The State Council was founded by Alexander I in 1810. It was the highest consultative institution of the Russian Empire. The tsar appointed its membership that consisted of ministers and other high dignitaries. While no legislative project could be presented to the tsar without its approval, it had no prerogatives to initiate legislation. Ministers sent bills to the State Council on the tsar's command, reflecting the Council's ultimate dependence on the tsar for its institutional standing and activity. Since the right of legislation belonged to the autocratic tsar, the State Council could only make recommendations on bills sent to it that the tsar could accept or reject. Additionally the State Council examined administrative disputes between the different governmental organs.
After the Revolution of 1905 and the October Manifesto the State Council's role changed: It became the upper house of Russia's new parliamentary system. Every legislative bill needed the Council's approval before becoming law. It also had the right to review internal policy of the Council of Ministers, the state's budget, declarations of war and making of peace, and ministerial reports. Several departments under the State Council's jurisdiction prepared briefs and more importantly analyzed legislation proposed by the Council of Ministers.
The State Council, like all upper houses in Europe at the time, served as a check on the lower house, the Duma. The tsar appointed half of the Council's members, while the other half were elected on a restricted franchise from the zemstvos, noble societies, and various other sections of the elite, making it by nature more conservative. In the period 1906–1914 the State Council, with the support of Nicholas II, played a large role in checking the authority and activities of the Duma, which led to general discontent with the post-1905 system.
Following the failed coup of August 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev created a State Council consisting of himself and the leaders of the remaining Union Republics. Gorbachev hoped the State Council could craft a reconfigured USSR, but republic representatives increasingly failed to attend Council meetings. By the end of 1991, the State Council—and the USSR—had petered out.
Russian President Vladimir Putin created his own State Council in 2000, consisting of the leaders of Russia's eighty-nine administrative components.
See also: alexander i; duma; fundamental laws of 1906; putin, vladimir vladimirovich
Seton-Watson, Hugh. (1991). The Russian Empire 1801–1917. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Yaney, George. (1973). The Systemization of Russian Government. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Zhand P. Shakibi