Soviet constitution of 1936


August 19, 2022

The Soviet Constitution of 1936, adopted on December 5, 1936 and also known as Stalin's Constitution, redesigned the form of government of the Soviet Union, replacing the Soviet Constitution of 1918 and the supplementary one of 1924. The Constitution, promulgated in the middle of the Stalin era, abrogated the restrictions on the right to vote, instituted direct universal suffrage and contemplated new workers' rights that were added to those already provided for by the previous constitution, slightly softening religious restrictions; it remained partly disregarded for a long period, especially in the part of civil rights, given the contemporaneity of the enactment of the constitution with the Great Purges and in fact suspended during the years of the Second World War. In 1947 it underwent some minor additions and modifications by the Supreme Soviet, but remained in force until the promulgation of the 1977 Constitution.

Content and structure

General principles

The Constitution in the first articles establishes that the Soviet Union is a dictatorship of the workers and peasants and prohibits the private ownership of the means of production, recognized the private ownership of personal income.

Citizens' rights

The text recognizes the right to work (also defined duty, except for the disabled, and according to the principle "he who does not work, does not eat", "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" and "equal pay, for equal work "), health protection with a public and universal health system, care at the time of old age with retirement pensions or in the event of illness with pensions and disability allowances, housing (assigned in use perpetual to each household or individual worker) and education. The Constitution guarantees many civil rights: absolute division between State and Church, freedom of religious worship (but not of propaganda, thus remaining a strictly personal and private aspect, allowed in authorized churches and homes) and anti-religious propaganda ( art. 124), of speech, of the press, of meetings and, within certain limits, of association (art. 125). The article on religious freedom, which allowed the admission of expressly believing Communist candidates in the 1937 elections, was wanted by Stalin in opposition to a large part of the leadership of the CPSU, which instead wanted to prohibit worship and religious freedom, imposing the Scientific atheism The inviolability of the person and the habeas corpus are also recognized (Article 127), the absolute equality of the sexes, as well as the inviolability of the home (Article 128), the right to private ownership of personal income and to the family business (without the possibility of hiring employees, a right recognized only to the State) and confirmed the obligation of military service for all citizens (Article 132), while treason and espionage in favor of the enemy are defined as more serious crimes (art. 133) and punishable by the maximum penalty according to the Russian penal code of 1922 (hence the death penalty, as in most of the penal codes of the time). Furthermore, it is also stated that anyone who attempts to damage socialist property (without specifying the way) will be considered "enemy of the people" (art. 131).

Political system

It provides for the direct election of all governing bodies and their reorganization into a single and uniform system. The 1936 Constitution changed the name of the Central Executive Committee, renaming it the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which had legislative power as its main power. Like its predecessor, the Supreme Soviet was divided into two bodies: the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities. The Constitution delegated to the Supreme Soviet the task of choosing the commissions, which had to do most of the work. As in the previous Constitution