Not one inhabitant is shielded from the proizvol [arbitrary power] of gendarmes.
—St. Petersburg Governor, 1906
We are incapable of imagining a governor who cannot, according to his discretion and without a trial, summarily arrest, exile and impose ruinous fines.
—Vladimir Gessen, 1908
Commentators on the imperial Russian polity have regarded the Security Law of 14 August 1881, which invested administrative officials with broad discretionary powers, as the keystone of the developing Russian police state, the virtual cause of the 1905 revolution, even “Russia's de facto constitution.” In truth, it merely codified and, in many respects, actually limited the powers granted by emergency measures adopted in the late 1870s, at the height of the terrorist campaign to murder Alexander II. The Judicial and Zemstvo Reforms of 1864 had marked the beginning of the development of the rule of law and a respect for civil rights in Russia, and the emergency legislation adopted between 1866 and 1881 was an only partially successful attempt by administrative Russia to return to traditional patterns of arbitrariness, or proizvol. Late imperial Russia's emergency legislation, in other words, was not a turning point on the path toward a modern “police state“ but a sign of that country's uneasy transition from an absolutist to a constitutional order.