The Social Significance of the Russian Prosecutor's Office: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

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This article examines the historical aspects of the development of the supervisory agency, and analyzes the role of the prosecutor’s office in the life of modern Russian society and the state, concerning the 300th anniversary of the founding of the prosecutor’s office in Russia. The author substantiates the importance of the existence of the prosecutor's office in the state system of authorities and its social relevance. It is particularly emphasized that at this stage of development, the main principles of the activities of the prosecutor’s office should be the social orientation of the prosecutor’s supervision and the readiness to meet the most unexpected challenges of the time, constantly guarding the interests of the state, society, and individuals.

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On January 12, 1722, in accordance with the Nominal Supreme Decree of Peter I, the Russian Prosecutor's Office was established by the Governing Senate "The Prosecutor General and the Chief Prosecutor should be at the Senate, as well as in any Board for the prosecutor, who will have to report to the Prosecutor General." When Peter the Great created the Prosecutor's Office, it was tasked with "destroying or weakening the evil arising from unrest in affairs, injustice, bribery and lawlessness."
The task of its creation was to overcome lawlessness in the sphere of law and order. The prosecutor became the "eye of the sovereign", i.e., on behalf of the supreme authority to influence compliance with the laws, as well as personally report to the tsar on the facts of violations in the actions of high-ranking officials. The prosecutor's offices were established at the court courts, the Holy Synod, in the provinces, the army and the navy. Prosecutors monitored compliance with the interests of the treasury, monitored the correctness of tax collection, places of detention of prisoners and those convicted of crimes.
As you know, one of the famous statements of Mikhail Yevgrafovich Saltykov-Shchedrin belongs to this one: "The strictness of Russian laws is mitigated by the non-binding nature of their execution." Despite the fact that the famous writer was born much later and was not a contemporary of Peter I, the tsar's fears about the non-fulfillment of his will, in fact, predetermined the role and place of the prosecutor's office in the then Russian society.
In fact, calling the prosecutor "the eye of the sovereign", Peter I denoted the importance of the prosecutor as a person who, on his behalf, monitors the fulfillment of the will of the tsar expressed in his decrees. In modern terms, the purpose of the prosecutor's office was to monitor compliance with the laws expressed in the regulatory framework available at that time. The prosecutor was a confidant of the tsar, reported to him personally about the revealed violations. As you know, for the first time in the history of the Fatherland, the post of Prosecutor General was occupied by one of the closest associates of Peter I - Count Pavel Ivanovich Yaguzhinsky.
P.I. Yaguzhinsky quite quickly took key positions in state affairs, playing, in essence, the role of the second person in the empire after Peter I. In the words of the Russian historian V.O. Klyuchevsky, the Prosecutor General becomes "the flywheel of the entire administration." The Emperor was quite satisfied with the active activity
of P.I. Yaguzhinsky, and he supported him in everything. Peter I repeatedly told his entourage: "What Paul will examine is as true as if I saw it myself."
The next historical milestone, which most clearly characterizes the role of the prosecutor's office in our state, in our opinion, are the twenties of the twentieth century. Thus, in November 1917, the Council of People's Commissars adopted Decree No. 1 on the Court, in accordance with the provisions of which the courts, institutions of judicial investigators and prosecutor's supervision were abolished. In fact, the law enforcement system that existed before the October Revolution was completely eliminated. This reform interrupted the activities of domestic prosecutors – for 5 years there was no prosecutor's supervision in the country.
At the same time, already in May 1922, the decree of the Central Executive Committee adopted the "Regulation on Prosecutorial Supervision", which established the State Prosecutor's Office as part of the People's Commissariat of Justice, which later transformed into the Prosecutor's Office of the Supreme Court of the USSR, and in June 1933 the Prosecutor's Office of the USSR appeared as an independent body.
In a letter "About "double" subordination and legality" dictated by telephone and addressed to "Comrade Stalin for the Politburo",
V.I. Lenin noted that "the main evil in all our life and in all our lack of culture is connivance ... and the habits of semi-savages who want to preserve the legality of Kaluga in contrast to the legality of Kazan... The legality cannot be Kaluga and Kazan, but there must be a single All-Russian one... The Prosecutor has the right and is obliged to do only one thing: to monitor the establishment of a truly uniform understanding of the rule of law throughout the republic, regardless of any local differences and despite any local influences... The prosecutor is responsible for ensuring that no decision, no local authority, does not diverge from the law...".
Thus, it is necessary to draw an unambiguous conclusion that the formation of a new state that took place at that time showed the need for prosecutorial supervision and the existence of prosecutorial bodies. Once again, the main goal and task of the prosecutor's office at the next historical turn was the supervision of uniform enforcement of laws on the territory of the state, despite the fact that the state structure and the legislative framework itself were already fundamentally different.
