Diplomatic Ranks

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Diplomatic Ranks


special ranks conferred on diplomatic workers. The system and order of conferring diplomatic ranks is regulated by the legislation of each state. In the diplomatic practice of the majority of states, the well-known diplomatic ranks are ambassador, envoy, councillor, first secretary, second secretary, third secretary, and attache. In addition, there may be gradations of these ranks (for example, councillors of the first and second class).

The term “ambassador”—that is, a man who knows two, an intermediary between two sovereigns—was used as early as the 13th century. At the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century, two ranks of diplomatic representatives were distinguished: ambassador and mandatory. In the 17th century the rank of resident appeared (a degree in the hierarchy of diplomatic representatives) and the term “envoy” was first used. As a result of numerous conflicts over the relationship among diplomatic ranks, a special regulation was devised on Mar. 19, 1815, at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), which was supplemented by the Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) Protocol of Nov. 21, 1818. A sequence of diplomatic classes was established that coincided with diplomatic ranks: (1) ambassadors, with papal legates and nuncios granted equal status; (2) envoys and ministers plenipotentiary, with papal internuncios given equal rank; (3) resident ministers; (4) charges d’affaires.

On June 4, 1918, a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR abolished the old diplomatic ranks and replaced them with the rank of plenipotentiary. The General Regulations on Soviet Agencies Abroad of May 26, 1921, established the division of Soviet representative bodies abroad into plenipotentiary diplomatic missions and commercial and consular delegations. This distinction was later maintained by the Regulations on the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (Vestnik TsIK, SNK, i STO [Bulletin of the Central Executive Committee, the Council of People’s Commissars, and the Council of Labor and Defense], 1923, no. 10, art. 300; Collection of Statutes of the USSR, 1925, no. 34, art. 233; Collection of Statutes of the USSR, 1927, no. 25, art. 266).

The Edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the Establishment of Ranks for Diplomatic Representatives of the USSR Abroad of May 9, 1941, introduced the ranks of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary, and charge d’affaires. The Edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the Establishment of Ranks of Diplomatic Workers of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and of Embassies and Missions of the USSR Abroad of May 28, 1943, introduced other diplomatic ranks: councillors of the first and second class, two classes of first secretaries, two classes of second secretaries, third secretaries, and attaches.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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