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The Russian Fundamental Law of 23 April 1906


1 The Russian State is one and indivisible....

2. The Grand Duchy of Finland, while comprising an inseparable part of the Russian state, is governed in its internal affairs by special decrees based on special legislation.

3 The Russian language is the general language of the state, and its use is compulsory in the army, the navy and state and public institutions....

Chapter I. The Essence of the Supreme Autocratic Power

4. The All-Russian Emperor possesses the supreme autocratic power. Not only fear and conscience, but God himself, commands obedience to his authority.

5. The person of the Sovereign Emperor is sacred and inviolable.

6. The same supreme autocratic power belongs to the Sovereign Empress, should the order of succession to the throne pass to a female line; her husband, however, is not considered a sovereign; except for the title, he enjoys the same honours and privileges reserved for the spouses of all other sovereigns.

7 The sovereign emperor exercises power in conjunction with the State Council and the State Duma.

8 The sovereign emperor possesses the initiative in all legislative matters. The Fundamental Laws may be subject to revision in the State Council and State Duma only on His initiative. The sovereign emperor ratifies the laws. No law can come into force without his approval. . . .

9. The Sovereign Emperor approves laws; and without his approval no legislative measure can become law.

10. The Sovereign Emperor possesses the administrative power in its totality throughout the entire Russian state. On the highest level of administration his authority is direct; on subordinate levels of administration, in conformity with the law, he determines the degree of authority of subordinate branches and officials who act in his name and in accordance with his orders.

11. As supreme administrator, the Sovereign Emperor, in conformity with the existing laws, issues decrees for the organization and functioning of diverse branches of state administration as well as directives essential for the execution of the laws.

12 The sovereign emperor takes charge of all the external relations of the Russian State. He determines the direction of Russia's foreign policy. . . .

13. The Sovereign Emperor alone declares war, concludes peace, and negotiates treaties with foreign states.

14 The sovereign emperor is the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army and navy.

15 The sovereign emperor appoints and dismisses the Chairman the Council of Ministers and individual Ministers....

16. The Sovereign Emperor has the right to coin money and to determine its physical appearance.

17. The Sovereign Emperor appoints and dismisses the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ministers, and Chief Administrators of various departmerits, as well as other officials whose appointment or dismissal has not been determined by law.

18. As supreme administrator the Sovereign Emperor determines the scope of activity of all state officials in accordance with the needs of the state.

19. The Sovereign Emperor grants titles, medals and other state distinctions as well as property rights. He also determines conditions and procedures for gaining titles, medals, and distinctions.

20. The Sovereign Emperor directly issues decrees and instructions on matters of property that belongs to him as well as on those properties that bear his name and which have traditionally belonged to the ruling Emperor. The latter cannot be bequeathed or divided and are subject to a different form of alienation. These as well as other properties are not subject to a different form of alienation. These as well as other properties are not subject to levy or collection of taxes.

21. As head of the Imperial Household, the Sovereign Emperor, in accordance with Regulations on the Imperial Family, has the right to issue regulations affecting princely properties. He also determines the composition of the personnel of the Ministry of the Imperial Household, its organization and regulation, as well as the procedure of its administration.

22. Justice is administered in the name of the Sovereign Emperor in courts legally constituted, and its execution is also carried out in the name of His Imperial Majesty.

23. The Sovereign Emperor has the right to pardon the accused, to mitigate the sentence, and even to completely forgive transgressions, including the right to terminate court,actions against the guilty and to free them from trial and punishment. Stemming from royal mercy, he also has the right to commute the official penalty and to generally pardon all exceptional cases that are not sub'ect to general laws, provided such actions do not infringe upon civil rights or the legally protected interests of others.

24. Statutes of the Svod Zakonov (Vol. 1, part i, 1892 edition) on the order of succession to the throne (Articles 3-17), on the coming of age of the Sovereign Emperor, on government and guardianship (Articles 18-30), on the ascension to the throne and on the oath of allegiance (Articles 31-34 and Appendix V), on the sacred crowning and anointing (Articles 35 and 36), and on the title of His Imperial Majesty and on the State Emblem (Articles 37-39 and Appendix 1), and on the faith (Articles 40-46), retain the force of the Fundamental Laws.

25. The Regulation on the Imperial Family (Svod zakonov, Vol. 1, part i, 1892 edition, Articles 82-179 and Appendices II-IV and VI), while retaining the force of the Fundamental Laws, can be changed or amended only by the Sovereign Emperor personally in accordance with the procedure established by him, provided these changes or amendments of these regulations do not infringe general laws or provided they do not call for new expenditures from the treasury.

26. Decrees and commands that are issued directly or indirectly by the Sovereign Emperor as supreme administrator are implemented either by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or a subordinate minister, or a department head, and are published by the Governing Senate.

