On December 11 and 12, 2013, the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg hosted the annual Tauride Readings, an international academic conference on parliamentary history. Among the presenters at the forum was Vladimir Kara-Murza, senior policy advisor at the Institute of Modern Russia.

 

Participants of the 2013 Tauride Readings in the old Duma Chamber at the Tauride Palace.

 

The Tauride Readings, a conference on Russian and international parliamentary history, have been held annually since 2007 under the auspices of Russia’s Center for the History of Parliamentarianism. As in previous years, the 2013 Tauride Readings were held at the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg—the seat of the Russian State Duma between 1906 and 1917, and the site of the first and only meeting of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly in January 1918. Since 1992, the Tauride Palace has served as the headquarters of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

This year, more than sixty historians participated in the Tauride Readings. Among them were leading experts in the field of Russian parliamentary history, including Professor Andrei Nikolayev (Herzen State Pedagogical University in St. Petersburg), Professor Igor Kiryanov (Perm State National Research University), Dr. Sergei Kulikov (St. Petersburg Institute of History at the Russian Academy of Sciences), Professor Vadim Demin (Moscow State Industrial University), Dr. Igor Lukoyanov (St. Petersburg Institute of History at the Russian Academy of Sciences), Professor David Raskin (St. Petersburg State University), Professor Dmitri Aronov (State University–Educational, Scientific and Industrial Complex in Orel), and Dr. Lyudmila Muromtseva (Lomonosov Moscow State University; she is also the great-niece of Sergei Muromtsev, speaker of the First State Duma). The conference was organized by Lidia Krokhina, director of the Center for the History of Parliamentarianism.

A topic rarely studied by historians, Kara-Murza’s paper raises important questions about the political choice facing Russia in 1906 and the consequences of the monarch’s refusal to seek compromise with Parliament.

The two-day forum featured roundtables and seminars devoted to various aspects of parliamentary history, including the mechanisms of elections and how the pre-revolutionary State Duma functioned, the attitude of members of the Romanov imperial family toward Parliament and that body’s role in the Russian state, and the participation of Duma members in the February 1917 revolution. An exhibition dedicated to the portrayal of the Second State Duma (1907) in the contemporary Russian press was presented in the atrium of the Tauride Palace.

IMR Senior Policy Advisor Vladimir Kara-Murza, a participant in the 2013 Tauride Readings, presented a paper on the attempt by the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party to form a government during the short existence of the First State Duma from April to July of 1906. The Kadets, who won the election and formed a majority in Parliament, maintained that only far-reaching reforms could forestall a revolution. In its quest, the party found allies at the top levels of the Czarist regime, but the plan was disrupted by Interior Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who convinced Nicholas II to dissolve the Duma. A topic rarely studied by historians, Kara-Murza’s paper raises important questions about the political choice facing Russia in 1906 and the consequences of the monarch’s refusal to seek compromise with Parliament. “Having dashed society’s hopes for a peaceful legislative transformation of the country, the Czarist authorities caused further radicalization and laid the ground for future revolutionary upheavals,” concluded the IMR senior policy advisor.

Following the 2013 Tauride Readings, the Center for the History of Parliamentarianism will publish an anthology (edited by Professor Andrei Nikolayev) with articles on Russian and international parliamentary history, including Vladimir Kara-Murza’s article, “The Quest to Form Parliamentary Government in the First Russian State Duma.”

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