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Elements of




Penalties Facing
Russian Workers on the Job


By Vladimir Gsovski
in the Monthly Labor Review
March and April - 1951
Maurice J. Tobin, S e c r e ta r y
Ewan Clague, C o m m is s io n e r

Bulletin No. 1026

Elements of
Soviet Labor Law

Bulletin No. 1026
Maurice J. Tobin, S ecreta ry
Ewan Clague, C o m m is s io n e r
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C.

Price 15 cents


Letter of Transmittal

U nited S tates D epartment of L abor ,
B ureau of L abor S tatistics,

Washington, D. C., May 10, 1951.

The S ecretary of L abor :
I have the honor to submit herewith the Bureau’s Bulletin No. 1026, Elements
of Soviet Labor Law. Its contents first appeared as a series of articles prepared
by Dr. Vladimir Gsovski, Chief, Foreign Law Section, Law Library, Library of
Congress, for the March and April 1951 issues of the Monthly Labor Keview.
Because they attracted such widespread attention, they are being reproduced in
bulletin form.
The articles are especially noteworthy in two respects. They deal not with
the Soviet slave labor of the prison camps but with the Soviet equivalent of the
free worker and the generally punitive body of labor law under which he works.
They also are remarkable in their somewhat devastating condemnation of Soviet
labor policy through mere textual use of appropriate laws, decrees, and official
pronouncemen ts.
Hon. M aurice J. T obin ,

Secretary of Labor.

E wan C lague , Commissioner



P art I

The nature of Soviet enterprise_____________________________________________________
The Soviet wage practice___________________________________________________________
Managerial pressures_______________________________________________________________
The role of trade-unions____________________________________________________________
The promise of 1922_______________________________________________________________
The reality after 30 years__________________________________________________________
Agreements without bargaining_____________________________________________________
The doctrine of normative acts_____________________________________________________



P a r t II

Labors loss of freedom on the job__________________________________________________
Wages and hours__________________________________________________________________
Financial responsibility of employees________________________________________________
Arbitration and conciliation________________________________________________________
Conscript labor____________________________________________________________________


Elements of Soviet Labor Law
Part I

“Soviet Russia does not know oj any 'free' contract
of employment, nor of any legal relations usually
connected with the concept of the employment con­
tract . . . In Soviet Russia labor duty is the basis
of labor relations.” 1
T hus did a contemporary Soviet authority on
labor law characterize the situation in 1920. He
was not referring to forced labor, so widely used
in Soviet Russia, especially after 1930, but to the
Soviet equivalent of “ free” labor, the subject of
the present article.
Generally speaking the concept put forward in
the quotation is largely held today by the Soviet
State; it governs to a great extent the functions
of the trade-unions and reflects the attitude of the
Communist Party. Over the years it resulted in
separate labor laws which are punitive rather than
True, in 1920, private enterprise had been
effectively barred under the policy known as
M ilitant Communism. This was superseded in
1922 by the so-called New Economic Policy
(N. E. P.),2 under which private enterprise, within
certain limits, was readmitted and freedom of the
employment contract was accorded some recogni­
tion. But this policy came to an end about 1929
with the inauguration of the first Five Year Plan,
which, according to Stalin, had been framed and
executed to eliminate capitalist elements and to
create an economic basis for a socialist society.3
Since then private enterprise has been banned.

The punitive character of Soviet
labor law, managerial and working
pressures which create conditions
for industrial conflict, the deterio­
ration of the trade-unions,and the
collapse of collective bargaining.
The Nature of Soviet Enterprise
When private enterprise finally disappeared in
Russia the great majority of persons engaged in
industry and commerce—from top executives to
manual laborers— became employees of a single
owner— the government.4 In that sense there is
no contrast between capital and labor in the Soviet
Union. The Soviet Government claims that there
is a “ unity between the interests of the toilers of
the Soviet Union and those of the Soviet Socialist
State,” as an official textbook on labor law stated
in 1946.5 However, such unity can hardly be
demonstrated in reality. Soviet industrial organi­
zation shows that the fixed relationship between
labor and State management took the place of the
free relationships between labor and capital in
capitalist countries.
Government-owned industry and commerce now
operate on a different basis from that of the first
years of the Soviet regime (1918-21). At that
time, private enterprise and profit-making were
outlawed without offering a substitute for satis­
faction of personal ambition or an opportunity for
extra earning.
In contrast, the policy adopted after the drive
began for total socialization was popularly called
“ whips and cookies.” On the one hand, conces­
sions are made to the ever emerging personal
ambition; but on the other, criminal law is put
into operation in an effort to check the inefficiency
of the entire economic system.
Government agencies engaged in business operate



on a “ commercial” basis (Khoziaistvenny raschet)
and enjoy a degree of formal independence and
enter into contracts with each other and with
private persons. Although they are government
agencies they are supposed to act with the com­
petitive vigor of a private enterprise (the principle
of “ socialist competition”) . This “ independence”
should not be overrated. As a Soviet text puts
it: “ The commercial basis is merely a special
method of management of the national economy.” 6
Planned assignments of higher bureaus set definite
limits to their independence, to say nothing of
continuous supervisory control by various govern­
ment agencies and political control by the secret
police and Communist Party.
Nevertheless, the management of a Soviet quasi
corporation is as interested in obtaining the lowest
unit labor cost as its capitalist prototype. A
single executive is appointed by the head of the
bureau under whose authority the enterprise
(called “trust” in industry and torg in commerce)
operates. He hires and fires, allocates wages,
imposes penalties, and grants bonuses. Bonuses
are paid from a special director's fund based on a
percentage of the profits or savings. His own
bonus also depends upon the efficiency of the
enterprise. In case the output falls below stand­
ard quantity or quality, he is liable to imprison­
ment up to 8 years.

