views updated May 21 2018


DUMA. The duma was the main institution of government in Russia from the fourteenth century to the 1690s. Often referred to as the "Boyars' Duma" by modern historians, it was called either "duma" or "the boyars" in contemporary sources. It lacked any formal attributes of an institution beyond the name, though custom maintained it at the center of government under the monarch for some four hundred years. The duma was the forum in which the boyar elite of the Moscow principality and later Russia influenced decision making and policy, and its history was closely bound up with the history of that elite.

The origins of the duma seem to lie in the fourteenth century, when the Moscow princes met frequently with the major landholders and warriors of the Moscow principality. Usually six to ten in number, they came from the major aristocratic clans and received the rank of boyar, a designation of honor and status, not administrative or military function. These numbers remained roughly constant until the end of the fifteenth century, when the numbers expanded slightly and a few received the rank of okol'nichii, a sort of junior boyar rank. Most boyars were untitled, but a few princes who moved to Moscow, such as the princes Patrikeev from Lithuania, received boyar rank in addition to their princely title. At the end of the fifteenth century and during the early sixteenth century, a number of princely clans from formerly independent princedoms entered the duma, joining the older families of untitled Moscow boyars.

There were no written rules that governed accession to boyar rank, but historians have reconstructed the governing principles from practice. In theory the prince could appoint anyone to the duma, but in reality he chose from among a relatively small number of aristocratic clans. Though the older males in the clan were normally chosen, not all senior males received the rank. Succession was collateral, that is, a given boyar's brother would acquire the rank ahead of the boyar's son. This meant that the operative family unit was really the aristocratic clan, not just a single lineage. The boyars and the state kept careful genealogical records and also records of service to the grand prince. These were necessary to maintain the system of precedence ranking (Mestnichestvo), which theoretically determined where boyars as well as lesser officials and landholders stood in the service hierarchy. The basic rule of precedence ranking was that a man could not serve at a lower position than his male ancestors. The system was necessarily complex and led to many disputes. From the time of Ivan IV the Terrible (ruled 15331584) onwards, tsars increasingly had to suspend precedence ranking during military campaigns.

By the middle of the sixteenth century, the duma grew to some forty boyars and fifteen junior boyars. Most of these were great men, with large estates and luxurious houses, the great commanders of the army, and holders of most of the important administrative and court offices. Wherever their origins, their life now centered on Moscow and the court. They maintained estates around the capital, their houses were in or near the Kremlin, and when in Moscow they were in virtually daily attendance at court. Around them were lesser men who also had landed estates and made up the bulk of the tsar's army, holding the rank of Moscow gentleman. Still further down the ladder were the gentry who served in the army and elsewhere from provincial towns. From the middle of the sixteenth century, alongside the boyars the tsar appointed one or two of the chancellery secretaries to the rank of "duma secretary" as well as one or two of the Moscow gentlemen to the rank of "duma gentleman."

We know very little of the formal procedure of the duma. It met in the main room (the "Golden Hall") of the Kremlin palace. Its proceedings were never written down and in the seventeenth century were considered secret. Historical evidence of its actions comes from narrative sources and from laws with the formula: "the tsar decreed and the boyars assented." In the seventeenth century most legislation on taxation and other internal issues bore this formula, while military decisions were simply a matter of the tsar's decree. The duma also devoted much time to foreign policy, and indeed until 1667 the head of the ambassadorial office was not usually a boyar but a secretary, with the boyars retaining a sort of collective supervision, sending committees to meet with foreign emissaries. The duma was the seat of most of the court politics of the period and was at the center of the endless and murderous factional battles of the sixteenth century, influencing the relationships of the various factions to the monarch. The princes and tsars consulted regularly with the duma (sometimes with a small group within it) and it was an essential component of the theoretical autocracy of the tsars.

