Steppe Statutes

Steppe Statutes


(Russian, stepnye polozheniia), legislative acts of the Russian Empire in the second half of the 19th century that established the administrative-territorial organization, administrative bodies, courts, and financial and economic system in areas of northern and western Kazakhstan.

In 1868 the Temporary Statute on Governance of the Steppe Oblasts of Orenburg and West Siberian Governor-generalships received confirmation. In the territories with which it was concerned, it established the Ural’sk and Turgai oblasts within the Orenburg Governor-generalship and Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk oblasts within the West Siberian Governor-generalship.

As set forth in the temporary statute, from 100 to 200 Kazakh kibitki (households) constituted an aul (village). One elector from every ten kibitki met in assembly to elect the aul’s elders. A congress of the electors (one from every 50 kibitki) of a volost (from 1,000 to 2,000 kibitki) elected the volost’s administrative board, which was headed by the volost administrator. Several volosti constituted an uezd (district). The volost administrators and aul elders were elected for three years from among the local clan and feudal elite, such as the sultans, bais, and batyrs; they were confirmed in office by the district head (uezdnyi nachal’nik). Among other duties, they carried out the authorities’ orders and the courts’ decisions and supervised the collection of taxes.

Petty criminal and civil cases were decided by judges—known as biis —elected to terms of three years; in the volost, cases were heard by a volost congress of biis. The higher instance for appeal of the bits’ decisions was the Russian officialdom—namely, the district heads, the district judges, and the oblast administrative boards under the military governors and military-judicial commissions. The Kazakh lands were declared state property and were given over to the Kazakhs solely for their “use.”

The Temporary Statute of 1867 set forth a similar system for Semirech’e and Syr Darya oblasts of the Turkestan Governor-generalship.

The Steppe Statute of 1891 was, apart from several changes, essentially the same as the temporary statutes of 1867 and 1868. It consolidated the system of administrative bodies that had previously taken shape. The steppe governor-general and military governors were in charge of the oblasts, and the governors’ chanceries, the oblast administration, and the district heads were in charge of the districts. The statute of 1891 retained the Kazakhs’ elective bodies in the auls and volosti; however, it greatly increased the dependence of such bodies on the district head. In several large cities, such as Omsk, Petropavlovsk, Semipalatinsk, Vernyi (Alma-Ata), and Ural’sk, city police administrations were established, subordinate to the military governors; in large district capitals, the office of city police chief (gorodskoi pristav) was created, subordinate to the district head.

The Steppe Statute of 1891 affirmed the changes in the judicial system of the steppe oblasts that had been introduced by the law of 1886. An oblast court was established in each oblast, and justices of the peace (mirovye sud’i) in the cities. The Kazakhs retained their court of bus to decide cases according to “popular customs.” The Steppe Statute of 1891 reaffirmed that Kazakh lands were state property given over to the Kazakhs for “use for an indefinite term.” All unused Kazakh lands were taken under the competence of the Ministry of State Domains. The Steppe Statute of 1891 remained the fundamental law for the governance of Kazakhstan until 1917.


Istoriia Kazakhskoi SSR, vol. 1. Alma-Ata, 1957.
Materialy po istorii politicheskogo stroia Kazakhstana, vol. 1. AlmaAta, 1960.