The Soviet Wage Practice
Private profit-making is barred and the earnings
of the bulk of the population are practically
limited to wages and salaries. But the govern­
mental scale of compensation for work, whether
in money or comfort, aims to offer a substitute for
profit-making to stimulate efficiency. A system
of wages and salaries is designed to allow wide
latitude for differentials in wage, salary, and bonus
payments. To this end, the principles of piece­
work and bonuses for efficiency, without any guar­
anteed minimum wage, constitute the basis of
compensation for work in government industry, in
collective farming, and in cooperatives.
Regardless of whether the employee is paid by
time or by piece, he must attain a standard of
output established by the management. If he
fails to do so through his fault he is paid according
to the quality and quantity of his output.7 Pro­
gressive scales of piecework and bonuses for extra

efficiency are issued by the government for indi­
vidual industries and industry groups.
Numerous honorary titles— “Hero of Labor”
and others— and medals carry with them distinct
material benefit, such as tax exemption, right to
extra housing space, etc. There are also “per­
sonal salaries” and “personal pensions” awarded
without reference to any scale, and Stalin prizes
amounting to as much as 300,000 rubles in a
lump sum.
All this affords professional, managerial, and
skilled labor remuneration in money and comfort
greatly exceeding that given to the ordinary
laborer. For example, a scale of salaries and
wages for electrical power plants, established in
1942 and still in force as late as 1946, ranged
from 115 to 175 rubles monthly for janitorial
services to 1,000 to 3,000 rubles for a director.8
In 1934, Stalin frankly declared the underlying philosophy of his policy as follows: “ Equal­
ization in the sphere of demands and personal
life is reactionary, petty bourgeois nonsense,
worthy of a primitive ascetic sect and not of a
socialist society organized in a Marxian w ay.” 9
However, material benefits thus promised evi­
dently proved to be insufficient stimuli for good
H eavy responsibility is imposed upon both
workers and management. Inefficiency involves
not only loss of material benefits and possible
loss of job, but prosecution in court as well.
Workers are subject to penalties imposed by
managers for “ loafing on the job” and to court
action for absenteeism and unauthorized quitting
of the job. From 10 to 25 years in a forced labor
camp,10 with or without confiscation of property,
can be imposed for “ misappropriation, embezzle­
ment, or any kind of theft” of the property of the
principal employers, the government, or public
bodies. Prior to 1946, the death penalty could
be invoked.11 In case of damage to or loss of
property of the employer— tools, raw materials,
fuel, even work clothes—if due to employee
negligence can result in deductions from wages,
in some instances in an amount 10 times the
value of the property.12

Managerial Pressures
A series of laws penalize inefficient management
for such things as poor quality or small volume of



Under such an arrangement there is no less
reason for the rise of labor conflicts than under
capitalism. But under the Soviet system labor
is deprived of the main effective devices by which
it may protect itself in a labor dispute in the
capitalist world. Neither the constitution nor any
law or decree mentions the right to strike and the
strike is tacitly outlawed.
In general, all the channels through which labor
can pursue its objectives in the capitalist world—
legislation, courts, administrative agencies, the
press, and trade-unions— are in Soviet Russia
agencies of the principal employer of industrial
labor—the State.
For a time when private enterprise was tolerated
under N. E. P. (1922-28) the Soviet leaders visual­
ized the protection of the interests of labor in this
conflict through trade-unions. But the unions
were regarded as an arm of government and of the
Communist Party rather than as an independent
force. Still they were to be an arm specialized in
protection of labor. As the drive for socialization
progressed, this special protective quality of the
unions was pushed to the background. Instead,
the notion of the identity of interests of the workers
and the Soviet State was put forward, and the
primary function of Soviet labor unions is to serve
the interests of the State.

interests on the issue of labor conditions in the
enterprises are created between the working masses
and the directors, managers of the government
enterprises, or the government bureaus to which
the enterprises are subordinated.” Consequently
the resolution “imposed upon the trade-unions the
duty to protect the interests of the working
people.” 14
Thus, the Labor Code of 1922, then enacted,
relegated to the collective agreements between
management and trade-unions the settlement of all
the basic working conditions, including wage rates,
standard of output, shop rules, etc.
Nevertheless, even then, both before and after
this period, the trade-unions were not considered
as a force independent from the Communist Party
or the Soviet Government. The ninth congress of
the Party (1920) had stated that “the tasks of
trade-unions lie primarily in the province of eco­
nomic organization and education. The tradeunions must perform these tasks not in the capacity
of an independent, separately organized force but
in the capacity of one of the principal branches of
the government machinery guided by the Com­
munist Party.15” The tenth congress went further
and in 1921 passed the resolution, drafted by
Lenin, and stressing the role of the trade-unions in
Soviet Russia as a “school of communism.” 16 The
fifteenth congress in 1925 stressed that “tradeunions were created and built up by our [Com­
munist] Party.” 17
“The most important task of the trade-unions,”
says the official textbook on Civil Law of 1944, “is
the political education of the toiling masses, their
mobilization for building up socialism, and the
defense of their economic interests and cultural
needs . . . ” 18
“Formally,” says the official textbook on Ad­
ministrative Law of 1940, “the trade-unions are
not a party organization but, in fact, they are car­
rying out the directives of the Party. All leading
organs of the trade-unions consist primarily of
Communists who execute the Party line in the
entire work of the trade-unions.” 19

The Promise of 1922

The Reality After 30 Years

The eleventh congress of the Communist Party
in 1922, when the N. E. P. was inaugurated, recog­
nized that if government enterprise operates on a
commercial basis “inevitably certain conflicts of

Thus the trade-unions were transformed from a
labor protecting arm into an arm for execution of
government policy, and achievement of production
goals. According to Soviet jurists, “the socialist

output, failure to penalize workers for absenteeism
and other violations of labor discipline.13
A potent incentive to the efficiency of the indi­
vidual establishment is the principle that earnings
depend in part upon the efficiency of the whole
enterprise (principle of “ check by ruble”)- Busi­
ness success brings definite individual profit;
business failure incurs heavy punishment for those
holding administrative posts. Although the total
amount of regular wages to be paid in an individual
enterprise is established by central government
bureaus (“wages fund”), bonuses are dependent
upon the profits or savings of an individual

