The All-Russian Constituent Assembly

The All-Russian Constituent Assembly

Throughout the XIX century the idea of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly, which for the first time entered the program documents of the Decembrists, has been transformed with the socio-economic and political development of the country. In one form or another, it entered most of the works of the liberal intelligentsia, becoming a symbol of democracy. In the minds of Russian society it was the notion that the Constituent Assembly was capable of resolving all pressing state problems and overdue conflicts.

The revolutionary events of 1917 provided an opportunity to implement this long-standing idea. In the act of rejection of the throne of March 3 (16), 1917, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich agreed to accept power only if the people so agree to establish a new image of the country's government. Until then, he called for submission to the Provisional Government. It, in turn, undertook to immediately begin preparing for the convocation of the assembly on the basis of universal, equal, direct suffrage by secret ballot. The exact date was not established, it was assumed that the organization of the Constituent Assembly would take up to six months. On March 25 (April 7), the government established a Special Meeting to draft the Election Regulations. Its chairman was appointed one of the founders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, lawyer F. F. Kokoshkin. 8 special commissions were allocated to the meeting. After lengthy consultations with the members of the meeting, the elections were scheduled for September 17 (30), and the opening of the meeting on September 30 (October 13) in Petrograd. The search for the building and its accommodation to the assembly was taken by the special committee set up on May 24 (June 6), 1917 by the government. July 22 (August 4) the statement on elections was published.

On November 12 (25) All-Russian elections began.

However, the political plans of the new Bolshevik government came into conflict with the goals and objectives of the Constituent Assembly, the majority in which the party of Socialist-Revolutionaries was elected following the election results. Lenin dismissively called the meeting a "liberal idea". The Bolshevik M. S. Uritsky was put at the head of the Election Commission. On November 26 (December 9), the chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, V. I. Lenin, signed the decree "To the opening of the Constituent Assembly", demanding for its opening a quorum of 400 people, which postponed the beginning of the work of the meeting until all delegates gathered in Petrograd. It was also ordered that a representative of the Bolshevik Party should open the meeting. Two days later, outside the law, the party of people's freedom (cadets) was declared. Any "private meetings" of delegates to the Constituent Assembly were banned. In response to these actions, the Right SRs formed the "Union for the Protection of the Constituent Assembly".

On December 22 (January 3), the All-Russian Central Executive Committee appointed the opening of the Constituent Assembly on January 5 (18), 1918. On January 8 (21), the convocation of the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies was appointed as a counterbalance to the meeting. December 23 (January 4) in Petrograd a martial law was introduced. On 4 and 5 (January 17, 18) in “Izvestia” and “Pravda” a decision was made by the Central Executive Committee that any attempt by an institution to appropriate to itself the functions of state power would be suppressed by all means, up to the use of armed force. The demonstration in support of the meeting, which took place on January 5 (18), was shot.

In such conditions, by 4 pm on January 5 (18), 1918, delegates gathered in the building of the Tauride Palace. Right-wing SRs proposed the opening of the first meeting to a member of their party, the editor of the newspaper “Golos of Donskoy Zemli”, S. P. Shvetsov, while the Bolsheviks and the Left SRs instructed the chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, Y. M. Sverdlov, to make this mission. Since the latter was late, the right SRs attempted to take the initiative into their own hands. However, the appearance of SP Shvetsov on the rostrum was met with obstruction by the Bolsheviks and Left SRs. Nevertheless, he managed to announce the opening of the meeting, and then Y. M. Sverdlov already repeatedly invited the deputies to start work. The leader of the SR party, V. M. Chernov, was elected chairman of the meeting.

In the course of the debate on the agenda, the Bolsheviks and the Left SRs, at the suggestion of Y. M. Sverdlov, called for a focus on the discussion and approval of the "Declaration of the Rights of the Working and Exploited People" drawn up by Lenin. However, the meeting by a majority of 237 votes against 146 refused to discuss it. The agenda of the meeting proposed by the right-echelon faction, which included the question of peace, land, the form of the state system of Russia, the state regulation of industry, measures to combat unemployment and solve the food problem, the immunity of the Constituent Assembly and its deputies, the appeal to the Russian people. In the third hour of the night, the Bolshevik faction, in protest at the refusal of the delegates to approve the Declaration, left the meeting. They were joined by the Left SRs. At 4:40 in the morning of January 6 (19) the head of the guard, anarchist A. Zheleznyakov, suggested that the deputies disperse, indicating that the guard was tired. Nevertheless, the chairman V. M. Chernov, despite the absence of a quorum, managed to vote on the main provisions of the law on land, which proclaimed the land a public property. An appeal was made to the Allies about the conclusion of a just and universal peace, as well as a decree on the state structure, according to which Russia became the Russian Democratic Federal Republic. The delegates dispersed, deciding to meet on the same day at 5 pm, but by that time they had found the palace doors closed under heavy guard. On the same day, the decree of the Central Executive Committee was published on the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly.

The collection dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the convocation of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly included popular publications written in 1917 with the purpose of acquainting the country's population with the goals, tasks and features of the work of the assembly; materials of the meeting in the form of lists and certificates of delegates, verbatim record of the sole meeting, legislative projects that were discussed by the deputies; welcome telegrams of the public in connection with the opening of the meeting; documents that tell about the consequences and results of the meeting; as well as visual materials, depicting the meeting of January 5 (18) and its participants.

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