Soviets (Russian for 'council') are governmental bodies with legislative and executive powers, comprised of elected delegates who are directly accountable to their constituencies. Elected delegates operate on an imperative mandate, meaning they are bound to vote and represent their constituents based on the instructions and demands of those same constituents rather than their own judgement. Delegates are subject to recall or dismissal at any point should their constituents be unsatisfied with their work, at which point new elections will be held.
Soviets as a form of governance first took shape during the experience of the Paris Commune in 1871, in which the workers of Paris elected and campaigned for their own governance in the earliest real-world example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The first Russian Soviets emerged in the wake of the St. Petersburg disorders. During which workers' strike representatives organized its revolutionary action under socialist leadership, creating the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.
Soviets would later appear in the years preceding and during the February and October Revolutions in the Russian Empire. These constituted the governments of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and subsequently, the Soviet Union. In the years following the establishment of the Soviet Union, similar government structures using soviet democracy appeared and still exist in countries such as Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In the early years of the RSFSR and the Soviet Union, soviets were ran by and exclusively represented the workers and peasants in society. These soviets existed on local, regional, national, (and with the establishment of the Soviet Union) union-wide levels. The adoption of the 1936 Constitution extended electoral rights and the right to be elected into office to all members of society above the age of 18.
It is worth noting that, while 'soviet' is a term typically associated with the Soviet Union specifically, they have existed under different names in various countries and are not exclusive to the USSR. For instance, in the DPRK, citizens elect and are eligible for election to a 'People's Assembly' on a similar local, regional, and national level.
- soviet: Soviet government unit by Encyclopedia Britannica