The Central Committee, abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", was the highest body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Its full name was Центра́льный Комите́т Коммунисти́ческой Па́ртии Сове́тского Сою́за = ЦК КПСС; Tsentralnyy Komitet Kommunistitcheskoy Partii Sovetskogo Soyuza = TsK KPSS, or the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
According to Party rules, the Central Committee directed all Party and government activities between each Party Congress Members of the committee were elected at the Party Congress every five years.
The Politburo was elected by and reporting to the Central Committee. Besides the Politburo the Central Committee also elected the Secretaries of the Central Committee which comprised the Secretariate of the Central Committee. The Central Committee elected the General Secretary of the CPSU as well. In 1919-1952 the Orgburo was also elected in the same manner as the Politburo and the Secretariat by the plenums of the Central Committee.
For most of its existence, the power of the Central Committee was limited by its infrequent meetings and large membership, and true power lay with the Politburo. The Committee functioned as a rubber-stamp to legitimise and give an aura of consensus to Politburo decisions. The Committee would meet only twice a year, with sessions lasting one or two days. Special plenary sessions would be held before a major event, such as a new long-term plan or the selection of a new General Secretary. The elections were façades too, with the membership being selected in advance by the leaders.
From 1917 to 1934, the Central Committee did act as a parliament (and, especially in the early years, as the de facto Politburo). But its occasional opposition to Stalin led to a purge of the body between the 17th and 18th Party Congresses (1934-39). Until Stalin's death, its role was therefore almost non-existent. After Stalin's death, there was a period of collective leadership, which revitalised the Committee before it was returned to its compliant role. However the Committee did play a critical role in the career of Nikita Khrushchev. In 1957, the Central Committee overturned a decision by the Presidium (the renamed Politburo) to remove Nikita Khrushchev as party leader. Khrushchev, with the assistance of Marshal Georgy Zhukov, rallied the support of the Central Committee against what he called the Anti-Party Group. Seven years later, on October 14, 1964 it was a meeting of the Central Committee that deposed Khrushchev.
The Central Committee also made a landmark decision in March 1985 when it elected the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev as the next General Secretary of the CPSU with the margin of just one vote more than the hardliner Viktor Grishin.
Following the failed coup of August 1991, the Central Committee was dissolved as was the Communist Party itself.
The Secretariat headed the CPSU's central apparatus and was solely responsible for the development and implementation of party policies. The Secretariat also carried political weight because many of its members sat on the Politburo.
The members of the Secretariat supervised the work of the Central Committee departments. Department chiefs, who normally sat on the Central Committee, were subordinate to the secretaries.
A variety of departments made up the CPSU's central apparatus. Some departments were worthy of note. The Party Building and Cadre Work Department assigned party personnel in the nomenklatura system. The State and Legal Department supervised the armed forces, KGB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the trade unions, and the Procuracy.
Before 1989 the apparatus contained many more departments responsible for the economy. These departments included one for the economy as a whole, one for machine building, and one for the chemical industry, among others. The party abolished these departments in an effort to remove itself from the day-to-day management of the economy in favor of government bodies and a greater role for the market, as a part of the perestroika process.