The Role of Trade-Unions



industrialization of the country required that labor
law . . . serve the successful struggle for produc­
tivity of labor and strengthening of labor disci-

pline.,, 20

Such transformation of the trade-unions into a
government arm, enforcing official economic
policy, began soon after the onset of the first
Five Year Plan. Accordingly, the sixteenth
congress of the Communist Party directed in 1930
that the trade-unions, striving in collective agree­
ments for improvement of the standard of living
of the workers, must take into account the
financial status of the enterprise with which the
agreement was made and the interests of the
national economy. In making the agreement,
the resolution insisted, each party must undertake
definite obligations in carrying out the financial
and production plan of the enterprise. The
unions in particular were obligated to guarantee,
on behalf of the workers, the productivity of labor
contemplated by the plan.21
The central agency of all the Soviet tradeunions— their Central Council—was granted the
status of a government department in 1933. It
officially took the place of the People's Com­
missariat for Labor, which was then abolished, and
the Council was also charged with administration
of social insurance. B ut then the Central Council
of Trade-Unions lost the character of a representa­
tive body of trade-unions even in terms of the
Soviet “democracy.” Under law this Council
must be elected by the Congress of Trade-Unions
which is designated as “the supreme authority of
the trade-unions of the Soviet Union.” Neverthe­
less, since the Ninth Congress in 1932 no such
Congresses were convoked for 17 years, during
which the whole Soviet social order and the
position of labor were radically changed.
When the Tenth Congress convened in 1949, no
explanation was asked or offered for the delay.
The Congress adopted a new statute which
reaffirmed the total control of the Communist
Party over the trade-unions:
“The Soviet trade-unions conduct their entire
work under the direction of the Communist
Party— the organizing and directing force of the
Soviet Society. The trade-unions of the U. S. S. E.
rally the working masses behind the Party of
Lenin-Stalin.” 22
Among numerous tasks assigned by the new
statute to the trade-unions the generalized

political objectives are described in the first
place at great length. For example, the tradeunions “strive to enhance in every way the
socialist order in society and State, the moralpolitical unity of the Soviet people, the brotherly
cooperation and friendship between the peoples
of the Soviet Union; they actively participate in
the election of the agencies of governmental
power; they organize workers and clerical em­
ployees for the struggle for the steady develop­
ment of the national economy.”
In contrast, “the duty to protect the interests
of the working people” which had been emphasized
by the Party Congress in 1922 is not expressly
stated. It may have been considered unnecessary
because the statute assumes that “in the condi­
tions of the Soviet socialist order the State protects
the rights of the working people.” B ut in any
event the labor-protection tasks of the unions
are couched in cautious language.
At the very end of the above quoted passage
it is mentioned that the unions “look after
(zabotiatsia) the further rise of the material
well being and the full satisfaction of the cultural
needs of the toilers.” A t another place the
unions' monopoly to represent the workers is
stated with a hardly accidental lack of specificity:
“[unions should] act on behalf of workers and
clerical employees before the governmental and
social bodies in matters concerning labor, culture,
and workers' everyday life.”
Collective bargaining, provided for in the Labor
Code of 1922, was discontinued in 1933. As the
official Soviet text on labor law explained in 1946:

“The collective agreements as a special jorm oj legal
regulation oj labor relations oj manual and clerical
employees has outlived itselj. Detailed regulation

of all sides of these relations by mandatory acts of
governmental power does not leave any room for
any contractual agreement concerning one labor
condition or another.” 23
In plain English, this means that the Soviet
leaders chose to abandon the last vestige of con­
tract in relations between labor, even as repre­
sented by party-controlled trade-unions on the one
hand and State management on the other, for the
sake of outright government regimentation. Cap­
italist free collective bargaining was frankly de­
clared unfit in the socialist surroundings of the
Soviet Union.
However, in 1947 a campaign for making new

collective agreements was suddenly ordered after
a lapse of 14 years.

Agreements Without Bargaining
Collective agreements were declared the most
important measure “to achieve and exceed the
production plan, to secure further growth of the
productivity of labor, improvement of the organi­
zation of labor, and the increase of responsibility
of management and trade organizations for the
material condition of living of the employees and
cultural services rendered to them .” 24 Neverthe­
less, the new policy is far from introducing free
collective bargaining. Certain matters are defi­
nitely excluded from any negotiation and agree­
ment and are reserved for government regulation.
The new rules positively require that “the rates
of wages, of piecework, progressive piecework, and
bonuses as approved by the government must be
indicated” in the agreement. It is expressly
forbidden to include any rates not approved by
the government. In other words, wage rates are
excluded from bargaining, but if included in the
agreement are no more than applications of the
governmental schedule to the establishment for
which the collective agreement is drawn. This is
true, to a large measure, of other points covered,
particularly standards of output. The official act
and the jurisprudential writings insist that the
primary purpose of such agreements is to translate
the abstract terms of the general plan for economic
development into specific assignments and obliga­
tions within each particular establishment. They
appear to be merely a form in which the orders of
the government are made more precise.
A Soviet writer of authority comments:
It is understood that the present day collective
agreements could not but be different by content
from collective agreements which were made at
the time when the rates of wages and some other
conditions of labor were not established by the
law and government decrees.
The purpose of the present day collective
agreement is to make concrete the duties of the
management, shop committees, workers, tech­
nical, engineering, and clerical personnel toward
the fulfillment of the production plans and pro­
duction over and above the plan as well as to
raise the responsibility of business agencies and
trade-unions for improvement of material living
conditions of workers and cultural services ren­
dered to them.25


As before, the new regulations are based on the
assumption that “the interests of the workers are
the same as the interests of production in a social­
ist state” and that the collective agreements are
designed to be the “juridical form of expression
of this unity.” 26 Accordingly, a model agreement
is drafted by each ministry upon consultation with
the central offices of the appropriate trade-unions.
Then the model agreement is sent as a fait accom­
pli to the establishments concerned.
While such collective agreements are not the
result of collective bargaining, it may be observed
that when the Soviet Government faced the task
of postwar rehabilitation of its economy, it pre­
ferred to give decreed labor conditions the appear­
ance of an agreement.

