Senatorial Inspections

Senatorial Inspections


(Russian, senatorskie revizii), periodic inspections of local governmental institutions by the Senate of the Russian Empire from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

Senatorial inspections were instituted by Peter I in 1722 as annual inspection tours by senators to the gubernii (provinces) and provintsii (subprovinces). In the first half of the 18th century, only Moscow Province was inspected (1726). Senatorial inspections were resumed in the 1760’s and made at irregular intervals thereafter, totaling 15 up to 1799. In 1799 and 1800, by ukase of Emperor Pavel I, senatorial inspections were made in all provinces, revealing many shortcomings in local government and local courts, official arbitrariness and red tape, and a large backlog of unresolved cases. The Senate took under consideration the reports of the inspectors-general (revizory) and removed several dozen of the most egregious officials.

In the first half of the 19th century, 92 senatorial inspections were conducted, as the autocracy was attempting to improve the local state apparatus amid the growing crisis of the feudalserf system. In the second half of the 19th century, because of improvement in local institutions stemming from the bourgeois reforms of the 1860’s and 1870’s, fewer senatorial inspections were made, only 20 in the period 1861–1904. The inspections of the years 1880–83 were for the purpose of gathering materials to be used in drawing up reforms of local government. Directions issued in 1880 instructed the senators also to note the “mood of minds,” the extent to which revolutionary doctrines had spread, and “their influence on society and the life of the people.” In the 19th century the Senate inspected 53 provinces in all, with 89 senators taking part in the inspections. Several provinces were inspected repeatedly—Penza six times, Saratov, Voronezh and Kazan five times, and Kaluga and Kostroma four times.

Between 1905 and 1917, the Senate made 11 inspections, chiefly to “calm” public opinion. The inspections bridled the arbitrariness of local authorities to some extent, an arbitrariness that undercut the authority of the tsarist government; several inspections provided material for the implementation of various reforms. The reports of the senatorial inspections —which were for the most part classified—often give an unvarnished picture of life in various localities of the Russian Empire, for example, the state of the economy, the activity of the state apparatus, and the class struggle.


Istoriia Pravitel’stvuiushehego Senata za dvesti let, 1711–1911, vols. 2–4. St. Petersburg, 1911.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Krizis samoderzhaviia na rubezhe 1870–1880 gg. [Moscow] 1964.
Druzhinin, N. M. “Senatorskie revizii 1860–1870-kh gg.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 79. Moscow, 1966.
Tsentral’nvi gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv SSSR v Leningrade: Putevoditel’. Leningrad, 1956. Pages 78–87.