The duma stood at some thirty members before 1648, then increased to about sixty-five in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. After the death of Tsar Alexis in 1676, a succession of weak rulers curried favor by granting duma rank. In 1690 there were some fifty boyars, fifty okol'nichii, forty duma gentlemen, and nine duma secretaries. Tsar Alexis had tried to regularize the meetings and assign certain days of the week to certain types of business, but this rule was hard to maintain. The abolition of precedence ranking in 1682 altered the meaning of the ranks, restricting their importance to duma service. In the 1690s Peter the Great gradually ceased to award the rank and called the duma together only infrequently. After 1700 it faded away, to be replaced by new institutions and new systems of rank.

See also Aristocracy and Gentry ; Autocracy ; Ivan IV, "the Terrible" (Russia) ; Moscow ; Peter I (Russia) ; Russia .


Bogatyrev, Sergei. The Sovereign and His Councillors: Ritualised Consultations in Muscovite Political Culture 1350's1570's. Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemian Toimituksia, Seria Humaniora 307. Helsinki, 2000.

Crummey, Robert O. Aristocrats and Servitors: The Boyar Elite in Russia, 16131689. Princeton, 1983.

Kollmann, Nancy Shields. Kinship and Politics: The Making of the Muscovite Political System, 13451547. Stanford, 1987.

Pavlov, A. P. Gosudarev Dvor i Politicheskaia bor'ba Pri Borise Godunove. St. Petersburg, 1992.

Paul Bushkovitch


views updated May 09 2018


Known officially as the State Duma, this institution was the lower house of the Russian parliamentary system from 1906 to 1917. In Kievan and Muscovite times, rulers convened a "boyars' duma" of the highest nobles to provide counsel on major policy issues. During the 1600s this institution fell into disuse, but late-nineteenth-century liberals lobbied for establishment of a representative body to help govern Russia. After the Revolution of 1905, Tsar Nicholas II agreed to form an advisory council, the Bulygin Duma of August 1905. However, revolutionary violence increased in the next two months, and in his October 1905 Manifesto the tsar reluctantly gave into the urgings of Sergei Witte to grant an elected representative Duma with full legislative powers.

This promise, plus other proffered reforms, helped split the broad revolutionary movement, winning over a number of moderates and liberals. With violence waning, the tsar weakened the authority of the proposed Duma by linking it with a half-appointed upper house, the State Council; by excluding foreign and military affairs and parts of the state budget from its purview; and by weighting election procedures to favor propertied groups. Moreover, at heart Nicholas never accepted even this watered-down version of the Duma as legitimate, believing it an unwarranted infringement on his divine right to rule. On the other hand many reformers saw the Duma as the first step toward a modern, democratic government and hoped to expand its authority.

first and second dumas, 19061907

Based on universal male suffrage over age twenty-five, elections for the First Duma were on the whole peaceful and orderly, although the indirect system favored nobles and peasants over other groups. The revolutionary Social Democrats and Socialist Revolutionaries boycotted the elections, while the liberal Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) conducted the most effective campaign. The latter won a plurality of members, and peasant deputies, though usually unaffiliated with any party, proved anti-government and reformist in their views. Perhaps too rashly, the Cadet deputies pursued a confrontational policy toward the government, demanding radical land reform, extension of the Duma's budgetary authority, and a ministry responsible to the Duma. After three months of bitter stalemate, Nicholas dissolved the Duma.

Elections to the Second Duma in the fall of 1906 worsened the political impasse. Although the Cadets lost ground, radical parties participated and elected several deputies, and the peasants again returned

oppositionist representatives. Openly hostile to the government, the Second Duma, like the first, proved unable to find a compromise program and was also dissolved after several months.

third and fourth dumas, 19071917

Under the Fundamental Laws adopted in 1906 as a semi-constitutional structure for Russia, the tsar could dissolve the Duma and enact emergency legislation in its absence. Using this authority, Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin decreed a new electoral system for the Duma on June 3, 1907. He retained indirect voting but increased the weighting in favor of the nobility from 34 to 51 percent and decreased that of the peasantry from 43 to 22 percent. The new law also reduced the number of non-Russian deputies in the Duma by about two-thirds. Stolypin achieved his goal of a more conservative assembly, for the 1907 elections to the Third Duma returned 293 conservative deputies, 78 Cadets and other liberals, 34 leftists, and 16 nonparty deputies, giving the government a comfortable working majority. The Octobrists, a group committed to making the October Manifesto work, emerged as the largest single bloc, with 148 deputies. Consequently, the Third Duma lasted out its full term of five years, from 1907 to 1912.

