After the October Revolution in 1917, the very first constitutional body to organize in Russia was the Constituent Assembly. One of the most popular demands to emerge from the Revolution, the Constituent Assembly is widely-regarded as the first democratically-elected legislative body in Russia. This is saying something, considering that eleven years prior, Russian rulers would not recognize a body of law that could not be overturned by their will and their will alone. The people craved a body of legislators who would represent them and their demands. Following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, a Provisional Government was created to stabilize the country and implement a range of civil and political liberties, as well as to establish the Constituent Assembly. But don’t get too carried away–this still is Revolutionary-era Russia we’re talking about.
Within the Formation and Program of the Provisional Government (March 2/15, 1917), an objective exists for the “[i]mmediate preparation for the calling of a Constituent Assembly, elected by universal and secret vote, which shall determine the form of government and draw up the Constitution for the country.” However, the Provisional Government decided it was best to defer the resolution of other basic issues until their elected Constituent Assembly could meet. Yet before the Constituent Assembly actually met for the first time, the Provisional Government had been overthrown. This was more evidence as to how shaky Russia really was, and it shed light onto the country’s crisis with its political authority.
The Russian Constituent Assembly, consisting of nearly seven hundred delegates, met for the first and only time on January 5-6, 1918 for around 13 hours in the Tauride Palace in modern-day St. Petersburg (then known as Petrograd). During the course of the assembly, the anti-Bolshevik Right Socialist-Revolutionary party dominated (due in part to an outdated ballot that Lenin argued was undemocratic because it failed to differentiate between the anti-Bolshevik Right and the pro-Bolshevik Left Socialist-Revolutionary parties). In fact, Victor Chernov, the leader of the Right SRs, was elected Chairman of the Assembly. It was made clear that the Assembly opposed Soviet government, even though many workers, peasants, and soldiers (the supposed-constituents) aligned more with Soviet ideals. During a recess, however, the Bolsheviks and the Left SRs planned to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. At around 5 A.M. on January 6, 1918, the first attempt in parliamentary democracy in Russia ended.
“Constituent Assembly, All-Russian.” encspb.ru. http://www.encspb.ru/object/2804022934?lc=en
“Digital History Reader Module 3.” Evidence 24. http://www.dhr.history.vt.edu/modules/eu/mod03_1917/evidence_detail_24.html
“Russian Constituent Assembly.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 12 August 2014.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “1917: Constituent Assembly.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1917uchredilka&Year=1917&navi=byYear