The list of Soviet Union's leaders shows that usually leaders remained in office until their death, I'd like to know:

  • What was the legal status of the Soviet Union's leader? How was he elected or removed?

  • Could he have been impeached according to the constitution? If so, had there ever been an attempt to impeach a leader?

  • If no, was there any mechanism to restrict the power of the leader?

  • 3
    Gorbachov was also removed.
    – convert
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 18:37
  • 4
    Beria was also removed after leading the Soviet Union for 3 months. After Beria was removed, it was ruled by a trifecta committee until 1953, when Khrushchev took power.
    – wrod
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 19:20
  • 2
    If we are talking about formalities, the formal "leader of the Soviet Union" (head of the government) was the Prime Minister, while the de-facto leader was the leader of the Communist Party. (Khrushchev and Stalin were both for some of their time, but not others). PMs were replaced routinely. In reality, the party made all the major decisions and then sent them to the government to be formalised "according to the Soviet laws".
    – Zeus
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 1:20
  • 1
    The Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore, so this is a question for history stack exchange.
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 12:11
  • 1

1 Answer 1


Sure he could be removed legally, as the example of Khrushchev shows. Officially the only source of power in USSR was the Communist Party as defined in article 6 of the constitution from 1977 which was able with a simple majority to remove everybody it wanted. Theoretically even Stalin could be removed, there is even an article about such hypothetical case, but theory is not always the same as practise.

The translation of article 6:

The leading and guiding force of Soviet society, the core of its political system, state and public organizations is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU exists for the people and serves the people.

Armed with Marxist-Leninist teachings, the Communist Party determines the general perspective of the development of society, the line of the internal and foreign policy of the USSR, directs the great creative activity of the Soviet people, gives a systematic scientifically grounded character to its struggle for the victory of communism.

All party organizations operate within the framework of the Constitution of the USSR.

Also in constitutions befor 1977 there were similar articles, like article 8 from constitution 1924.

The translation:

The supreme authority of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is the Council of Soviets, and in the period between the Council meetings — the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, consisting of the Union Council and the Council of Nationalities.

And in constitution 1936 article 30.

The translation:

The supreme body of state power of the USSR is the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

  • 5
    You make an important point that theory is not always the same as practice. Much like the current Russian Federation, the USSR does not have a functional succession principle, which means leaders tend to stay in power for life and a power vacuum likely spells a violent struggle.
    – QuantumWalnut
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 1:30
  • 3
    Article 6 appeared only in 1977 and couldn't have applied to Khrushchev. Furthermore, technically the "leader of the Soviet Union" was the Prime Minister, while the de-facto leader was the leader of the Communist Party. (Although Khrushchev was both). So formally the answer is wrong, even if the short answer "yes" is correct.
    – Zeus
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 1:06
  • @Zeus Added similar articles from constitutions befor 1977.
    – convert
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 10:52
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    My whole point was that they are not similar at all. A 'Soviet' (supreme or other) is a form of parliament, i.e. a government. Its head is the head of state. Formally, it had no party affiliation; it just 'happened' that it was staffed with CPSU members. The leader of a government is not the same as the leader of the [ruling] party, even in the USSR. In some similar assemblies, e.g. in GDR or North Korea, there actually were several other (minor) parties. The 1977 constitution dropped any pretence and legally declared CPSU as a ruling party, and even then it was quite an unprecedented move.
    – Zeus
    Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 11:45
  • Should we assume from the absence of any quotations describing a formal mechanism for removal that none existed, and that the power to remove exists only implicitly as part of the supreme authority of the Supreme Soviet?
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 7:26

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