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in religion, term used to designate the clergy of Protestant churches, particularly those who repudiate the claims of apostolic successionapostolic succession,
in Christian theology, the doctrine asserting that the chosen successors of the apostles enjoyed through God's grace the same authority, power, and responsibility as was conferred upon the apostles by Jesus.
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. The ceremony by which the candidate receives the office of a minister is called ordination. Protestant ordination, unlike holy orders in the Roman Catholic Church, is not a sacrament. The Reformation doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers" underlies the inclination of many Protestant bodies to reduce the distinction between ministry and laity. In certain Protestant groups, e.g., the Plymouth Brethren, the ordination of ministers is dispensed with altogether. The Society of Friends (Quakers) ordains but makes little practical distinction between ministers and laity. Lutheranism and Presbyterianism invest the office with great dignity. Methodism (in the United States but not in Great Britain) has an episcopal form of church organization but one quite unlike the episcopacy of the Church of England. Fundamental to most Protestant groups is the belief that the soul can go to God without the need of priestly mediation. Hence the function of the ministry is interpreted strictly as one of assistance to the religious life through preaching, the administration of sacraments, and counseling.


See H. R. Niebuhr and D. D. Williams, ed., The Ministry in Historical Perspective (1956); R. S. Paul, Ministry (1965); D. D. Hall, The Faithful Shepherd (1972).



a central body of the state administration. The first ministries were formed in Western Europe in the 16th-17th centuries.

Prerevolutionary Russia. Ministries were organized in prerevolutionary Russia upon the accession to the throne of Alexander I. N. N. Novosil’tsev, a member of the Unofficial Committee, prepared a plan for the establishment of ministries that permitted the temporary combination of administration by individuals with the collegial principle. The Manifesto of Sept. 8, 1802, established the ministries of justice, finance, commerce, public education, the army, the navy, the interior, and foreign affairs. The remaining collegiums were assigned to various ministers, under whom offices (departments) were initially established to deal with the collegiums. In some cases, only one collegium came into a ministry (for example, the Admiralty and the collegiums of war and commerce), but in other cases, several were brought under one ministry. The ministers belonged to the Senate and the Committee of Ministers and had the right to report to the tsar personally. As of June 1803, the leadership of various branches of administration was completely concentrated in the ministries (for example, the Ministry of the Interior).

In 1810 the duties of each ministry were more clearly defined. By virtue of their office, ministers became members of the State Council. The General Regulation for the Ministries worked out by M. M. Speranskii (June 25, 1811) completed the ministerial reform: administration by individuals was conclusively defined as the basic principle of the organization and work of the ministries, and uniformity of structure, paperwork, and bookkeeping was established, as was a system interrelating the structural units within the ministries and defining their relationship with other institutions. Each ministry was headed by a minister and an assistant minister, both of whom were appointed by the tsar. Under the minister there was a consultative body—the Minister’s Council (later, the Council of the Ministry), which was made up of the heads of the ministry’s structural units. For communication with all the structural units there was an office of the minister or ministry.

The executive apparatus of each ministry consisted of between one and nine departments. Also included in each ministry were the “special establishments” (special offices for important and secret affairs), academic committees, and auxiliary financial, technical, and other special institutions. Bureaucratic coordination of civil servants and extreme bureaucratic centralization were established within each ministry: absolute power and the final decision on the majority of affairs resided solely with the ministers. The civil ministries administered the local institutions subordinate to them by means of circulars and directions; the military ministries, by means of orders. In addition, the ministries made inspections of subordinate institutions, which were obliged to present accounts and various kinds of records annually.

The ministers submitted yearly financial accounts to the Ministry of Finance and the State Council and reports on “prospects and projects for improvement” to the tsar. With the tsar’s permission a minister could appear before the State Council and present his ideas on legislative changes or on the abolition of old laws and the adoption of new ones. Drafts of laws worked out by the ministries and by special commissions or committees were confirmed by the tsar in the State Council or immediately after discussion in the Committee of Ministers and other high committees, as well as during the personal reports of ministers to the tsar, which were presented regularly from the 1820’s.

After 1811 the General Regulations for the Ministries were extended to the majority of the ministries, of which there were nine by 1861. The increasing complexity of state administrative tasks gave rise to a clear delineation of functions not only in the capital but also in the provinces. The ministries and their local bodies constituted distinct departments with their own administrative procedures, staff, budget, and sometimes even departmental territorial divisions (departmental districts) that did not coincide with the general administrative divisions. Periodically, there were changes in ministerial organization: for example, the number of assistant ministers increased, and the internal organization of the ministries became more complex. In the 1860’s through the 1870’s the scope of issues resolved by ministerial bodies, as well as by the heads of their structural units, expanded considerably. Consequently, individual departments in a number of ministries became main administrations and administrations, and divisions whose organization differed from that of the departments emerged. The number of consultative councils and committees increased, and representatives of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intelligentsia were enlisted in them. Toward the end of the 19th century the organization of the Ministry of the Interior became particularly complex. The main punitive body of the autocracy, the Ministry of the Interior supervised the administration, the police, the gendarmerie and the political investigation department (from 1880), and the censorship.

