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The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation was founded on September 8, 1802 by Manifesto of Alexander I "On the establishment of Ministries". The same document provided for the post of Minister of Justice in Government, who also served as General Prosecutor of the Russian Empire.
The Ministry of Justice was entrusted with lawdrafting duties, as well as courts and prosecutors administration. It dealt with the appointment, transfer, dismissal of officials of judicial department, established and abolished the courts, supervised over them.
The first Minister of Justice ‒ General Prosecutor of the Russian Empire was outstanding Russian poet and statesman, Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin.
From the day of it's foundation the Ministry of Justice attached great importance to the improvement of the legislation. Under the leadership of the famous statesman Mikhail Mikhailovich Speransky the legislation was codified: 56 volumes Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire and 15 volumes of the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire were published.
In 1828 Mikhail Mikhailovich Speransky presented to Emperor the proposal to personnel strengthening the Courts by the judges and lawyers whoes preparation required direct involvement of the Ministry of Justice.
The Ministry of Justice actively participated in preparation and realization of the judicial reform, 1864. After the reform the functions of the Ministry were extended. At all stages of judicial reform the role of the Ministry of Justice was significant and even decisive. The Ministry of Justice administrated the judicial bodies, prison and landmark authorities, notariate. Being in charge of personnel of the court and prosecutors it recieved the right appoint and dismiss the investigators on the most important cases in district courts and municipal judges and members of the district court. The Ministry has introduced lay justice and jurors, administrated activities of prosecutors and places of detention. The Ministry of Justice had sufficient authority to form and implement legal policy of the state.
On the proposal of the Ministry of Justice of the Law of June 16, 1884 aggravated sentences for embezzlement and theft, including those commited by representatives of privileged classes. On May 26, 1881 at the request of the Ministry of Justice public executions were canceled. In the area of civil law on May 19, 1881 Ministry of Justice composed Rules strengthening the rights for the real estate.
Ministry of Justice gave an opinion on all legislative proposals before they were submitted to the consideration of the Council of State, and from 1881 bills drafted by other departments were sumitted to the Ministry of Justice not only for a legal opinion, but also to bring them to conformity with the existing legislation.
The Ministry's lawmaking work of the late 19th century ‒ early 20th century was focused on individual rights. In 1897, a draft bill to amend the order of the excitation of questions about the responsibility of governors; in 1903 ‒ the draft law on probation, which was completely new and very democratic institution in Russia, in the same year, the Ministry of Justice was designed by disciplinary regulations governing the punishment of official misconduct; in 1904, a draft law on some of the changes in the prosecution of criminal liability, and public order offenses. In the same year the Ministry of Justice approved the regulations on the procedure of the prison department of civil political prisoners.
Since the mid-19th century, the Ministers of Justice is actively engaged in international activities: chairing the International Tribunal, were members of a permanent International Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The aim was to inform the Ministry of Justice Ministers on approval of the statutes of newly created organizations and societies, and the Minister was obliged to submit to Emperor weekly personal or written reports on the status of assigned cases.
On December 13, 1895 the Main Prison Facility has been transferred to pass under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation to the Ministry of Justice.
After the October Revolution of 1917 the Ministry of Justice was transformed into the People's Commissariat of Justice. The practical implementation of the Decree № 1 "About Court" demanded that the judiciary efforts related to the formation of vessels and the selection of personnel for them. Prominently in the work of the Commissariat of Justice took the creation of new legislation. Accepted January 30, 1928 the Resolution of the Communist Central Executive Committee and People's Commissar of Justice were directly subordinated to the prosecutor, and as Vice Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic.
Subsequently, the power of the People’s Commissariat of Justice has undergone radical changes and in 1936 the prosecutor's office was separated into an independent agency.
Since 1936 to the People's Commissariat of Justice of the USSR has been tasked with organizing and preparing materials for the codification of legislation. Until 1946 the legislative activity was in three primary areas: the preparation of all-union code of laws (Criminal, Civil, Criminally-remedial, Civil Procedure, Principles of labour legislation and Fundamental principles of legislation of marriage and family); preparation chronological collection of laws, decrees and Government Resolution of the USSR and the Systematic collection of laws; reference work on legislation.
Research-and-development criminalistics laboratories and All-Soviet Union Institute of Legal Sciences were being created in the system of the Ministry of Justice. Interestingly, that in 1957 it was on the initiative of the Ministry of Justice of the RSFSR (for the first time in Russian law) in the text of Criminal Procedure Code of the RSFSR was added the concept of "the presumption of innocence".
According to the regulations of the Status of People's Commissariat of Justice of the USSR from December 8, 1936 People's Commissariat and its local authorities were authorized to give guidance to courts on the correctness and uniformity of application of judicial practice. Such relationship of the judicial authorities and the courts have been criticized and served as one of the reasons for the abolition of the Ministry of Justice of the USSR in 1963.
As far as excessive radicalism and partly the fallacy of such solutions was evident and confirmed by time, therefore on the 30th August 1970 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a Decree, which initiated the rebuilding of the judicial authorities. Consider the critical need for highly-qualified personnel for reconstructed department. Later in the day, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a Decree about the formation of All-Russian Institute of Advanced justice employees in the structure of the Ministry of Justice.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Ministry of Justice has renewed features and now is on the way of further strengthening and development. Rebirth of a strong state power required to ensure a single legal space, strengthening the rule of law, a real separation of powers, safeguards the rights and legitimate interests of citizens and equal responsibility of the state and the citizen.
The modern stage of reforms in Russia is characterized by the improvement and reinforcement of the legal state, the establishment and development of democratic institutions of society. According to the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation from October 13, 2004 № 1313 «The issues of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation», the Ministry of Justice is a federal executive body responsible for drafting and implementing government policy and legal regulation in its field of competence, including the penal system, registration of non-profit organisations, including branches of international organisations and foreign non-profit non-governmental organisations, political parties, other public associations and religious organisations, the bar and notary system, state registration of vital statistics, compliance of courts with the established operating procedure and implementation of court decisions and enactments by other agencies, free legal and legal literacy assistance to the public, as well as law-enforcement and control powers in the field of registration of non-profit organisations, including the branches of international organisations and foreign non-profit non-governmental organisations, political parties, other public associations and religious organisations, control of compliance of non-profit organisations’ activities to their charter goals and the legislation of the Russian Federation, control and oversight of the bar and notary system and state registration of vital statistics.
At the present time the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Federal Bailiff Service come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice.
In addition, in structure of the Ministry of Justice enters the Office of the Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.
At all stages of the Russian state’s development the Ministry of Justice fulfills its main purpose ‒ to promote the formation and consolidation the bases of a legal state in Russia.