Chapter II. Rights and Obligations of Russian Subjects

27. Conditions for acquiring rights of Russian citizenship, as well as its loss, are determined by law.

28. The defence of the Throne and of the Fatherland is a sacred obligation of every Russian subject. The male population, irrespective of social status, is subject to military service determined by law.

29. Russian subjects are obliged to pay legally instituted taxes and dues and also to perform other obligations determined by law.

30. No one shall be subjected to persecution for a violation of the law except as prescribed by the law.

3I. No one can be detained for investigation otherwise than prescribed by law.

32. No one can be tried and punished other than for criminal acts considered under the existing criminal laws, in force during the perpetration of these acts, provided newly enacted laws do not exclude the perpetrated criminal acts from the list of crimes.

33. The dwelling of every individual is inviolable. Breaking into a dwelling without the consent of the owner and search and seizure are allowed only in accordance with legally instituted procedures.

34. Every Russian subject has the right to freely select his place of dwelling and profession, to accumulate and dispose of property, and to travel abroad without any hindrance. Limits on these rights are determined by special laws.

35. Private property is inviolable. Forcible seizure of immovable property, should state or public need demand such action, is permissible only upon just and decent compensation.

36. Russian subjects have the right to organize meetings that are peaceful, unarmed, and not contrary to the law. The law determines the conditions of meetings, rules governing their termination, as well as limitations on places of meetings.

37. Within the limits determined by law everyone can express his thoughts orally or in writing, as well as distribute these thoughts through publication or other means.

38. Russian subjects have the right to organize societies and unions for purposes not contrary to the law. Conditions for organization of societies and unions, their activity, terms and rules for acquiring legal rights as well as dosing of societies and unions, is determined by law.

39. Russian subjects enjoy freedom of religion. Terms of enjoyment of this freedom are determined by law.

40. Foreigners living in Russia enjoy the rights of Russian subjects, within limitations established by law.

4I. Exceptions to the rules outlined in this chapter include localities where martial law is declared or where there exist exceptional conditions that are determined by special laws.

Chapter III. Laws

42. The Russian Empire is governed by firmly established laws that have been properly enacted.

43. Laws are obligatory, without exception, for all Russian subjects and foreigners living within the Russian state.

44. No new law can be enacted without the approval of the State Council and the State Duma, and it shall not be legally binding without the approval of the Sovereign Emperor.

45. Should extraordinary circumstances demand, when the State Duma is not in session, and the introduction of a measure requires a properly constituted legal procedure, the Council of Ministers will submit such a measure directly to the Sovereign Emperor. Such a measure cannot, however, introduce any changes into the Fundamental Laws, or to the organization of the State Council or the State Duma, or to the rules governing elections to the Council or to the Duma. The validity of such a measure is terminated if the responsible minister or the head of a special department fails to introduce appropriate legislation in the State Duma during the first two months of its session upon reconvening, or if the State Duma or the State Council should refuse to enact it into law.

46. Laws issued especially for certain localities or segments of the population are not made void by a new law unless such a voiding is specifically intended.

47. Every law is valid for the future, except in those cases where the law itself stipulates that its force is retroactive or where it states that its intent is to reaffirm or explain the meaning of a previous law.

48. The Governing Senate is the general depository of laws. Consequently, all laws should be deposited in the Governing Senate in the original or in duly authorized lists.

49. Laws are published for general knowledge by the Governing Senate according to established rules and are not legally binding before their publication.

50. Legal decrees are not subject to publication if they were issued in accordance with the rules of the Fundamental Laws.

5I. Upon publication, the law is legally binding from the time stipulated by the law itself, or, in the case that such a time is omitted, from the day on which the Senate publication containing the published law is received locally. The law itself may stipulate that telegraph or other media of communication be used to transmit it for execution before its publication.

52. The law cannot be repealed otherwise than by another law. Consequently, until a new law repeals the existing law, the old law retains fully its force.

53. No one can be excused for ignorance of the law once it is duly published.

54. Regulations governing combat, technical, and supply branches of the Armed Forces, as well as rules and orders to institutions and authorized personnel of the military and naval establishments are, as a rule, submitted directly to the Sovereign Emperor upon review by the Military and Admiralty Councils, provided that these regulations, rules, and orders affect primarily the above mentioned establishments, do not touch on matters of general laws, and do not call for new expenditures from the treasury; or, if they call for new expenditure, are covered by expected savings by the Military or Naval Ministries. In cases where the expected saving is insufficient to cover the projected expenditure, submission of such regulations, rules, and orders for the Emperor's approval is permitted only upon first requesting, in a prescribed manner, the necessary appropriation.

55. Regulations governing military and naval courts are issued in accordance with Regulations on Military and Naval Codes.

Chapter IV. The State Council, State Duma, and the Scope of Their Activity

56. The Sovereign Emperor, by a decree, annually convenes the session of the State Council and of the State Duma.

57. The Sovereign Emperor determines by a decree the length of the annual session of the State Council and of the State Duma, as well as the interval between the sessions.

