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Zemskiy sobor
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Zemskiy sobor

The zemskiy sobor (зе́мский собо́р) was a Russian council of nobles, the term roughly means assembly of the land.

The first zemskiy sobor was held by tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1549. During his reign he held a number of such gatherings and they became a common tool used to enact major pieces of legislation or to decide controversial issues. They usually consisted of nobles and church leaders, but also would sometimes contain representatives of the townspeople.

Under Ivan the sobor had no real power. They were primarily a tool used to rubberstamp decisions that Ivan had already made.

The council continued in this very subservient fashion until the Time of Troubles ("сму́тное вре́мя"). When the Rurik Dynasty died out in 1598 it was a sobor that appointed Boris Godunov as the next tsar. The council also selected Michael Romanov to take the throne in 1613.

Once the Romanovs were firmly in power, however, the council lost its power. It also never developed into anything resembling a parliament, unlike royal councils in western Europe.