Decrees on the Court

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Decrees on the Court


laws adopted by the Soviet government in 1917-18 establishing the principles of the Soviet court system and socialist justice.

The Decree on the Court No. 1 was adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on Nov. 22 (Dec. 7), 1917 (Collection of Laws and Regulations of the Worker and Peasant Government, 1917, no. 4, art. 50). The decree abolished all previously existing judicial institutions, with the exception of the office of the justice of the peace, whose activity was suspended. The decree also abolished the tsarist procurator’s office, the bar, and the investigative apparatus. The democratic principles of the organization and activity of Soviet courts were legislatively confirmed by the introduction of an elective judiciary, the participation of people’s assessors in the administration of justice, the open examination of cases in court, and the right of the accused to a defense.

The Decree on the Court No. 2 was adopted by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on Feb. 18, 1918 (ibid., 1918, no. 26, art. 420). The decree provided for the creation of district courts for the consideration of cases exceeding the jurisdiction of the local court (here local courts were first officially called “local people’s courts”) and for the establishment of regional people’s courts as cassational courts for the district courts and of the Supreme Judicial Control in Moscow. The decree confirmed for the first time the democratic principles of Soviet judicial proceedings, including the consideration of cases in the language of the majority of the population in the area where the case is being heard and the recall of judges before their term of office has expired. The decree envisaged the creation of colleges of advocates under the local soviets to prosecute and defend and also to render legal assistance to the people.

The decree on the Court No. 3 was adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on June 20, 1918 (ibid., 1918, no. 52, art. 589). This decree substantially expanded the jurisdiction of the local people’s courts, revoked the right to be guided by old laws, and temporarily replaced the regional people’s courts and the Supreme Judicial Control in Moscow with a single cassational court consisting of two departments (for criminal and for civil cases).


Istoriia Sovetskoi Konstitutsii: Sb. gokumentov 1917-1957. Moscow, 1957. Pages 28–30.


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