The Doctrine of Normative Acts
Negotiation and mutual agreement are in fact
proscribed in the Soviet Union in many important
respects. Government regulation of wages and
other basic conditions of labor took their place.
However, it does not mean that labor is thus pro­
tected by law as we understand it. True, a Code
of Labor Laws still exists on the statute books of
the republics of the Soviet Union. But it was
enacted in 1922 when private enterprise was
within some limits tolerated and the government
was not the sole employer in industry and com­
merce. At that time the code sought to regulate
labor relations on the basis of free contract and
to protect labor by methods resembling advanced
democratic labor legislation.
However, these provisions of the code were
either repealed or for the most part became in­
operative being superseded, without a formal
repeal, by various laws and decrees.
Under the totalitarian concept of government
power, the accepted relationships of the adminis­
trative and legislative branches of the govern­
ment do not apply. Although the terms “ con­
stitution,” “ legislative act,” and “ administra­
tive decree” are used in Soviet law, the authority
attached to each of these sources of law in the
Soviet Union is different from that associated
with these terms in the democratic countries.
A constitutional provision m ay be set aside by an
administrative decree and the newly enacted rule
is incorporated into the constitution only at a
later date. For example, the 7-hour working



day was provided for in the 1936 constitution
(section 119).
However, on June 26, 1940, the Presidium of
the Supreme Soviet, an executive body in terms
of the constitution, decreed the 8-hour normal
working day. This edict became operative im­
mediately. It was ratified by the Supreme
Soviet in August 1940, but without following the
procedure prescribed for constitutional amend­
ment. N ot until 7 years later was section 119
constitutionally amended.
The Soviet jurists are fully aware of such
practices. In discussing the sources of Soviet
labor law in the treatises on this subject, they
seek to blur the distinction between the authority
of a constitutional provision, a legislative enact­
ment, and an administrative decree or directive.
In a recent (1949) standard treatise,27 designed
for use in university law schools, a doctrine of
“ normative acts” (rule making) as the source of
Soviet labor law is promulgated. Normative
acts are in general terms defined as “ acts by which
the will of the ruling class is ‘elevated to law.’ ”
This not too clear definition is fortunately followed
by an enumeration of the specific acts issued by
Soviet authorities which, according to the author,
fall under the definition. These are “laws” en­
acted by the Supreme Soviet (Soviet equivalent
to legislature), “ edicts” by its presidium (a body
of 47 members constituting the Soviet collective
President), “ normative resolutions” (i. e., rulemaking resolutions) of the Council of Ministers
(cabinet), joint resolutions of the Council of
Ministers and the Central Committee of the
Communist Party, regulations issued by individ­
ual ministers and by the Central Council of the
In other words, any decree or order by any of
the central governmental authorities is law. No
matter what it is called and by what body it is
issued, it prevails until the action of another
authority supersedes it.
The survey of recent trends in the Soviet
legislation thus far made suggests the conclusion
that the disappearance of private enterprise from

the Soviet economy has not been followed by the
increase of rights of labor in labor law. If com­
pared with the time when private enterprise was
tolerated, the legal status of labor has worsened.
Another striking feature of the Soviet regulations
on labor are the numerous penal provisions.

1Z. Tettenbom, Soviet Legislation on Labor (in Russian, 1920) p. 16.

* For description and analysis of major stages of the Soviet policies and their
expression in law, see Gsovski, Soviet Civil Law, University of Michigan
Press, Ann Arbor, Vol. 1 (1948) pp. 10 et seq., 791, et seq., Vol. 2 (1949) p. 537
et seq.
* Stalin, Problems of Leninism, English Edition, Moscow (1940) p. 409.
4Members of the so-called productive cooperatives are in fact paid for their
work and not according to their shares. See Gsovski op. tit. Vol. 1, p. 411,
et seq.
5Aleksandrov and Genkin, Soviet Labor Law (in Russian, 1946) p. 312.
« Evtikhiev and Vlasov, Administrative Law (in Russian, 1946) p. 36. See
also Gsovski op. tit. supra note 2, Vol. I at 382 et seq.
7Soviet Labor Code, Sec. 57 as amended in 1934. “If an employee at a
governmental, public, or cooperative enterprise, institution, or business fails
through his own fault to attain the standard of output prescribed for him, he
shall be paid according to the quantity and quality of his output but shall not
be guaranteed any minimum wage. In other enterprises and businesses
(private enterprises including those under a concession) such an employee
shall be paid not less than two-thirds of his scheduled rate."
8Handbook of Wages in Electrical Power Plants (in Russian, 1946) pp.
8-12, 25.
9Stalin, “Speech at the 17th Congress of the Communist Party (1934) ”
quoted from his Problems of Leninism (10th Russian edition, 1938) p. 583.
i®Statute of June 4, 1947 concerning the crimes against government and
public property, Vedomosti 1947, No. 19.
Law of August 7, 1932. For its translation and discussion see Gsovski
op. tit. supra note 2, Vol. I pp. 562, 728.
12 Soviet Labor Code Secs. 83-834 (as amended), Act of June 20,1942, Sec.
; Instruction of the People’s Commissar for Labor of June 1, 1932, Secs. 1-3.
For further citations, see Gsovski op. tit. Vol. I pp. 823-825.
13 Act of Dec. 28, 1938; Edict of July 10,1940, id. p. 821.
14All-Union Communist Party on Trade Unions, Collection of Resolutions
(In Russian, 1930) p. 55. See also Deutsch, Soviet Trade Unions, London,
i« Ibid. p. 35.
i« Ibid. p. 36.
17 Ibid. p. 87.
18Agarkov and others, Civil Law (in Russian, 1944) Vol. I, p. 190; Civil Law
Textbook (in Russian 1938) Vol. 1, pp. 108-109.
19 Denisov, Soviet Administrative Law (in Russian, 1940) p. 60.
20 Op. tit., supra note 5, p. 90.
21 Ibid, p. 98.
22 Trad (in Russian) May 11, 1949. See Bureau of Labor Statistics, Notes
on Labor Abroad No. 11, May 1949, pp. 39-40.
28Op. tit. supra note 5, p. 106. Italics in the original.
24Resolution of the Presidium of the Central Council of the Trade Union
approved by the Council of Ministers, Preamble, Trud (in Russian) Apr. 18,
1947. See Bureau of Labor Statistics, Notes on Labor Abroad No. 2, June
1947, p. 28, and No. 13, December 1949, p. 36.
2«Aleksandrov and other compilers, Goliakov, editor, Legislation concern­
ing Labor (in Russian 1947) p. 15.
2« Moskalenko, “Legal Problems Involved in Collective Agreements” in
Trade Unions (in Russian 1947) No. 8, p. 16 et seq.; Trud (in Russian) Apr. 18,
1947, Editorial.
27Aleksandrov, editor, Soviet Labor Law (in Russian, 1949) p. 53.

