State Law

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

State Law


the system of legal norms that consolidate the basic principles of the social and state system of a country. Soviet state law consolidates the social relationships that are the basis of the socioeconomic system and political organization of Soviet society, as well as the sovereignty of the people, the sovereignty of nations, and the sovereignty of the state. State law is sometimes referred to as constitutional law.

The principal source of Soviet state law is the Constitution of the USSR—the fundamental law of the socialist state and society. This fact determines the place of state law within the Soviet legal system as the leading branch of law. since its principles are basic to all other branches of Soviet law. By its own rules, and especially by those norms that are set forth in the Constitution of the USSR, state law consolidates the political and economic principles of the Soviet state, the sovereignty of the people, and the guiding role of the CPSU in society and the state. It defines the forms of the social and state system, ensures the democratic liberties of Soviet citizens, their basic rights and duties, and the material and legal guarantees of these rights and liberties: it also defines the system of state institutions, the manner of their formation, and their jurisdiction.

The leading principles of Soviet state law include the prohibition of the exploitation of one person by another as the basis of effective freedom of personality and the development of democracy. Under Soviet state law all absolute political power and all social resources are concentrated in the hands of the people, the sovereign rulers. In the USSR state law establishes an electoral system that guarantees representation of the people in the elective institutions of state power, the democratic character of their activities, and their accountability to and control by the electorate. Soviet state law also provides for the sovereignty of the representative bodies that are called upon to resolve all fundamental questions concerning the life of society and the state and to form and control the machinery of state. Also among the basic principles of Soviet state law are internationalism and equal rights in relations between Soviet nations (natsii, nations in the historical sense), which ensures the free national and state development of all peoples of the USSR.

State law establishes the procedure for promulgating legal acts pertaining to every branch of law and the correlation between all legal acts, thus maintaining the priority of the law and ensuring the implementation of the principle of a unified socialist legality. State law bears an institutional character, since the adoption of a new constitution usually gives rise to new political forms and a new system of governmental institutions, which in turn requires bringing the old norms of law into conformity with the new constitution.

State law includes not only the norms of the constitution but also other legal norms that contain the guarantees for the implementation of the sovereignty of the people, the sovereignty of nations, and the sovereignty of the state. (These norms are contained, for example, in the basic statutes on elections and on representative bodies.) Constitutional norms possess the greatest legal force, and the remaining norms of state law have different degrees of force, depending on their form (for example, statute, edict, or government decree).

The system of subjects of the social relationships corresponds to the basic character of these relationships as defined and maintained by Soviet state law. The subjects of state law are the Soviet people, individual nations and nationalities, the state as a whole, nationality-based state formations (Union and autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts, and the national okrugs), state institutions (particularly the representative bodies of state power), deputies of the representative bodies, citizens, and public organizations.

Reflecting changes in the economy, the relationship of class forces, and the class structure of Soviet society, state law evolves in accordance with the basic stages in the development of the Soviet state. Thus, state law during the first stage expressed the basic tasks of the period of transition from capitalism to socialism and the functions of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat—that is, the elimination of exploitative classes and guaranteeing the building of socialism.

The profound changes in the economic and class structure of Soviet society that took place as a result of the victory of socialism in the USSR gave rise to a further development of Soviet state law. which was reflected in the Constitution of the USSR of 1936. This document confirmed the fact of the complete dominance of the socialist economic system and socialist ownership of the means of production. After the adoption of the Constitution of the USSR in 1936, further changes took place in the Soviet society and state and in the international position of the USSR. Socialism gained a complete and final victory in the USSR, and the country entered a period characterized by the comprehensive building of communist society, which resulted in the transformation of the state of the dictatorship of the working class into a state of the whole people— an institution expressing the interests and will of the people as a whole. This predetermined the main direction in the development of the Soviet state system and Soviet state law—that is. as much development as possible and the ultimate perfection of socialist democratism.


Umanskii, Ia. N. Sovetskoe gosudarstvennoepravo. Moscow, 1970.
Konstitutsionnoe pravo sotsialisticheskikh stran: Sb. state. Moscow. 1963.


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