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A decree, edict, or order issued by higher authority and carrying the weight of law. In English, ukase.

The Dictionary of the Imperial Russian Academy (1822) defined ukaz (plural ukazy ) as "a written order issued by the Sovereign or other higher body." Senior churchmen and the Senate, for example, could issue an ukaz, but no one had power independent of the ruler. An edict or order signed personally by the ruler was known as imennoi ukaz. Up to the end of the seventeenth century, the tsar's ukazy were recorded by scribes, but from the 1710s onwards the more important ones were printed, either as individual sheets or in collections. In 1722 Peter I issued an ukaz on the orderly collection, printing, and observance of existing laws. It ended: "Let this ukaz be printed, incorporated into the regulations, and published. Also set up display boards, according to the model supplied in the Senate, to which this printed ukaz should be glued, and let it always be displayed in all places, right down to the lowest courts, like a mirror before the eyes of judges . This ukaz of His Imperial Majesty was signed in the Senate in His Majesty's own hand." The very sheets of paper bearing the ruler's printed command were imbued with his authority.

Given the significance attached to the Russian sovereign's written command and signature, the anglicized term "ukase" has connotations of absolutism. It is often coupled with other instruments of autocratic rule, such as the knout and exile to hard labor, as a symbol of despotic government.

See also: peter i

Lindsey Hughes

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