Part II

Labor’s Loss of Freedom on the Job
T he constant increase of managerial power over
workers since the suppression of private enterprise
in the Soviet Union is revealed by successive
amendments to some individual provisions of the
Labor Code. Provisions defining the right of the
employer to dismiss the employee summarily be­
cause of failure to appear for work may serve as
an illustration. The Labor Code of 1922 incorpo­
rated the provision of Czarist law 1 permitting
management to dismiss a worker for failure tp
appear without justifiable reason for 3 consecutive
days or for 6 days during a m onth.2 In 1927,
this was changed.3 Failure to appear for a total
of any 3 days during a month constituted grounds
for dismissal. In 1932,4 only 1 day’s unjustified
absence was sufficient and mandatory ground for
dismissal of a worker in a government enterprise,
to be followed by an automatic eviction, without
a court action, from the living quarters which he
occupied because of his employment.
An act of December 28, 1938, was directed
against tardiness, leaving work before the sched­
uled time, undue prolonging of lunch time, and
loitering on the job.6 Those who committed such
infractions were subject to warning or to transfer
to lower grade jobs. Three violations in 1 month
or four in 2 months, led to dismissal (sec. 1).
An official interpretation of the act, issued on Jan­
uary 9, 1939,6 states that penalties milder than
dismissal should be applied only in cases of tardi­
ness not exceeding 20 minutes. A single tar­

Loss of freedom on the job, wages
and hours, financial responsibility
of em ployees, arbitration and
conciliation, and conscript labor
of youth in the Soviet Union.

diness exceeding 20 minutes should result in im­
mediate dismissal.
Later, by an edict of June 26, 1940/ job freezing
was enacted, and unauthorized quitting was made
an offense punishable in court by imprisonment.
Then, according to the Soviet jurists, the possi­
bility arose that a worker might purposely fail to
appear on time in order to be dismissed and
thereby obtain a chance to find a better job.
Therefore, the June 1940 edict rescinded manda­
tory dismissals for tardiness and absenteeism and
declared them to be offenses punishable by dis­
ciplinary penalty in case of tardiness or court
sentence for absenteeism.
The act of December 28, 1938, made managers
subject to dismissal and penal prosecution in
court for failure to inflict the prescribed penalties
(sec. 2).
The Standard Rules of Internal Labor Organiza­
tion, enacted on January 18, 1941/ stress that
“ every violation of labor discipline shall entail
either a disciplinary penalty or prosecution in
court” (sec. 19). Disciplinary penalty is imposed
by management as soon as it becomes aware of
the violation. The imposition of the penalty
does not relieve the employee from the duty to
compensate for damage caused by any defective
Among the violations, the rules specify tardi­
ness, loitering on the job, absenteeism, and un­
authorized quitting of the job (secs. 21, 25, 26).
Coming to work late, going out for lunch ahead
of time, being late in returning from lunch, or



leaving work ahead of time, if done without a
justifiable reason, subjects the worker to man­
agerial discipline in instances where the loss of
time does not exceed 20 minutes and does not
occur thrice a month or four times within two
consecutive months. In the latter instances vio­
lators are considered absentees and are punished
in court.
If an employee appears at work in a state of
intoxication, he is guilty of absenteeism (sec. 26).
Unauthorized quitting a job is an offense punish­
able in court. Loitering on the job is subject to
disciplinary penalties.
The application of so many penal clauses raised
fine legal problems for Soviet jurists, who have
perhaps shown an attachment more for legal
niceties than common sense. Following is a dis­
cussion of the legal definition of sleeping on the
job in a treatise on Soviet labor law printed in
The question whether loitering on the job or
sleeping during working hours should be considered
absenteeism came up in judicial practice several
times. Legal writers answered this question in
various ways. Some thought that “there is no
reason to exclude . . . loitering on the job from the
concept of absenteeism” 10 [reference on an article in
a law review is made], while others were of the
opposite opinion [another reference].11
From the comparison of sections 21 and 26 of the
Standard Rules of Internal Order, it becomes evident
that loitering on the job, regardless of how long it
lasts and how often it occurs, entails a disciplinary
penalty and not punishment in court. Sleeping
during working hours is a form of loitering on the job
and therefore should not be considered absenteeism.
This conclusion is supported by the following ruling
of the Trial Criminal Division of the U. S. S. R.
Supreme Court: “Insofar as sleeping on the job is a
violation of labor discipline, not connected with the
absence of the worker from his post but, on the con­
trary, necessarily presumes his presence there, such
an offense may not be qualified as absenteeism.
Being a kind of loitering, sleeping during working
hours, if it did not and could not cause serious harm,
must be visited by disciplinary penalty.” 12

Leaving the place of employment without the
express permission of management has been pun­
ishable in court by imprisonment for from 2 to 4
months since June 26,1940. Previously a month's
notice by the employee was adequate for quitting.13
In defense industry the penalty would be imprison­
ment up to 8 years.14

The provisions relating to this penalty are
broadly interpreted. Thus, an employee who,
twice convicted for absenteeism and serving a com­
pulsory labor sentence at the place of his employ­
ment in lieu of jail, commits absenteeism (tardiness
of more than 20 minutes) again, must be prose­
cuted for unauthorized quitting.16 An employee
who violates the shop rules for the purpose of being
dismissed must be prosecuted in a like manner.16
The U. S. S. R. Supreme Court has also held:
A lengthy failure to appear for work may be con­
sidered absenteeism only in instances where the court
has established that the employee had no intention to
quit the given job. If the court establishes that the
person concerned intentionally stayed away from work
with the design to quit it without authorization, such
act must be qualified as quitting of the job without
authorization even if the perpetrator appears again on
the job before the trial.17

Finally, by the Edict of October 19, 1940, Gov­
ernment department heads were authorized to
allow to transfer certain categories of technical
personnel and skilled labor, regardless of their
wishes, from one establishment to another. A
series of decrees lists the jobs coming under the
decree. Failure to obey the transfer is punished
as unauthorized leaving of the job.18 It is charac­
teristic that the imposition of penalties for infrac­
tion of labor discipline are heard in court by a single
professional judge with the exclusion of two lay
“assessors" required for all other trials.19
In several branches of industry especially severe
rules of discipline are established granting the
“bosses" power to impose penal confinement up
to 20 days at their own discretion without a court
Railroad employees were placed under strict
military discipline in 1943 by virtue of a special
disciplinary code.20 Arrests not to exceed 20 days
could be imposed at the discretion of a superior.
Appeals could be made to the next higher superior
whose decision is final, but appeal had to be filed
within 3 days with the superior who imposed the
penalty. No court appeal is permitted.
Similar provisions are contained in the new dis­
ciplinary codes for the following employees: mari­
time and inland waterways transportation lines;
the main bureau of the Civil Air Fleet; postal,
telegraph, and radio systems; and municipal elec­
tric power plants. Militarized watchmen of ware­

houses and workmen in air defense and fire protec­
tion of defense industries are also covered.

