"God Save the Tsar!" was the national anthem of the former Russian Empire. The song was chosen from a competition held in 1833 and was first performed on 18 December 1833. The composer was violinist Alexei Lvov, and the lyrics were by the court poet Vasily Zhukovsky. It was the anthem until the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which "Worker's Marseillaise" was adopted as the new national anthem until the overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government.
The latest addition to the Royal Russia web site, is dedicated to the Imperial Anthem of the Russian Empire.
This page features a short history of the anthem, lyrics + seven renditions of 'God, Save the Tsar!' performed by Russian Orthodox and professional choir ensembles.
On 20 September (O.S. 8 September), 1862, the Millennium of Russia Monument was inaugurated in the fortress city of Novgorod the Great opposite the Saint Sophia Cathedral, in the presence of Alexander II and members of the Imperial family.
Funds for the establishment of the monument had been partially collected by the All-Russian subscription. In 1859 a competition for the design of the monument was held, in which about forty sculptors and architects took part. The choice fell on the young artist and painter M. Mikeshin, who the year before had graduated from the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg.
The monument had been constructed by a group of renowned sculptors – I. N. Schroeder, M. A. Chizhov, A. N. Laveretsky, R. K. Zaleman, A. M. Opekushin, A. M. Lyubimov, P. S. Mikhailov.
During the 1860s all the necessary materials were gathered and delivered to Novgorod. Bronze parts for the monument were cast at the factory of Plinke and Nichols in St. Petersburg. Granite for the monument’s foundation was brought from Serdobol'skii quarries on Lake Ladoga. By 13 July (O.S. 1 July), 1862 all the bronze groups, reliefs and the lattice made at the foundry were ready for the emperor’s inspection. Alexander II gave his approval, and soon the parts were transported by barge via the Neva and Volkhov Rivers to Novgorod.
The opening of the monument was scheduled for 20 September (O.S. 8 September), 1862. The preparations for it were enormous: Novgorod had been renovated and re-paved. Troops arrived in the city along with representatives of the nobility. On 19 September (O.S. 7 September), Emperor Alexander II arrived by steamboat, accompanied by his family and entourage. On 20 September (O.S. 8 September) the tsar received a deputation of the local gentry, inspected the troops formed for the parade, and then together with the Empress and his entourage headed for the Cathedral of St. Sophia, where he attended a divine liturgy. After that, the procession marched from the cathedral to the monument, around which the troops and the public stood on a specially constructed platforms. The unveiling of the monument was marked by a 62 gun salute, a military parade, and an official luncheon headed by the emperor himself. In the evening the festivities were held in the city.
The composition of the monument is shaped like a bell. The height of the monument is equal to 15.7 meters, diameter of the granite base is 9 m, the height of the sculptural groups is 3.7 m, height of the frieze on the podium - about 1.5 m, its length - about 27 meters, the weight of bronze casting is 65.5 tons.
The monument contains of 129 figures. Sculptural images are divided into three levels. The monument is crowned by the figure of a woman kneeling before the angel. The woman represents Russia. The middle part of the monument is occupied by six sculptural groups representing different periods of history of the Russian state: the creation of the state (Rurik with a shield), the adoption of Christianity (Prince Vladimir with a cross in his hand tells the farmer to break a pagan idol, from the other side a mother brings him a baby for baptism), victory on Kulikovo field (Dmitry Donskoy tramples a defeated Tatar warrior), the centralization of the Russian State (Ivan III in Monomakh’s Cap with orb and scepter in his hands, at his feet there are defeated rivals, behind - a figure of a Siberian, supporting a giant ball), beginning of the Romanov dynasty (sculptural group "The election of Mikhail Romanov to the throne" or "Minin and Pozharsky” - Kuzma Minin presents to young Michael imperial regalia), Peter's reforms (Peter I against the outstretched wings of the genius of Fame, at the feet of the emperor – a defeated Swede).
Ivan the Terrible is not among the statesmen due to his reputation as a fierce ruler, especially in Novgorod, because of the massacre perpetrated by oprichniki in Novgorod in 1570. Emperor Paul I, Arakcheev, Benckendorff are not represented on the monument either.
