The Digest of Laws of the Russian Empire: The Phenomenon of Autocratic Legality
Researchers of the history of late imperial Russia quite often base their studies on the texts of laws as recorded in the official edition: the Complete Collection of the Laws of the Russian Empire (Polnoe Sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii). The laws were published there in chronological order for purposes of conducting inquiries; it was specifically the Complete Collection in which the original text of a decree approved by the emperor could generally be found. However, unlike researchers, citizens and officials of the state system of that time consistently consulted the main source of law in force, which was the Digest of the Laws of the Russian Empire (Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii). Although quite often the original law and its version in the Digest could differ both in form and content, which may seem disorganized, the practice of obligatory codification of laws in the Digest existed for a long time: from the Digest’s first edition in 1835 until 1917.