Wages and Hours
The Labor Code of 1922, enacted when limited
private enterprise was tolerated, provided for pay­
ment by time or by piece, leaving the determina­
tion of individual pay to the individual employ­
ment contract or to collective agreements. The
remuneration was not, however, to be less than
the minimum wage fixed by competent authority
(secs. 58-60). These provisions m ay be con­
sidered totally out of date. In the first place, the
principle of piecework since 1931 has been given
official preference and, by 1934, 70 percent of the
work done in large industrial plants was paid for
by piece rate. Secondly, the practice of making
collective agreements was abandoned for 14 years
in 1933 when “the transition from regulation of
wages by a contract to their regulation by the Gov­
ernment was completed.” 21 When collective agree­
ments were resumed in 1947, only such rates of
wages could be included as were previously estab­
lished by the Government. The all-embracing
governmental plan, Soviet writers declare, does
not exclude collective agreements altogether, as
some of them thought in 1946, but certainly ex­
cludes wages from bargaining.22 The definition
of schedules and rates of wages and salaries is
reserved to the higher agencies of the principal
employer— the Government. As the official com­
pilation of labor laws of 1947 puts it:
The amount of wages and salaries is at the present
time fixed by the decisions of the Government (or on
the basis of its directives) .
The agreement of parties plays a subordinate role
in the determination of the amount of wages or
salaries. It should not be contrary to law and is
allowed only within limits strictly provided for by
the statute, for example, where the precise amount is
fixed in instances in which the approved table of organ­
ization defines the rate as “from”—“to”; or fixing the
remuneration for part-time employment of a person
holding another position, and the like.23

The schedules established by the Government
are subject to constant changes and are too com­
plex to be analyzed in the present article. It
should suffice to state three basic features com­
mon to all schedules: highly progressive piece­
work rates, bonuses, and, absence of a guaranteed
minimum wage. Bonuses are of two kinds; those


based upon output and periodically paid as part
of the wages; and individual bonuses given at the
discretion of the administration. The overriding
principle is that in order to receive the minimum
rate the worker “must attain the standard of out­
put prescribed for him.” (Labor Code, sec. 57
as amended in 1934).
Originally the Labor Code as enacted in 1922
(when some private enterprise existed) left deter­
mination of the standard of output to agreement
between the administration of the plant or factory
and the appropriate trade-union.
But since the Acts of June 4, 1938, and January
14, 1939, the revision of standards of output has
been in the hands of the Ministers in charge of
the individual industry branches who must, how­
ever, consult the Central Council of the Trade
Unions, i. e., the labor department (supra, Part I),
but not the individual unions. As an example,
the official textbook on labor law of 1944 refers
to the Order of the Minister of the Aviation Indus­
try of April 20, 1942, No. 117. B y this order,
new standards of output and new rates are to be
approved by the directors of individual plants
upon the recommendation of the heads of the
shops, and immediately put into effect.24 In
some instances, standards of output and rates
are directly enacted by the Council of Ministers
(prior to March 1946, of Peopled Commissars),
e. g., the schedule for the cotton textile industry
and for motor transportation.25 Thus, the tradeunions, though controlled by the Government and
the Communist Party, have in certain instances
no part in establishing the major conditions deter­
mining wages.
As mentioned in Part I, the Edict of the Pre­
sidium of June 26, 1940, lengthened the working
day from 7 to 8 hours for plants and offices, except
for especially dangerous jobs, for which the
6-hour day was retained. Moreover, the edict
restored the 6-day workweek with Sunday as the
day of rest.26 Since 1931 there h$d been a 5-day
work schedule with each sixth day a day of rest.
This meant an addition of 33 horns per month for
laborers and of 58 hours for office workers. Sala­
ries paid on a time basis remained unchanged, and
the piecework rates were correspondingly lowered
to keep wages at the same level.27
It should also be mentioned that on June 26,
1941,28 the management of individual enterprises
could impose mandatory daily overtime up to 3



hours. Minors under 16 years of age were limited
to 2 horns overtime a day. Pregnant women from
the sixth month on, and those nursing babies dur­
ing the first month of nursing, were exempted.
This overtime may, however, be considered only
as a wartime emergency.

property issued for the use of an employee, he is
liable to pay up to fivefold the amount of damage.81
The same rate applies to theft, unaccountable
shortage, or mishandling of industrial products
in governmental stores, but based on the com­
mercial or black market price.

Financial Responsibility of Employees

Arbitration and Conciliation

A particular feature of the Soviet labor law is
the financial responsibility of the worker for any
damages to the employer caused by the worker.
There are three types of such responsibility: lia­
bility for the full amount of actual damage, lia­
bility limited to a certain portion of the em­
ployee’s pay, and liability exceeding actual
damage several fold.
Liability for the full amount is charged when
a criminal offense is established in court, when
liability is stipulated in writing in the employ­
ment contract or is provided for by special laws,
or when damage is caused outside the perform­
ance of the employee’s regular course of em­
ployment. (Labor Code, sec. 83*).
Liability is limited to one-third of the scheduled
rate if the damage is caused by negligence in
work, by a violation of law not constituting a
criminal offense, or by a violation of shop rules
or the employer’s special instructions and orders.
This type of liability applies in cases of injury,
destruction, or loss of equipment or livestock, in
cases of failure to collect full payments, of loss
or depreciation of documents entrusted, and also
where the employer has been forced to make un­
necessary payments, including penalties. The
same responsibility arises in case of improper ex­
penditure of money assigned for business needs
(Labor Code, sec. 83).
The liability of an employee is greater if he
spoils, through negligence, raw material or semi­
finished or finished products. He then is liable
for up to two-thirds of his average earnings rather
than of his scheduled rate.29
The greatest liability rests on managers of
fuel stocks at machine-tractor stations and
governmental farms for shortages of fuel— 10 times
the value of the shortage, provided their acts do
not incur penal prosecution.30 In case of theft,
wanton destruction, or intentional spoilage of raw
materials, semifinished or finished products, as
well as of instruments, work clothes, and other

