Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

6The legislature

Men are in public life as in private, some good, some evil. The elevation of the one, and the depression of the other, are the first objects of all true policy.

(Edmund Burke) 1

The birth of parliamentarianism in Russia has been tortuous. Three times in Russian history a legislature has been dissolved by force: on 9 July 1906 Nicholas II used troops to dissolve the First State Duma, only two months after its convocation; the long-awaited Constituent Assembly met for only one day on 5 January 1918 and was forcibly prevented by the Bolsheviks from reconvening the next day; and on 21 September 1993 Yeltsin ordered the dissolution of the Russian Congress of People's Deputies (CPD) and the Supreme Soviet. In addition, the Soviet CPD, established amidst so many high hopes by Gorbachev in 1988-9, was prematurely terminated in September 1991, and its Supreme Soviet followed into the dustbin of history by the end of the year. The first two pre-revolutionary State Dumas were dissolved prematurely (the First, as noted, by force, and the Second lasted only three months from February-June 1907), the Third (1907-1912) lasted its full term, the Fourth was brought to a sudden end in February 1917, and none were marked by conspicuous success in bringing executive authority under effective control. After 1993, Russia tried once again to establish a viable parliamentary system.

The 1993 constitution abolished the two-tier system of Congress and Supreme Soviet and created a bicameral Federal Assembly: the upper house, the Federation Council (FC), made up of 178 representatives from Russia's eighty-nine federal components; and the lower house, the State Duma, with 450 deputies elected for a four-year term in normal circumstances. The establishment of the Federal Assembly marked a decisive break with Soviet traditions. The constitution outlined the functions of the two chambers of parliament, with the powers granted to the Assembly balanced by countervailing powers of the executive. Although the powers granted to the Federal Assembly are relatively weak, they are far from negligible.


The State Duma

The State Duma elected in December 1993 was an interim one and lasted only two years, on the grounds that the pace of change was too rapid for a long parliamentary term. The accompanying debate over the new electoral law sought to draw on world experience. The simple first-past-the-post system, as practised in Britain, was considered unfair, and a mixed territorial and party system, as applied in Germany,

-125-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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