A Kolkhoznik Proposes Changes to the Constitution

Vasilii Efimovich Mel’nikov, Letter from kolkhoznik V. E. Mel’nikov to Krestiianskaia Gazeta. 1936


Original Source: RTsKhIDNI, f. 17, op. 120, d. 232, ll. 83-85

The published draft of the U.S.S.R. Constitution of 12 June 1936 is one of the most precious gifts from Soviet authority to the peoples of the Union since its rule began.

If the coming congress of soviets will see fit to approve it in its entirety after a general discussion, a new era in life will indeed begin for the peoples of the U.S.S.R., because the thoughts and aspirations of the progressive minds of the old and new world will be realized and implemented.

Then we will be entitled to say to the Westernizers: Citizens! We are not slaves without rights, either, but are free citizens who are building our life in our own way, and with our flesh and blood are forging the rights of citizenship and our homeland, which we will cherish and protect as the apple of our eye. These inalienable rights of citizenship will definitely be mighty and strong in every respect of public life and if anyone thinks of raising a hand against the USSR with such a Constitution, either from within or from outside, he will get a devastating rebuff.

Under the coming elections to the soviets, based on Article 134, the peoples of the U.S.S.R. will be the supreme holders of power, and consequently the future bodies of power will have the source of the people’s will.

Of all the different forms of government one must consider the best to be the one that fulfills the people’s happiness and security more completely and that provides the most guarantees against bad administration.

After all, everyone thinks and feels that an encroachment on the basic most important rights of the human individual and citizen not only dulls civic-mindedness but even causes a person to build up a feeling of hatred toward the state and a desire to demolish and destroy the state authority that nullifies the main purpose of human and civic existence.

In order to make the government’s laws and directives more sensible and stable, I think this should be added to Chapter III, Article 34: people elected to the Supreme Soviet shall be at least 50 years of age and have a higher education.

To the Council of Nationalities, at least 30 years of age, with a broad life experience.

Add to Chapter IX, Article 102: The death penalty shall be abolished, as a measure of social protection that is degrading for mankind in the 20th century, and replaced by the penalty of exile from the U.S.S.R. with confiscation of property.

Add to Article 108: When krai or oblast courts consider cases from people’s courts, the assessors in any session shall consist of four workers and six peasants. Ten percent of people’s judges shall have a higher education.

Chapter X, Article 125, should be amended since freedom of the press is one of the greatest underpinnings of political freedom, therefore any restriction on the press should be regarded as an act of tyranny, and all citizens should be granted the right to express their opinion in the press without any censorship and without any obstacle to subscribing to and receiving from abroad newspapers and magazines of various parties and shadings.

Add to Article 129: All citizens of the Union shall be granted the right freely to go abroad, to work, travel or for scholarly purposes, to any country in the world.

Add to Article 141: In each election district, not only organizations but private individuals shall enter nominations in the lists of candidates, because not all organizations know all of the good people around them.

My sincere request to the esteemed editors of Krest’ianskaia Gazeta is the following: provide a broad introduction for our newspaper’s readers in the immediate future to the constitutions of the advanced countries throughout the world, because most of the population does not even have the slightest inkling of the principles of these states. In particular, people should be familiarized with the French Constitution of 1789 and the American, published in 1772 [sic], as one that was fostered in the struggle for independence against English dominion in the colonies.

Source: Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov, eds., Stalinism as a Way of Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), Document 67.

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