AskDefine | Define soviet

Dictionary Definition

Soviet adj : of or relating to or characteristic of the former Soviet Union or its people; "Soviet leaders" n : an elected governmental council in a Communist country (especially one that is a member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)

User Contributed Dictionary

see soviet


Proper noun

  1. Any of the governing workers' councils in the Soviet Union.


  1. history not comparable Pertaining to the Soviet Union or its constituent republics.
  2. Supporting or representing the Soviet Union or Sovietism; Sovietist.
    • 1998, David D. Laitin, Identity in Formation: The Russian-Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad, page 9
      He remained more Soviet than his parents and often accused Gorbachev of having destroyed the Soviet Union on behalf of US intelligence.
    • 2001, Robert G. Moeller, War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany, page 113
      Only in the GDR were the returning POWs presumed guilty; there East Germans, attempting to be "more Soviet than the Soviets," [....]
    • 2005, Gennadiĭ Ėstraĭkh, In Harness: Yiddish Writers' Romance with Communism, page 61
      It would also be incorrect to creat a "scale of Sovietism", arguing, say, that Gildin was more Soviet than Litvakov, or that Litvakov was more Soviet than Dobrushin. Essentially, they were equally Soviet, even if they saw their Sovietism rather differently: [....]

Extensive Definition

A soviet (, , "council") originally was a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia. According to the official historiography of the Soviet Union, the first Soviet (in this sense) was organized during the 1905 Russian Revolution in Ivanovo (Ivanovo region) in May 1905. However in his memoirs Volin claims that he witnessed the creation of the St Petersburg Soviet in Saint Petersburg in January 1905. The councils were later adopted by the Bolsheviks, as the basic organizing unit of society.
Originally the soviets were a grassroots effort to practice direct democracy. Russian Marxists made them a medium for organizing against the state, and between the February and October Revolutions, the Petrograd Soviet was a powerful force. The slogan Вся власть советам ("All power to the soviets" or "All power to the workers' councils") was popular in opposing the Provisional Government led by Kerensky.
Shortly after the October Revolution, the soviets, as organized into a larger body, formed the new basis for governing the post-revolutionary society through soviet democracy. All parties were united in anticipation of a Constituent Assembly. However, a year of debate and discussion within the Bolshevik party resulted in a significant change in party policy. The Bolsheviks adopted the position that the Constituent Assembly was a bourgeois-democratic institution, and counterpoised to it the direct mode of workers' democracy represented by the Soviets. Thus, the post-October Constituent Assembly was dissolved with the mass support of the urban working class (the restoration of the Constituent Assembly soon became the slogan of some of the more liberal Whites in the Russian Civil War). The Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries together held a majority of seats in the Congress of Soviets and formed a coalition government, which lasted until the Left Socialist Revolutionaries left the coalition in the summer 1918. Over time, the independence of the soviets was supplanted by the top-down authority of the increasingly bureaucratized ruling regime, based on the strict hierarchy of power within the CPSU. Despite this, the claim was still made after the rise of Stalinism that Bolshevik power rested on the collective will of these soviets.
The term also came to be used outside the Soviet Union by some Marxist-Leninist movements, for example, the Communist Party of China's efforts in the "Chinese Soviet Republic" immediately prior to the Long March.
Based on the view of the state implicit in the Bolshevik use of the term, the word "soviet" naturally extended, or consciously was extended, to mean in effect any body formed by a group of soviets to delegate, up a hierarchy of soviets, the authority to express and effect their will. In this sense, post-Kerensky government bodies at local and republic levels (but in the Russian federated republic, local, republic, and federated republic levels) were called "soviets", and at the top of the hierarchy, the Congress of Soviets was the nominal core of the Union government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, officially formed in December 1922.


Further reading

  • Edward Acton Rethinking the Russian Revolution 1990 Oxford University Press ISBN 0713165308
  • Tony Cliff Lenin: All Power to the Soviets 1976 Pluto Press
  • Voline The Unknown Revolution Black Rose Books
  • Rex A. Wade The Russian Revolution, 1917 2005 Cambridge University Press ISBN 0521841550
soviet in Catalan: Soviet
soviet in Czech: Sovět
soviet in German: Sowjet
soviet in Spanish: Soviet
soviet in Esperanto: Soveto
soviet in French: Soviet
soviet in Hebrew: סובייט
soviet in Latin: Sovieti
soviet in Lithuanian: Taryba (socializme)
soviet in Dutch: Sovjet
soviet in Japanese: ソビエト
soviet in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sovjet
soviet in Romanian: Soviet
soviet in Russian: Советы народных депутатов
soviet in Swedish: Sovjet (råd)
soviet in Vietnamese: Xô viết
soviet in Chinese: 苏维埃

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

British Cabinet, Sanhedrin, US Cabinet, advisory body, assembly, association, bench, bicameral legislature, board, board of aldermen, body of advisers, borough council, brain trust, cabinet, camarilla, chamber, chamber of deputies, city board, city council, commission, common council, conference, congress, consultative assembly, council, council fire, council of ministers, council of state, council of war, county council, court, deliberative assembly, diet, directory, divan, federal assembly, general assembly, house of assembly, junta, kitchen cabinet, legislative assembly, legislative body, legislative chamber, legislature, lower chamber, lower house, national assembly, parish council, parliament, privy council, provincial legislature, provincial parliament, representative town meeting, staff, state assembly, state legislature, syndicate, synod, town meeting, tribunal, unicameral legislature, upper chamber, upper house
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