On March 23 (April 3), 1714 Peter I signed the decree ‘On the order of inheritance of personal and real assets’ (the decree on primogeniture) which secured the possession of land by nobles and equalized in rights the owners of estates and patrimonies that was very important for the formation of the Russian noblesse as a single full-fledged estate. The issue of the decree was preceded by the study of legislation on property inheritance by nobles in other countries.
Under the decree of 1714 a father could hand down the real assets to only one of his sons or to a daughter (if there were no sons). If he had no children he could hand them down to one of his relatives.
Under the decree it was prohibited to sell or mortgage the real assets. As to personal assets the testator was allowed to distribute them among his children at his discretion. The decree was intended against the subdivision of the nobles’ landed property which led according to Peter I to the ruin of nobility. It also equalized legally the estates and patrimonies making them a single type of the noble landed property.
According to V. O. Kluychevsky ‘The decree of March did not establish sole rights for the oldest son; the right of primogeniture was the case only if there was no last will: father could bequeath the real assets to younger son bypassing the older one. The decree did not establish the right of primogeniture but the indivisibility of the real estates and impeded the division of estates which increased following the decree of 1684 and weakened the suitability of landowners’.
One of the essential purposes of the decree was to compel the young nobles to the military service. The decree provoked the situation when they ‘were forced to earn their living by service, study, commerce and other’. Young people used different ways to evade the service but the state punished those who did not accept the conscription. Under the law of 1714 the one having evaded the service was deprived of his estate in favor of the informer (including a serf) and under the law of 1722 the violator was even outlawed.
On December 9 (20), 1730 due to the nobility discontent the Empress Anna Ioanovna abolished the decree on primogeniture of 1714.
Lit.: О порядке наследования в движимых и недвижимых имуществах: Указ 23 марта 1714 г. // Российское законодательство X-XX вв. Т. 4. М., 1986.; То же [Электронный ресурс] URL: http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/inherit.htm; 1714 год, 3 апреля (23 марта). Пётр I подписывает указ «О порядке наследования в движимых и недвижимых имуществах» известный также как Указ о единонаследии [Электронный ресурс] // Руниверс. Б. д. URL: http://www.runivers.ru/Runivers/calendar2.php?ID=61497&month=&year=.
Based on the Presidential Library’s materials: