Congress of People's Deputies

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Directly elected lower tier of the Russian legislature during the transitional period of 1990–93 during which Russia evolved from a USSR Union Republic to independent statehood. The Congress of People's Deputies was elected as the assembly of the RSFSR in competitive elections in March 1990. It was extremely large, numbering 1,068 deputies and it was no standing parliament—Congress met only once or twice annually for several weeks or even just days. Nonetheless, the Russian constitution gave Congress extensive powers. It could alter the constitution, or adopt a new one (Constitution Art. 104.1), determine the guidelines of foreign and domestic policy (Art. 104.2), and influence government composition (Art. 104.10). Congress delegated the power to adopt all normal legislation to a subset of 252 of its deputies who formed the Supreme Soviet, a smaller, bicameral standing parliament elected by Congress itself. With the exception of the Supreme Soviet members Congress deputies were part‐time legislators. Parties played very little role in Congress. Once elected, deputies formed only weakly disciplined and volatile factions, most of which lacked links to parties outside parliament. To organize congressional business, deputies used a Soviet inheritance, the speaker and the presidium, an administrative organ chaired by the speaker.

The decisions taken by Russia's Congress of People's Deputies played a central role in shaping Russian politics during the decline and collapse of the USSR, and the first year of independent Russian statehood. Key Congress decisions included the declaration of sovereignty and the creation of the republic's executive presidency. Congressional opposition to the economic policies of Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin, eventually precipitated a constitutional conflict that culminated in the shelling of Congress by the president, and the collapse of Russia's First Republic in October 1993. It was replaced by the Federal Assembly.

Petra Schleiter


Subjects: Politics.

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