The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



reactionary reforms introduced in Russia in the 1880's and early 1890's, aimed at a revision of the bourgeois legislation of the 1860's and 1870's. Under Alexander III, D. A. Tolstoi's ministry pursued a reactionary domestic policy. On Aug. 27, 1882, “temporary regulations” on the press were introduced, establishing “punitive censorship.” The principle of the division of students by social estate was restored in the elementary and secondary schools, and the number of parish (church) schools grew. In 1884 a new charter abolished the autonomy of the universities. In the interests of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry) the Bank of the Nobility was established (1885), and a law on the hiring of agricultural workers was adopted (1886). The question of a general revision of the bourgeois legislation of the 1860's and 1870's was posed in the 1880's.

Of particular importance was the law concerning the zemskie uchastkovye nacharniki (land captains), which was passed on July 12, 1889. Appointed by the minister of the interior from a list prepared by the governor and the marshal of the nobility, the zemskie uchastkovye nacharniki were members of the local nobility who met certain property and office qualifications. They had both administrative and judicial authority. Thus, the law of 1889 created in the districts an institution that was based on the estates in its composition and functions.

Second in importance was the zemstvo (district and provincial assembly) law of June 12, 1890. It introduced electoral colleges for each class (estate), increased the representation of the nobility, and replaced the election of the peasant college with the appointment by the governor of peasant councillors from a list of candidates elected by the peasants. In the 34 provinces the percentage of nobles in the district zemstvos rose from 42.4 in 1883–86 to 55.2 in 1890, whereas in the provincial zemstvos the percentage rose from 81.6 in 1883–86 to 89.5 in 1897. Bureaucratic control over the zemstvos was tightened with the creation of a new body, which was known as the Provincial Office on Municipal and Zemstvo Affairs after 1892.

In 1892 a municipal counterreform was adopted. The lower strata—shop assistants and small tradesmen—were excluded from the ranks of municipal electors. The owners of urban real estate valued at 300–3,000 rubles were given a dominant role in municipal politics. As a result, the power of the dvorianstvo, which was numerically weak in the towns, increased, and administrative control over urban self-government became tighter.

Reactionary changes were also made in the Judicial Reform of 1864. In order to increase the nobility's representation and dismiss the representatives of the less affluent bourgeois strata, the qualifications for serving on juries were changed in 1887. In 1889 a number of cases were removed from the jurisdiction of the juries, primarily all those involving “resistance to the authorities.” Publicity of the proceedings was restricted. However, not all of the judicial counterreforms were adopted. The growth of the revolutionary and social movement hindered the total implementation of the counterreforms.


Zakharova, L. G. Zemskaia kontrreforma 1890 g. Moscow, 1968. Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Rossiiskoe samoderzhavie v kontse XIX stoletiia
(politicheskaia reaktsiia 80-kh-nachala 90-kh godov). Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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