From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Zemstvo \Zem"stvo\, n. [Russ., fr. zemlya land.]
   In Russia, an elective local district and provincial
   administrative assembly. Originally it was composed of
   representatives elected by the peasantry, the householders of
   the towns, and the landed proprietors. In the reign of
   Alexander III. the power of the noble landowners was
   increased, the peasants allowed only to elect candidates from
   whom the governor of the province nominated the deputy, and
   all acts of the zemstvo subjected to the approval of the
   governor. Theoretically the zemstvo has large powers relating
   to taxation, education, public health, etc., but practically
   these powers are in most cases limited to the adjustment of
   the state taxation.
   [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
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