The article deals with the history of the origins and development of Zemsky Sobors — Russian representative institutions, their main features and differences from corresponding bodies in Western Europe. It marks out those traits of Russian history that determined the character and development dynamics of Zemsky Sobors, shows a connection between their heyday and specific condition of Russian society and state during the Time of Troubles, and describes some sources for this subject. The focus of the article is on Russian research of the history of representative institutions in Russia and Western Europe. It also investigates a close attention to European historical experience, inherent in the Russian social thought. In this context reasons for the origin and existence of the term of «estate representative monarchy», characteristic for the Russian historiography, are analysed. And the main periods of the study of representative institutions from the mid-19th century to the present day are determined and characterised. The article considers the outcome of a Moscow conference of 2013 devoted to the representative Institutions of Russia in the European context and outlines perspectives of further research.
In the works on the history of the Russian Zemsky Sobors, there is a tradition to draw parallels between the Sobors and organs of class-representative power in European countries at XVI – XVII centuries (the English Parliament, the French States General, the Spanish Cortes).It is believed that the the end of XVI – early XVII century and especially the Time of Troubles was the heyday of Zemsky Sobors (when a weak Central government in the conditions of the civil war, had to look for support in the organs of class representation). Meanwhile, the analysis of historical sources doesn`t allow to assume that at the very period the Zemsky Sobors played a greater role than it was previously. Even the most studied Zemsky Sobors - the elective Sobors in 1598 and 1613, were held with serious violations of election procedures, the representatives of the provinces were not represented to the extent that it was written in the official documents. The question of the place of the Zemsky Sobors in the political system of the Moscow state at the beginning of the XVII century requires further analysis.