From the late middle ages and the early modern era, Russia’s territory expanded to encompass the Volga, the Urals, Siberia; in the 18th and 19th centuries, parts of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia were also incorporated. This period saw the country acquire new subjects who were followers of various religious traditions: Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, and paganism. Authorities, therefore, developed a religious policy in relation to various religious groups, adopting regulations that defined functions and powers of religious professionals, rules for the construction of religious buildings, a loyalty oath to the monarch, and the possibility of worship for military personnel as well as for people who had committed crimes and were in prison.
Empress Catherine II played a key role in both regulating the religious policy of the Russian Empire and in the development of its penitentiary system. In the first case, in 1773, the Holy Synod, at the direction of the Empress, issued a decree:
“On tolerance of all faiths and on the prohibition of bishops to enter into the affairs concerning other religions and the construction of houses of worship under their law, leaving all these matters to secular authorities”.
This marked the beginning of a policy of religious tolerance in Russia.
In the second case, Catherine II began to fight against public torture, a civilised criminal-executive system was established, and the Prison Regulatory Project was adopted. Most of the several dozen prisons built under Catherine II still operate today.
As a rule, litigation and disputes related to family relationships – such as infidelity, disobedience of children to parents, and the division of property and inheritance among national minorities – were decided based on religious traditions. In cases of serious crimes involving the appropriation of other people’s property, grievous bodily harm, mutilation, or murder, offenders were brought to justice in accordance with imperial law.
 The Synod’s decree on tolerance of all faiths and on the prohibition of bishops to enter into cases concerning pre-religious confessions and before the construction of houses of worship under their law, representing all these secular superiors, June 17, 1773 / Full assembly of the laws of the Russian Empire. First volume. 1770-1774.” St. Petersburg, 1830, P.19, p. 775-776 (No. 13996).
 Gernett M. N. The history of the tsar’s prison. 5 volumes.V. 1. 1762-1825. p. 109-126.
 Agakerimova C.A. Interaction in Dagestan adata, sharia and the laws of the Russian Empire: the historical and legal aspect. Author’s dissertation… Krasnodar, 2008. P. 42; Smolin A. Sharia law in Russian laws URL: http://rapsinews.ru/legislation_publication/20101019/250882814.html; Dashkovskaya N.V. Features of the application of legal customs in the activities of the district courts in Russia of the nineteenth century / Legal Initiative No.4. – 2014 URL: http://49e.ru/ru/2014/4/19.