58. The State Council is composed of members appointed by His Majesty and of elected members. The total number of appointed members of the Council called by the Emperor to deliberate in the Council's proceedings cannot exceed the total number of the elected members of the Council.

59. The State Duma consists of members elected by the population of the Russian Empire for a period of five years, on the basis of rules governing elections to the Duma.

60. The State Council examines the credentials of its members. Equally, the State Duma examines the credentials of its members.

61. The same person cannot serve simultaneously as a member of the State Council and as a member of the State Duma.

62. The Sovereign Emperor, by a decree, can replace the elected membership of the State Council with new members before its tenure expires. The same decree sets new elections of members of the State Council.

63 The emperor who holds the throne of all Russia cannot profess any religion save the Orthodox. . . .

64. The State Council and the State Duma have equal rights in legislative matters.

65 In the administration of the church, the autocratic power act through the intermediary of the Holy Governing Synod which it has instituted.

66 All subjects of the Russian state who do not belong to the established church . . . as well as foreigners . . . residing in Russia, shall everywhere be free to profess their religion, and to worship in accordance with its ritual.

67 Freedom of religion is accorded, not only to Christians of foreign denominations, but also to Jews, Muslims and heathens. . . .

68. Those legislative measures that are considered and approved by the State Duma are then submitted to the State Council for its approval. Those legislative measures that have been initiated by the State Council are reviewed by the Council and, upon approval, are submitted to the Duma.

69. Legislative measures that have been rejected either by the State Council or by the State Duma are considered defeated.

70. Those legislative measures that have been initiated either by the State Council or by the State Duma [and approved by both], but which have failed to gain Imperial approval, cannot be resubmitted for legislative consideration during the same session. Those legislative measures that have been initiated by either the State Council or by the State Duma and are rejected by either one of the Chambers, can be resubmitted for legislative consideration during the same session, provided the Emperor agrees to it.

71. Legislative measures that have been initiated in and approved by the State Duma and then by the State Council, and likewise legislative measures initiated and approved by the State Council and then by the State Duma, are submitted by the Chairman of the State Council to the Sovereign Emperor.

72 No one can be prosecuted for criminal offences except in the manner prescribed by law.

73 No one can be held under arrest except in cases prescribed by law. . . .

74. If the state budget is not appropriated before the appropriation deadline, the budget that had been duly approved in the preceding year will remain in force with only such changes as have resulted from those legislative measures that became laws after the budget was approved. Prior to publication of the new budget, on the decision of the Council of Ministers and rulings of Ministries and Special Departments, necessary funds will be gradually released. These funds will not exceed in their totality during any month, however, one-twelfth of the entire budgetary expenditures.

75 All dwellings are inviolable. No search or seizure may take place in a dwelling without the consent of the head of the household, except in cases and in a manner prescribed by law.

76 Every Russian subject has the right freely to choose his place of residence and occupation, to acquire and dispose of property, and to travel abroad without hindrance. Limitations of these rights are regulated by special laws.

77 Property is inviolable. Compulsory alienation of property, when such is necessary for the welfare of the state or the public, is permissible only on the basis of just and adequate compensation.

78 Russian subjects have the right to organize meetings for purposes that are not contrary to the laws, peacefully, and without weapons. . . .

79 Everyone may, within the limits of the law, express his ideas orally and in writing and may also disseminate them by means of the press or by other methods.

80 Russian subjects have the right to form societies and associations for purposes that are not in contravention of the laws. . . .

81. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ministers, and Heads of various departments, are responsible to the Sovereign Emperor for State administration. Each individual member is responsible for his actions and decisions.

82. For official misconducts in office, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ministers and Heads of various departments are sub')ect to civil and criminal punishment established by law.

86 No new law can come into force without the approval of the State Council and State Duma and the ratification of the sovereign emperor.

87 If extraordinary circumstances require legislative action whilst the State Duma is in recess, the Council of Ministers may make recommendations direct to the sovereign emperor. Such a measure may not, however, introduce changes in the Fundamental Laws, in the statutes of the State Council and State Duma or in the regulations governing elections to the Council and the Duma. Should such a measure not be introduced into the Duma as a bill within two months from the date of its next meeting . . . it loses force. . . .

98 The State Council and State Duma are summoned annually by edict of the sovereign emperor. . . .

106 The State Council and the State Duma possess equal legislative powers. . .

108 The State Council and State Duma may . . . interpellate ministers . . . concerning actions taken by them, or by persons or agencies under their jurisdiction that are held to be illegal.......

123 The Chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Ministers..... are responsible to the sovereign emperor for the general operation of the state administration. Each of them is individually responsible for his own actions and orders.

Source: Svod Zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii, 3rd series, vol. 1, pt. 1. St Petersburg, 1912, pp. 5-26.