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The First and Second Dumas

The Revolutionary Masses

The First Duma sat from 27 April to 8 July 1906. It was dominated by Kadets, led by Paul Miliukov, and peasant deputies who formed their own Duma faction called the Trudovik (Labor) Group. Socialist parties, except for the Mensheviks, boycotted the elections. The Kadet majority in the Duma took the lead in issuing a series of demands for far-reaching reforms, including changes to the constitution to allow the appointment of a government responsible to the Duma and a radical land reform. The government refused to discuss these demands out of hand, though it did consider appointing some prominent Kadets and Octobrists as ministers. When negotiations broke down, the government dissolved the assembly. The Kadets  and some other radical deputies issued a manifesto calling for protest in the form of passive resistance. However, they failed to muster public support strong enough to unsettle the government. 

 
Skirmishes with the police on the day of the opening of the Second Duma

The Second Duma met in February 1907. Although it saw a small increase in the number of right-wing deputies and the decline in the number of the Kadet deputies, it was, nevertheless, even more radical than the First, because the Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who had boycotted the First Duma, sent delegates to the Second.

The radical left-wing deputies bitterly denounced the government for the harsh measures it was taking to quell political unrest. Unable to find any common ground between its proposals and the demands of the Left, the government dismissed the Second Duma on 3 June 1907. On the same day the government used article 87 to issue a new electoral law, which drastically altered the franchise on which subsequent Dumas were to be elected.

The new law favored Russias traditional classes - the landed nobility and the peasantry - while the representation of the urban population, and the working class in particular, was cut to a fraction. The indirect curial electoral system meant that , first, the electoral constituencies, defined by estate, sent "electors" to provincial electoral assemblies; the electors in the provincial assemblies could then elect delegates to the Duma. Under the new law, the curia of landowners chose one elector from just 230 of its voters, while it took 1,000 wealthy business people to choose a single elector; 15,000 lower-middle-class voters; 60,000 peasants; and 125,000 urban workers.

In the provincial electoral assemblies the new norms of representation also favored the landowners: 50.2 percent of electors in these bodies came from the landowning constituency. Here was a clear indication of the conservatism of a government that still found it easiest to work with its traditional supporters, the landed nobility.

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