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This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 755504).

 

Parliaments and Constitutions in Eurasia
 
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Over the course of the twentieth century, a broad array of parties as organizations of a new type took over state functions and replaced state institutions on the territories of the former Ottoman, Qing, Russian, and Habsburg Empires. In the context of roughly simultaneous imperial and postimperial transformations, organizations such as the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) in the Ottoman Empire (one-party regime since 1913), the Anfu Club in China (parliamentary majority since 1918), and the Bolshevik Party in Russia (in control of parts of the former empire since 1918), not only took over government power but merged with government itself. Disillusioned with the outcomes of previous constitutional and parliamentary reforms, these parties justified their takeovers with slogans and programs of controlled or supervised economic and social development. Inheriting the previous imperial diversities, they furthermore took over the role of mediators between the various social and ethnic groups inhabiting the respective territories. In this respect, the parties appropriated some of the functions which dynastic and then constitutional and parliamentary regimes had ostensibly failed to perform. In a significant counter-example, in spite of prominent aspirations, no one-party regime emerged in Japan, for there the constitutional monarchy had survived the empire's transformation to a major industrialized imperialist power. One-party regimes thrived on both sides of the Cold War and in some of the non-aligned states. Whereas several state socialist one-party regimes collapsed in 1989–1991, some of the communist parties have continued to rule, and new parties managed to monopolize political power in different Eurasian contexts.

Parliaments are often seen as Western European and North American institutions and their establishment in other parts of the world as a derivative and mostly defective process. This book challenges such Eurocentric visions by retracing the evolution of modern institutions of collective decision-making in Eurasia. Breaching the divide between different area studies, the book provides nine case studies covering the area between the eastern edge of Asia and Eastern Europe, including the former Russian, Ottoman, Qing, and Japanese Empires as well as their successor states. In particular, it explores the appeals to concepts of parliamentarism, deliberative decision-making, and constitutionalism; historical practices related to parliamentarism; and political mythologies across Eurasia. It focuses on the historical and “reestablished” institutions of decision-making, which consciously hark back to indigenous traditions and adapt them to the changing circumstances in imperial and postimperial contexts. Thereby, the book explains how representative institutions were needed for the establishment of modernized empires or postimperial states but at the same time offered a connection to the past.

Journal Special Issues

This special issue explores concepts and practices related to parliamentarism in the imperial and post-imperial transformations of the Qing and Russian Empires, as well as their successor states. It demonstrates that representative institutions were a crucial factor in the establishment of modernized empires or post-imperial states. In particular, the issue explores how the ‘mining’ of own imperial past and present for concepts and practices was used in combination with the globally circulating forms of representation in the development of parliamentary institutions, how particular interest groups defined through ethnicity, region, religion, or class were represented, and, ultimately, how the parliamentary developments informed the formation of single-party regimes in the post-imperial settings.

Addressing the entangled histories of deliberative decision making, political representation, and constitutionalism in several geographic and temporal contexts, this Special Issue offers nuanced political and intellectual histories and anthropologies of parliamentarism in Eurasia. It explores parliaments and quasi-parliamentary formations and the designs of such in the Qing and Russian Empires, the late Soviet Union, Ukraine, the Russian Far East, and the Russian-Mongolian borderlands (from Buryat and Mongolian perspectives) in seven contributions. Apart from the regional interconnections, the Special Issue foregrounds the concepts of diversity and empire to enable an interdisciplinary discussion. Understanding empires as composite spaces, where the ambivalent and situational difference is central for the governing repertoires, the articles discuss social (ethnic, religious, regional, etc.) diversity in particular contexts and the ways it affected the parliamentary designs. The multitude of the latter is understood as institutional diversity and is discussed in relation to different levels of administration, as well as the positions of respective parliamentary formations within political systems and their performance within regimes. The contributions also investigate different forms of deliberative decision-making, including the soviet, the Congress of People’s Deputies, and the national congress, which allows to include conceptual diversity of Eurasian parliamentarisms into the discussions in area and global studies. The Special Issue highlights the role of (quasi-)parliaments in dissembling and reassembling imperial formations and the ways in which parliaments were eclipsed by other institutions of power, both political and economic.

