Charter of the Nobility 1785
Charter of the Nobility (1785)
in full, Charter of the Rights, Freedoms, and Privileges of the Noble Russian Dvorianstvo, the code of privileges legalized by a legislative act of Catherine II the Great on Apr. 21, 1785.
The dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry) was recognized as a special class, clearly separated from the others. Their freedom from compulsory state service, proclaimed in 1762, was confirmed by the charter, in addition to exemption from personal taxes and corporal punishment. They could be tried only by peers, and they alone had the right to own land and serfs. They also owned the mineral resources of their landed properties and had the right to engage in trade and set up factories. Troops were not to be quartered in their homes, and their properties were to be free from any confiscation. The dvorianstvo received the right to self-government; they were to form societies headed by assemblies that would meet at three-year intervals in the provinces and districts and elect the provincial and district marshals, judicial jurymen, and police captains to head the district administration. The charter was expected to consolidate the position of the dvorianstvo and to strengthen its privileges. It contributed to a great consolidation of the ruling class. It was extended to the dvorianstvo of the Baltic region, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Don region as well.
The Charter of the Nobility was an indication of the attempt of Russian absolutism to strengthen its social buttress in the face of a heightening of class contradictions.