In most countries, having different branches of government to spread out the power is seen as essential tenant of government. Most, not all… In fact, Imperial Russia didn’t have a parliament until 1906, making it the only European power without one. Before 1906, the Tsar, in this case, Nicholas II held all power in making key decisions on matters of state. It wasn’t until The Crisis of 1905, where the Russians were defeated by Japan, and the subsequent slaughter known as Bloody Sunday occurred that the tide of change began to shift.
The events of 22 January 1905 signaled the start of widespread revolts across the country where the peasants seized land and the working laborers went on strike. Those events, in turn, led to railway stoppage across the nation, effectively paralyzing the entire country. In August of 1905, Nicholas II directed Prime Minister Sergei Witte to draft The October Manifesto which would become the basis for the 1st Russian Constitution a year later.
This document granted the people civil liberties but also established the Duma or Russian Parliment which comes from the Russian verb dumat’ – to think. Between 1906 and 1917 when the empire fell, the Duma convened a total of four times. Overall, the four dumas brought about mixed results ranging from land reform which helped modernize the country to Russification which was a policy that sought to “Russianize” other territories and peoples and was generally seen as a negative. Perhaps the greatest failure of the dumas was its inability to democratize Russia which would lead to the 1917 Revolution and the establishment of The Soviet Union.
As is often the case with a revolution, one small event festered and grew until it eventually boiled over with the spillage of blood and in turn, a demand for rights.
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” -Ursula K. Le Guin
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” – Arundhati Roy
- Freeze, Gregory. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
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