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Peter I decree on Prosecutor-General post establishment

23 January 1722

January 12 (23), 1722 Peter I issued a decree establishing the post of procurator-general of the Russian Empire: "The Senate to have Prosecutor-General and Attorney-General, and every board to have prosecutor, who must report to the prosecutor-general".

In 1711 Peter I, going on the Prussian campaign, established a Governing Senate - the highest body of state power and legislation, subordinate to the emperor. The Senate took care of public revenues and expenditures, was in charge of the nobles’ attendance of their service, was a supervisory body for ramified bureaucracy.

From 1711 to 1722 the Senate had: Reprisal Chamber which investigated crimes and abuses and controled local officials in the field of court; chief spy for secret surveillance of the subordinate agencies and officials, as well as for protection of state interests in lawsuits; General-reketmaister who accepted and considered complaints about the central institutions; and later - Inspector-General and staff-officers of the Guards. However, all these institutions and positions could not solve the problem of single and total control over the bureaucratic system in the center and locally. Therefore, the emperor issued a decree establishing the post of prosecutor-general. Soon the development of regulations defining the status of the new public institution began.

Peter I, creating the Prosecutor's Office has set the task "to destroy or diminish evil stemming from disorder, injustice, graft and lawlessness." Prosecutor supervised financial statements and statements of the boards. In accordance with the Decree of January 18 (29), 1722 "On establishing of prosecutor post in the courts and outbuildings of outbuildings within the competence of courts and on the limits of competence of courts in cases and upon information from sneaks and other people” the public prosecutor office was placed over the fiscal authorities.

The first Prosecutor-General of the Senate, appointed by Emperor, was Pavel Ivanovich Yaguzhinsky. Introducing the prosecutor-general to senators, Peter said: "That's my eyes, which I'll see everything with." The same idea he repeated in the decree of 27 April (8 May) 1722 "About the post of prosecutor-general": "This rank to serve our eyes and attorney for the state affairs." The decree set out the main duties and powers of the prosecutor-general regarding the supervision over the Senate and the governance of subordinate prosecutors.

After the death of Peter I in 1725 the post of prosecutor-general was abolished, and the most powerful body in this area now was the Supreme Privy Council. In March 1730, following the abolition of the Supreme Privy Council by Empress Anna Ivanovna, the Senate was restored, and in October the same year the post of prosecutor-general was re-established too. But a year later, after the establishment of a new central government body - the Cabinet - the influence of the Senate decreased once again. In December 1741, shortly after the accession to the throne, the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna (Elisabeth of Russia) issued a decree on the abolition of the Cabinet and the restoration of the Governing Senate. Having ascended the throne in 1762, Catherine II significantly reformed Senate: now the duties of the Prosecutor-General included superintendence of justice, finance, Treasury Department and, as before, the state supervision over the government bodies.

During the reform of public administration, undertaken by Alexander I, from 1802 the post of the Senate’s head was merged with the post of Minister of Justice, which also corresponded to the new nature of the Senate, which retained its role of the highest judicial authority and the supervisory authority. As such, the position of prosecutor-general had lasted until the events of February 1917, after which it was abolished.

Lit.: Бессарабов В. Г. Дореформенная (петровская) прокуратура (1772-1864 гг.) // Журнал российского права. 2002. № 8; Градовский А. Д. Высшая администрация России XVIII ст. и генерал-прокуроры. СПб., 1863; Ерошкин Н. П. История государственных учреждений дореволюционной России. М., 1968.

From the Presidential library materials:

Иванов В. И. Опыт биографий генерал-прокуроров и министров юстиции. СПб., 1863;

Инструкция о должности генерал-прокурора Сената, высочайше утверждённая императором Петром I. 27 января 1722 г. Здесь же Предложение управляющего Министерством Юстиции Сенату от 5 января 1863 г. о Высочайшем повелении о передачи инструкции генерал-прокурора в Сенат для хранения в зале Общего Собрания Сената. [Дело]. 1722;

Полное собрание законов Российской Империи. Собрание 1-е. СПб., 1720-1722. Т. 6 (1830). №№ 3877, 3880, 3979.