New articles by Alexander Semyonov and Anton Kotenko
Articles have been prepared as part of the "Post-Imperial Diversity" project which is being implemented in 2018-2020 as part of a fundamental research competition conducted by the RFBR in the Era.net RUS Plus Research Program in a research consortium with the Karelian Institute of the University of Eastern Finland and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity of the University of Goettingen, Germany
This article argues that the history of Russian constitutional and parliamentary reform at the beginning of the 20th century can be presented in a new light, given the global transformation of political life in the face of imperial diversity and mass politics.
The article points out that imperial diversity as a challenge to democratic government was not unique to the Russian Empire. The character of the Russian Empire was marked by peculiarities; it was shaped by composite and hybrid imperial space, which placed the challenge of imperial diversity at the center of political practices and imaginaries. The article traces the history of political reform in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century focusing on the reform of the Sejm of the Grand Duchy of Finland and the novel practices and political imaginaries of imperial diversity in the first and second State Duma. The exploration of the history of the constitutional reform in the Russian Empire of early 20th century demonstrates that rather than being absolute antagonists to representative government, Russian imperial politics and traditions of imperial sovereignty nested possibilities of compromise and redefinition of political solidarity in the space of diversity.
Ukrainian parliamentarism and constitutionalism have a long history. Its brightest episode occurred 100 years ago, in 1917–1921, when the Ukrainian activists tried to cope with the breakup of the Romanov Empire by suggesting various projects of its reconstruction. In this article, author argues that the history of these projects began at least half a century earlier, when a young professor of history at Kiev University, Mykhailo Drahomanov, started to reflect upon future reorganization of the Russian Empire into a parliamentary state.
Being an ardent advocate of turning the empire into a representative democracy, Drahomanov still felt uneasy about unapologetic support of parliamentarism. Having embraced Proudhonian idea of anarchy or self-government, he realized that the existence of parliament was not a universal cure for all political ills of the Russian Empire, especially for the main one—extreme state centralization. Hence, his views of political reconstruction of the empire did not necessarily mean transforming it into the Russian Republic. It seems that a reasonable and reasoned monarch, who could turn the empire into a federal state with a wide local self-government, would totally fulfill Drahomanov’s ideas of future Russia. His enormous influence upon the pre-war Ukrainian intellectuals explains why only few of them seriously discussed an idea of Ukrainian state independence in 1917.
The chapter takes the case of the formation of the Constitutional Democratic party (the Kadets) in the context of emerging mass politics, 1905 revolution, and political reforms.
Going against the genealogical approach, the author stresses the contingency and novelty of party liberalism in the early twentieth century. In particular, the chapter explores heterogeneity within the Kadet ranks, the concept of rupture and pluralism in self-representation of the nascent liberal party, and techniques of compromise and negotiation in the pluralist political setting that allowed the party and its platform to cohere. The author also argues that the pluralism of the political and ideological context of Kadet party formation was also matched by pluralism of mobilized space of imperial diversity, which included national, regionalist, and autonomist voices. The context of mobilized imperial diversity is shown to be not only inhibiting but aiding the liberal politics in the Russian Empire.
The article reassesses some of the recent historiographic developments in studies of the Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Russian Empire.
In particular, it focusses on the role of nationalist politics in late Imperial Russia, in 1917, and in early Soviet politics. It also considers the end of the Russian Empire within the context of historiographical approaches to the collapse of other European empires. Based on these considerations, the article concludes that the place of nationalist politics in the Russian Revolution can be exaggerated.