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The Epoch of Palace Revolutions
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The Reign of Peter III (December 25, 1761 - June 28, 1762)
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The Reign of Peter III (December 25, 1761 - June 28, 1762)

The short reign of Peter III was marked by all the forms of government activity. It took less then half a year to issue a number of edicts, reflecting the necessity of humanization of the very system of authority and its attendance to the needs of unprivileged estates. Those were: liquidation of Secret Office, ceasing the persecution of religious dissenters, abolishing of trade monopoly limiting the development of enterprise, declaration of free foreign trade, transmission of monasteries' and Church lands under control of special Economy Collegium, which meant the beginning of secularization of the Church lands.

The Manifesto from February 18, 1762 exempted the nobility from obligatory civil service. The nobility was delighted with the event. But it was not enough to make the status of the sovereign power stable. Cruelty with high-rank bureaucracy caused by the intention to restore the discipline in the government apparatus, the attempt to introducing order in the Guards, which he compared with the host of Turkish Janissaries, made Peter III position worse.

Impulsive lawmaking and intention to take part in every affair, that often was beyond the emperor's abilities, made his position considerably more difficult. All those disadvantages could be balanced by collective higher organ of government management. However, this organ - The Emperor Council of nine members (the most important roles belonged to the intelligent and practical Secrete Secretary of the Emperor D.I. Volkov and the director of the Military School A.P. Melgunov) was introduced only at the end of Peter's III reign, in May 1762, and couldn't change the situation.

By that time Peter's wife Catherine Alexeyevna, nee the Princes of Angald-Zerbst, her favourite G.G. Orlov and his brothers, the field marshal hetman K.G. Rasumovsky, the tutor of the Grand Duke infant Pavel the outstanding Russian diplomat N.I. Panin and about 40 Guards officers formed the group of plotters against the Emperor and on June 28, 1762 overthrew Peter III. On July 6 he was killed in Ropshinsky Castle, near the capital, by the order of Catherine.

The six Palace Revolutions happened in 1725-1762 vividly proved the capacities of the courtier-bureaucratic opposition and the Guards as its force. The threat of Palace Revolutions showed the necessity of more careful taking into consideration needs of the nobility, of looking for the ways of dealing with the affaires of state, which wouldn't be protested by the most active groups of the nobles.

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