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Democratic mythology

The democratic mythology of the zemskii sobors emerged in the 1820s with the fusion of civic89 and romantic nationalism in the Decemberist Revolt of 1825. Since the 1850s, the evaluations of the zemskii sobors vis-à-vis European parliaments accompanied the historiographic and political debates. The ideas of decentralization proved especially important for the development of the democratic mythology. Since the 1860s, the idea of the zemskii sobor had attracted the attention of oppositional intellectuals who integrated it into their political programs, with the establishment of a zemskii sobor becoming a slogan of some Russian socialists and regionalists. Several historical works developed the vision of the zemskii sobor as a Russian “parliament” or a “proto-parliament,” but the term in such interpretation did not enter the mainstream liberal discourse. The democratic interpretations of the zemskii sobor nevertheless predominated during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922, even though the concept proved marginal compared to the much more popular slogan of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly.

The concept of an early modern representative institution was known to the Russian ruling elites (see Chapter 1 in this volume). The word sobor was sometimes used in the translated news on the European assemblies in the seventeenth century, for instance, when discussing the English Parliament in 1627-1628, but the term seJm (soim) was more frequent. The adjective zemskii was, however, often used in relation to foreign assemblies, dubbed zemskaia soim. The word parliament (parlament) was used in the discussion of English politics already in the 1640s.90

In the eighteenth century, foreign terms predominated, and it was only sovet which was continuously used for the projected and introduced collegial bodies, such as the Supreme Privy Council ( Verkhovnyi tainyi sovet), which was supposed to limit autocracy in 1730, or the Imperial Council (Imperatorskii sovet), which was another proposed body for limiting autocracy in 1762.91 The participants of the 1730 discussions did not reference the sobors at all and drew inspiration from the Sejm of Poland-Lithuania. Vasilii Nikitich Tatishchev, who authored one of the first modern takes on Russian history in the first half of the eighteenth century, also did not discuss the sobors as an institution when investigating Russia’s political development.92

The nationalization (or vernacularization) of the discourse on modern representative institutions happened in Russia before the terms entered historical mainstream. The statesman Mikhail Mikhailovich Speranskii became the first to introduce the word duma into the modern political discourse in his project of the legislative State Duma and the dumas at different levels of self-government in 1809. Furthermore, he did so with a direct appeal to the supposed attempts to limit autocracy under Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich through the council which included “part of the people.”93 Karamzin contributed to the rejection of the

State Duma by Alexander I by accusing Speranskii of the attempts to reduce the status of the monarch to that of the executive branch.94 The 1820 constitutional project, submitted by Nikolai Nikolaevich Novosil’tsev, the Russian official in charge of the Kingdom (Tsardom) of Poland at the time, used the Polish word sejm and the State Duma interchangeably for the projected parliament. Its lower Ambassadorial Chamber was to include zemskie posly “ambassadors of the land,” just like in Poland-Lithuania. Even though the term was also borrowed from the Constitution, which Alexander I granted to the Kingdom of Poland in 1815, just like sejm, the word zemskie was a Russian addition. The project was also rejected by Alexander I.95

Karamzin contributed to both autocratic and democratic takes on the historical assemblies. Karamzin wrote that it was the government around Tsar Fedor I which convened the velikaia duma zemskaia of the clergy, gentry, and all honorable people for settling some general matters of the state, generalizing that such dumas were convened for important state decisions.96 Karamzin also implied the right of the duma zemskaia to depose a monarch, claiming that Vasilii Ivanovich Shuiskii told his opponents that only this institution of “great boyars and state ranks” could resolve the fate of the country and his own and depose him.97 Furthermore, Karamzin mentioned that the Russians considered limiting autocracy by delegating the authority in justice and taxation to the boyars and “civil legislation” to a zemskaia duma in the talks with the Poles during the Time of Troubles.98 As mentioned above, Karamzin also paid attention to the duma zemskaia existing without a Tsar during this period.99

