The Duma of the Russian Empire

A photograph taken at the First Russian Duma, taken in 1906

The Russian Duma was intended to act as a steady transition towards a more democratic Russia, controlled and guided by the Tsar.  However, this first meeting of the Duma (seen above) was far from a controlled change.  The Duma spiraled out of the Tar’s control and became a public and legitimate source of revolutionary change to the country.

The Duma was intended to be an all inclusive parliament for the people to attempt to somewhat self govern through.   The October Manifesto of 1905 was intended to allow the lower classes of workers, who had previously gone without representation, to be allowed a voice as a part of the Duma.  However the October Manifesto did not allow time for representatives to be selected, and in doing so it effectively cut out representation of the peasants.

The peasants had been kept from self governance for centuries, yet in their own minds they had proven themselves capable.  In 1901 when the country was devastated by intense famine and epidemics of cholera and typhus, the zemstvos took the lead rather than the national government.  This bolstered their self-confidence and belief of self importance.  As the years of famine passed and Tsar Nicolas II took the throne many zemstvos still believed in their own ability and priority t lead in their own governance.   Their sly segregation from the Duma left them intensely discontented.

This also meant that the majority of the representatives of the Duma were now those of the more educated and often wealthy classes.   Most commonly, members of the Duma might have been classified as members of the intelligencia.  This group of society more than any other sought drastic change from the Tsarist regime.  Unintentionally Tsar Nicholas had strengthened his greatest enemy.  This empowered men like Julius Martov to voice their views in a political forum with authority to speak dis-favorably of the Tsar and publicize Marxist political views.  The Russian Duma was the end of the Russian Empire.



Freeze, Gregory L.  Russia A History.  Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2009.

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