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The Governing Senate (Правительствующий сенат) was a legislative, judicial, and executive body of Russian Monarchs, instated by Peter the Great to replace the Boyar Duma and lasted until the very end of the Russian Empire. It was chaired by the Ober-Procurator. He served as the link between sovereign and the Senate and acted, in the emperor's own words, as "the sovereign's eye".

Originally established only for the time of the monarch's absence, it became a permanent body after his return. The number of senators was first set at nine and in 1712, increased to ten. Any disagreements between the Ober-Procurator and the Senate were to be settled by the monarch. Certain other officials and a chancellery were also attached to the senate. While it underwent many subsequent changes, the Senate became one of the most important institutions of imperial Russia, especially in administration and law.

The State Council created by the Government reform of Alexander I was supposed to inherit the executive power of the Senate, and an envisioned parliament was to inherit legislative power; however, the reform was never finished.

In the 19th century the Senate evolved into a highest judicial body in Russia. As such, it exercised control over all legal institutions and officials throughout Russia. In this capacity, too, Senate was concerned with the interpretation of the Code; and its decisions upon points of Russian law were as authoritative, as the written law itself.

The Senate was composed of several departments, two of which were Courts of Cassation (one for criminal and the other for civil cases). It also included Department of Heraldry, which managed matters, relating to the rights of the nobles and honorary citizens.

Sources and references

  • Steinberg, Mark D.; Riasanovsky, Nicholas Valentine (2005). A History of Russia. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515394-4.  

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