Until his assassination in 1911, Stolypin succeeded for the most part in cooperating with the Third Duma. The deputies supported an existing agrarian reform program first drawn up by Witte and instituted in 1906 by Stolypin that called for dissolution of the peasant commune and establishment of privately owned peasant plots, a complicated procedure that was only partially completed when World War I interrupted it. The government and the Duma joined hands in planning an expansion of primary education designed to eradicate illiteracy and to have all children complete at least four years of education. Although the State Council blocked this legislation, the Ministry of Education began on its own to implement it. Stolypin, a staunch nationalist, also initiated legislative changes limiting the authority of the autonomous Finnish parliament and establishing zemstvos in western Russia designed to subordinate Polish influence there. Finally, without much success the Third Duma propounded military reform, particularly the improvement of naval administration. By 1912 the Octobrist Party had split, government ministers were at odds, and rightist and nationalist influences dominated at court. Moreover, unrest was growing among the urban population.

Elections to the Fourth Duma in late 1912 returned a slightly more conservative body, but it had hardly begun work when World War I erupted in August 1914. An initial honeymoon between the Duma and the government soon soured as military defeats, administrative chaos, and ministerial incompetence dismayed and irked the deputies. By 1915 a Progressive Bloc, formed under liberal leadership, urged reforms and formation of a ministry of public confidence, but it had little impact on the government or the tsar. Shortly after the February 1917 Revolution broke out, Nicholas dissolved the Duma, but its members reconstituted themselves privately and soon formed a Temporary Committee to help restore order in Petrograd. After the tsar's abdication, this committee appointed the Provisional Government that, though sharing some aspects of power with the Petrograd Soviet, ran the country until the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution in the fall of 1917.

The Duma system opened the door to representative government and demonstrated the political potential of an elected parliament. This experience helped legitimize the post-1991 effort to establish democracy in Russia. Yet the four Dumas' record was spotty at best. Useful legislation was discussed and sometimes passed, but divisions among the moderates, the inexperience of many politicians, the reactionary influences of the State Council along with some ministers and the tsar's entourage, and the visceral refusal of Nicholas II to accept an independent legislature made it almost impossible for the Duma to be the engine of reform in old-regime Russia.

See also: constitutional democratic party; fundamental laws of 1906; nicholas ii


Hosking, Geoffrey. (1973). The Russian Constitutional Experiment: Government and Duma, 190714. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Pares, Sir Bernard. (1939). The Fall of the Russian Monarchy. London: Jonathan Cape.

Pinchuk, Ben-Cion. (1974). The Octobrists in the Third Duma, 190712. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Tokmakoff, George. (1981). P. A. Stolypin and the Third Duma: An Appraisal of Three Major Issues. Washington, DC: University Press of America.

John M. Thompson


views updated Jun 08 2018


DUMA , Imperial Russian legislature, in existence between 1906 and 1917. The electoral law establishing the First Duma included no specific restrictions on the Jewish franchise. Although the Jewish socialist parties, and primarily the *Bund, boycotted the elections to the First Duma, the majority of Jews took an active part, voting for candidates of the Russian Constitutional Democratic Party (the Kadets). Twelve Jewish deputies, including five Zionists, were elected: L. *Bramson, G. *Bruk, M. Chervonenkis, S. Frenkel, G. Jolles, Nissan *Katzenelson, Shemaryahu Levin *M.*Ostrogorski, S. *Rosenbaum, M. *Sheftel, M. *Vinawer, and B. Yakubson. Nine of the deputies were affiliated to the Kadet fraction and three to the Labor group (Trudoviki). On May 15, 1906, a bill to grant civil equality to the Jews and repeal all discriminatory legislation on the ground of religion or nationality was brought in. When news of the pogrom in *Bialystok reached the Duma at the beginning of June 1906, it sent an investigating commission there. The commission's report placed the responsibility for the pogrom on the Russian authorities, and the debate on this burning issue terminated with the dissolution of the First Duma by the Russian government in July. The Jewish representatives took part in the subsequent convocation of protest held by Duma deputies in Vyborg, Finland, and joined in signing the "Vyborg Manifesto," which called on the Russian people to register passive resistance by refusing to pay taxes or enlist in the army. Jews were also among the deputies who were sentenced to three months' imprisonment for signing the manifesto and deprived of their elective rights.