At high relief encircling the monument there are 109 people united in the four groups. The first is for “Enlighteners of people” among which are mainly clerics. The second group of "statesmen" is made up of princes and tsars. The third group shows the "Military men and heroes" (Prince Svyatoslav, Dovmont of Pskov, Alexander Nevsky, Ermak, Kozma Minin and Prince Pozharsky, Ivan Susanin, Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Kutuzov, Platov, Nakhimov, etc.).
The group of "Writers and artists" presents: Lomonosov, Fonvizin, Derzhavin, architect Kokorinov, actor Volkov, Krylov, Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Gnedich, Griboyedov, Lermontov, Pushkin, Gogol, Glinka, Bryullov.
During the World War II the monument was dismantled by the Nazis. The bronze grille and lights which stood around the monument (these elements are now lost) were moved away by railway. On 20 January, 1944 Novgorod was liberated by Soviet troops. The Committee for Architecture under the Soviet of People’s Commissars of USSR and the Executive Committee of the Leningrad Regional Council of People's Deputies decided to restore the monument. The Leningrad Regional Department of Architecture was in charge of the restoration. More than 1,500 missing details were reproduced. The monument was completely restored and inaugurated for the second time on November 2, 1944.
Russian Imperial National State Flag 1914-1917 Topic: Imperial Russia
An old Russian postcard depicts the Russian Imperial National State Flag 1914-1917
August 22nd is National Flag Day in Russia. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate the last National flag of Imperial Russia.
The Russian Imperial National State Flag was the Russian National flag most used between 1914 and 1917. The white-blue-red tricolor with a canton of the imperial arms was introduced by Imperial decree on 19 November 1914. It replaced the black-orange-white tricolor, which had been the civil flag since 1858, and also the plain white-blue-red tricolor. In an attempt to link national patriotism and the imperial family, Emperor Nicholas II decreed that a gold square canton be added to the national flag. On it was the black imperial eagle (in rather simplified form, e.g. no shield on the wings), but still with the central St George shield on its chest.
The following excerpt from the journal "Chronicles of War" for the years 1914 -15 describes this event:
"During these troubled times the sanctity of our nation's soul is upheld by a total and absolute union of its thoughts and feelings with those of the Tsar-Emperor.
That is why His Imperial Majesty has deemed it necessary to make this fact clearly evident before the whole world; from this day hence, as a sign of the strong union of an Orthodox Tsar and His faithful nation, in the Russian national flag, at the base (flagpole side), between the white and blue stripes (one quarter of the total length of both stripes) the Imperial Standard shall forever be placed (a black two-headed eagle on a gold background). This should be seen as a sign of love from the Tsar to all His people."
Chronicles of War, No. 4, for September 13, 1914, page 66 .
The 1914 civil flag disappeared in 1917 when the monarchy was abolished. Curiously, it continued to fly in Washington D.C. for another 15 years. The United States refused to recognize the Soviet Government, until the beginning of the Roosevelt administration in 1933. Until then, this flag continued to fly over the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C.
The legendary cruiser Aurora, was handed over to the Russian Navy after modernization on 15th July at the Kronstadt marine plant. The following day, thousands of people lined the banks of the Neva River in St. Petersburg to watch the traditional anchorage of the historic warship on Petrogradskaya Embankment.
The Aurora had been undergoing modernization, which is estimated at around 800 million rubles ($13 million USD), since September 2014.
Built at the Baltic shipyard in St. Petersburg, the Diana-class first rate cruiser Aurora was launched in a ceremony on 11th May, 1900, with Russian Emperor Nicholas II and members of the Russian Imperial family in attendance. The Emperor named the ship after a sailing frigate that had defended Russia’s Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Pacific Ocean during the Crimean War (1853-56).
The Aurora was commissioned on 29th July, 1903, and covered more than 100,000 miles and took part in three wars. In Soviet days, it was believed that the Aurora salvo was a signal to the start of an armed uprising on October 25, 1917 (the Great October Socialist Revolution). The cruiser was badly damaged during the defence of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during the Great Patriotic War against fascist Germany in 1941-1945. The ship was repaired and moored at Petrogradzklaya embankment in 1948.
Before 1956, the Aurora was used as a training base for the students of the Nakhimov Naval College located in St. Petersburg. The St. Andrew flag of the Russian Navy went up on the Aurora in 1992.
