Individual Rights Before October 1917: A Russian Perspective
The peculiarities of the estates' roles and functions in public life, their rights and obligations, were prescribed by numerous legal norms contained in the Collected Laws of the Russian Empire, in effect until the October Revolution. The nobility enjoyed the greatest rights. Their rights and privileges, including preferential access to administrative power, to land, and to the ear of the tsar, date back to the reign of Catherine the Great in the late eighteenth century. 1
The peasants, on the other hand, had the fewest rights. For centuries, as serfs, they were the property of the landowners. Serfdom was as widespread as it was
In 1889, the position of land captains was established. These officials assumed both administrative and judicial functions for their districts, replacing the elected justices of the peace, and intensifying surveillance of all organs and officials of the peasant administration.