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Title: Authority, society and justice in late Imperial Russia : the case of the Ruling Senate and Zemstvos
Author: Assa, Natasha Valerievna
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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The evolution of the Ruling Senate after the Great Reforms provides a particularly striking example of the difficult but not entirely unsuccessful convergence between the state and the emerging civil society in late Imperial Russia. In its role of a supreme arbitrator of public petitions against Tsarist bureaucracy the Senate became instrumental in revising and reinterpreting the constitutional status of the organs of provincial self-government (zemstvo) within the tsarist state. In the absence of reformist provincial legislation its judicial verdicts produced a piecemeal case-by-case reinterpretation of zemstvo authority from that of a semi-voluntary and virtually powerless community institution rooted in the politics of local social estates (sosloviia) and clans, to an equal but independent partner of the autocratic state, a partner whose authority was firmly embedded in the new civic practices of provincial society. The judicial activism of the Senate was deeply rooted in the legal professionalisation of Senators who came to believe that the Senate itself should be reformed as a Supreme Court. These aspirations of judicial independence were not dissimilar in nature to the zemstvos' desire for greater local autonomy, yet the relationship between the Senate and the Tsarist bureaucracy were of far greater constitutional significance. Whilst zemstvo activities were mainly confined to the economic needs of provincial society, the Senate represented a backbone of the Tsarist state. The nature and the extent of this autonomy prompted a lively debate among the Senators and Russian jurists who believed that the Senate practice in administrative disputes could only be effective if it was rested upon the principle of systematic separation of powers, long enjoyed by the European administrative courts. Yet in the heat of the debate the liberal jurists of Russia failed to realise that the European ideal of separation of powers was also backed by a complex system of checks and balances that reflected and assured fundamental ideological and organisational cohesion between executive and judicial authority. Hence their quest for Senatorial independence was carried out in a confrontational, almost zemstvo-like manner, and in a way failed to address the special status of the Senate. The reformers claimed that administrative justice dispensed by the Senate was an exclusive province of professional lawyers and judges and could not fathom the opposing views of tsarist officialdom. The latter however feared that thus construed authority of the Senate would lead to a sure deadlock in the workings of government machinery and would ultimately result in an alternative 'rule by the judiciary'. The stalemate between the Senatorial lobby and Tsarist officialdom ultimately failed the efforts at Senatorial reform.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available