Unlike the Soviet years when the ship was used for propaganda purposes, the newly restored Aurora will be the venue of a new historical exposition, which will open late in July. It will include nine rooms devoted to the cruiser’s participation in three wars - the 1904-1905 Russian-Japanese war; the First World War and WWII.
On This Day: Count Hilarion I. Vorontsov-Dashkov Was Born Topic: Imperial Russia
Portrait of Count Hilarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov (1868)
Artist: Frederike Emilia O'Connell (1823-1885). State Hermitage Museum
Note: this article has been amended from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
On 8 June (O.S. 27 May) 1837, Hilarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov, was born in St. Petersburg. A notable representative of the Vorontsov family, Vorontsov-Dashkov served as a prominent Russian statesman, military leader, and entrepreneur during the reigns of Emperors Alexander III (1881-1894) and Nicholas II (1894-1917). His most prominent positions included Minister of Imperial Properties in 1881-97 and the Governor General of the Caucasus Viceroyalty (1801–1917) in 1905-15.
Having received a good education at home, Vorontsov-Dashkov entered the Moscow University in 1855. However, having studied only a few months, he entered military service as a volunteer in the Life Guards Horse Regiment and in 1858 was promoted to the rank of cornet. Vorontsov-Dashkov participated in hostilities in the Caucasus: in August 1859 he took part in the assault of Imam Shamil’s headquarters in the village of Gunib in Daghestan. In 1860 the count was made adjutant to the Commander of the Caucasian Army, Prince A. I. Bariatinsky, and two years later became commander of his personal escort.
In 1865, in the rank of colonel, Vorontsov-Dashkov was sent to serve as chief of staff to General D. I. Romanovsky, in Turkestan. In 1866, the count took part in the campaigns of Bukhara, commanded the assault columns in the capture of Uratube and Dzhuzak; was promoted to major general and appointed assistant military governor of the Turkestan Region. However, after the appointment of K. P. von Kaufman as Governor-General of Turkestan, Vorontsov-Dashkov left Central Asia and returned to St. Petersburg.
From 1867 to 1874 he served as commander of the Life Guard Hussar Regiment, and then - Chief of Staff of the Guards Corps under the command of Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich (the future Emperor Alexander III), and at the same time as a member of the Committee for arrangement and formation of the troops and the Council of the General Directorate of the State Horse Breeding. During the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78, the count commanded the Guards Corps and served as chief of cavalry of the Ruschuksky squad, and from October 1878 led the 2nd Guards Infantry Division for the next three years.
After the accession to the throne of Emperor Alexander III in June 1881, Hilarion was appointed chief of His Majesty's Guards and chief superintendent of state breeding. This position was granted to the count owing to his previous work as vice-president of the Imperial Tsarskoye Selo Racing community and the president of the St. Petersburg Imperial Trotter Society. In August 1881 he became Minister of the Imperial Court and the Chancellor of the Chapter of Russian Imperial and Royal Orders. Among other assignments, he also was one of the founders and active members of the "Holy Warriors" - a secret society, designed to protect the Russian Emperor.
In 1893 Vorontsov-Dashkov was appointed chairman of the Committee for considering nominations for the awards. In May 1897 he was dismissed from the posts of chief superintendent and minister and transferred to the State Council of the Russian Empire. On his initiative, the specific capital was turned to the acquisition of landed property. He also participated in the preparation of the "Institution of the Royal Family" (1896) and the work of the Special Council for the Nobility (1897). Instead of the institute of rural chiefs, whose introduction he regarded as detrimental to the financial system of Zemstvo institutions, the count proposed to create an institution of county officers, which would unite in its hands all the functions of government. Vorontsov-Dashkov opposed the restriction of land redistribution, believing it unnecessary to restrict the right of peasants to withdraw from the community, and generally offered to abolish the peasant commune.
The Russian Revolution of 1905 recalled Vorontsov to active service, and he ascended to the helm of the Viceroy of the Caucasus, commander of the troops of the Caucasus Military District and the troop ataman of the Caucasian Cossack troops. On his initiative in 1905 the order to close the Armenian schools was cancelled, and in 1896, he adopted the sequestration of property of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as held the provincial and regional meetings for the drafting of the introduction of zemstvo in the Caucasus. During the revolutionary movement in the Caucasus in 1905-1906, he took a number of harsh measures to suppress it.
