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(1) The highest official of local administration in tsarist Russia; the head of a governor-generalship consisting of one or several provinces. Until the provincial reform of 1775 the post of governor-general was honorary and was not distinguished from that of governor. After the peasant war of 1773-75, which was led by E. I. Pugachev, had been suppressed, the governors-general received emergency powers.
According to the Statute on the Government of Provinces of 1775, governors-general (or so-called tsar’s vicegerents), who were under the direct control of the empress and the Senate, supervised administration, observed the political mood of the estates, and suppressed revolts of serfs and oppressed nationalities of tsarist Russia. The power of the governors-general had the character of a military dictatorship, especially in the border provinces.
Governor-generalships were usually awarded to the most reactionary generals, who enjoyed the special confidence of the tsar. The emergency powers of the governors-general were extended as the revolutionary movement grew in the country. Making use of these powers and relying on the support of military and police autocratic machinery, the governors-general ruthlessly suppressed every manifestation of dissatisfaction, especially the revolutionary movement of the working class. Under the Regulations of 1892 on Localities Declared Under Martial Law, a military regime was introduced in the governor-generalships. The governors-general played a role in suppressing the Revolution of 1905-07, when temporary governor-generalships were established particularly often. The post of governor-general was abolished by the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917 (excluding the Finnish governor-generalship, which lasted until October 1917).
(2) In the Commonwealth of Nations, a representative of the crown appointed by the head of state (that is, the king or queen).
REFERENCESGradovskii, A. D. “Istoricheskii ocherk uchrezhdeniia general-gubernatorstva v Rossii.” Sobr. soch., vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1899.
Blinov, I. A. Gubernatory: Istoriko-iuridicheskii ocherk. St. Petersburg, 1905.
Eroshkin, N. P. Istoriia gosudarstvennykh uchrezhdenii dorevolu-tsionnoi Rossii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
N. P. EROSHKIN