. The decrees and decisions of the CEC, of its Presidium, and the CPC of the USSR are printed in the languages generally employed in the member Republics: Russian, Ukrainian, White Russian, Georgian, Armenian, Turko-Tartar.

ARTICLE 35. The Presidium of the CEC of the USSR decides questions regarding the relationships between the CPC of the USSR and the People’s Commissars of the USSR, for one part and the CEC of the member Republics and their Presidiums, for the second part.

ARTICLE 36. The Presidium of the CEC of the USSR is responsible before the CEC of the USSR

Chapter VI. Council of People’s Commissars of the Union

ARTICLE 37. The Council of People’s Commissars (CPC) of the USSR is the executive and administrative organ of the CEC of the USSR and is constituted by the CEC as follows:

(a) The President of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR,
(b) The Vice- Presidents, (c) The Commissioner of the People for Foreign Affairs,
(d) The Commissioner of the People for Military and Naval Affairs,
(e) The Commissioner of the People for Foreign Commerce, (f) The Commissioner of the People for Ways of Communication,
(g) The Commissioner of the People for Postal and Telegraphic Service,
(h) The Commissioner of the People for the Inspection of Workers and Peasants,
(i) The President of the Supreme Council of National Economy,
(j) The Commissioner of the People for Labor,
(k) The Commissioner of the People for Finances
(l) The Commissioner of the People for Supplies.

ARTICLE 38. The Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, in the limits of the powers granted to it by the CEC of the USSR and on the basis of rules regulating the CPC of the USSR, publishes the decrees and decisions that must become effective throughout the territory of the USSR

ARTICLE 39. The CPC of the USSR examines the decrees and decisions given it by the various Commissions of the People as well as those from the CEC of the member Republics and by their Presidiums.

ARTICLE 40. The CPC of the USSR is responsible for all its work before the CEC of the USSR and before its Presidium.

ARTICLE 4 1. The orders and acts of the CPC of the USSR may be suspended and abrogated by the CEC of the USSR and by its Presidium.

ARTICLE 42. The Central Executive Committees of the member Republics and their Presidiums may object to the decrees and orders of the CPC of the USSR to the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR, without suspending the execution of these orders.

Chapter VII. The Supreme Court of the Union

ARTICLE 43. In order to maintain revolutionary legality within the territory of the USSR, a Supreme Court under the jurisdiction of the CEC of the USSR is established, competent:

(a) To give the Supreme Courts of the member Republics the authentic interpretations on questions of federal legislation;
(b) To examine, on the request of the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of the USSR, the decrees, decisions, and verdicts of the Supreme Courts of the member Republics, with view of discovering any infraction of the federal laws, or harming the interests of other Republics, and if such be discovered to bring them before the CEC of the USSR
(c) To render decisions on the request of the CEC of the USSR, as to the constitutionality of laws passed by the member Republics;
(d) To settle legal disputes between the member Republics;
(e) To examine the accusations brought before it of high officials against whom charges have been made relative to their performance of duties.

ARTICLE 44. The Supreme Court performs its functions in the following manner:

(a) With a full attendance of the member judges of the Supreme Court of the USSR;
(b) Or, in a meeting of the Civil Judiciary College and the Criminal Judiciary College of the Supreme Court of the USSR;
(c) Or, in a meeting of the Military College.

ARTICLE 45. The Supreme Court of the USSR, in full session, is composed of 11 members, 6 including its President and Vice-President, the four Presidents of the Supreme Courts of the member Republics, and a representative of the Unified Political Administration of the State of the USSR, the President and the Vice-President and the other five members are named by the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR

ARTICLE 46. The Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of the USSR and his assistant are named by the Presidium of the CEC of the USSR The Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of the USSR is charged with the duties; (1) to give the decisions of all questions in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the USSR, (2) to prosecute the cases brought before the Court, (3) and, in cases of lack of agreement among the judges of the Supreme Court of the USSR, to bring these questions of dispute before the Presidium of the CEC of the S. S. R.

ARTICLE 47. The right to submit the questions referred to in Article 43 to the Supreme Court of the USSR for examination belongs exclusively to the CEC of the USSR, to its Presidium, to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Courts of the member Republics, and to the Unified Political Administration of the State of the USSR

ARTICLE 48. The regular sessions of the Supreme Court of the USSR constitute the special legal chambers to examine:

(a) The civil and criminal affairs of exceptional importance that are of interest to two or more member Republics;
(b) Personal charges against members of the CEC and the CPC of the USSR

A decision of the Supreme Court of the USSR to proceed to examine a case may take place only after special authority has been granted for each case by the CEC of the Union or its Presidium.

Chapter VIII. People’s Commissars of the Union

ARTICLE 49. For the immediate direction of the several branches of public administration, attributed to the CPC of the Union of the SSR, 10 People’s Commissars are created as mentioned in Article 37 of the Present Constitution and who act according to the regulations of the People’s Commissars approved by the CEC of the Union of the SSR

ARTICLE 50. The People’s Commissars of the USSR are divided into the following groups:

(a) People’s Commissars handling strictly federal matters of the USSR that are external in character;
(b) People’s Commissars handling matters that are purely domestic in character.

