Documents of Civil Status

Documents of Civil Status

 

(in Russian, Acta of Civil Status), the registration of birth, death, conclusion and dissolution of marriage, adoption, the establishment of paternity, and changes of name, patronymic, and surname.

The law connects the beginning, modifications, or cessation of substantive legal relations with the registration of a document of civil status. For instance, the rights and duties of spouses established by law arise only after the marriage has been registered in a manner provided for by legislation.

The registration of civil status documents was introduced in the USSR by the Dec. 18, 1917 Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars. This decree also set up agencies of civil registry. In cities and raion centers changes of civil status are registered by the city or raion bureaus of civil registry (ZAGS) that are under the local soviets, and in rural localities and urban-type settlements, by rural or settlement soviets. The registrations are done upon the application of the interested persons. In some cases the permission of an appropriate agency is required—for instance, civil registry agencies of krai or oblast executive committees must give permission for changes of surnames or given names. Some registrations require a prior decision of a state agency—for instance, an adoption requires a decision by a guardianship agency.

Civil status documents are entered in registry books, and the citizens are issued appropriate documents of a specified form, such as a marriage or birth certificate, etc. All registrations are free of charge, except registrations of marriages, divorces, and name changes. Mandatory time limits have been established by the law for the registration of some civil status documents: births—no later than two months after the birth of the child; deaths—no later than three days after its occurrence; and violent death, suicide, accidental death, or discovery of a body, no later than 24 hours. Mistakes can be corrected and changes made in the registration of civil status documents by the decision of a higher agency of civil registry, if there is no dispute on the question; otherwise, the question can be solved only by a court.

In prerevolutionary Russia all civil status documents were registered by the church. Such registrations were first introduced in 1722, when Peter I decreed the mandatory registration of births of the Orthodox population. For the non-Orthodox, birth registration was introduced later—for Lutherans in 1832, for Catholics in 1826, for Muslims in 1828, for Jews in 1835, and for Old Believers in 1874.

In the other socialist countries civil status documents are registered by agencies of civil registry—called bureaus in the Polish People’s Republic, services in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, and so on—which are under the jurisdiction of local agencies of authority. In the capitalist countries documents of civil status are registered, depending upon the type of document, at the city hall (for births) or with the police (for deaths). Marriages are registered either at church registries (Spain, Greece, Portugal) or by the city hall (France, Federal Republic of Germany) or else by a judge (in some states of the USA).

E. M. VOROZHEIKIN

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