Russian Revolution: the Duma

Exam task

Section A Question 1/2 – Russian Revolution


“How did the actions of the State Duma and its members contribute to the development of the Russian Revolution between 1905 and October 1917?”

Student response

“The promise of an elected state Duma in the Tsar’s October Manifesto (October 1905) pacified the masses. It allowed the intelligentsia and bourgeois to feel they had a political voice and gave hope to the tsar’s ability to share his autocratic power. The Tsar’s Fundamental State Laws (April 1906) cancelled out this promise any hope Russia had of an influential elected parliament, stating “Supreme Autocratic Power belongs to the Tsar”. When the elected group sat for parliament the Tsar saw the radical body as a threat to his power and dismissed both the first and second Duma. He then illegally changed electoral laws to ensure two moderate Dumas, which served full terms but having little to no political influence. Furthermore, the fourth Duma allowed future leaders such as Kerensky an opportunity to gain experiences and skills. Twelve of these members made up the Provisional Government in February 1917 upon the Tsars abdication. The authority of the Provisional Government was short lived, with a dual power shared with the Petrograd Soviet and political blunders such as the June Offensive (June 1917), Kornilov Affair (August 1917) and remaining in World War allowing revolutionaries such as the Bolsheviks to gain the advantage and to gain power. Thus, the Duma’s contributed the development of a revolutionary situation as they became a failed promise of the Tsar highlighting he was unwilling or unable to reform, they were unable to implement any relevant reforms and Leaders from the Forth Duma in the Provisional Government made a series of political mistakes costing them political power and resulting in the October Revolution.”

Teacher feedback

This response is a good though somewhat basic summary of the State Duma and its contribution to the revolution to October 1917. The first two sentences address the question to some extent, suggesting the formation of a Duma satisfied the disenfranchised middle and upper classes in late 1905 by promising them a political voice. It then correctly states that the Duma’s authority was undermined by the Tsar and the 1906 Fundamental Laws. More information was needed on the Dumas themselves, their composition and their actions between 1906 and 1917. The first two Dumas were repositories for liberal and socialist views and were strongly critical of tsarist autocracy and policy. The Duma, or more specifically its Provisional Committee, was also instrumental in organising against the Tsar in early 1917 and demanding his abdication. This response would score in the region of 7-8 out of 10.

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