In 1904-1905, Hilarion served as the chairman of the Russian Red Cross Society, and participated in other community and charitable organizations, donated significant funds to establish scholarships, grants, for the improvement of the Crimea.
With the outbreak of World War I, Vorontsov-Dashkov was appointed commander of the Caucasian Army, but almost took no part in the development of operations and lead of hostilities, having passed the command of the army to General A. Z. Myshlaevsky, and after his dismissal, to General N. N. Yudenich. The jurisdiction of Vorontsov- Dashkov was focused on the questions of the rear of the Russian army. In August 1915, after Emperor Nicholas II assumed command of the Russian armed forces, he replaced Vorontsov-Dashkov with Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaevich as Viceroy of the Caucasus. A relieved Vorontsov-Dashkov openly wrote to Nicholas II: “Now, I can live out the remainder of my days in peace.” He died within a year.
Count Hilarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov died on 28 January (O.S. 15 January) 1916, in the Vorontsov Palace at Alupka in the Crimea, and was buried in the family estate near the Annunciation Church in the village of Novotomnikovo, Shatsky County (today - Morshansk district, Tambov Region).
Vorontsov-Dashkov received numerous awards, including the Order of St. George, 4th (1867) and 3rd (1915) degrees, of St. Alexander Nevsky (1883), St. Vladimir, 1st degree (1894), St Andrew (1896), French Legion of Honor (1883).
He married in 1867 Countess Elizaveta Andreevna Shuvalova, daughter of Count Andrej Petrovich Shuvalov. His youngest son Alexander's descendents represent the only continuation of the Vorontsov family in the male line.
On This Day: First State Duma of the Russian Empire Opened Topic: Imperial Russia
The state reception marking the opening of the First State Duma in St. George's Hall in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, 1906.
In attendance are Emperor Nicholas II (center), the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (left) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (right).
Note: this article has been edited and updated from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
The State Duma as a legislative and advisory institution of the Russian empire was established under the Manifesto of Emperor Nicholas II of 6 August, 1905 ‘On establishment of State Duma’.
During the October political strike Nicholas II issued the Manifesto of 17 October, 1905 under which the State Duma was attributed legislative rights. ‘Statute on election to the State Duma’ and election law of 11 December, 1905 defined the objectives and terms of Duma functioning and the order of its members election.
The State Duma was in charge of preparation and preliminary consideration of bills; examination of state revenues and costs along with financial estimates of ministries and chief departments; cases on disposal of properties and a part of state income, on construction of public railways, on establishment of companies on shares; cases submitted for consideration by imperial orders; estimates and apportionment of Zemstvo duties. The State Duma could make inquires to ministers regarding the acts that it considered illegal.
The State Duma was elected for 5 years term. But it could be dissolved by the emperor before the end of this period. The emperor could also appoint new elections and the time of convocation. Women, the military and the urban poor were deprived of the elective right. The elections were held in accordance with curia system. With this objective four curia were created: of landowners; urban; of workers and of peasants. During the elections of February – March 1906 the most successful was the Constitutional and Democratic Party (of cadets). On 10 May (O.S. 27 April), 1906 a state reception for the deputies of the First State Duma of the Russian Empire was held in St. George's Hall of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. After the welcoming address of Emperor Nicholas II the deputies went to Tauride Palace which became their work residence. Cadet S. A. Muromtsev was elected the Duma’s chairman.
The first Russian State Duma of the Russian Empire had functioned for 72 days. The central issue was agrarian problem: deputies proposed several projects but all of them were rejected by the Ministers Council as ‘inadmissible’.
On the whole within 2,5 months of work Duma had accepted 391 inquiries regarding illegal actions of government and approved two bills: on death penalty abolishment (it was initiated by the deputies) and on allocation of 15 million rubles to those having suffered from bad harvest (submitted by the government). On 8 July, 1906 the government decided to dissolve the Duma and organize new elections.
Within 11 years there had been elected four State Duma’s convocations. On 19 October (O.S. 6 October), 1917 the State Duma of the fourth convocation was dissolved by the Provisional government due to the establishment of 25 November (O.S. 12 November) the date of the election to the Constituent Assembly on and the beginning of election campaign.
