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Legislative Commission of 1767–1768


In December 1766, Catherine II called upon the free "estates" (nobles, townspeople, state peasants, Cossacks) and central government offices to select deputies to attend a commission to participate in the preparation of a new code of laws. The purpose of the commission was therefore consultative; it was not intended to be a parliament in the modern sense. The Legislative Commission opened in Moscow in July 1767, then moved to St. Petersburg in February 1768. Following the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War in January 1769, it was prorogued and never recalled. The selection of deputies was a haphazard affair. The social composition of the assembly was: nobles, 205; merchants, 167; odnodvortsy (descendants of petty servicemen on the southern frontiers), 42; state peasants, 29; Cossacks, 44; industrialists, 7; chancery clerks, 19; tribesmen, 54. Deputies brought instructions, or nakazy, from the bodies that selected them. Catherine's Nakaz (Great Instruction ) was read at the opening sessions and provided a basis for some of the discussion that followed. The commission met in 203 sessions and discussed existing laws on the nobility, on the Baltic nobility, on the merchant estate, and on justice and judicial procedure. No decisions were made by the commission on these matters, and no code of laws was produced. The Legislative Commission was nevertheless significant: It gave Catherine an important source of information and insight into concerns and attitudes of different social groups, through both the nakazy and the discussions which took place, including a discussion on serfdom; it provided an opportunity for the discussion and dissemination of the ideas in Catherine's Nakaz; it led to the establishment of several subcommittees, which continued to meet after the prorogation of the commission, and which produced draft laws that Catherine utilized for subsequent legislation.

See also: catherine ii; instruction to the legislative commission of catherine ii


Dukes, Paul. (1967.) Catherine the Great and the Russian Nobility. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Madariaga, Isabel de. (1981). Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Janet Hartley

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