Despite all the above changes, the main principles laid down by the General Regulations for the Ministries in 1811 were retained in the organization of the ministries until 1917. In that year there were 12 ministries in Russia. After the overthrow of the autocracy in 1917 all the ministries were reorganized to a greater or lesser degree. The Ministry of the Imperial Court was abolished, as were certain structural units of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice. New structural units were created in some ministries. To a certain degree, the departments were democratized. Between Mar. 2 and Oct. 25, 1917, four staffs of ministers of the bourgeois Provisional Government were replaced. The Great October Socialist Revolution abolished all the ministries of the landlord bourgeois Russian state.

Among the ministries of prerevolutionary Russia (1802–1917, Old Style) were the Ministry of the Interior (1802–1917); the Ministry of War (1802–1917; until 1808, the Ministry of the Army); the Ministry of the Navy (1802–1917); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1802–1917); the Ministry of Finance (1802–1917); the Ministry of Public Education (1802–1917; from 1817 to 1824, the Ministry of Spiritual Affairs and Public Education); the Ministry of commerce (1802–10); and the Ministry of Communications (1865–1917; from 1809 to 1810, the Main Administration for Water and Land Communications; from 1810 to 1832, the Main Administration for Communications; and from 1832 to 1865, the Main Administration for Communications and Public Buildings). The government of prerevolutionary Russia also included the Ministries of the Imperial Court and Appan-ages (1826–1917; from 1852 to 1856, divided into the Ministry of the Imperial Court and the Ministry of Appanages; from Mar. 16 through Oct. 25, 1917, the Main Administration for Appan-ages), Agriculture (1915–17; from 1837 to 1894, the Ministry of State Domains; from 1894 to 1905, the Ministry of Agriculture and State Property; from 1905 to 1915, the Main Administration for Land Tenure and Agriculture), and Police (1810–19). Other prerevolutionary ministries were Postal Service and Telegraph (1865–68; 1880–81; May 5-Oct. 25, 1917), Justice (1802–1917), Trade and Industry (1905–17), Labor (May 5-Oct. 25, 1917), Provisions (May 5-Oct. 25, 1917), Religion (Aug. 5-Oct. 25, 1917), and State Charity (May 5-Oct. 25, 1917).