W ith the elimination of collective bargaining
in 1933, the arbitration procedure originally
devised for settling labor disputes has also under­
gone a change. After collective bargaining was
resumed in 1947, the Soviet jurists drew a dis­
tinction between disputes involving establishment
or change of labor conditions and those arising
from the application of conditions already estab­
lished. For all practical purposes, they say, only
the second group comes under the special arbitral
procedure originally devised for both. Establish­
ment of labor conditions and their change are at
present within the province of the administration.32
Conciliation boards and arbitral boards, estab­
lished to resolve disputes over labor conditions,
under the Labor Code and Act of August 29, 1928
(which remain on the statute book),83 went out of
existence after the People’s Commissariat for
Labor was replaced by the Central Council of
Trade-unions in 1933.34
The piece-rate and dispute boards established
at that time in each establishment are still in
existence, but since January 2, 1933, “ the principal
part of their function regarding piece rating, viz.,
establishment of standards of output and piece
rates, fell off,” according to the official textbook
on labor law of 1946.36 They are, in fact, boards
for settling disputes between individual employees
and management concerning the application of
the existing labor regulations, that is to say, like
grievances committees. In some instances the
aggrieved party must bring his grievance before
the board before going to court or elsewhere.
Representatives of the management and of the
workers’ committee have equal votes, and if no
accord is reached the aggrieved may go to court.
The awards are final but may be revised ex officio
by higher authorities; if they set the award aside
the aggrieved party may then go to court.
In some other instances there is a choice
between going to court or to the board. Conse­
quently, the Soviet regulation of -labor disputes

offers the employee, at best, redress against
individual abuses committed by the management.
But there are also instances in which the party
may not appeal to a court or board but only to
higher administrative authorities.36 This is true
of the branches of employment in which the
management, through the so-called Disciplinary
Codes enjoys especially broad disciplinary powers.
An employee in these branches, if penalized by the
administration, may not appeal to the court or
conciliation board but only to higher superiors in
the establishment. (See supra, p. 8.)


sit down. When the instructor addresses him the
trainee must stand at attention. If the trainee has
to pass by the instructor, he must ask permission to
do so, e. g., “Allow me to pass by.”

B y the Edict of the Presidium of June 19,
1947,39 the draft age was changed, and it was made
clear that youths of both sexes are subject to the
draft. For training in the vocational and railroad
service schools, boys from 14 to 17 years of age and
girls from 15 to 16 years of age may be drafted.
For schools of industrial training, boys and girls
from 16 to 18 years of age, and for underground
work in coal and mining industries, as well as for
smelters, foundries, welding, and drilling in metal­
Conscript Labor
lurgy and oil industries, boys up to 19 years of age
As mentioned above, every employee since 1940 may be drafted.
has been frozen on the job. Numerous categories
After training, the labor draftees are obliged to
of employees may be transferred, regardless of work for 4 years in Government factories, plants,
mines, etc., as assigned by the M inistry of Labor Repersonal preference (supra, p. 8).
However, the Soviet jurists point out, that in serves. The draftees are paid regular wages, equal
many instances under the Soviet law employment to those of other workers. Until the expiration
is also created by administrative act.37 An of their term of obligation, labor draftees are de­
example of this is the draft of youths for industrial ferred from military service.
Leaving school without authorization, and
The Edict of October 2, 1940,38 authorized the other violations of school discipline subject the
Council of Peopled Commissars (since 1946, young people to penalties of up to 1 year in a re­
Council of Ministers) to draft annually from formatory.40 The number of young men to be
800,000 to 1,000,000 youths of from 14 to 17 years drafted from the cities is determined by quotas
of age for training in trade schools and railroad established for each year. From the collective
schools to become skilled laborers, or for special farms (the rural population), 2 young people for
on-the-job training (shkoly jabrichno-zavodskogo each 100 persons between the ages of 14 and 55 are
obucheniia) to become “ mass workers,” as the law drafted. Drafts of 600,000 were ordered in N o­
termed it, in the mining, metal, and building indus­ vember 1940 and in June 1941.41 In the year
tries. The training period is from 6 months to 2 1946-47, 1,700,000 boys and girls were trained 42
years only, thus making it clear that these schools and according to the report of the Minister of
are not educational institutions but merely training Labor Reserves in 1950 more than half of the
workers in the largest U. S. S. R. enterprises are
The curriculum is designed not only for indus­ young persons trained under this program.43
trial training but also for political indoctrination
Aside from the draft, orphans 12 to 15 years
and militarization of labor. No particular num­ may be assigned to special schools of industrial
ber of hours is reserved for the study of general training for 3 or 4 years. They are subject to
subjects, but 2 hours a week are assigned to all duties of the draftees and their number is
political indoctrination. The trainees wear a spe­ included in the above figures. Available regula­
cial uniform and live under a regime similar to tions do not indicate that consent of the orphans
that of a military school. They must observe the or of their guardians is required.
rules of military courtesy. For example, the rules
Moreover, graduates from higher educational
of March 15, 1947, prescribed the following stand­ institutions (universities) and vocational schools
on the level of technical high schools (tekhnikum)
ard of conduct:
work for 3 or 5 years 44 at jobs assigned by
Section 7. When the instructor approaches, the
the ministry in charge of the particular school.
trainee must get up and he may not sit down until
Failure to take the appointment is treated as an
the instructor passes by or gives him permission to



offense punishable in court as absenteeism or un­
authorized quitting of the job.45
Finally, several wartime laws were enacted
drafting labor for work in various branches of in­
dustry regardless of location.46
These elements of conscript and forced “free”
labor exist in the Soviet Union in addition to the
outright convict labor in labor camps operated by
the Ministry of Interior (M. V. D .). Discussion of
them is outside the scope of this article, which
is devoted exclusively to the Soviet group which is
the nearest counterpart of our free labor.
In discussing the general situation of postwar
free employment, Soviet writers themselves plainly
indicate that “voluntary” employment under
Soviet conditions is not much different from con­
script labor. A treatise by Dogadov on the de­
velopment of the Soviet labor law, which ap­
peared in 1949, states:
In the socialist society there is no difference in
principle and quality between drafted labor and labor
performed by voluntary entering into labor relations
by taking of employment. When we are saying that
in the socialist society the principle of voluntary
labor is recognized we are not speaking of recognition
of some kind of abstract principle of free labor and
trade in a liberal and bourgeois sense, a principle
which would be treated as a value per se.
Under the conditions of socialist society . . . it is
impossible to secure the principle “from each accord­
ing to his ability*1without a pressure by the state and
law regarding the universal duty to work.47