Even though Karamzin’s detailed discussion of the duma zemskaia was published in 1829, the future participants of the 1825 Decemberist Revolt used the terms duma and sobor in Karamzin’s interpretation of such a historical assembly in their political projects already in the first half of the 1820s. Ivan Dmitrievich lakushkin drafted an address to Alexander I, suggesting to convene a zemskaia duma for overcoming Russia’s troubles, just like the Tsar’s ancestors did. According to Kondratii Fedorovich Ryleev's testimony, if the Decemberist Revolt succeeded, the Great sobor of popular representatives would make decisions on the future of the dynasty, the system of government, and Poland’s independence. Nikita Mikhailovich Murav’ev, whose acquaintance with Karamzin's studies was documented, included the archaic terms into his draft Constitution. In Murav’ev’s federalist project, the Supreme Duma ( Verkhovnaia duma) was the lower chamber of the federal parliament, called the People’s Assembly (Narodnoe veche). Each state of the federation was also to have a bicameral parliament, with a derzhavnaia duma (“duma of a state”) being one of the chambers. Murav’ev reserved the right to amend the Constitution and elect a new Tsar for the “People’s” (Narodnyi) and State sobors. The constitutional project of Pavel Ivanovich Pestel’ also included a parliament, called Narodnoe veche, while the Derzhavnaia duma was the proposed name for the cabinet. Pestel’ also spoke of a “controlling” (bliustitel ’naia) branch of power, which was to be represented by the Supreme sobor (Verkhnovnyi sobor). Furthermore, his project featured the convocation of a constituent sobor (called “people’s” or “representative”). According to Pestel’, the latter could not,

The assembly of the land (zemskii sobor) 121 however, be convened immediately due to the lack of foundations for representative rule in Russia and therefore a provisional government was needed after the revolt.100 After the Decemberist Revolt was suppressed, the suggestions to revive a supposed historical Russian assembly as a modern democratic institution subsided for several decades.

Since the 1840s, the Westernizers, the opponents of Russia’s exclusivity, polemicized with the Slavophiles on the nature of historical institutions. In 1847, Vissarion Grigor'evich Belinskii rejected the idea that consensus at the veche and. in the case of Novgorod, between the veche and the prince was unique for the Slavic community. He argued that it embodied decision-making by majority and was hence the same as in constitutional states, including constitutional monarchies. He then argued that it was the Germanic peoples who developed the communal principle by making law its foundation.101 The Westernizers also criticized the Slavophile moral idealism. Konstantin Nikolaevich Bestuzhev-Riumin, for instance, argued in 1862 that absolute consensus (edinoglasie) was incompatible with the civil society, which was based on the straggle of opinions and parties. He denounced the Slavophile interpretation of the zemskii sobor as the “veche of the whole Russian land,” arguing that the early modern sobors were an institutional development rather than a revival of an ancient assembly.102

In the early 1860s, however, historical terms again became popular among the critics of autocracy, stimulating the development of the zemskii sobor’s democratic mythology. The ideas of regionalism and decentralization proved especially important for Shchapov’s interpretation of the zemskii sobor, which he articulated in late 1860 in his first lecture at the University of Kazan.103 Shchapov located the origins of the zemskii sobors in the original “land-regional” (zemsko-oblastnaia) form of the “historical development of the Great Russian people.” According to Shchapov, the regions were lands and hence a regional popular assembly was called zemskii sovet. Shchapov argued that the 1613 “Zemskii sobor" (or sovet) embodied the “land-regional” form’s principle of zemskoe narodosovetie (“the people-council [system] of the land”) and formally limited autocracy. He argued that later sobors functioned on the same principle. According to Shchapov, in the second half of the seventeenth century, this form gave way to the “state-union” one, and the state began to play the leading role.104 A few months later, in May 1861, Shchapov sent a letter to Alexander II outlining a reform project based on his theory. He proposed “reestablishing” the regional all-estate zemskii sovets and the central zemskii sobors (or sovets), elected by the former, as a continuation of the general revival of the ancient structure, which for Shchapov began with the emancipation of the serfs on February 19, 1861. The central sobors were supposed to discuss state matters, represent provincial interests and needs, report on taxes, and provide information for legislation.105

In his letter to the imperial official Pavel Petrovich Viazemskii, written in October 1861, Shchapov outlined his federalist vision of future Russia, consisting of self-organized communities, and based on zemskoe narodosovetie. He reiterated the claim that the Great Moscow zemskii sovet or sobor of 1613 limited autocracy by a written act, which the Tsars Alexei Mikhailovich and Peter

