a system of offices whose functions include the attestation of transactions, the formulation of inheritance rights, and the witnessing of documents to give them legal authenticity. In the USSR the organization and activity of the notariat is regulated by the USSR law On the State Notariat enacted July 19, 1973 (Vedomosti Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR, 1973, no. 30, p. 393). The state notariat’s function is to protect socialist property and the rights and legal interests of citizens, institutions, enterprises, and organizations and to strengthen socialist legality and legal procedure. Existing legislation provides for a standard notarial action—the attestation of contracts and transactions—which consists of an entry to this effect above the signature of the notary and affixation of the seal on the contract itself.
State notary offices have been set up to perform notarial actions in cities and other population centers. In the capitals of the Union and autonomous republics and in krai and oblast administrative centers, one notary office is designated as the chief office, and the more complicated notarial actions are performed there. In population centers where there are no state notarial offices, various notarial actions (attesting wills or contracts, protecting inherited property, witnessing copies of documents) are carried out by the executive committees of raion, city, settlement, or rural soviets of workers’ deputies. In foreign countries the performance of notarial actions is assigned to the consulates of the USSR. The officials of the notariat, or notaries, are obliged to assist citizens and organizations in the protection of their rights and legal interests, keeping the notarial actions performed secret.
State notary offices have been established in most of the other socialist countries. In such countries as Bulgaria and Hungary there are no state notarial offices. Notarial actions are performed by notaries attached to the people’s courts and, in some instances, by the people’s judges. In some socialist countries, for example, Bulgaria, Poland, and Rumania, local government bodies have the right to perform notarial actions.
In the capitalist countries notariats are organized in different ways. In several countries, for example, Italy, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany, notarial actions are performed only by state notaries, whereas in Great Britain they are carried out by both state and church notaries. In the USA notarial functions are assigned to notaries appointed by state legislatures and by commissioners appointed by city councils to establish facts.