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Zemsky Sobor

From Academic Kids

The zemsky sobor (Russian: зе́мский собо́р) was the first Russian parliament of the 16th and 17th centuries. It could be summoned either by tsar, or patriarch, or the Boyar Duma. The term roughly means assembly of the land.

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Three categories of population participated in the assembly:

  1. Nobility and high bureaucracy, including the Boyar Duma.
  2. The Holy Sobor of high clergy.
  3. Representatives of merchants and townspeople.

The first zemsky sobor was held by tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1549. During his reign he held a number of such gatherings and they became a common tool used to enact major pieces of legislation or to decide controversial issues. Although the Sobors were primarily a tool used to rubberstamp decisions that Ivan had already made, sometimes initiative was taken by the lower nobility and townsfolk. For instance, the tsar was scandalized when the assembly of 1566 asked him to abolish oprichnina.

When the Rurik Dynasty died out in 1598 it was a sobor that appointed Boris Godunov as the next tsar. Another grand council, featuring even peasants, elected Michael Romanov to take the throne in 1613. During Mikhail's reign, when the Romanov dynasty was still weak, such assemblies were summoned annually.

Once the Romanovs were firmly in power, however, the sobor gradually lost its power. A major council assembled to ratify the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654 was the last for thirty years. The last sobors were held by the great Galitzine in 1682, to abolish the mestnichestvo, and in 1684, to ratify the "Eternal Peace" with Poland.

References

  • С.Л. Авалиани. "Литературная история земских соборов". Odessa, 1916.


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