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Imperial Russia State Council established

13 January 1810

The State Council appeared in Russia due to liberal reforms of Alexander I. On March 26 (April 7), 1801 the emperor abolished the Council under the tsar’s court established by Catherine II in 1768. Under his decree of March 30 (April 11), 1801 was created a deliberate body named in the decree “The Indispensable Council”. At the same time M.M. Speransky, a statesman, was charged with preparation of the liberal reforms program for the entire state bodies’ system.

According to Speransky project “at the top of the whole state system and its last link” should be the State Council “that will consolidate legislative power, judicial and executive authorities which will ascend to the supreme power through it”. Speransky explanatory note said that up to now: “the ideas on the law execution were the subject of personal trust and passing from hands to hands they were never unified or respected”. Later the note “On the necessity of the State Council establishment” made the basis for the emperor’s speech that he delivered at the Council grand opening.

The history of the State Council is counted from January 1 (13), 1810 when Alexander I manifesto on its establishment was issued.

The State Council was the supreme state advisory legislative body in Imperial Russia. It investigated the bills introduced by ministers before the emperor’s approval, budgets and staffs of the state establishments, complaints about the Senate departments’ decisions. For these purposes the Council had a Commission for laws’ execution, and the State office headed by the state secretary. The State office along with records management was in charge of the edition of bills’ texts that were brought up for the discussion and executed the laws. The bills were first investigated by the departments and then were brought up at the State Council general meeting and after the emperor’s approval took effect as laws. At the same time the emperor could second the opinion of majority as well as of minority or reject both.

The State Council had played an important role in the preparation and the issue of the first Complete code of laws and the Russian Empire Code of Laws. Under the reign of Alexander II it participated in the development of the reforms’ legislative basis of 1860-1870.

Originally the State Council consisted of 35 persons assigned by the emperor. The emperor presided the State Council. During his absence the president was a Council member assigned by the emperor annually. From 1812 to 1865 the State Council chairman was also the chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers.

After the manifesto of October 17 (29), 1905 the State Council was transformed into the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. Half of its members were appointed by the emperor, another half was elected from various categories of society such as clergy, Zemstvo, Assemblies of Nobility, Academy of Science and Universities as well as manufacturers and traders (partly by indirect elections). The State Council also investigated the bills adopted by the State Duma before they were approved by the emperor. Since the Duma and the Council had equal legislative rights for emperor’s consideration were submitted only those bills which were approved by both chambers of the parliament.

After the February revolution of 1917 the State Council of the Imperial Russia ceased to exist due to the changes in the Russian political system.

On September 5, 1991 the fifth special Congress of the People’s deputies of the USSR adopted the law “On the state power and governing bodies of the USSR during the period of transition”. Under the law was founded the State Council of the USSR as an inter-republican advisory body for discussion of the domestic and foreign policy issues of the Union regions. Among the Council’s members were the supreme officials of the Union republics. Acting as the chairman of the Council was the USSR president. The Council ceased to exist in December of the same year due to the USSR collapse.

On September 1, 2000 was organized the Russian Federation State Council as an advisory body under the head of the state. The chairman of the current State Council is the Russian president.

Lit.: Государственный Совет. 1801-1901. СПб., 1901; Государственный совет Российской империи (список литературы) // Вестник Совета Федерации. 2009. № 5; К 100-летию парламентаризма. Государственный совет Российской империи // Аналитический вестник Совета Федерации ФС РФ. 2005. № 3 (291); Кодан С. В. «Постановить силу и блаженство империи Российской на незыблемом основании закона…»: Государственный совет в России // Чиновник. 2002. № 1; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://law.edu.ru/doc/document.asp?docID=1145201; Михайловский М. Г. Государственный совет Российской империи // Вестник Совета Федерации. 2006. № 6; Михайловский М. Г. Государственный совет Российской империи. Государственные секретари // Вестник Совета Федерации. 2007. № 5; 2008. № 1; Образование Государственного Совета: манифест // Российское законодательство X-XX вв. Т. 6. М., 1988; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/gossovet.htm; Шилов Д. Н., Кузьмин Ю. А. Члены Государственного совета Российской империи, 1801-1906: Биобиблиографический справочник. СПб., 2007

From the Presidential library materials:

Даневский П. Н. История образования Государственного Совета в России. СПб., 1859;

Левенсон М. Л. Государственный Совет: [портреты и биографии]. Пг., 1915;

Манифест Александра I об образовании Государственного Совета : 1 янв. 1810 г.;

Рисунки мундиров и мундирного шитья чинов Государственного Совета. Высочайше утверждены 27 февраля 1834 г.