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Focusing on the debates in the First and Second State Duma of the Russian Empire, the article argues that the imperial parliament was the site for articulating and developing multiple approaches to political community. Together with the better studied particularistic discourses, which were based on ethno-national, religious, regional, social estate, class and other differences, many deputies of the State Duma, including those who subscribed to particularistic agendas, appealed to an inclusionary Russian political community. The production of this new, modern political community was part of the global trend of political modernization but often departed from the homogenizing and exclusionary logic of nation-building. It relied on the experience of the composite imperial space, with its fluid and overlapping social categories. Two approaches predominated. The integrative approach foregrounded civil equality. It resembled other cases of modern nation-building but still remained attentive to diversity. The composite approach synthesized particularistic discourses with the broadly circulating ideas of autonomy and federation and, relying on the imperial politics of difference, imagined individual groups as the building blocks of a new differentiated political community. Both approaches stressed loyalty to the Russian state but borrowed from aspirational patriotism, seeking to rebuild it on new principles.

The article discusses various meanings which were ascribed to religion in the parliamentary debates of the perestroika period, which included Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and other religious and lay deputies. Understood in a general sense, religion was supposed to become the foundation or an element of a new ideology and stimulate Soviet or post-Soviet transformations, either creating a new Soviet universalism or connecting the Soviet Union to the global universalism of human rights. The particularistic interpretations of religion viewed it as a marker of difference, dependent on or independent of ethnicity, and connected to collective rights. Despite the extensive contacts between the religious figures of different denominations, Orthodox Christianity enjoyed the most prominent presence in perestroika politics, which evoked criticisms of new power asymmetries in the transformation of the Soviet Union and contributed to the emergence of the Russian Federation as a new imperial, hierarchical polity rather than a decolonized one.

The State Conference in Moscow, a one-time quasi-parliamentary assembly of over 2,500 delegates, was intended to help the Provisional Government resolve the military, political, and economic crises of the First World War and the Russian Revolution by building a broad public consensus. Due to the inadequate representation at the conference, its duration and procedure, and the radically divergent platforms of major political forces, the assembly functioned as a political rally rather than a parliament. The attempt to resolve the crises by (re)constituting a Russian political community failed due to the conflicts formulated in terms of class and nationality and the contradictions between coercive discipline and self-organization as the principles of state- and nation-building. Even though the idea of the Russian nation prevailed at the conference, its participants did not agree if a post-imperial political community was to be homogeneous or composite, inclusive or exclusive, and if it was to be organized in a top-down or bottom-up manner.

The article offers a detailed analysis of the debates at the All-Russian Democratic Conference and in the Provisional Council of the Russian Republic (the Pre-Parliament), which followed the proclamation of the republic on September 1, 1917, and predated the Bolshevik-led insurgency on October 25. The two assemblies were supposed to help resolve the multilayered political, economic, and military crises of the First World War and the Revolution by consolidating a Russian postimperial political community and establishing a solid government. The debates demonstrated that grievances and antagonism, which were articulated in terms of class and nationality, made the idea of a broad nationalist coalition unpopular, since it would halt agrarian and other reforms and continue the negligence of non-Russian groups. Furthermore, those who still called for all-Russian national or civic unity split on the issue of community-building. The top-down, homogenizing and bottom-up, composite approaches proved irreconcilable and precluded a compromise between non-socialist and moderate socialist groups. The two assemblies hence failed to ensure a peaceful continuation of the postimperial transformation and did not lead to a broad coalition against right and left radicalism. The divisions, which were articulated in the two assemblies, translated into the main rifts of the Russian Civil War.

