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The past and the present of the Russian prosecutor's office spotlighted in the Presidential Library’s materials

12 January 2021

Marking the Day of the employee of the prosecutor's office of the Russian Federation, celebrated in our country on January 12, the Presidential Library features a variety of materials, both rare, representing the history of the creation and formation of the prosecutor's office, and modern, exploring various aspects of the activities of this institution of power.

The emergence of the prosecutor's office, established on January 12, 1722 by the Imperial Decree of Peter I to the Governing Senate, is spotlighted in the 1st volume of the Collected Works (1899) by the jurist and historian Alexander Gradovsky, in the book of the writer and historian Pyotr Ivanov, The Experience of the Biographies of Prosecutor Generals and Justice Ministers (1863), the collection Essays on the history of the Prosecutor General's Office in Russia before Catherine's time (1915) by Professor Vasily Veretennikov.

In 1722 "January 12. The decree of Peter the Great given to the Senate" decreed that "the Prosecutor General and the Ober Prosecutor should be attached to the Senate, as well as in any Board of the Prosecutor, which will have to report to the Prosecutor General ... <...> ... In these ranks, the will is given the freedom to choose from all ranks, and especially in the Prosecutors. <…> Prosecutors should also be in the Courts". The text of the Decree is available in full in the 6th volume of the Complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire (1830) from the Presidential Library’s collections.

On January 27 of the same year, Peter the Great approved the Instruction on the position of the Prosecutor General of the Senate, a digitized copy of this instruction, written by the emperor himself, is available on the Presidential Library’s portal.

Alexander Gradovsky explains the role and significance of the position of the Prosecutor General in the system of public administration in the following way: “... The Senate was a collegium, and the Prosecutor General was the person who concentrated the entire administration of that time. From then on, the entire system of our government was to be based on their combined activity. <...> Now one of the main duties of the Prosecutor Generals was “to watch firmly so that in the Senate not only affairs were done on the table, but by the very action they were executed according to decrees, what he should ask those who received the decrees for. Given this state of affairs, it is not surprising that the position of the Prosecutor General has received extensive development and great importance: “the Prosecutor General ... in seniority is the last, in terms of value, the first person in the Senate; he sits in the Senate, in the name of the emperor controls everything that happens there; he has the only and decisive influence on the senators' opinion "".

Count Pavel Yaguzhinsky was appointed the first Prosecutor General. “Count Yaguzhinsky himself looked very seriously at his position and energetically protested against the administration’s inaction and abuse, where he noticed them; this can be seen, by the way, from his report to Empress Catherine I, where he gives her excellent advice on governing the state and talks about the omissions that have crept into different parts of the government”, - wrote Gradovsky.

The main stages of the development and transformation of the prosecutor's office were outlined by Vasily Shevchenko in his abstract The prosecutor's office in the system of separation of powers and the state mechanism for protecting the constitutional rights of citizens (2009): “...The prosecutor's office in Russia was created by Peter I ... as an authoritative control and supervisory body. <…> The judicial reform of 1864, although it narrowed the functions of the prosecutor's office to a greater extent to the judicial sphere, nevertheless partially retained its general supervisory functions. <…> After the October Revolution, the Prosecutor's Office in Russia was liquidated by the Decree on the Court No. 1 of November 24, 1917. <...> However, later the institute of the prosecutor's office was restored and on May 28, 1922, the Regulation on prosecutorial supervision was adopted. On December 17, 1933, the Regulation on the Prosecutor's Office of the USSR was adopted. This act was of tremendous importance in establishing the principles of unity and subordination within the prosecution system. <...> After the collapse of the USSR and the formation of the CIS, the USSR Prosecutor's Office ceases to exist as an independent body. Each state, which was part of the USSR, forms its own independent prosecutor's office, headed by the General Prosecutors".

Today, the prosecutor's office of the Russian Federation, while maintaining the historically unchanged foundations and goals of its activities, corresponds to the new principles of the functioning of state power. Vasily Shevchenko continues: “The current stage of development of the prosecutor’s office testifies to constant changes in its legal status. <...> Russian society is in the process of constant development, and the legislator is trying to bring the system of the prosecutor's office into a state that meets the requirements of strengthening Russian statehood".

The dissertation by Svetlana Yakusheva Legal Acts of the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation (2007), Evgenia Ryabova The Prosecutor's Office in the System of Russian Federalism (2007) and other scientific studies are devoted to the issues of prosecutor’s office activity. They are available in the Presidential Library’s collections and on the institution’s portal in a constantly growing large-scale electronic collection State Authority.