ARTICLE 51. The first group of Commissars handling matters external in character includes the following People’s Commissars:

(a) For Foreign Affairs
(b) For Military and Naval Affairs
(c) For Foreign Commerce
(d) For Ways of Communication
(e) For Postal and Telegraphic Service

ARTICLE 52. The second group handling matters that are strictly domestic in character includes the following People’s Commissars:

(a) The Council of National Economy
(b) For Supplies,
(c) For Labor
(d) For Finances,
(e) For the Inspection of Workers and Peasants.

ARTICLE 53. The People’s Commissars handling matters of purely external character have, in the various member Republics, their delegates directly subordinate to these Commissars.

ARTICLE 54. The People’s Commissars handling matters of domestic concern have, as executing organs in the various member Republics, the People’s Commissars of these Republics of similar title.

ARTICLE 55. The CPC of the USSR, including the individual Commissars, are the heads of the various departments mentioned.

ARTICLE 56. Under each Commissioner of the People, and under his presidency, is formed a college, of which the members are named by the CPC of the USSR

ARTICLE 57. The Commissioner of the People has the right to personally take decisions on all questions that come within the jurisdiction of his department, on advising the College of his department of his act. In case of disagreement on any decision of the Commissioner of the People, the College, or its members separately, may bring the dispute before the CPC of the USSR, without suspending the act of the Commissioner.

ARTICLE 58. The orders of the different People’s Commissars of the Union may be abrogated by the Presidium of the CEC and by the CPC of the USSR

ARTICLE 59. The orders of the People’s Commissars of the USSR may be suspended by the CEC or by the Presidiums of the CEC of the member Republic in case of evident incompatibility of these orders with the Federal Constitution, with federal legislation or with legislation of the member Republic. This suspension is immediately communicated by the CEC or by the Presidiums of the CEC of the member Republics to the CPC of the USSR and to the proper Commissioner of the People of the USSR

ARTICLE 60. The People’s Commissars of the USSR are responsible before the CPC, the CEC of the USSR and its Presidium.

Chapter IX. The Unified Political Administration of State

ARTICLE 61. In view of unifying the revolutionary efforts of the member Republics in their struggle against the political and economic counter-revolution, spying and banditry, there shall be created under the jurisdiction of the CPC of the USSR, a Unified Political Administration of State (GPU) of which the President shall be a consulting member of the CPC of the USSR

ARTICLE 62. The GPU of the USSR directs the activities of the local organs of GPU through its delegates under the jurisdiction of the CPC of the member Republics, acting in virtue of a special ruling sanctioned through legislative channels.

ARTICLE 63. The overseeing of acts of the GPU as to their legality shall be in charge of the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of the USSR in virtue of a special ruling of the CEC of the USSR

Chapter X. The Member Republics

ARTICLE 64. Within the limits of the territory of each member Republic the supreme organ of power is the Congress of Soviets of the Republic, and in Congressional recesses, its Central Executive Committee.

ARTICLE 65. The relations between the supreme organs of power of the member Republics and the supreme organs of power of the USSR are established by the present Constitution.

ARTICLE 66. The CEC of the member Republics elect from among their own membership the Presidiums that in the recesses between sessions of the CEC are the Supreme organs of power.

ARTICLE 67. The CEC of the member Republics will form their executive organs–the Councils of People’s Commissars, as follows:

(a) The President of the Council of People’s Commissars,
(b) The Vice- Presidents.
(c) The President of the Supreme Council for National Economy,
(d) The Commissioner of the People for Agriculture, (e) The Commissioner of the People for Finances
(f) The Commissioner of the People for Supplies, (g) The Commissioner of the People for Labor
(h) The Commissioner of the People for the Interior, (i) The Commissioner of the People for Justice,
(j) The Commissioner of the People for the Inspection of the Workers and Peasants,
(k) The Commissioner of the People for Public Instruction, (l) The Commissioner of the People for Public Health
(m) The Commissioner of the People for Social Precaution, and in addition, and with a voice either consultative or deliberative, according to the decision of the CEC of the member Republics, Delegates of the People’s Commissars of the USSR for Foreign Affairs, for Military and Naval Affairs, for Foreign Commerce, for Ways of Communication, for Postal and Telegraphic Service.

ARTICLE 68. The Supreme Council of National Economy and the Commissars of Supplies, of Finances, of Labor, ‘of the Inspection of Workers and Peasants of the member Republics, while being subordinate to the CEC and CPC of the member Republics, will execute the orders of the CPC of the USSR

ARTICLE 69. The right of amnesty, as well as the right of pardon and the rehabilitation of citizens condemned by the judicial and administrative organs of the member Republics belongs to the CEC of these Republics.

Chapter XI. Arms, Flag and Capital of the Union

ARTICLE 70. The insignia of the State of the USSR is composed of a sickle and a hammer on an earthly globe, surrounded by sun rays and framed with wheat stalks, with an inscription in the six languages mentioned in Article 34: “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” Above the insignia, there shall be a five pointed star.

ARTICLE 71. The flag of the State of the USSR shall be in red or vermilion cloth with the arms of the Union.

ARTICLE 72. The Capital of the USSR is Moscow.

Source: Milton H. Andrew, Twelve Leading Constitutions (Compton, California: American University series, 1931), p. 327.

 

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