The Governing Senate ( ) was a legislative, judicial, and executive body of the Russian Emperors, instituted by Peter the Great to replace the Boyar Duma and lasted until the very end of the Russian Empire. It was chaired by the Procurator General, who served as the link between the sovereign and the Senate; he acted, in the emperor's own words, as "the sovereign's eye".
Originally established only for the time of Peter's absence, it became a permanent body after his return. The number of senators was first set at nine and, in 1712, increased to ten. Any disagreements between the Chief Procurator and the Senate were to be settled by the monarch. Certain other officials and a chancellery were also attached to the Senate. While it underwent many subsequent changes, it became one of the most important institutions of imperial Russia, especially for administration and law.
In the 19th century, the Senate evolved into the highest judicial body in Russia. As such, it exercised control over all legal institutions and officials throughout the country.
The Senate was composed of several departments, two of which were Courts of Cassation (one for criminal cases, one for civil cases). It also included a Department of Heraldry, which managed matters relating to the rights of the nobles and honorary citizens.