On February 22, (March 5), 1711 in St.-Petersburg under the decree of Peter the First was established the Governing Senate – the supreme judicial, legislative and executive body which reported to the Emperor.
The constant absences of Peter I from the country prevented him to manage the current governing issues. During his absence some of his trustees were in charge of the state affairs. On February 22 (March 5), 1711 these powers were conferred to a new institution named the Governing Senate.
The Senate possessed the absolute power in the country during the tsar’s absence and coordinated the work of other public institutions.
The new institution comprised nine members: the count Ivan Alexeevich Musin-Pushkin, the boyar Tikhon Nikitich Streshnev, the prince Piotr Alexeevich Golitsyn, the prince Mikhail Vladimirovich Dolgorukiy, the prince Grigory Andreevich Plemyannikov, the prince Grigory Ivanovich Volkonskiy, the general Mikhail Mikhailovich Samarin, the quartermaster-general Vasiliy Andreevich Apukhtin and Nazariy Petrovich Mel’nitskiy. Anisim Shchukin was appointed the Ober-secretary.
During the first years of its existence the Senate was in charge of the state receipts and expenditures, functioned as a body supervising the branched bureaucratic machinery. A few days after the Senate establishment on March 5 (16), 1711 in the center and locally were introduced the positions of sneaks who reported about all the breaches of law, bribery, embezzlement of state funds which were harming the state. By the emperor’s order of 28 March 1714 “On the post of informers” this service was completely established.
In 1718-1722 the Senate comprised all the collegiums presidents. There was introduced a position of the Procurator-General who controlled all the Senate’s activities, the work of its machinery, its office, passing and executing of its sentences, protests against them and suspense. The Procurator-General and the Ober-Procurator of the Senate reported only to the sovereign. The main duty of the procurator was the control over law and order. The first Procurator-General was Pavel Ivanovich Yaguzhinskiy.
After the death of Peter I the position of the Senate, its role and duties in the state administration system were changing gradually. It was renamed from the Governing to the Supreme Senate. In 1741 the empress Elisabeth of Russia issued the decree ‘On the restoration of the Senate’s power in governing the state domestic affairs’. However the actual role of the Senate in the domestic affairs management was not significant.
When the Ministries were established in 1802 Senate retained its duties as the Supreme judicial body and the supervising body.
On November 22 (December 5), 1917 by the decree of the Council of the People’s Commissars ‘On the court’ it was resolved to ‘abolish the former legal bodies such as district courts, court chambers and the Governing Senate including all its offices…’.
Lit.: Гогель С. К. ... Правительствующий сенат в XIX столетии: Компетенция. Делопроизводство. Уголовный процесс. Охранение прав личности / СПб., 1911; Указ об учреждении Правительствующего Сената и о персональном его составе // Российское законодательство X-XX вв. Т. 4. М., 1986; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/senat1.htm; Филиппов А. Н. Правительствующий сенат при Петре Великом и его ближайших преемниках: (1711-1741 гг.). СПб., 1911.
From the Presidential library materials:
История Правительствующего Сената за 200 лет, 1711-1911: в 5 т. СПб., 1911. Т. 3: Правительствующий Сенат в XIX столетии до реформ 60-х годов / Сост. Э. Н. Берендтс, В. А. Гаген, С. К. Гогель, И. А. Блинов;
История Правительствующего Сената за 200 лет, 1711-1911: в 5 т. СПб., 1911. Т. 5, дополнительный: Местонахождение, помещение и убранство Сената со дня его учреждения по настоящее время; Форменная одежда сенаторов, чинов обер-прокурорского надзора и Канцелярии Правительствующего сената; Издания при Сенате / Сост. Н. В. Граве;