Executive Power and Soviet Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Soviet State

By Eugene Huskey | Go to book overview
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5
THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE

Peter B. Maggs

History has recorded the exact circumstances of the founding of the People's Commissariat of Finance (which became the USSR Ministry of Finance).

It became necessary to organize a Commissariat of Finance. Comrade Menzhinsky was made Commissar of Finance. His appointment came late at night. Menzhinsky was at the time extraordinarily fatigued by work. So as to immediately put the Government's order into effect, he with one of his comrades carried in a large divan, placed it against a wall right there in the Management Office and wrote in big letters on a piece of writing paper, "Commissariat of Finance." After posting this sign above the divan, he lay down on the divan and immediately fell asleep. His peaceful snoring carried throughout the Management Office of the Council of People's Commissars. 1

Despite this beginning, the job of minister of finance has not been a restful one. Since 1917 there have been repeated financial crises, culminating in the financial collapse of 1991. Two people's commissars of finance were convicted in the Moscow Purge Trials. 2 Valentin Pavlov, minister of finance and later prime minister under Gorbachev, was jailed on treason charges after the failure of the August 1991 coup.


History

The new Soviet regime drew on centuries of Russian experience in public finance. The Russian empire transformed its financial institutions into a Ministry of Finance in 1802; the ministry published an elegant jubilee history

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