List of leaders of the Soviet Union

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Under the 1977 Soviet Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR was the head of government[1] and the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet was the head of state.[2] The office of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers was the equivalent to a First World Prime Minister,[1] while the office of the Chairman of the Presidium was equivalent to the office of the President.[2] In the Soviet Union's seventy-year history there was no official leader of the Soviet Union offices but a Soviet leader usually led the country through the office of the Premier and/or the office of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Following Joseph Stalin's consolidation of power in the 1920s[3] the post of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party became synonymous with 'Leader of the Soviet Union'[4] due to the fact that the post controlled both the CPSU and the Soviet government.[3] The post of the General Secretary was abolished under Stalin and later re-established by Nikita Khrushchev under the name of First Secretary; in 1966 Leonid Brezhnev reverted the office title to its former name. Being the head of the communist party,[5] the office of the General Secretary was the highest in the Soviet Union until 1990.[6] The post of General Secretary lacked clear guidelines of succession, so after the death or removal of a Soviet leader, the successor usually needed the support of the Politburo, the Central Committee, another government or party apparatus to both take and stay in power. The President of the Soviet Union, an office created in March 1990, replaced the General Secretary as the highest Soviet political office.[7]

Contemporaneously to establishment of the office of the President, representatives of the Congress of People's Deputies voted to remove Article 6 from the Soviet constitution which stated that the Soviet Union was a one-party state controlled by the Communist Party which, in turn, played the leading role in society. This vote weakened the Party and its hegemony over the Soviet Union and its people.[8] Upon death, resignation, or removal from office of an incumbent President, the Vice President of the Soviet Union would assume the office, though the Soviet Union collapsed before this was actually tested.[9] After the failed August Coup the Vice President was replaced by an elected member of the State Council of the Soviet Union.[10]

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