Eroshkin, N. P. Istoriia gosudarstvennykh uchrezhdenii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Spravochnik po istorii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii. Moscow, 1971. Pages 176–97.
The USSR. In the USSR the ministry is the central organ of state administration that directs a particular branch of the economy, social and cultural construction, or administrative and political activity. It is the most important component of the Soviet state apparatus. The chief task of every economic ministry is to ensure the development in every possible way of the branch assigned to it as a constituent part of the national economy of the USSR, to ensure high rates of development of production and labor productivity, the fulfillment of the goals of the state plan and the strict observance of state discipline, and the rational utilization and improved effectiveness of capital investments. A ministry directs the branch of activity assigned to it in a planned, scientific manner, taking into account the demands of the comprehensive development of the economy of the entire country, of the Union republics, and of various economic regions. The legal status of the ministry is defined by the Constitution of the USSR and the constitutions of the Union and autonomous republics, the General Statute of 1967 on the Ministries of the USSR (Sobranie polozhenii SSSR, 1967, no. 17, art. 116), and statutes on particular ministries.
The Soviet ministries are the successors of the people’s commissariats, which were established immediately after the victory of the October Revolution of 1917. Under the Mar. 15, 1946, law On the Transformation of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR Into the Council of Ministers of the USSR and of the Councils of People’s Commissars of the Union and Autonomous Republics Into the Councils of Ministers of the Union and Autonomous Republics, the people’s commissariats were reorganized as ministries.
Under the Constitution of the USSR the ministries are formed by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Supreme Soviets of the Union and autonomous republics, and their activity is coordinated and directed by the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the councils of ministers of the Union and autonomous republics. The ministries of the USSR are subdivided into all-Union ministries, which manage the branch of government work assigned to them throughout the USSR, either directly or through bodies created by them, and Union-republic ministries, which direct the branches assigned to them through the ministries of the same names in the Union republics.
As of Jan. 1, 1974, there were 29 all-Union and 31 Union-republic ministries, the majority of which were economic ministries directing various branches of the national economy.
Among the branches of governmental concern assigned to all-Union ministries are the aviation industry, the motor vehicle industry, foreign trade, the gas industry, civil aviation, machine building, and machine building for animal husbandry and fodder production, for light industry and the food industry, and for the household appliances industry. Also under the supervision of all-Union ministries are the medical industry, the navy, the petroleum industry, the defense industry, general machine building, instrument making, means of automation, and control systems. The communications equipment industry, the radio industry, medium machine building, the machine tool and instrument industry, and machine building for construction, road building, and civil engineering are under the direction of all-Union ministries. In addition, all-Union ministries supervise the construction of petroleum and gas industry enterprises; the ship-building industry; the tractor and farm machine building industry; transport construction; heavy, power, and transport machine building; and machine building for the chemical and petroleum industries. The chemical industry, the paper and pulp industry, the electronics industry, and the electrical equipment industry are assigned to all-Union ministries.
The Union-republic ministries direct internal affairs, higher and secondary specialized education, geology, state purchases, public health, foreign affairs, and culture. Light industry, the timber and wood products industry, land reclamation and water use management, installation and specialized construction works, the meat and dairy industry, petroleum refining and the petrochemical industry, defense, food processing, industrial construction, and the building materials industry are also managed at the Union-republic level. In addition, Union-republic ministries are responsible for education, the fishing industry, communications, rural construction, agriculture, construction, construction of heavy industrial enterprises, trade, the coal industry, finance, nonferrous metallurgy, ferrous metallurgy, energy resources and electrification, and justice.
Within the limits of the rights granted them, the ministries of the USSR resolve all questions related to their respective concerns. However, for the resolution of certain questions falling within its competence, a ministry may call on the ministry of the same name in a given Union republic, or on enterprises, organizations, and institutions at the Union-republic level.
There are two types of ministries in the Union republics: Union-republic ministries, which are under the jurisdiction of the Union-republic Council of Ministers and of the corresponding Union-republic ministry of the USSR; and republic ministries, which are subordinate only to the Council of Ministers of the particular Union republic. The republic ministries of the RSFSR supervise motor-vehicle transportation, consumer services, housing and civil construction, housing and communal services, local industry, the river fleet, social insurance, the construction and maintenance of motor vehicle roads, and the fuel industry.
Each ministry is headed by a minister appointed by the Supreme Soviet upon the presentation of the chairman of the Council of Ministers. Between sessions of the Supreme Soviet, ministers are appointed or dismissed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, whose decisions are subsequently confirmed by the Supreme Soviet. Deputy ministers are appointed by the Council of Ministers.
Each minister of the USSR is personally responsible for fulfilling the tasks assigned to his ministry. Within the limits of the ministry’s competence, he issues orders and instructions, using existing laws, resolutions, and orders of the Council of Ministers of the USSR as his guide. A minister’s orders, instructions, and directives are binding on the corresponding ministries in the Union republics and on the enterprises, organizations, and institutions under the ministry. To examine and resolve the basic questions of a ministry’s activity, a collegium chaired by the minister and made up of the deputy minister (a member ex officio) and members confirmed by the Council of Ministers is formed. The scientific and technical (scientific) council, which consists of prominent scientists and highly skilled specialists, industrial innovators, and representatives of scientific and technical societies and other organizations, plays an important role in many ministries.
An arbitrazh (state arbitration tribunal) established by the ministry considers economic disputes between the enterprises, organizations, and institutions subject to the ministry’s jurisdiction. Decrees by the arbitrazh are approved by the minister.
In its activity each ministry is guided by the CPSU policies of developing democratic principles in administration, creating the conditions for the working people and their social organizations to show initiative and participate actively in the perfection of the state administration, accelerating economic and social development, and making the fullest use of existing reserves. This work demands the constant strengthening of state discipline and of socialist legality. To a considerable degree, the success of a ministry’s work depends on the proper combination of collective leadership in the discussion and resolution of questions with personal responsibility, or the establishment of the precise responsibility of officials for the performance of specific tasks and for the general state of affairs in the sector of work assigned to them.
