‘Fundamental laws of the Russian Empire’ approved

6 May 1906

On April 23 (May 6), 1906 Nikolai II approved the new version of ‘Fundamental laws of the Russian Empire’. The revision of Fundamental laws was made ‘… in order to strengthen the foundations of the renewed state system’.

Basic national laws of the Russian Empire - a set of regulations on the general principles of the Russian political system - were first codified under M. M. Speransky in 1832, and in 1833 Tsar Nicholas I by issuing the Manifesto of the enactment of “The Code of Laws of the Russian Empire” declared their coming into force. In 1906, the Basic Laws were revised due to the publication of the Manifesto 17 (30) October 1905, the establishment of the Council of Ministers, the State Duma, the reorganization of the State Council.

The document approved on April 23 (May 6) consisted of an introductory section and five chapters (82 articles): On essence of the supreme monarchial authority; On rights and duties of Russian subjects; On laws; On State Council and State Duma and their way of activity; On Ministers Council, ministers and heads of particular departments.

The fundamental laws secured the state system of the Russian Empire, the state language, the essence of the supreme authority, the legislation order, the principles of organization and activity lines of central state institutions, the rights and duties of the Russian subjects.

According to the fundamental laws the supreme monarchial authority and governing authority belonged to the Emperor. However he conducted the executive power ‘in close unity with the State Council and the State Duma’. Henceforth it was defined that ‘no new law can appear without the approval of the State Council and the State Duma and take effect without being approved by the Emperor’.

However the monarch’s prerogatives remained quite dominant: the fundamental laws could be revised only on his initiative; it was he who assigned and dismissed ministers and supreme dignitaries, conducted the foreign policy, was proclaimed the ‘sovereign leader of the Russian Army and Navy’; had sole rights for mintage; on his behalf the war was declared and the peace concluded, the legal proceedings conducted, titles, orders and other state decorations awarded.

For the first time the Fundamental laws proclaimed the rights of civil freedom. The Russian subjects were guaranteed the right of personal immunity, sanctity of the home and property, the right to hold meetings, create societies and unions (with the objectives not contradicting with laws); the freedom of faith and the right to ‘express their ideas verbally and in writing as well as spread them by means of the press’ but ‘within the limits established by law’.

The renewed Fundamental laws were conferred with a special legal force. They were changed only in a special legislative order. The initiative of their revision belonged exclusively to the emperor. The latter, authorized to issue the decrees which had a provisional force of laws (during the periods when Duma suspended its work) however could not apply this authority to the Fundamental laws.

On the threshold of the State Duma convocation the Fundamental laws of April 23 (May 6), 1906 represented the fundamental legislative act which regulated the separation of powers between the Emperor’s authority and the Parliament (the State Council and the State Duma) instituted under the Manifesto of October 17, 1905.


Lit.: Белковец Л. П., Белковец В. В. История государства и права России. Курс лекций. Новосибирск. 2000; Высочайше утверждённые Основные государственные законы. 23 апреля 1906 г. // Полное собрание законов Российской Империи. Собрание 3-е. Т. 26 (1906). СПб., 1909. № 27805. С. 456; То же [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/apr1906.htm; Владимирова Г. Е. Основные государственные законы Российской Империи 1832-1892 гг. в определении основ государственного строя в России. Автореферат дис. ... канд. юрид. наук. Омск, 2010; Яцкова А. П. Основные государственные законы Российской империи 23 апреля 1906 г. — первая российская конституция. Автореф. дис. ... канд. юрид. наук. М., 2001.


Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

Полное собрание законов Российской Империи. Собрание 3-е. Т. 26 (1906). СПб., 1909. № 27805. С. 456.