The study focuses on the position of female deputies of non-Russian descent in parliamentary debates of the Perestroika period in the Soviet Union. The key issues the author examines concern the grievances which these female deputies were pointing out, and the potential solutions they were proposing to mitigate or eliminate them. The most important forum where these debates were taking place was the Congress of People's Deputies (S"ezd narodnykh deputatov), which arose from partly pluralistic elections, was the supreme body of state power from 1989 to 1991, and meant a significant progress in the Communist leadership's efforts to democratize the political system. Gender-wise, the body was very unbalanced as women accounted for just 352 out of its 2,250 members. The author works with stenographic records of speeches of the female deputies of non-Russian descent at the five sessions of the Congress, viewing them through a prism of concepts of "intersectionality" and "imperial situation." The speeches of the female deputies often accentuated national grievances and hardships, which was indicative of a considerable importance of nationalism in Soviet discussions of the Perestroika period and in the systemic crisis of the USSR. However, they also showed that viewing problems in a nationalism-tinged perspectives did not necessarily mean seeking a nationalist solution, as many of the female deputies preferred looking for a solution within the Soviet Union to that consisting in sovereignty or even independence of its republics. The female deputies also insistently reflected urgent social, economic, professional, environmental, and local problems.

In early 1918, the Bolshevik-dominated Third Congress of Soviets declared the formation of a new composite polity—the Soviet Russian Republic. The congress’s resolutions, however, simultaneously proclaimed a federation of national republics and a federation of soviets. The latter seemed to recognize regionalism and localism as organizing principles on par with nationalism and to legitimize the self-proclaimed Soviet republics across the former Russian Empire. The current article compared two such non-national Soviet republics, those in Odessa and the Russian Far East. The two republics had similar roots in the discourses and practices of the Russian Empire, such as economic and de facto administrative autonomy. They also took similar organizational forms, were run by coalitions, and opposed their own inclusion into larger national and regional formations in Ukraine and Siberia. At the same time, both of the Soviet governments functioned as ad hoc committees and adapted their institutional designs and practices to the concrete—and very different—social and international conditions in the two peripheries. The focus of the Odessa and Far Eastern authorities on specific problems and their embeddedness in the peculiar contexts reflected the very idea of federalism as governance based on decentralization and nuance but contradicted the party-based centralization and the exclusivity of the ethno-national federalism in the consolidated Soviet state.

Drawing from samizdat (self-published) and tamizdat (foreign-published) materials, this article traces the understandings of parliaments and parliamentarism in individual works by Soviet dissidents and reconstructs the authors’ underlying assumptions in the application of the two ideas. It focuses on the articulations and the implications of four concepts pertaining to parliamentarism – deliberation, representation, responsibility, and sovereignty – in the dissidents’ criticisms of Soviet ‘parliamentarism’ and their own parliamentary designs. Despite the consensus that the USSR Supreme Soviet was both a façade and pseudo parliament and the frequent appeals to popular sovereignty, only a handful of authors discussed parliamentarism as the latter’s manifestation before the Perestroika. With very few dissidents placing deliberation at the centre of a post-Soviet order, the conviction that social and political systems should be based on an ‘ultimate truth’ and respective societal blueprints dominated the dissident discourse in which a parliament, if mentioned at all, was a rostrum rather than a forum.

Book Chapters

This chapter offers insights into the party-political formation initially intended by the South Korean military junta under the leadership of Park Chung Hee when it founded the Democratic Republican Party in 1963. It narrates political developments between the coup of May 1961 and the general election in 1963 relevant to the founding of the party. South Korea's first military junta sought to acquire popular mandate to stay in power by a demonstration of its adherence to the pledge of a swift return to civilian rule, albeit one in which its members would retire from the army and run as candidates of its own political party. To do so, it had its Supreme Council introduce legal or supra-constitutional devices to place political parties at the heart of the new political landscape and to assist its own party in securing hegemony. Ideology has played various roles in non-communist military regimes of the twentieth century but its role in 1960s South Korea was that of an antithesis. The country's geopolitical location, its position in the non-communist bloc and high economic and military dependence on the United States and other bloc nations, and the pronounced conservative and anti-communist tendencies of the majority of the voting public made anti-communism an important element of political programs. Ideological doubts cast by the United States and conservative politicians on coup leaders Park and Kim Jong-pil made the element indispensable. For the junta, the party politics to come after it lifted the universal ban on political activities had to be anything but a one-party system. Its leading members spoke of an alternative democracy different from the ill-fitting Western democracy but they had to deny labels like “guided democracy.” What resulted was a political party that spoke much more frequently about what it did not believe in, namely communism, Western democracy, and the one-party system, than what it did.