On This Day: Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire Approved Topic: Imperial Russia
Note: this article has been edited and updated from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
On 6 May (O.S. 23 April), 1906 Emperor Nicholas 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 Emperor 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 30 October (O.S. 17 October) 1905, the establishment of the Council of Ministers, the State Duma, the reorganization of the State Council.
The document approved on 6 May (O.S. 23 April) 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 6 May (O.S. 23 April), 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 17 October, 1905.
For more information on the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire, please refer to the following article:
On This Day: Russian Empire State Emblem and State Seal Approved Topic: Imperial Russia
Note: this article has been edited and updated from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
On 23 April (O.S. 11 April), 1857 Emperor Alexander II approved the detailed description of the State emblem and seal.
The double-headed eagle became the Russian state symbol at the end of the 15th century. The emblem’s composition and design continued to change repeatedly over the centuries.
The images of the double-headed eagle in the first half of the 19th century were quite varied. It could bear one or three crowns, hold a sceptre and orb, a wreath or Peroun, a torch in its claws; with raised or spread wings.
During the reign of Emperor Nikolai I two designs of the state eagle were officially established. One had spread wings, bore one crown over two heads, a sacred image of St. George on his chest and sceptre and orb in his claws. The second type had raised wings bearing the titular emblems: of Kazan, Astrakhan and Siberia on the right; of Poland, Taurida and Finland – on the left.
In 1856 in the course of heraldic reform conducted under the guidance of Baron Bernhard Kohne the design of the state eagle was changed under the influence of German models. At the same time the direction of the image of St. George depicted on the eagle’s chest was turned to the right in accordance with the West-European rules of heraldry. The design of the Lesser Emblem of Russia was made by artist Alexander Fadeyev and approved by the Emperor on 20 December (O.S. 8 December), 1856. This variant of the emblem differed from the previous ones not only by the eagle’s design but also by the number of titular emblems on its wings. The right wing bore the shields with emblems of Kazan, Poland, Chersonesos Taurica and the united emblem of Kiev, Vladimir and Novgorod; the left wing contained the shields with the emblems of Astrakhan, Siberia, Georgia and Finland.
On 23 April (O.S. 11 April), 1857 the Emperor approved the whole set of emblems: the Great one, the Middle one and the Lesser State Emblem; titular coats of arms of the Emperor’s family members and the patrimonial coat of arms of the Emperor. Also approved were the designs of the Great, Middle and Lesser State Seals, seals boxes and the seals of higher and lower offices and persons. The Minor State Emblem – the double-headed eagle with all the attributes –was the one for general use. The Great and Middle Emblems represented complicated compositions with the Lesser Emblem at the center of it and the emblems of all the lands under the Emperor’s title around it including other supplementary elements (holders for shields, pedestal, etc.). These two Emblems were used in particular cases of especial importance.
On 12 June (O.S. 31 May), 1857 the Senate issued the Decree with the description of the new Emblems and norms for their use. In total the document approved of 110 designs lithographed by the artist A. K. Beggrov. The act was followed by a series of other acts establishing new models of the State Emblem. At that time the first stamp appeared with the double-headed eagle on it.
The State Emblem of Russia adopted in 1857 remained practically unchanged up to 1917.
The Presidential Library Will Digitize Tsar's Marches Topic: Imperial Russia
Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
The Russian Institute of Art History has provided scores of the marches approved by Nicholas II to the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg for digitization. This unique material from the special collection of the Institute will join the digital collection of the Presidential Library, will be made fully available on the website and in electronic reading rooms in Russia and abroad.
Military or parade march as a genre has its roots in the age of Peter I. The regular march music appeared with the development of the regular army: in 1711, a decree was issued on the staff of regimental bands. The Preobrazhensky Life Guards Regiment, founded in 1691 by Peter the Great, was the first to have a march raising the spirits for parades, see to the war and support the soldiers' spirits during the long tedious marches. When the legs of soldiers failed, they were supported by music. Before the appearance of march this function was performed by a marching song. By 1716, the Preobrazhensky Regiment orchestra included 40 musicians, and from 1722 all the regiments were obliged to have orchestras - wind or mixed type.
