Decree on Primogeniture

Primogeniture, Decree on


a legislative act of Peter I the Great, dated Mar. 23,1714, and titled “On the Order of Inheritance of Movable and Real Property, ” which consolidated the nobility’s ownership of land. By the terms of the decree, a father could leave real property to only one of his sons or to a daughter (if he had no sons); if he had no children, he could leave his real property to a relative, but only to one with the same surname. The decree prohibited the sale and mortgaging of real property. A testator could distribute his movable property among his children at his discretion.

The purpose of the decree was to prevent the breaking up of the nobles’ estates, a practice which Peter I thought would lead to the impoverishment of the nobility. The decree eliminated the legal distinctions between the pomest’e (fief) and the votchina (patrimonial estate); the two became a single type of land property owned by the nobility.

Because of the dissatisfaction of the nobility, the decree was revoked by Empress Anna Ivanovna on Dec. 9,1730.