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(Russian, dekret), the name given to a legal act. In ancient Rome the acts of the Senate and later of the emperor were known as decrees. After the French Revolution the acts of the Convention and other legislative bodies of the French Republic were called decrees. Today decrees are acts of the head of state in France and in a number of other countries, particularly in African states where the French legal system was adopted. Decrees, which usually have the force of law, often replace laws.
After the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia the legislative acts of congresses of the Soviets, of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR were issued in the form of decrees—for example, the decrees on peace, on land, and on the eight-hour working day. Under the Constitution of the USSR of 1924 the right to issue decrees was granted to the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, to the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, and to the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. The Constitution of the USSR of 1936 does not provide for the issuing of legislative acts called decrees. In some European socialist countries decrees are acts issued by the highest bodies of state power, for example, the acts of the Council of State of the Polish People’s Republic.
(postanovlenie), in the USSR:
(1) An act by the highest organs of state power—the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the supreme soviets of the Union and autonomous republics—ratifying a report or providing a statement on fulfillment of the state budget for the preceding year or execution of decrees of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. The appointment of ministers and the election of members of the Supreme Court are also ratified by decrees of the supreme soviets.
(2) An administrative act issued by the highest executive and administrative bodies of state power—the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the councils of ministers of the Union and autonomous republics. Within their jurisdictions, these bodies issue decrees on the basis of and in execution of the laws and decrees of the presidia of the supreme soviets. The Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR issue joint decrees on key political and economic questions. These joint decrees are binding for soviet and party organizations. Joint decrees are also issued by the central committees of the Union republics and by the councils of ministers of the Union and autonomous republics. In certain legally stipulated cases, decrees may also be issued by other bodies. For example, decrees imposing administrative penalties are adopted by the administrative commissions of the raion and city soviets of working people’s deputies.
(3) An act that formalizes a decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR, the plenums or presidia of the supreme courts of the Union republics, or the presidia of other courts, as well as all decisions rendered by a judge. The plenums of the Supreme Court of the USSR and of the supreme courts of the Union republics issue decrees in which they provide guidelines for the application of existing law in court cases and organizational matters.