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Some information about the Laws and regulations of the Russia Empire is gathered on this Site. The legal problems are touched in many Pages, but in this Page the links are collected to those texts that deal with certain legal acts.

For the legislation of prewar Latvia, please connect to the special Page.

I think, in the beginning it would be useful to formulate the general ideas of the political and social system of the Russia Empire for better understanding of the legal system and life in general.

1. Absolutism. The Empire was ruled by the Tzar who had the supreme power in all matters including the State religion - Greek Orthodox. For the functioning of a monarchy in such a huge country, it was quite necessary to have tools for informing everybody about the Supreme decisions. The system how the decisions of Tzars were transferred to all subjects of the Empire was elaborated (see for additional information a special Page), but it does not mean that the whole system worked excellently. In reality, the local officials could do a lot that did not correspond to the decisions of the Highest level, and sometimes the local officials acted contradictory to these decisions. In many cases, though not always, it was possible to adjust the decisions of the local rulers and administrators by money or good words whatever were the Laws in force.

2. Estate. Everybody in the Empire belonged to one of the estates (social groups, social classes). The estate system influenced the real everyday life enormously. I created a special Chapter for Estate matters you are advised to have a look in. There existed a remarkable diversity in the Laws and regulations elaborated for different estates. A group of crimes against estate system was defined in the Criminal Code; for example, it was a criminal deed to pretend to be of another estate than a person had in reality.

3. Religion. Everybody in the Empire was obliged to belong to a religious congregation (up to 1905), legally recognized atheists did not exist. The everyday life of the Churches was managed by the Ministry of the Interior and one may to some extent consider Churches and churches as State institutions. The confession was obligatory if the religion presumed it, and the Police could demand a Priest to inform about particular people and their behavior and whether they confessed regularly. Of course, the content of the confessions was not demanded, at least officially. There was in the Criminal Code a group of crimes against the religion, mostly against the Greek Orthodox. For the religions in the region of Latvia you may approach the special Chapter of the Site.

4 Territory. The territorial diversity of Laws and regulations should be obligatory taken into account. For example, the Laws in the Baltic provinces /Svod mestnyj/ differed from those of the Russia proper, where they were again different in different regions. As for the Baltic provinces, for them 8 legal territories (1864) were defined in the civil legislation - rural legal systems for Livland, Estland, Kurland and Piltene regions; urban legal systems for Livland, Kurland, Estland and Narva. The 9th system was the civil legislation for peasant estate that again was different in different regions of the Baltics.


Marriage The appropriate rules for betrothal, proclamation and marriage in the Russia Empire for various religions
Divorce The rules and procedures of divorce for various religions in the Russia Empire.
Property Property rights for spouses in the Russia Empire
Illegitimate children The rules concerning the children born out of wedlock.
Conversion The information about the rules and the practice of religious conversion in the Russia Empire.
Military service

The system of military service of the Russia Empire is overviewed.

Jews Rules for Jews in the Russia Empire concerning their settling, migration, business etc.
Foreigners The Formalities to be observed by foreigners traveling in the Russia Empire that were formulated in the Law of Passports and Runaways published in 1836. The text of the leaflet with explanations of the regulations that each foreigner received.


© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002