The President of the Soviet Union (Russian: Президент СССР, Pryezidyent SSSR) is the head of state, commander-in-chief, and the highest office within the Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics. The office was formally established in 1990, with Mikhail Gorbachev becoming the first person to serve the office. Since its formation, four people have held the presidency. The current president of the USSR is Valentina Tereshkova.
The president is democratically elected by the citizens of the Soviet Union and is to serve a five year term in office (which may be renewed once). Any candidate for the presidency must be over 35 years of age and is a citizen of the USSR who has lived within the nation for at least 10 years. During elections, presidential candidates select a running mate who will serve as the Vice President of the Soviet Union (who is the next in the line of succession). As with most semi-presidential republics, the president is not the head of government, which is occupied by the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union (who is appointed by the president to serve within the Cabinet of Ministers).
In the event the president can no longer serve his post (e.g., death, impeachment, resignation), the vice president will become the acting president until new elections can be held (which constitutionally is required to happen within a few months). The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union constitutionally holds the power to impeach the president from office if both chambers deem it necessary.
The office of the presidency was formally established on March 15, 1990, as part of Mikhail Gorbachev's Perestroika policies towards restructuring the Soviet Union. Prior to this, the head of state was held by the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Gorbachev was elected among the members of the Congress of People's Deputies (which was the national legislature at the time), becoming the office's inaugural holder. Though Gorbachev was selected to serve the office by the legislature, future presidents were to be democratically elected by the people of the Soviet Union.
Following the adoption of a new constitution in 1992, Mikhail Gorbachev announced that election for the presidency were to be scheduled within weeks and that he would not seek re-election. Gorbachev stated that he helped bring democracy to the Soviet people and that it was now their time to take the reigns. Gorbachev soon announced his endorsement for his former premier, Nikolai Ryzhkov. Ryzhkov campaigned on a platform of Normalnost ("normalcy"), which focused on stabilizing the Soviet economy as a "regulated market economy," while continuing Gorbachev's social policies of Glasnost ("openness") and the liberalization of the USSR. Ryzhkov soon gained the support from Soviet reformers and some of the hardliners within the Communist Party. On June 21, 1992, Nikolai Ryzhkov was elected as the second president of the Soviet Union and became the first democratically elected leader in the region's history. The Ryzhkov administration would see the stabilization of the Soviet economy (which had been in recession since the 1970s) and economic growth which had not been since since the time of Nikita Khrushchev. Ryzhkov's foreign policy focused on continuing open and positive relation with East Asia, the United States, and Western Europe; while at the same time continuing to support the USSR's Cold War allies in their own moves towards democracy (often referred to as the Ryzhkov Doctrine).
The final years of Nikolai Ryzhkov's presidency became focused on the War on Terror. The Soviet Union quickly announced their support for the United States following the September 11 attacks in 2001. With Ryzhkov constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in office, the presidential elections in 2002 would become pitted between two newly established political parties: Alexander Lebed for the Democratic Party and Yuri Luzhkov for the Liberal Party. Due to his time as a lieutenant general in the Soviet Armed Forces, as well as being a relatively new and young face within Soviet politics, Alexander Lebed easily won the presidency. Within months following his inauguration, the Moscow Metro was struck by a series of terrorist bombings. Though orchestrated by Soviet citizens, the attackers gained funding and training by Al-Qaeda and militant groups currently in operation in Somalia. Backed by the international community, a joint Ethiopian-Soviet coalition would launch a war against these groups in Somalia, becoming the first foreign war for the Soviet Union since Soviet War in Afghanistan. With his foreign policy focused on the War on Terror and the war in Somalia, Lebed's domestic policies would focus mostly on stopping terrorism from within the USSR. Many have criticized the Lebed administration for abandoning the notion of Glasnost for the sake of security, as well as inciting a de facto policy of Islamaphobia and Russian nationalism.
Due to the controversies surrounding the administration of Alexander Lebed, the presidential elections for 2007 would become the most heated election cycle for the Soviet Union. Liberal deputy and former cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, would challenge Lebed. After runoff election, Tereshkova would defeat Lebed by a few thousand votes, becoming the first woman president of the USSR. Unlike her predecessor, Tereshkova campaigned on a platform of re-liberalization, multi-nationalism, more privatization of the economy, and bringing the war in Somalia to an end. The first years of the Tereshkova administration focused around the Great Recession, which effected the Soviet economy (though nowhere near the levels seen within the Eurozone and the United States). Internationally known for being the first woman in space, it came as no surprise that Tereshkova's presidency has become noted for the expansion of the Soviet Space Program back to levels not seen since the Space Race. Tereshkova re-romanticized the national pride for the Soviet Space Program and has pushed for the USSR to lead in what has become known as the "Second Space Race."
The next presidential elections are scheduled to take place in early March of 2017. Incumbent Valentina Tereshkova would be barred from seeking a second term.
List of Presidents
|№||President||Term of office||Vice President|
|1|| Mikhail Gorbachev|
|March 15, 1990||1992||Gennady Yanayev (1990-1991)|
|2|| Nikolai Ryzhkov|
|3|| Alexander Lebed|
|4|| Valentina Tereshkova|