Supreme Privy Council

Supreme Privy Council

Supreme Privy Council

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The Supreme Privy Council of Imperial Russia was founded on 8 February 1726 as a body of advisors to Catherine I.

Originally, the council included six members — Alexander Menshikov, Fyodor Apraksin, Gavrila Golovkin, Andrey Osterman, Peter Tolstoy, and Dmitry Galitzine. Several months later, Catherine's son-in-law, Karl Friedrich, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, joined the Council. During Catherine's reign, the Council was dominated by her former lover Prince Menshikov.

In her testament, the Empress authorized the Council to wield power equal to that of her successor Peter, except in the matters of succession. After Peter II assumed the throne, Menshikov persuaded him to marry his daughter. By the time of Menshikov's downfall in September 1727 the Council's constitution had changed drastically: Apraksin died, Tolstoy was exiled, and Duke of Holstein left Russia. Thereupon it was expanded to eight members, of which six represented old boyar families opposing the Westernization reforms of Peter the Great — the Dolgorukovs and the Galitzines. The other two seats were retained by Osterman and Golovkin.

As the conservative influences prevailed among its members, the Council — although nominally a consultative body — monopolized supreme power and had the imperial capital moved back to Moscow. The collegia (i.e., ministries) and the Senate, instituted by Peter the Great as supreme governing bodies, were not called "governing" any more and were held accountable before the...
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