In response to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, Tsar Alexander III enacted a statute enabling the government to crack down on the political opposition by imposing emergency regulations more extensive than any that had previously been enforced. Although the statute was initially enacted as a temporary measure, it remained on the books until 1917 and has been regarded by historians as the real constitution of the country. Its implementation demonstrated, perhaps more than anything else, that Russia was not a state based on law.
The statute provided for two kinds of special measures, Reinforced Security (Usilennaya okhrana ) and Extraordinary Security (Chrezvychaynaya okhrana ). The first could be imposed by the Minister of Internal Affairs or a governor-general acting with the minister's approval. The second could be imposed only with the approval of the tsar. Vague concerning what conditions could justify placing a region in a state of emergency, the statute gave the authorities in St. Petersburg and the provinces considerable leeway in applying it.
The arbitrary powers invested in local officials (governors-general, governors, and city governors) under the exceptional measures of 1881 were enormous. Under Reinforced Security, officials could keep citizens in prison for up to three months, impose fines, prohibit public gatherings, exile alleged offenders, transfer blocks of judicial cases from criminal to military courts, and dismiss zemstvo (regional assembly) employees. Under Extraordinary Security, a region was placed under the authority of a commander in chief, who could dismiss elected zemstvo deputies, suspend periodicals, and close universities and other centers of advanced study for up to one month. Implementation of the exceptional measures depended largely on the inclinations of local officials: in some provinces they acted with restraint, whereas in others they used their powers to the utmost. At times up to 69 percent of the provinces and regions of the Russian Empire were either completely or partially subjected to one of the various emergency codes.
See also: alexander iii; autocracy; censorship; nicholas ii; zemstvo
Daly, Jonathan W. (1998). Autocracy under Siege: Security Police and Opposition in Russia, 1866–1905. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.
Zuckerman, Frederic S. (1996). The Tsarist Secret Police in Russian Society, 1880–1917. London: Macmillan.