I violated. Furthermore, Shchapov stressed that the people elected the Tsar but made the wrong choice. Shchapov then suggested that during the celebration of the l,OOOth anniversary of Russia’s statehood, which was supposed to take place in 1862, the people should gather for a new zemskii sobor, either by themselves or after being summoned by the Tsar, “renounce the emperor and centralization, grant autonomy to Poland, Ukraine, Great Russia, Siberia, and all provinces, and create a federative social democratic constitution, the union, communal-democratic zemskoe narodosovetie.” Shchapov asserted that by initiating the bottom-up self-organization of the whole country thr ough assemblies at different levels and ultimately through the “all-Russian great union or federal zemskii sovet, s "ezd (‘congress’), sobor” was the way for the Tsar to avoid a revolution. The Tsar, Shchapov argued, would naturally have to renounce autocracy.106 In March 1862, he published an article in a Saint Petersburg periodical on the zemskii sobors in the seventeenth century where he again mentioned the role of the 1613 assembly as a popular government and the act which supposedly limited autocracy.107

Aleksandr Ivanovich Gertsen and Nikolai Platonovich Ogarev, living in London, and other authors of the émigré opposition articulated the idea of the zemskii sobor as a manifestation of popular sovereignty even more prominently. Shchapovs’s letter to Viazemskii was copied and sent to Gertsen by the members of the first Land and Freedom (Zemlia i volia) secret society (1861-1864) in early 1862.10S In late 1862, Gertsen used the terms duma and zemskii sobor as synonyms for a parliament, to which the cabinet should be responsible. His newspaper Kolokol (“The Bell”) also published a proclamation of Russian officers in Poland then, which called for convening a zemskii sobor, elected from the whole Russian land, for establishing a union of autonomous regions and a rational system, which was similar to Shchapov’s ideas. The same year, Petr Vladimirovich Dolgorukov, another émigré author, suggested establishing constitutional monarchy, with the zemskaia duma (which in his 1860 historical narrative of Russia was a synonym to zemskii sobor) being one of the parliament’s chambers. Petr Alekseevich Mart’ianov, a former serf, who also emigrated to London and met Gertsen and Ogarev there, outlined his vision of the future Russian state in a letter to Alexander II and a pamphlet in 1862. In the letter, Mart’ianov proposed the concept of estateless people’s monarchy, headed by a zemskii Tsar. In the pamphlet, he defined the people as the zemstvo, which was oppressed by the state. In the new system, proposed by Mart’ianov, the representative government of the people was to be headed by the Great All-Popular zemskaia duma, the manifestation of the union and unity of the whole Slavic world.109

The term zemskii sobor predominated among the émigré opposition. In June 1862, Ogarev, who advocated making Russia a federation of autonomous regions since 1861,110 interpreted the zemskii sobor as a parliament, limiting autocracy, in a draft address to Alexander II, which was approved by Gertsen and Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin but never submitted. In early 1863, Gertsen claimed that the year 1862 was a pause, after the 1861 emancipation of the serfs, and the eve of the convocation of a zemskii sobor. The latter was supposed to limit autocracy through a constitution, which had to be composed by the people and the Tsar by

February 19, 1863. Gertsen concluded by urging Alexander II to trust his people at the anticipated zemskii sobor. Over the course of 1863, Kolokol published Ogarev’s article Constitution and the Zemskii sobor. He defined the zemskii sobor as the congress of deputies, which was supposed to be elected from the whole zemstvo (most likely “the people” in Mart'ianov’s understanding) in estateless elections and to organize the Russian land according to the needs of the zemstvo. It was supposed to legalize land use rights, introduce elected administration and court, regulate the relations between regions, and establish a new system of government. The first zemskii sobor was supposed to be provisional and elected from districts. It was to establish the new system of the state, delimiting the borders between regions and granting the legal basis for regional dumas. The second zemskii sobor was supposed to convene, based on the new laws, as a permanent body of regional deputies.111

The words zemskii and zemstvo proved important for the continued reforms. During the preparations to the introduction of the zemstvo (zemskoe, “local” or "rural” in this context) self-government on provincial and district levels in parts of the Russian Empire, which was eventually implemented on January 1, 1864, there was a discussion of possible introduction of an empire-wide zemstvo body. In 1863, Minister of Internal Affairs Petr Aleksandrovich Valuev, who briefly employed Shchapov as an expert on Old Believers,112 presented the project of a Congress of State Deputies under the State Council to be elected by provincial zemstvo assemblies113 and cited the widespread praises to the zemskii sobors of the past in the note which accompanied it.114 Although Alexander II rejected the project, the discussions of a possible assembly continued. Among the representatives of the nobility, who advocated the convocation of an assembly since 1858 and mentioned a possible zemskaia duma since 1862, Vladimir Petrovich Orlov-Davydov was the first to use the word sobor when speaking of an institution uniting individual zemstvo assemblies in 1865.115