The next important milestone in the development of the national prosecutor's office was the period following the termination of the existence of the USSR as a single state and the emergence of independent states on its former territory. In particular, in the scientific work "The Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation (The Concept of development for the transitional period)" of 1994, it was pointed out that "as the head of state, the President assumes most of the responsibility for the state of the legal system and the rule of law. The Prosecutor's Office should become an important pillar of the state and, above all, the presidential authorities in their efforts to overcome the instability of legal relations in society, to increase the authority of laws and regulations." The uniqueness of the role of the Prosecutor's office was emphasized in the same document by the fact that "none of the existing state bodies can assume the supervisory function of the prosecutor's office." Thus, the prosecutor's office was declared again by the "eye of the sovereign", the primary function of which was the supervision of compliance with the laws on the territory of the entire state. It seems that these parallels with the historical events of the XVII and XX centuries are not accidental.
The last decade, in our opinion, has significantly changed the lives of the vast majority of people in our country. As we have already indicated earlier, with the development of society, the complication of the political life of the state, the struggle for power, the value of certain types of information is increasing more and more. The information becomes valuable, the possession of which will allow its existing or potential owner to obtain any advantages: material, political, military, etc. .
A large number of digital communication technologies have appeared, and these are not only messengers, electronic mailboxes, as well as various social networks. This is also a significant number of online entertainment programs, which should include online online games.
Along with the development of these innovations, as the State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation Zubov I.N. correctly noted during his speech, "crime in the cyber environment has increased dramatically... To a certain extent, we can say that for a long time we all, our entire society, and the youth, we are experiencing enormous information pressure of a destructive plan... We can talk about the phenomenon of influencing the mass consciousness of the population in terms of changing its behavior in a destructive way."
A similar, in fact, opinion was expressed by President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with participants of the all-Russian action of mutual assistance "We are together", "The Internet can destroy society from within if it is not subject to "moral" laws." Among the negative phenomena on the Internet, in particular, the distribution of child pornography, suicidal tendencies and the involvement of minors in illegal protest actions were indicated.
There are enough examples of this at present: the presence on the Internet of groups "Quiet House", "Blue Whale", etc., calling on minors and minors to commit suicide, which is one of the forms of manifestation of such permissiveness.
It is no coincidence that recently the prosecutor's office has been paying great attention to the protection of children's rights. In particular, the official website of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation states: "The Prosecutor's office occupies an extremely important position in the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of minors. The prosecutor's supervision over the execution of laws on minors is an independent activity of the prosecutor's office, covers the widest range of the prosecutor's work and is designed to ensure the real implementation of legislation on the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of minors, the suppression and prevention of crime of children."
As other equally significant examples, one can cite the facts of posting extremist materials on the network, calling for terrorist acts, promoting interethnic and interfaith discord, as well as the facts of the distribution of narcotic and psychotropic substances.
As we can see, information exchange carried out with the help of modern electronic means of communication can affect basic human rights and freedoms, which, in turn, suggests that these public relations should be regulated at the legal level, and supervision of compliance with these norms of the law in the near future should become one of the most important tools of the prosecutor's office.
As practice shows, the burden on prosecutors at all levels increases from year to year, starting from the prosecutor's office of the city, district and ending with the central office of the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation. This is due to a number of objective reasons, some of which we have outlined above – the great social importance of the activities of the prosecutor's office, the emergence of new illegal manifestations, an increase in information exchange in society, etc.
It is important to note that in such conditions, managers at all levels within the prosecutor's system have an increased responsibility for maintaining a comfortable psychological climate within the entrusted team and a competent distribution of responsibilities among subordinates, taking into account the accumulated experience and personal professional qualities.


About the authors

Mikhail V. Kolesov

The University of the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5346-6205
SPIN-code: 6357-3169

Candidate of Jurisprudence, Professor

Russian Federation, Moscow


  1. Lenin VI. Complete works. Moscow, 1970. Vol. 45. 730 p. (In Russ.).
  2. Kolesov MV. Problems and prospects of ensuring information security in the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation. Bulletin of the University of the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation. 2020;5(79): 92-95. (In Russ.).

Copyright (c) 2023 Kolesov M.V.

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