People's commissariats of the Ukrainian SSR

People's commissariats of the Ukrainian SSR [народні комісаріяти; narodni komisariiaty]. The central and executive organs in Soviet Ukraine, modeled after the commissariats (initially called commissions) established in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic at the end of 1917. Until January 1919 they were called people's secretariats in Ukraine. The people's commissars had powers analogous to those of government ministers in a parliamentary system. They were invariably members of the Communist Party and were appointed by, and responsible to, the All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee. The commissars and heads of various state committees and councils constituted the central government of the republic—the Council of People's Commissars.

Initially there were 12 commissariats in Ukraine: foreign affairs, defense, Soviet propaganda, internal affairs, education, agriculture, justice, supplies, labor, finance, transportation, and public health. Most of them were subordinated to their Russian counterparts under the terms of special treaties, and the Russian commissars were represented by deputies in Ukraine. After the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed, the 1924 Constitution defined three types of commissariats in Ukraine: unified (renamed ‘Union-republic’ in 1936), republican, and Union. Those in the first category, which included the commissariats of finance, labor, worker-peasant inspection, and supplies, were formally under the joint control of the Ukrainian SSR and the USSR governments. Another six commissariats—justice, internal affairs, education, social security, land affairs, and public health—were under republican control. The Union commissariats—foreign affairs, military and naval affairs, foreign trade, roads and highways, and postal and telegraph services—were under the sole authority of the central Soviet authorities in Moscow. This basic system remained in place after the Constitution of 1936 was adopted. The people's commissariats were replaced by ministries of the Ukrainian SSR in 1946.

(See also People's Commissariat for Nationality Affairs.)

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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