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The State Political and Legal System

The evolution of the state-political and legal system of Russia.
On the 12th of March 1801, as a result of palace revolution, Alexander I came to the Russian throne (1801-1825); he was the senior son of Paul and the princess of Wurtemberg who converted to the orthodoxy and took the name of Maria Fedorovna. Paul's I murder not only made Alexander the accomplice of a terrible crime and forced him all the life to be tormented by remorse, but also showed him his own vulnerability, being inspired by a deep fear to be the next victim of the revolution. Becoming the autocratic head of the big empire, Alexander I showed himself as a cautious, flexible and far-seeing politician, able to hide his real believes and predilections, extremely circumspect in his reformatory activity.

The first steps of the new emperor justified hopes of the Russian nobility and testified the break with a policy of the previous reign. In the manifest on the accession to the throne Alexander I declared that he would reign "by the laws and the heart" of his grandmother Ekaterina the Great. The 13th and the 15th of March followed decrees about amnesty of the persons who were submitted to persecutions under Paul's I reign, about the removal of restrictions on the trade with England. The interdiction of the activity of private printing houses and import of books was annulled on the 31st of March. The 2nd of April the emperor confirmed the Granted letters to nobility and cities in 1785 and abolished political police, that is the Secret expedition of the Senate.

At the same time Alexander I, getting the support of guards, rejected offered by P.A.Palen, P.A.Zubov, and other conspirators projects limiting the autocracy by the nobility-oligarchical constitution. The 30th of March 1801, instead of it appeared a decree about the establishment of the Permanent council, law-council body of state. All the basic work about the preparation of the transformations, conceived by Alexander, were concentrated in the Permanent committee existing from May 1801 till November 1803. The main task of the committee was "the regular work on the reform of the ugly building of the administration of the state".

After consideration in the Private committee, the imperial decree of the 8th of September 1802 carried out the reform of the supreme official bodies. The reform of the Senate was simultaneously carried out. But in March 1803, Alexander I deprived the Senate of the rights of presenting its remarks on all future laws. Ministerial reports began to act in Committee of ministers, and the Senate was actually reduced to its former position.

Alexander's I steps were extremely cautious in the solution of the peasants problem. The emperor and the members of the Secret committee, considering the serf relations as a source of social tension, were convinced of the advantages of free work before the serf and perceived the authority of the landowner over peasants as moral shame for Russia.
The decree of the 12th of December 1801, allowing trades people and bourgeois to own the land, who henceforth could buy the unoccupied lands. The distribution of the state peasants to private hands stopped at the beginning of the reign of Alexander I.

The reforms in the field of education and press were more successful. The 24th of January 1803, the new position about the structure of the educational institutions was confirmed. In 1803, the minister of the national education was supposed to supervise the creation of a unique educational system.

The reforms of the first period of the reign of Alexander I (1801-1804) had rather limited character, but they enough strengthened his position as the autocratic monarch, being the result of the compromise between the liberal and conservative nobility. From autumn of 1803, Alexander I began to examine the major questions of the government, mainly in the Committee of ministers; the value of the Secret committee began to fall, its sessions were carried out rarely. To continue the reforms, Alexander I needed new people not so closely connected to the top the Russian aristocracy, and devoted to him personally. In May 1803, Alexander called to Petersburg and reinstalled A.A.Arakchev as the inspector of all the artillery.

In 1803, Arakchev was appointed with the right to promulgate its own decrees at the name of Alexander I. However, the basic direction of the activity of Arkhachev was the army and the police, and the person in charge of the elaboration of the future reform was absolutely another person M.M Speransky.

The situation of the foreign policy obliged the imperator to distract from reforms works. Unsuccessful and ruinous wars of 1805-1807, the humiliating for Russia peace treaty of Tilzit with France (1807), undermined Alexander's I prestige and caused the extreme discontent not only of the nobility's Fronde (existing from the first years of reign of Alexander I), but also merchant classes. To stop the opposition moods in the society, the emperor in 1805 reestablished the Secret expedition, and its functions were transferred to the Committee in charge of the supreme police.

All the population of Russia, under M.M.Speransky was divided into three estates: the nobility, "the medium" (merchants, bourgeois, the state peasants) and "workers" (serfs, artisans, servants). All estates received civil rights, and the two first received political rights. From the estate of "the working people" it was possible to pass to "the medium", acquiring real estate. Speransky offered to carry out reform in some stages, not declaring at once about ultimate goals of the transformations, and to finish it by 1811.

The 1st of January 1810, the manifest on the abolition of the Permanent council and the creation of the State council, in which entered 35 supreme dignitaries of empire, was declared.

The financial reform elaborated by Speransky and carried out by the State Council in 1810, had the most practical value in the large project of transformations.
After the refusal of the State council in the beginning of 1811 to ratify the project of the rather moderated reform of the Senate, the failure of the plan of Speransky became evident.
The step by step character or the graduality of the reform could not save the situation: the nobility clearly saw the danger of the abolition of the peasants rights. The growing opposition of conservatives, there were people from the nearest environment of the king, got so menacing character that Alexander I again appeared in front of the danger of nobility's conspiracy. The personality of the reformer-commoner became the subject of the particular detestation, intrigues and denunciation of the supreme autocracy.

"The Note about ancient and new Russia in its political and civil relations' composed by N.M.Karamzin, and offered to the Imperator by his sister Ekaterina in March 1811, became the ideological theoretical substantiation of the nobility's opposition. Karamzin considered the autocracy as the indispensable condition for the powerfulness and prosperity of Russia. Being subjected to a sharp criticism, all the Speransky's innovations, at the opinion of historian "any innovation in the state's order is wrong", therefore reforms and "patriarchal authority" are not necessary for the country.

Alexander I, understanding that the discontent of his internal policy covered the large circles of the society, in the conditions of deterioration of the foreign situation, decided to sacrifice Speransky, and in March 1812 removed him from his post. Speransky was banished to Nizhny Novgorod, and then to Perm, under the supervision of the police.

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