This chapter provides an overview of dependent constitution-making under one-party regimes in Albania, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, North Korea, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia during the first decade after the Second World War. Employing and further developing the concept of the informal Soviet empire, it discusses the structural adjustments in law and governance in the Soviet dependencies. The chapter outlines the development of the concepts of “people's republic” and “people's democracy” and discusses the process of adoption and the authorship of the constitutions. It then compares their texts with attention to sovereignty and political subjectivity, supreme state institutions, and the mentions of the Soviet Union, socialism, and ruling parties. Finally, it surveys the role of nonconstitutional institutions in political practices and their reflection in propaganda. The process of constitution-making followed the imperial logic of hierarchical yet heterogeneous governance, with multiple vernacular and Soviet actors partaking in drafting and adopting the constitutions. The texts ascribed sovereignty and political subjectivity to the people, the toilers, classes, nationalities, and regions, often in different combinations. Most of the constitutions established a parliamentary body as the supreme institution, disregarding separation of powers, and introduced a standing body to perform the supreme functions, including legislation, between parliamentary sessions, which became a key element in the legal adjustment. Some constitutions mentioned socialism, the Soviet Union, and the ruling parties. The standardization of governance in the informal Soviet empire manifested itself in the constitutional documents only partially. Propaganda and archival documents revealed the prominence of nonconstitutional institutions, parties, and leaders, as well the involvement of Soviet representatives in state-building. Domestic parties and leaders in the Soviet dependencies were also presented as subordinate to their Soviet counterparts in propaganda.

Over the course of the twentieth century, a broad array of parties as organizations of a new type took over state functions and replaced state institutions on the territories of the former Ottoman, Qing, Russian, and Habsburg Empires. In the context of roughly simultaneous imperial and postimperial transformations, organizations such as the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) in the Ottoman Empire (one-party regime since 1913), the Anfu Club in China (parliamentary majority since 1918), and the Bolshevik Party in Russia (in control of parts of the former empire since 1918), not only took over government power but merged with government itself. Disillusioned with the outcomes of previous constitutional and parliamentary reforms, these parties justified their takeovers with slogans and programs of controlled or supervised economic and social development. Inheriting the previous imperial diversities, they furthermore took over the role of mediators between the various social and ethnic groups inhabiting the respective territories. In this respect, the parties appropriated some of the functions which dynastic and then constitutional and parliamentary regimes had ostensibly failed to perform. In a significant counter-example, in spite of prominent aspirations, no one-party regime emerged in Japan, for there the constitutional monarchy had survived the empire's transformation to a major industrialized imperialist power. One-party regimes thrived on both sides of the Cold War and in some of the non-aligned states. Whereas several state socialist one-party regimes collapsed in 1989–1991, some of the communist parties have continued to rule, and new parties managed to monopolize political power in different Eurasian contexts.

Focusing on the term zemskii sobor, this study explored the historiographies of the early modern Russian assemblies, which the term denoted, as well as the autocratic and democratic mythologies connected to it. Historians have debated whether the individual assemblies in the sixteenth and seventeenth century could be seen as a coherent institution, what constituencies were represented there, what role they played in the relations of the Tsar with his subjects, and if they were similar to the early modern assemblies elsewhere. The growing historiographic consensus does not see the early modern Russian assemblies as a coherent institution. In the nineteenth–early twentieth century, history writing and myth-making integrated the zemskii sobor into the argumentations of both the opponents and the proponents of parliamentarism in Russia. The autocratic mythology, advanced by the Slavophiles in the second half of the nineteenth century, proved more coherent yet did not achieve the recognition from the Tsars. The democratic mythology was more heterogeneous and, despite occasionally fading to the background of the debates, developed for some hundred years between the 1820s and the 1920s. Initially, the autocratic approach to the zemskii sobor was idealistic, but it became more practical at the summit of its popularity during the Revolution of 1905–1907, when the zemskii sobor was discussed by the government as a way to avoid bigger concessions. Regionalist approaches to Russia’s past and future became formative for the democratic mythology of the zemskii sobor, which persisted as part of the romantic nationalist imagery well into the Civil War of 1918–1922. The zemskii sobor came to represent a Russian constituent assembly, destined to mend the post-imperial crisis. The two mythologies converged in the Priamur Zemskii Sobor, which assembled in Vladivostok in 1922 and became the first assembly to include the term into its official name.

