State, Council of

State, Council of


(1) Supreme consultative legislative institution of the Russian Empire. The Council of State was founded on Jan. I (13), 1810, in accordance with the plan of government reform drawn up by M. M. Speranskii. The plan provided for the consideration of all bills by the Council of State before their approval by the tsar, but this provision was seldom put into practice. The introduction of bills into the Council of State depended on the will of the tsar. The Council of State did not have legislative initiative. At first, it had 35 members, and in 1890 it had 60. The members and chairman of the council were appointed by the tsar from among higher officials. The government ministers were ex officio members of the council. When the tsar was present, he was chairman of the body. From 1812 to 1865 the chairman of the Council of State was simultaneously the chairman of the Committee of Ministers.

The Council of State consisted of four departments: the department of laws, which examined bills that had state significance the civil and spiritual department, which was in charge of questions of justice, police, and the clergy, the department of the state economy, which dealt with questions of finances, industry, commerce, and science, and the military department, which existed until the end of the 1850’s. Between 1832 and 1862 there was a department of the Polish kingdom, and from 1866 to 1871 there was a committee on affairs of the Polish kingdom, which had functions similar to those of the department. From 1901 to 1906 there was a department of industry, science, and trade. All matters were received in the State Chancellery, the head of which was the secretary of state. Speranskii was the first secretary of state. In addition, the Council of State included a number of commissions and divisions.

The role of the Council of State was not always the same. The position of the Council of State as a consultative legislative body in the system of governmental institutions was finally determined during the reign of Nicholas I (1825–55). The role of the council declined, and it was replaced by the Committee of Ministers between 1815 and 1825 and in the I880’s. In connection with the creation of the State Duma in 1906. the Council of State as well as the State Duma acquired legislative initiative, except on the question of changing the fundamental laws of the state. At this time, half the members of the Council of State were appointed, and half were elected. The elected members of the council included six members elected by the Synod from among the Orthodox clergy, one member elected from each provincial zemstvo assembly, 18 members elected from provincial and regional societies of the nobility, six members chosen from academicians and university professors. 12 members from the largest organizations of industrialists and merchants, and two members elected by the Finnish diet. The members of the Council of State were elected to nine-year terms, and one-third of the membership was elected every three years. The Council of State was abolished as a result of the February Revolution of 1917.


Speranskii, M. M. Proekty i zapiski. Moscow-Leningrad. 1961.
Otchet po deloproizvodstvu Gosudarstvennogo soveta. vols. 1–38. St. Petersburg, 1870–1906.
Slenograficheskie otchety Gosudarstvennogo soveta: Sessiia 1–13, vols. 1–22. St. Petersburg, 1906–16.
Gosudarstvennyi sovet: 1801–1901. St. Petersburg, 1901.
Eroshkin, N. P. Istoriia gosudarstvennykh uchrezhdenii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii, 2nd ed. Moscow. 1968.
(2) In some foreign states (France, Belgium, the Netherlands. Luxembourg, Cambodia, Tunisia, and Ecuador), one of the central governmental institutions, representing either the supreme body of the administration of justice or the body of constitutional control. In some countries councils of state are simultaneously consultative bodies under the head of the state.
(3) In Sweden, Norway, Finland, some of the cantons of Switzerland, and in the Chinese People’s Republic, the official designation of the government.
(4) In Poland, the German Democratic Republic, and Rumania, the supreme collegial body of state power, elected by the representative body of power (the Sejm, the People’s Chamber, and the Grand National Assembly, respectively).
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