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Related to soviet: Soviet Bloc


primary unit in the political organization of the former USSR. The term is the Russian word for council. The first soviets were revolutionary committees organized by Russian socialists in the Revolution of 1905 among striking factory workers. When the Russian RevolutionRussian Revolution,
violent upheaval in Russia in 1917 that overthrew the czarist government. Causes

The revolution was the culmination of a long period of repression and unrest.
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 broke out in 1917, workers', peasants', and soldiers' soviets sprang up all over Russia. They were led by a central executive committee, which included not only Bolsheviks, but also Mensheviks (see Bolshevism and MenshevismBolshevism and Menshevism
, the two main branches of Russian socialism from 1903 until the consolidation of the Bolshevik dictatorship under Lenin in the civil war of 1918–20.
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) and members of the Socialist Revolutionary party. At the first all-Russian soviet congress (June, 1917), the Socialist Revolutionaries had 285 deputies, the Mensheviks 248, the Bolsheviks only 105. Since the soviets represented the real power in Russia, when the Bolsheviks under Lenin captured the most important soviets in Petrograd, in Moscow, and in the armed forces, their success was assured. Imitations by leftist revolutionists in other countries met with less success, notably in Germany and Hungary, where, from 1918 to 1920, workers', peasants', and soldiers' councils were formed. A soviet republic in BavariaBavaria
, Ger. Bayern, state (1994 pop. 11,600,000), 27,239 sq mi (70,549 sq km), S Germany. Munich is the capital. The largest state of Germany, Bavaria is bordered by the Czech Republic on the east, by Austria on the southeast and south, by Baden-Württemberg on the
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 was short-lived, and the regime of Béla KunKun, Béla
, 1886–1937, Hungarian Communist. A prisoner of war in Russia after 1915, he embraced Bolshevism. After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917 he was sent to Hungary as a propagandist.
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 in Hungary was put down. Soviets in the Baltic republics met a similar fate. In Russia the soviets remained the basic political units, forming a hierarchy from rural councils to the Supreme Soviet, the highest legislative body in the USSR. Under the first Soviet constitution only the local soviets were elected by direct suffrage. The constitution of 1936 abolished the division of the electorate into occupational classes and instituted elections of all soviets by direct universal suffrage, but all levels were dominated by the Communist party's parallel hierarchy. In Russia the soviets survived the disintegration (1991) of the USSR, but in 1993 YeltsinYeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich
, 1931–2007, Soviet and Russian politician, president of Russia (1991–99). Born in Yekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) and educated at the Urals Polytechnic Institute, Yeltsin began his career as a construction worker (1953–68).
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 called for them to dissolve and reorganize as smaller dumas, or assemblies.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


1. (in the former Soviet Union) an elected government council at the local, regional, and national levels, which culminated in the Supreme Soviet
2. (in prerevolutionary Russia) a local revolutionary council
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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