state institutions established to direct Russian economic life during World War I. There were five special conferences—one each for defense, transportation, fuel, food supply, and refugee assistance. The predecessor to these five bodies was the Special Conference for Improved Supply of Essential Munitions to the Army in the Field, an agency established in the midst of an acute arms shortage in May 1915.
According to the Statute on Special Conferences, ratified by the tsar on Aug. 17, 1915, the conferences were “state institutions on the highest level,” with the right to demand assistance from all public and governmental organizations and to set price limits, deadlines, and priorities for the fulfillment of military orders. The conferences were also empowered to sequester and requisition goods and to collect information on the performance of factories.
The system of special conferences included regulatory bodies, such as the Metallurgical Committee (1915–17) and the Central Bureau for Sugar Procurement, which supervised individual branches of the economy. It also included various military-bureaucratic offices. Representatives of government departments, the State Duma, the State Council, and various bourgeois civic organizations took part in the conferences as nonvoting members. The power to set policy was vested in the conference chairmen, who were, respectively, the ministers of war, trade and industry, transportation, and agriculture.
The special conferences continued to operate under the Provisional Government, except for the one dealing with food supply; its functions were transferred to the General State Food Committee. After the October Revolution (1917), the Soviet government made use of the technical cadres and the accounting and registrational apparatus of the disbanded special conferences in order to establish the Supreme Council on the National Economy and other agencies.
REFERENCESOsobye soveshchaniia i komitety voennogo vremeni: Svod zakonov. Petro-grad, 1917.
Bukshpan, Ia. M. Voenno-khoziaistvennaia politika. Moscow-Leningrad, 1929.
Sidorov, A. L. Finansovoe polozhenie Rossii v gody Pervoi mirovoi voiny (1914–1917). Moscow, 1960.
S. A. SOMOV