The chapter focuses on two new institutions, the State Duma (Gosudarstvennaia duma) and Political Consultative Council (Zizhengyuan), which were introduced in the Russian and Qing Empires, when the two imperial formations joined the global constitutional transformations. The names of the two bodies pointed to the statist (etatist) rather than popular connotations of the new institutions. Furthermore, the State Duma and the Zizhengyuan were often explicitly distinguished from a Western parliament, even though the latter as a generalized notion was undoubtedly the main point of reference during the attempted imperial modernizations. Seeking to expand the current debate on the conceptual history of parliamentarism by including non-European histories, this chapter charts the genealogies of the two terms and positions them in the discussions of parliamentarism during the modernizations of the Russian and Qing Empires and during the post-imperial settlements.

Parliaments are often seen as institutions peculiar to the Euro-American world. In contrast, their establishment elsewhere is frequently thought of as a derivative and mostly defective process. Such simplistic tales of unilateral and imperfect transfers of knowledge have led to a suboptimal understanding of non-Western experiences, as well as of their contribution to the shaping of the global political landscape of the modern world. The present volume challenges Eurocentric visions by retracing the evolution of modern institutions of collective decision-making in Eurasia, more specifically in the Russian/Soviet, Qing/Chinese, Japanese, and Ottoman/Turkish cases. It argues that, over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, intellectuals and political actors across Eurasia used indigenous as well as foreign elements to shape their versions of parliamentary institutions for their own political purposes. It was through the creative agency of these often understudied actors that representative institutions have acquired a wide range of meanings throughout Eurasia and become a near-ubiquitous element of modern statehood.

The political system of early socialist-era Mongolia, established by the first Constitution in 1924, can be interpreted as a vernacular version of the Soviet system, in which the formally supreme representative body, the State Great Khural (“assembly”), was sidelined by the standing Presidium of the Small Khural and the Cabinet and eclipsed by the extraconstitutional party authorities. The establishment of this sham and nominal parliamentary system was a consequence of the Bolshevik new imperialism, the inclusion of the Mongolian People’s Republic into the informal Soviet empire, which occurred through both military control and structural adjustments under the supervision of the Communist International. The 1924 Mongolian Constitution, however, was not a mere copy of its Soviet 1918 and 1924 counterparts but a transimperial document. In its text and especially in the history of its making, it reflected the entangled imperial transformations of the Russian and Qing empires and featured both indigenous (Khalkha and Buryad-Mongol) agency and vernacular political discourses. Khural existed as a nonrepresentative yet deliberative consultative assembly in 1914–1919, while Tsebeen Jamtsarano attempted to make a Mongolian khural one of the world’s many parliaments, even though his draft constitution was affected by the practices of revolutionary Russia.

The chapter analyzed the debates on parliamentarism in the late Russian Empire and revolutionary Russia and explored how the idea of parliament helped intellectuals locate Russia globally. The establishment of the legislative State Duma and the adoption of the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire during the Revolution of 1905–1907 seemed to make Russia a constitutional state. Few intellectuals, however, viewed the Duma as a parliament equal to its Western counterparts. Despite their criticism of the Duma, numerous liberal and moderate socialist and nationalist thinkers generally supported parliamentarism, seeing Russian transformations as part of the perceived parliamentary universalism. Right and left radicals, by contrast, questioned the very necessity of a parliament. The right argued that Russia was self-sufficient and did not need Western democracy; the left rejected parliaments, claiming them a part of class exploitation and oppressive state machinery, and called for direct rule of the toilers to represent an alternative democratic modernity. The Bolshevik–Left Socialist Revolutionary coup in October 1917 and the dissolution of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly in January 1918 marked a halt in Russia’s participation in global parliamentary developments, which institutionally encompassed, inter alia, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and the Qing Empire (and the Republic of China) in the 1900s/1910s. Conceptually, it marked an end of the global parliamentary moment, as the Bolshevik–Left Socialist Revolutionary regime became the first practical take on non-parliamentary modernity.

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