Excerpts from the Fundamental Laws (1906)

In April 1906, Nicholas II issued the Fundamental Laws, a 124-point de facto constitution. The Fundamental Laws codified certain individual rights, such as freedom of religion and the sanctity of private property – but they also undermined promises for political reform that were made in the 1905 October Manifesto:


1. The Russian State is one and indivisible…

3. The Russian language is the common language of the state, and its use is compulsory in the army, in the navy and in all state and public institutions. The use of local (regional) languages and dialects in state and public institutions are determined by special legislation.

Chapter One: the Supreme Autocratic Power

4. The Emperor of All the Russias possesses Supreme Sovereign Power. Obedience to His authority, not only out of fear, but in good conscience, is ordained by God Himself.

5. The person of the Lord Emperor is sacrosanct and inviolable.

6. The same Supreme Sovereign Power belongs to the Sovereign Empress when succession to the Throne, in the order thereunto established, reaches a female person; but her consort is not regarded as Sovereign; he enjoys the same honours and privileges as the spouses of emperors, except for the title.

7. The Sovereign Emperor exercises legislative power in conjunction with the State Council and State Duma.

8. The initiative in all legislative matters belongs to the Sovereign Emperor. Only upon His initiative may the Fundamental Laws be subject to revision by (in) the State Council and the State Duma.

9. The Sovereign Emperor ratifies laws and without His ratification (approval) no laws can go into effect.

10. Total administrative power belongs to the Sovereign Emperor throughout the entire Russian State. At the highest level of administration His authority is direct; at subordinate levels of administration He entrusts a certain degree of power, in conformity with the law, to the proper agencies or officials, who act in His name and in accordance with His orders…

12. The Sovereign Emperor is in charge of all external relations of the Russian Government with foreign powers. He determines the direction of the Russian Government’s foreign policy.

13. The Sovereign Emperor declares war, concludes peace, and negotiates treaties with foreign states.

14. The Sovereign Emperor is the Supreme Commander of the Russian army and navy. He is Commander-in-Chief of all the land and sea armed forces of the Russian Government…

17. The Sovereign Emperor appoints and dismisses the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Ministers, and Chief Administrators of various departments, as well as other officials…

22. Judicial power is implemented through legally constituted courts in the name of the Sovereign Emperor. Their decisions are carried out in the name of His Imperial Majesty.

23. The Sovereign Emperor has the right to pardon the accused, to mitigate sentences and to generally forgive transgressors; to terminate court actions and to release from trial and punishment…

Chapter Two: The order of succession to the Throne

25. The Imperial Throne of All the Russias is hereditary within the Imperial House presently reigning…

27. Both sexes have the right of succession to the Throne; but this right belongs by preference to the male sex according to the principle of primogeniture; with the extinction of the last male issue, succession to the Throne passes to the female issue by right of substitution…

Chapter Seven: On the Faith

62. The primary and predominant Faith in the Russian Empire is the Christian Orthodox Catholic Faith of the Eastern Confession.

63. The Emperor who occupies the Throne of All the Russias cannot profess any Faith other than the Orthodox.

64. The Emperor, as a Christian Sovereign, is the Supreme Defender and Guardian of the dogmas of the predominant Faith and is the Keeper of the purity of the Faith and all good order within the Holy Church.

65. In the administration of the Church, Sovereign Power acts through the Most Holy Governing Synod, which It has instituted.

66. All native and naturalised subjects of the Russian Empire who do not belong to the predominant Church, as well as foreigners working or temporarily residing in Russia, are everywhere free to observe their own faith and worship in accordance with its rites.

67. Freedom of religion is granted not only to Christians of foreign denominations, but also to Jews, Muslims and heathens; so that all peoples residing in Russia may glorify Almighty God in various tongues according to the laws and confessions of their ancestors…

Chapter Eight: On rights and obligations of Russian subjects

70. The defense of the Throne and of the Fatherland is a sacred obligation of every Russian subject. The male population, irrespective of social status, is subject to military service in accordance with lawful decrees.

71. Russian subjects are obliged to pay legally instituted taxes and dues, and also to perform other duties in accordance with lawful decrees…

Chapter Nine: On Laws

86. No new law can be enacted without the ratification of the State Council and the State Duma, and cannot go into effect without being approved by the Sovereign Emperor…

Chapter Ten: On the State Council and State Duma

98. The State Council and the State Duma are convened annually by decree of the Sovereign Emperor.

99. Duration of the annual session of the State Council and State Duma and the lengths of recess during the year are determined by decrees of the Sovereign Emperor.

100. The State Council consists of members appointed by the Sovereign Emperor and of elected members. The total number of appointed members of the Council summoned by the Sovereign Emperor to deliberate in the Council must not exceed the total number of the elected members of the Council.

101. The State Duma consists of members, elected by the population of the Russian Empire for a five-year term according to the statutes on election to the Duma…

107. The State Council and the State Duma are authorised to initiate legislative proposals according to the procedures they have established in order to enact new laws and to repeal and modify existing laws, with the exception of the Fundamental State Laws that are subject to revision solely upon the initiative of the Sovereign Emperor…

112. Legislative proposals initiated in the State Council or the State Duma, but not approved by the Sovereign Emperor, cannot be resubmitted for legislative consideration during the same session…”

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