Supreme Privy Council

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Supreme Privy Council


the highest state institution of Russia from 1726 to 1730.

The Supreme Privy Council was created by a decree of Catherine I on Feb. 8, 1726, as a result of the struggle for power among separate groups of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry). At first, it consisted of seven members, of whom A. D. Menshikov, F. M. Apraksin, G. I. Golovkin, A. I. Osterman, and P. A. Tolstoi had become important during the reign of Peter I the Great. As a result of a compromise with the hereditary nobility, Prince D. M. Golitsyn was included in the Supreme Privy Council to represent the interests of the hereditary nobility. To neutralize Menshikov’s influence in the Supreme Privy Council, Catherine I’s son-in-law, Duke Karl Golshtinskii, was admitted to the Supreme Privy Council.

Formally, the Supreme Privy Council had a consultative character, but actually it decided all of the most important state affairs. The collegiums were put under its control. The Senate’s role was limited, and it was deprived of its title “ruling” and began to be called “high ranking.” From the beginning the Supreme Privy Council generally continued the policy of Peter I the Great; later, however, it moved away from this policy increasingly. The breakup of the administrative apparatus established by Peter I the Great and the transfer of the capital to Moscow were concessions to the nobility. From the very beginning, a struggle for authority flared up in the Supreme Privy Council, in which Menshikov initially gained superiority. Catherine I agreed to the marriage of her heir, Tsarevich Peter, to Menshikov’s daughter. The struggle of P. A. Tolstoi and others against Menshikov ended in their exile. During the reign of Peter II, the hereditary nobility gained the upper hand. (The princes Dolgorukii and Golitsyn made up six of the eight members of the council.) In addition, Chancellor G. I. Golovkin and A. I. Osterman entered the Supreme Privy Council.

The activity of the Supreme Privy Council was aimed at the elimination of the results of the reforms of the first quarter of the 18th century. Menshikov was exiled. After the death of Peter II (Jan. 18, 1730), members of the Supreme Privy Council—the verkhovniki—attempted to limit the autocracy in the interests of the aristocracy. Anna Ivanovna was invited to take the throne after she had signed a list of conditions limiting her power. However, the policies of the Supreme Privy Council did not find wide support among the nobility. On Feb. 25, 1730, Anna Ivanovna tore up her “conditions.” The Supreme Privy Council was abolished by a manifesto on Mar. 4, 1730.


Istoriia SSSR s drevneishikh vremen do nashikh dnei, vol. 3. Moscow, 1967. Pages 252-63.