File from the manuscripts room, Russian Institute of Art History, which includes the marches, is an unpublished album of notes containing 252 sheets of musical notations of marches with the author's marks and blots. The best works of this genre were selected for the regiments personally by Emperor Nicholas II and were supposed to raise the morale of the Russian army.
Muses, alas, fell into silence when guns spoke and the revolutionary broke out. As a result, the album was not published. And only now, owing to the innovative technologies of the Presidential Library, it got a chance to be published in electronic form.
Among the scores, which are being digitized, there are such marches as, "Martial Spirit" by Fr. Von Blon, "A Dashing Unit" by Yu. Lengardt, the famous march of 1914 by I. Walch "Marching into Paris," which glorifies the victory over Napoleon. Most of the scores were written for brass bands of mixed composition.
Basically, the Russian Institute of Art History delivered to the Presidential Library military marches, which, according to the Emperor Nicholas II, who select them, “would give moral support the soldiers going up the line.”
The extensive collection of scores, which are currently digitized by the Presidential Library, will also feature "Montenegrin" march by L. Minkus from the ballet "Roxanne" and Cesare Pugni's march from the ballet "The Little Humpbacked Horse."
On This Day: State Council of the Russian Empire Established Topic: Imperial Russia
The centenary session of the State Council in the Mariinsky Palace on May 7, 1901 is represented
on Ilya Repin's huge canvas, now exhibited in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg
Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
The State Council appeared in Russia after the liberal reforms of Emperor Alexander I. On 7 April (O.S. March 26), 1801 the emperor abolished the Council under the tsar’s court established by the Empress Catherine II in 1768. Under his decree of 11 April (O.S. 30 March 30), 1801 was created a deliberate body named in the decree “The Indispensable Council”. At the same time M.M. Speransky, a statesman, was charged with preparation of the liberal reforms program for the entire state bodies’ system.
According to Speransky the project “at the top of the whole state system and its last link” should be the State Council “that will consolidate legislative power, judicial and executive authorities which will ascend to the supreme power through it”. Speransky’s explanatory note said that up to now: “the ideas on the law execution were the subject of personal trust and passing from hands to hands they were never unified or respected”. Later the note “On the necessity of the State Council establishment” made the basis for the emperor’s speech that he delivered at the Council grand opening.
The history of the State Council dates back to 13 January (O.S. 1 January), 1810 when Emperor Alexander I issued a manifesto on its establishment. It would become the supreme state advisory body to the sovereign in Imperial Russia.
The State Council was the supreme state advisory legislative body in Imperial Russia. It investigated the bills introduced by ministers before the emperor’s approval, budgets and staffs of the state establishments, complaints about the Senate departments’ decisions. For these purposes the Council had a Commission for laws’ execution, and the State office headed by the state secretary. The State office along with records management was in charge of the edition of bills’ texts that were brought up for the discussion and executed the laws. The bills were first investigated by the departments and then were brought up at the State Council general meeting and after the emperor’s approval took effect as laws. At the same time the emperor could second the opinion of majority as well as of minority or reject both.
The Mariinsky Palace on St. Isaac's Square was the seat of the State Council of the Russian Empire up until February 1917
The State Council had played an important role in the preparation and the issue of the first Complete code of laws and the Russian Empire Code of Laws. Under the reign of Alexander II it participated in the development of the reforms’ legislative basis of 1860-1870.
Originally the State Council consisted of 35 persons assigned by the emperor, in 1890 there were 60.. The emperor presided the State Council. During his absence the president was a Council member assigned by the emperor annually. From 1812 to 1865 the State Council chairman was also the chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers.
After the manifesto of 29 October (O.S. 17 October), 1905 the State Council was transformed into the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. Half of its members were appointed by the emperor, another half was elected from various categories of society such as clergy, Zemstvo, Assemblies of Nobility, Academy of Science and Universities as well as manufacturers and traders (partly by indirect elections). The State Council also investigated the bills adopted by the State Duma before they were approved by the emperor. Since the Duma and the Council had equal legislative rights for emperor’s consideration were submitted only those bills which were approved by both chambers of the parliament.
After the February revolution of 1917 the State Council of the Imperial Russia ceased to exist due to the changes in the Russian political system.