The Second Duma, which met in February 1907, included only four Jewish deputies, and they were hardly known to the Jewish public: S. Abramson, L. Rabinovich, Y. Shapiro – affiliated to the Kadets – and V. *Mandelberg (Siberia), affiliated to the Social Democrats. The small number of Jewish members was the result of the organization and activities of the antisemitic groups who opposed the election of Jewish deputies on principle. Since the Jews were in the minority throughout the country they were unable to return Jewish deputies without the support of the non-Jewish electorate. A bill was laid before the Second Duma by the government abrogating all denominational restrictions in Russia excepting those imposed on the Jews. The premature dissolution of the Second Duma in June 1907 interrupted the debate on the bill.

The Third Duma (1907–12) was returned by a new electoral law which restricted ab initio representation of the national minorities and increased that of the landowners and clergy. It was overwhelmingly composed of right-wing elements. There were two Jewish deputies, N. *Friedman and L. *Nisselovich. The Jews were constantly attacked, especially by representatives of the extreme right such as Purishkevich and Zamyslowsky. A bill to abolish the *Pale of Settlement signed by 166 deputies met with ridicule and abuse from the antisemites. On the other hand, the assassination of Premier Stolypin and the *Beilis blood libel case provided an opportunity for scurrilous anti-Jewish attacks. The antisemites also proposed excluding Jews from the army.

Three Jews were elected to the Fourth Duma (1912–17), N. Friedman, M. Bomash, and E. Gurewich. A political office was established by a number of non-socialist Jewish parties to assist the Jewish deputies and provide guidance. The members of this bureau included Y. *Gruenbaum and I. Rosow (Zionists), S. *Dubnow and M. *Kreinin (Jewish Populist Party, Folkspartei), M. Vinaver and H. *Sliozberg (Jewish Peoples' Group), L. Bramson and A. *Braudo (Jewish Democratic Group), and O. *Grusenberg. During World War i the Jewish deputies were assigned to counteract the anti-Jewish vilification campaign spread by the army general staff and the restrictions introduced in its wake. It was on the initiative of the political office that deputy A. Kerensky paid a visit to the war zone: on his return he denied the libels from the podium of the Duma. The political office also appealed to the Duma to protest against the government memoranda of 1916 which accused the Jews of sabotaging the Russian war effort. After the February 1917 Revolution the Jews were granted equal rights and the "Jewish question" disappeared from the agenda of the Duma.


Y. Maor, in: He-Avar, 7 (1960), 49–90; J. Frumkin, in: Russian Jewry (18601917) (1966), 47–84; Dubnow, Hist Russ, 3 (1920), 131–42, 153–6.

[Yehuda Slutsky]


views updated May 23 2018

Duma ★★★ 2005 (PG)

Family friendly pic with a kid, a cat, and a beautiful setting. Xan (Michaletos) lives on a South African farm and adopts an orphaned cheetah cub he names Duma. When his father (Scott) dies, and Xan and his mom (Davis) must move to the city, Xan is determined to release Duma into the wild himself. Not a very bright idea, especially when he gets lost in the desert—only to be found by the shifty Ripkuna (Walker). Based on fact; adapted from the book “How It Was With Dooms” by Xan and Carol Hopcraft. And no, you can't have a pet cheetah, no matter how cute they are. 100m/C DVD . US Eam-onn Walker, Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Alexander Michaletos; D: Carroll Ballard; W: Karen Janszen; C: Werner Maritz.