Russian Notary History

Russian Notary HistoryRussian Notary History

Russian notary history includes the periods before and during the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the current Russian Federation.


Russian Orthodox Church, 1000

As in Europe, the church contributed to Russian notary history. By the 7th century, churches were engaged in making and storing books and records containing information outside the realm of church affairs. The Russian Orthodox Church was well established by the end of the first millennium.

Some scholars consider the 10th and 11th centuries, during the time of Christianization, as the period when notaries first appeared in ancient Rus.

Pskov Judicial Charter, 1397

The first record of secular activities similar to a notary is found in the Pskov Judicial Charter, first issued in 1397.

Pskov Russia Holy Trinity Cathedral aerial photo

Pskov, capital of the medieval Pskov Republic, is near Estonia and is one of Russia’s oldest cities, founded in 1348. The Charter was an old Russian legal code and includes powers, duties, and fees payable in denga to scribes for writing documents and affixing seals.

A seal could also be affixed by the prince or at the archives of the local Holy Trinity Cathedral. Before giving sworn testimony, witnesses took an oath and kissed a cross. Some legal disputes were settled by judicial duel on a dueling field. A party who was too old, too young, disabled, or a priest or monk, could hire a substitute to fight the duel.

Legal Code of Russia, 1649

Tsar Aleksey Mikhaillovich (Alexis of Russia) adopted the legal code of Russia (Sobornoye Ulozheniye) in 1649. It formed and developed the notarial system in Russia, then the Russian Empire, for 200 years.

Russian medieval scribe

It describes many duties of scribes to write and seal documents. There were strict penalties for perjury, fraud, forgery, and bribery. Scribes who deliberately wrote false statements had their hand cut off. Convicted criminals who forged a public official’s signature or used a counterfeit sovereign seal received the death penalty.

Professional scribes wrote civil documents for a fee. Their documents proved authenticity and willingness, confirmed the property rights of the seller and checked for encumbrances and restrictions on the sale.

Property rights were not considered transferred until the act was registered in the order book, and stamped with an inscription.

Regulation of the Notarial Sector, 1866

During the 19th century, most of continental Europe adopted the French (Napoleonic) or Latin civil law notarial system.

The Russian Empire adopted the Latin type notarial system on April 27, 1866, when Alexander II approved the Regulation of the Notarial Sector, part of the court reform of 1864. Notaries were attached to each district court.

It created a unified system of independent state-authorized notary officials. They prevented violations of the law by lawful, indisputable support of the parties’ true intentions.

October Revolution, 1917

Russian Tsar Nicholas II photo 1912Following the Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917, the functioning courts, barristers, and private property advocacy were abolished by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Decree No. 1, “On the Judicial System”.

On February 3, 1918, the Peoples’ Commission Council of Moscow issued Decree No. 2 “On the Judicial System”. The notarial system adopted in 1866 was abolished, replaced by temporary regulations related to committees of peoples’ deputies. Peoples’ notaries who were a part of local councils replaced sworn notaries.

The need for notaries was greatly reduced when the socialist government nationalized real estate and the right of private real estate ownership ended. But, notaries in cities were part of the judicial investigation departments and of rural peoples’ courts. The old notarial system of the tsarist Russian Empire was discontinued between 1917 and 1921.

Soviet Union, 1922

Russian notary history Soviet Union Postage Stamp 1958 Prince ScribeOn October 4, 1922, the Soviet government approved a new law on notary services in the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), emphasizing the public and legal nature of the Soviet notarial system. The notary became a minor government official, paid a low salary by the state, working to guarantee socialist rights.

In the prestigious Latin notarial system, notaries are independent of judicial officials. Clients pay for notary work according to fees set by the state. Soviet notaries were civil servants in the national system. The work of a Russian notary lost its previous prestige and importance.

The presidiums of the district Peoples’ Legal Council appointed local notaries. Candidates had to be from working-class families, not ancestors of exploiters, loyal to the new regime and its socialist ideology.

Notary training courses included material and procedural law and political fundamentals. Candidates had to pass a notary exam that included political and ideological questions. Only one world view was accepted, based in the socialist teachings of Marx and Lenin.

In a democratic state, the rule of law prevails, and all people are considered to have equal rights. Soviet ideology stated that the rights of political enemies of the working people could be limited and they were subject to repression.

Soviet notary functions included:
1. Preparing notarial documents as authorized by law
2. Notarizing contracts when required by law
3. Notarizing contracts when not required by law, but requested by the parties
4. Preparing documents from notarial books and registers
5. Storing documents
6. Issuing confirmations about lost or deceased citizens
7. Issuing confirmation that citizens were alive
8. Transferring announcements from citizens and institutions to other citizens and institutions

All the republics of the Soviet Union followed the Russian SSR model of notary services, except for the Ukrainian SSR.

Russian Federation, 1993

With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation adopted new notarial laws in February 1993, titled Fundamental Principles of Legislation of the Russian Federation on the Notariat. Russia soon joined the International Union of Notaries. This revived private practice by civil law notaries.

The law added new types of notarial acts, including verification of mediation agreements and protocols of juridical persons, and transactions of business partners and investment companies.

Sample Russian Notarial Certificate, 2012

The Russian Federation
The city of Moscow
January the Twentieth, the year Two Thousand and Twelve

Russian notary stamp Moscow

I, the undersigned, Alexander Vyacheslavovich Fedorchenko, being a notary public in the city of Moscow have attested this power of attorney.

This power of attorney is enforced on behalf of [company name] by Chairman of the Management Board {Chairman’s name] acting on the basis of the Articles of Association, who has affixed his signature in my presence.

Legal capacity of the legal entity and powers of its representatives are checked. Personality of the Power of Attorney signatory is verified, legal competence is checked.
Recorded in the register under No. 1D-473
Collected as per the tariff 1700 rubles, 00 kopecks

Notary public signature
[notary stamp]

Russian matryoshka nesting dolls

Federal Chamber of Notaries

Modern Russian notary history continues with the use of electronic signatures, computer technology, virtual meetings, and the internet.

For more information about notaries in the Russian Federation, visit the website of the Federal Chamber of Notaries in Moscow.

Also, see our Russian Language Notary Guide.

Image credits
1. Tri-color flag of the Russian Federation, public domain, Wikimedia Commons
2. Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, cropped photo, public domain, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons
3. Holy Trinity Cathedral, Orthodox, built 1699, Pskov, Russia, photo, aerial view, 2018, A. Sevin, Free Art License 1.3 (FAL 1.3), Wikimedia Commons
4. Russian Scribe at Work, from a 17th-century hagiographical miscellany. Fair Use, Institute of Russian Literature, Leningrad,
5. Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, photo, 1912, public domain, Wikimedia Commons
6. 1958 Soviet Union postage stamp, 10 kopeks, 100 Years of Russian Stamps, 15th-century Prince’s scribe, public domain, Wikimedia Commons
7. Russian Notary Stamp, Notarius goroda Moskva, Fedorchenko A. B. (Notary Public, city of Moscow, A.V. Fedorchenko), public domain, Edgar case exhibit, RusHydro,
8. Russian matryoshka nesting dolls, representing Mother Russia, common souvenir, Fair Use, Macalester University, MN, Russian Studies

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