The first mention of special courts for the merchants estate in Russia appeared in the Charter issued by Prince Vsevolod Mstislavovich of Novgorod in 1135. Special customs courts made up of "the best trading people" were established under the Novo-Torgovy (New Trade) Charter in 1667.
The commercial courts were further developed under Peter the Great. A Burgemeister chamber was established in Moscow in 1699 and a Kommerz Kollegium in charge of trade and promissory note affairs was created in 1719.
The Royal Boyar Duma and the Gold Judgment Chamber were replaced by the Senate as the supreme court instance. The Fourth Department of the Senate acted as the supreme court of appeal for commercial cases and can be regarded to some extent as a precursor of the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation.
Commercial courts, as they are understood now, first appeared in 1808 when a commercial court was established in Odessa. Later, courts of that type were formed in Taganrog (1808), Feodossia (1819), Arkhangelsk (1820) and Ismail (1824).
The General regulation for the establishment of commercial courts in Russia was published on May 14, 1832 to mark the beginning of the formation of a system of such courts, a precursor of the modern system of arbitration courts. Commercial courts were opened by decree in St. Petersburg (1832), Moscow (1833), Novocherkassk (1835) and in some other cities.
The Rules for legal procedure in the commercial courts defined their competence, summons compulsory appearance, dilatory plea, collection and examination of evidence of the parties, etc. They contained 16 chapters, 470 articles and the Provisional rules for the procedure of hearing cases on insolvency (28 articles).
To start a commercial court procedure, a statement of claim was to be sent to the chairman of the court, who forwarded it to the relevant department. If the statement met the formal requirements of law, a case was filed. The procedure was deemed as started upon the serving of summons to the parties.
The 1864 judicial reform in Russia did not affect the commercial courts organizationally. Changes were made to the judicial procedure: disputes were subsequently heard not only on the basis of the Rules for commercial judicial proceedings but also in accordance with the Rules for the Civil Judicial Procedure dated 20 November 1864, which came into effect for general courts and contained the general rules for collection and examination of evidence.
The awards of commercial courts were enforced through bailiffs, and it was beyond the jurisdiction of the commercial courts.
The main peculiarity of the judicial procedure in the commercial courts of Russia, as noted by contemporaries, was a tendency to "expedite" the settlement. These courts acted until 1917 when the commercial courts were abolished by the Soviet power's Decree on the Court No.1. Subsequently, all disputes between state organizations, enterprises and offices were settled administratively.
The Regulation on the procedure for settling property disputes between state offices and enterprises was adopted on 21 September 1922. According to that Regulation, commissions of arbitration were set up: in the center - under the Council of Labour and Defence (CLD Commission of Arbitration) and in the provinces - under the regional economic conferences.
The organization of the system of commissions of arbitration as special bodies created to examine property disputes between state-owned and cooperative enterprises and organizations was mainly completed in 1924. A number of People's Commissariats and other departments had their own commissions of arbitration to settle disputes between enterprises and offices of the same department, they were called departmental commissions of arbitration.
The Regulation on State arbitrazh was adopted on 3 May 1931. It said, that State arbitrazh was "established to settle property disputes between establishments, enterprises and organizations of the nationalized sector in the direction that ensures the consolidation of the plan and contract discipline and economic profit-and-loss accounting". In 1934 the State arbitrazh was made competent to settle disputes arising in the process of signing contracts and agreements.
After the new USSR Constitution was adopted in 1977, the State arbitrazh was recognized as a constitutional body. The organization and procedures of its activity were determined by the Law "On the State Arbitrazh in the USSR". However, the system of State arbitrazh was largely an instrument used by the executive power to govern and intervene in the economic activity of enterprises, offices and organizations.
The beginning of deep economic reforms and the formation of market relations gave rise to the need for the creation of an independent judicial system specially adjusted to handle economic disputes between economic entities. The Law "On the Arbitration Court" was promulgated in July 1991. The RSFSR Supreme Soviet on October 1, 1991 adopted a resolution "On Coming into Effect of the Law of the RSFSR "On the Arbitration Court" which abolished all arbitration bodies and other similar bodies in the system of ministries, government departments, as well as in the associations, concerns and other amalgamations. Judicial proceedings on disputes between economic agents began to be carried out according to the rules laid down in the Arbitration Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, which came into operation on 5 March 1992.
It may be stated that the actual activity of the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation and of the present system of arbitration courts began in April 1992.