Transcribed from:
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, vol. VI: Eastern Europe, The Soviet Union.  Department of State Publication 8470, (Washington, DC : Gov't Printing Office, 1969), pp. 692-694.

NOTE: As with most telegrams, superfluous words were omitted.  This creates grammatical errors which are not part of the transcribing, but rather an inherent part of the telegram itself.  At other times it appears words were mistakenly omitted from the original transmission.  The parts enclosed in brackets [ ] were inserted by the State Dept.  Text in red indicates a quote of Soviet government sources.

861.00/2-846 : Telegram 
The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State
Moscow, February 8, 1946 - 7p.m. 
[Received February 9--9:20 p.m.]
    378.Sunday February 10 day fixed for elections to new Supreme Soviet of USSR will mark crescendo of Soviet internal propaganda effort of unparalleled dimensions which has occupied an army of over 10 million people, party members and other for over 2 months.
   In order that this event may appear in proper proportion following points should be borne in mind:
   1. This election is for the highest government (government as distinct from party) body of Soviet Union, namely Supreme Soviet. This will be second Supreme Soviet. First was elected in 1937 and was prolonged beyond constitutional 4 year limit by circumstances of war.
   2. Under present Soviet governmental system Supreme Soviet is not in any sense an active legislative body. It meets only at rare intervals to register dutiful and invariably unanimous approval of measures and programs (such as state budget) put forward at party instance by its own presidium (a permanent body) or by other agencies. It is entirely dominated by Communist Party whose supreme organs - Central Committee and Politburo - constitute real working directorate of Soviet life. Composition of Supreme Soviet therefore has little if any real meaning for Soviet political development.
   3. Outcome of these elections is not in doubt due to simple fact that there is only one candidate for each position. Names of these candidates have already been publicized ad nauseam to population of respective electoral districts. Theoretically nominations are supposed to be made by meetings of citizens at their places of work or by meetings of members of so-called "public organizations" by which is meant Communist Party, labor union cooperatives, youth organizations and cultural organizations. All such organizations are completely dominated by party. Actually nomination meetings took place only on party initiative and under party guidance. In every district of which we have knowledge all such nomination meetings within respective district appear to have nominated, invariably by unanimous vote, precisely the same candidate. Since prevailing local philosophy rules out hand of Divine Providence as origin of such singular uniformity of inspiration it must be attributed and is to a more earthly and familiar agency. Outwardly, however, process has been entirely constitutional. Formally speaking the only reason there is not more than 1 candidate for each position is that it did not occur to any eligible group of citizens in respective district to nominate anyone else.
   4. Since Communist Party does not like to appear solely responsible for nominations and since there is no other party with which it could theoretically combine for this purpose nominations are announced as emanating from the "bloc of the Communist Party and the non-party people". This preposterous fiction is put forward with deadly seriousness and election posters unblushingly call upon population to vote for the candidates of this bloc.
   5. Meaningless as composition of Supreme Soviet may be from standpoint of Soviet policy, it is important to those who belong to it. Membership is a signal honor. Composition of body as indicated by nominations already known (somewhat over half of total have been announced in central press) indicate roughly following breakdown. That party, Government and military officials who already occupy conspicuous positions of authority in Soviet apparatus of power will comprise at least 50% to 60% of total; cultural intelligentsia about 9%; technical intelligentsia (factory directors, engineers, etc.) about 7%; industrial workers who were once supposed to be backbone of the society will apparently constitute something less than 10%. This will thus be predominantly a gathering of upper professional bureaucracy of party, Government, and army in other words of people who have made successful careers through favor of present party leaders and are accustomed to look that way for all good things.
   6. Since election is now the purest formality and since voter has no choice but to vote for single candidate or refrain from voting entirely it may be wondered why party propaganda machine attaches such importance to electoral campaign and surrounds it with such unparalleled pomp and circumstance. Even in Soviet mind this question looms so large that party has had to supply an answer. Officially, election is to be a demonstration of confidence in the leadership which has carried country along since last elections in '37 and in policies followed by this leadership. For this reason herculean efforts are being made to get every last voter to polls and to register as nearly as possible a 100% vote. This is official explanation but it is not all. Among other motives are probably the following:

  A. In drawing up lists of those entitled to vote party is in fact taking an informal but very thorough census of population. There is vital need of such a census after profound upheavals of war and invasion.
  B. Elections provide convenient occasion for vigorous and wide scale advancement of current party line. By mobilizing this tremendous army of election officials and agitators party hopes to combat wave of weariness, discouragement and apathy which USSR shares with other war worn countries and to whip up enthusiasm for accomplishment of economic tasks of immediate future. Under present Soviet system there can be no stimulus to increased economic effort but discipline from above and enthusiasm from below and for obvious reasons regime tries to maintain at least a respectable balance between the two.
  C. A marked characteristic of Soviet thought is conviction that you can eat your cake and have it too. Kremlin is determined that without relaxing one iota of its real totalitarian power it can make Soviet people go through motions of democracy with such impeccable fidelity and enthusiasm as to establish, both with them and with outside world, the thesis now put forward daily by Moscow press that Soviet system is most democratic on the earth. This is designed among other things to combat any lingering backward glances at western institutions among populace of areas recently taken under Soviet power and any similar tendencies on party of those older Soviet citizens to whom the war brought new contacts and vistas.


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