It is clear that the “voluntary employment”
still to be found in some branches of Soviet in­
dustry is far from our concept of free labor.
Jobs are frozen. Worker and manager are
under equally heavy penalties, both criminal and
civil. Millions of future Soviet citizens, while
still only 12 to 14 years old, are assigned for
training at jobs selected for them by the authori­
ties, without necessary regard for personal prefer­
ences or those of their parents or guardians.
Professionals, for considerable time after gradua­
tion, are denied the right to go into a job of thenown choosing. This is the general picture of
“free” labor in the Soviet State.123
1 Code of Industrial Labor, Sec. 62, subsec. (1) (1913 ed.) Svod Zakonov,
Vol. XI, Part 2.
2 Soviet Labor Code, sec. 47, subsec. (f) as enacted in 1922.
3Idem, as amended on August 22,1927, R. S. F. S. R. Laws, 1927, text 577.

For other reasons of premature dismissal, see Gsovski, Soviet Civil Law,
Vol. I, p. 801.
4 Act of November 20,1932, R. S. F. S. R. Laws, 1932, text 371.
* Act of December 28, 1938, U. S. S. R. Laws, 1939, text 1.
®Interpretation of January 9, 1939, Izvestiia, January 9,1939.
7 Edict of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, Vedomosti, Nos. 20 and 28,
1940. This edict is treated as being still in force in 1949, by Z. Vyshinskaia,
Crimes in the Field of Labor Relations (in Russian 1949), pp. 83, etc., 89.
8 U. S. S. R. Laws, 1941, text 63.
9 Aleksandrov, joint author, Soviet Labor Law (in Russian, 1946), p. 279.
10 The author refers to Dubovsky “Concept of Absenteeism” in Soviet
Justice (in Russian), No. 1, 1940.
11 The author refers to Moskalenko, “The New Rules of Internal Order”
idem, No. 11.
12 U. S. S. R. Supreme Court, Criminal Trial Division, Decision of Janu­
ary 25,1943, quoted from Judicial Practice of the U. S. S. R. Supreme Court
(in Russian), 1943, No. 4, p. 14.
13 Lex cit. supra, note 5.
14 Edict of December 26,1941, sec. 2, Vedomosti, 1942, No. 2.
15 U. S. S. R. Supreme Court, Ruling of July 7,1941, Collection of Rulings
of the U. S. S. R. Supreme Court from June 23,1941, to March 1,1942, p. 9.
Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 9, p. 283.
i®Idem. Ruling of December 15,1941, op. cit., p. 21.
77 Idem. Ruling of October 22,1942 in Judicial Practice of the U. S. S. R.
Supreme Court (in Russian), 1942, No. 2, p. 4.; Aleksandrov, loc. cit.
18Edict of Presidium of the U. S. S. R. Supreme Soviet of October 19,1940,
Vedomosti, 1940, No. 42. For citations of decrees specifying jobs coming
under the edict, see Gsovski, Soviet Civil Law, vol. I, p. 830, note 132. The
edict is treated in Z. Vyshinskaia, op. cit. supra, note 7, as being still in force
in 1949.
19 Edict of Presidium of the U. S. S. R. Supreme Soviet of August 10, 1940,
Vedomosti, 1940, No. 28.
20 Collection of legislation for Workers of Railroads (in Russian, 1944),
pp. 186-188.
21 Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 9, p. 51.
22 Moskalenko, “Legal Problems Involved in Collective Agreements” in
Trade-Unions (in Russian), 1947, No. 8, p. 16; also Aleksandrov, op. cit., p. 203,
211, etc.
28 Aleksandrov and other compilers, Goliakov, editor, Legislation concern­
ing Labor (in Russian, 1947), p. 65, also Gsovski, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 808.
24Aleksandrov and Moskalenko, Soviet Labor Law (in Russian, 1944), p. 94.
23 Act of August 15, 1938, U. S. S. R. Laws, 1938, text 214, also idem, 1939,
text 119.
28 Vedomosti, 1940, No. 20 and No. 28.
27 Decrees of the Council of People’s Commissars, U. S. S. R. Laws, 1940,
texts 385,386,387.
28 Vedomosti, 1941, No. 30.
29 Instruction of the People’s Commissar for Labor of June 1, 1932, sec. 3,
Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 23, p. 135.
30 Act of June 20, 1942, sec. 12; Order of Attorney General of June 23, 1942,
Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 23, p. 136.
81 Id., p. 135; Instruction cit. supra, note 29, secs. 1, 2.
82 Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 9, p. 311, etc., and note 23, p. 242.
88 U. S. S. R. Laws, 1928, text 495.
84 Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 9, p. 313 and note 23, p. 243.
8«Id., p. 314.
88For enumeration of cases belonging to one or another category, see Gsovski,
Soviet Civil Law, 1948, Vol. I, p. 804-805, notes 46-49.
87 Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 9, p. 137.
88 Vedomosti, October 9, 1940, No. 37. For these and other acts on this
subject, see Labor Reserves of the U. S. S. R. (in Russian), 1950.
89 Id., 1947, No. 21.
49 Edict of December 28,1940, Vedomosti, 1941, No. 1.
41 U. S. S. R. Laws, 1940, texts 602, 603, 604, and 673; Izvestiia, June 5,1941.
42 U. S. S. R. in Large Soviet encyclopedia (Bolshaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia), 1947, pp. 163-164.
48 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Notes on Labor Abroad January 1951, No.
17, p. 15.
44Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra, note 9, p. 139; Higher Education (in Russian,
1945), p. 170.
45 Orders of the U. S. S. R. Commissar for Justice of September 25, No.
125/171 and of December 4, 1939, No. 173/207, Aleksandrov, op. cit. supra,
note 23, p. 12.
48 For citation and translation, see Gsovski, Soviet Civil Law, Vol. I, p.
832, etc., Vol. II, p. 548. etc.
47Dogadov, “History of Development of the Soviet Labor Law” in Uchenye
Zapiski of Leningrad University, Series of Legal Sciences, No. 2 (in Russian
1949), p. 163,166.