Of utmost importance in enhancing the role of the ministries in the system of Soviet state governmental bodies were the resolutions of the September 1965 Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU on further improvement in the administration of industry and construction. Acknowledging the need to reestablish on a qualitatively new basis the branch principle of managing the national economy through the ministries, the Plenum repudiated the territorial principle of management through the councils of the economy, which had been in effect since 1957.
The organizational work of the ministries is aimed at perfecting the structure of administration and the style and methods of management, as well as at introducing scientific administrative organization, which entails the application of electronic computer technology and other modern technical means. Branch automated management systems have been established in many ministries. In the future these will be unified in a statewide automated management system.
Foreign socialist countries. As a rule, ministries in the foreign socialist countries are formed by the highest state bodies and are headed by a single director, the minister, who is a member of the government appointed by the highest governmental body and responsible to it for the ministry’s activity. In republics that have a single chief executive—a president or chairman—changes in the makeup of the government are made by the president and subsequently confirmed by the highest state body. In most cases a board composed of the minister, the deputy minister, and various leading officials is formed under the leadership of the minister. The office of state secretary—in a sense, a co-leader of the federal ministry who, like the minister, is a member of the government—was instituted in Czechoslovakia in 1968. In order to ensure the proportional representation of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic in the federal government, the minister and the state secretary may not be citizens of the same republic of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In Cuba the ministries are formed and ministers are appointed and dismissed by presidential decree. In some foreign socialist countries the ministers take an oath of loyalty to the people and the state. The system of ministries was abolished in Yugoslavia in 1953, and republic and federal secretariats were established, the functions of which are similar to those of the ministries of other socialist states.
Bourgeois states. In the bourgeois states the ministries have executive duties and manage various branches of the administration. The chief of the ministry is usually a member of the government. In the USA the ministries, or departments, are formed on the basis of enactments of the highest legislative bodies, and in France and a number of other countries, on the basis of decrees by the head of state. In other countries, such as Great Britain, the ministries are formed on the basis of government laws or acts. The number of ministries and the distribution of functions among them are determined, in effect, by the head of the government or the chief executive (the prime minister or the president).
In Western Europe ministries emerged as administrative bodies in the 16th and 17th centuries. The minister, who was entrusted with the leadership of a branch of the administration, directed the activity of the ministry according to the instructions of the monarch, to whom he was directly responsible. With the establishment of constitutional monarchies and the development of parliamentarianism in a number of countries, the institution of ministerial responsibility to parliament emerged. During the period of premonopoly capitalism the activity of the ministries was usually limited to foreign policy and to the direction of the army, the police, communications, and tax collection. During the period of monopoly capitalism, as the bourgeois machinery of state expanded and the executive power grew stronger, the number of ministries steadily increased, their structure became more complicated, and their functions became broader.
After World War II new ministries were formed to deal with economic regulation, public health and social insurance, and problems of ideology and propaganda. A paramount role was played by the ministries directing the armed forces, as well as by ministries with protective functions (the ministries of defense, internal affairs, and justice). In the bourgeois states there is a growing number of ministries with ideological and social functions, including ministries of information, culture, and education. In addition to a ministry of foreign affairs, a number of states have developed a whole system of foreign policy ministries that focus chiefly on problems of foreign economic ties.
The system of ministries in most countries was restructured during the 1960’s and early 1970’s on the basis of functional specialization. Ministries may be classified in terms of their territorial jurisdiction (for example, the federal ministries and the ministries of the individual states in the USA), functions (general or branch competence, for example), and principles of structure (internal structure). The staffs of most ministries are divided into two groups: irremoveable, or professional, civil servants, and political administrators, who are replaced after changes of government. As a rule, the political appointees are the heads of the ministries, such as the US secretary of state. Ministers are appointed and replaced by the chief executive or the head of state (in the USA and France, the president; in Great Britain, the prime minister). In a number of states (Great Britain, for example), the minister must be a member of parliament. In France, however, a deputy may not hold ministerial office. A minister may not be a member of a legislative body in presidential republics such as the USA. The role of the higher strata of the permanent professional civil service in making important political decisions, in the legislative process, and in the exercise of judicial functions (administrative justice) is increasing.
Even within one country the internal structure of ministries may be extremely diverse. Structure depends on the size of the ministry and the scope and nature of its activity. Ministries usually have a central bureaucracy. Sometimes they also have a regional and local bureaucracy located in various parts of the country. Under the ministry there are various auxiliary bodies, such as advisory and consultative committees, interdepartmental coordinating administrations, and autonomous specialized organizations.
In the era of state-monopoly capitalism, the ministries are important organizational and legal channels in the central bureaucracy. By creating mixed bodies and directly enlisting businessmen in their work, the ministries ensure the combination of the power of the monopolies and that of the state into a single mechanism. However, in the developed capitalist countries, where the personal power of the head of state or government is growing stronger, the most important administrative questions are removed from the jurisdiction of the ministries and resolved by the chief executive and his advisers.


Administrativnoe pravo. Moscow, 1970. Pages 69–84, 132–41.
Konstitutsionnyi mekhanizm diktatury monopolii. Moscow, 1964.



a. the profession or duties of a minister of religion
b. the performance of these duties
a. a government department headed by a minister
b. the buildings of such a department
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