The limited character of the reforms stimulated radical opposition. The estateless zemskii sobor became one of the goals of the first Land and Freedom society.116 Gertsen argued in 1867 that the convocation of a great sobor without the distinction of classes was the only means to reveal the true needs of the people and overcome the crisis in Russia without a coup, terror, and horror. Gertsen defined the sobor as “the first constituent assembly” or the first parliament, which would mean the freedom of speech and a legal foundation for progress.117 Mykhailo Petrovych Drahomanov, who initially supported the reformism of Alexander II, became radicalized during the suppression of the Ukrainian national movement. Supporting the slogans of federalism and decentralization, Drahomanov claimed during the 1877-1878 Russo-Ottoman War in the Balkans that Russia first needed to become a free country, a free federation of Slavs. He called for extending the competence of local self-government through a reform of the zemstvos and for an immediate election of a zemskii sobor, a transitional institution on the way to further reforms. Like for Shchapov and Bakunin, for Drahomanov the local units were the foundation of the future federation, organized in a bottom-up manner. According to Drahomanov, the all-Russian zemskii sobor was expected to immediately grant personal freedoms, freedom to all cultural and national groups, and self-government.118

The democratic understanding of the zemskii sobor spread within Russia among the members of the zemstvo bodies and in secret organizations. In 1879, Ivan Il’ich Petrunkevich and other zemstvo activists of the Chernigov Province supported the idea of a zeniskii sobor. In his program of the zemstvo movement, published the same year, Petrunkevich, however, spoke of a constituent assembly as the movement’s goal.119 With the spread of the idea of a constituent assembly among the radical opposition, the term zemskii sobor consolidated as its synonym. The revolutionary organization People’s Will (Narodnaia volia), formed in 1879, included it in this sense into its program. Its members used the terms constituent assembly, zemskii sobor, and zemskoe sobranie (“the assembly of the land”) interchangeably.120

New historical interpretations of the zemskii sobor accompanied the political developments. Chicherin, whose 1866 work On Popular Representation became the first major study of parliamentarism in Russian, located Russia in Europe and defined the historical zeniskii sobors as estate-representative institutions, which were comparable to their European counterparts. He nevertheless concluded that the geographic conditions, the lack of corporatist foundations and communal self-organization, and the peculiarities of elite development in Russia precluded the sobors ’ development into a representative institution with political rights. Furthermore, the estate representation, according to Chicherin, was worked out in a top-down manner for organizing the disjointed and mobile population. Connecting his work to contemporary developments and discussing consultative assemblies, Chicherin argued against the revival of irregular assemblies like the Estates General and the zemskii sobors, suggesting that the new political situation demanded permanent institutions. He also maintained that introducing estate assemblies would only have negative consequences. According to Chicherin, it was only after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 that Russia started to organize the civil life on the principles of "universal liberty and law,” the principles which were at the foundation of all European peoples and the precondition for representative institutions. He nevertheless argued against the latter's immediate introduction and in favor of the gradual development of social conditions.121

In his 1875 work, Sergeevich continued the comparative studies of the zemskii sobors and European parliaments, finding similarities with the Estates General and the English Parliament in the composition of some sobors. He also concluded that even though it was hard to determine the legal status of the sobors, they were not merely consultative. Sergeevich opposed both the Slavophile idealization of the sobors and their complete dismissal, calling them representative institutions in their embryonic state and deeming them “undoubtedly useful” for the direct communication between the Tsar and the people, which inter alia countered administrative arbitrariness.122

The interpretations of the zemskii sobors as part of the gradual political development contributed to the discussions of reforms. When commenting on his project of introducing consultation with local self-government in 1881, Mikhail

Tarielovich Loris-Melikov mentioned zemskaia diima and zemskii sobor, although he was against the revival of “ancient representation” under the new conditions.123

The possible formation of a zemskii sobor of self-government bodies found support among Loris-Melikov’s opponents, who rejected constitutionalism.124 Rostislav Andreevich Fadeev, a general and a Panslavist author, summarized their ideas in several letters in 1879-1880, first published in 1881. According to Fadeev, the autocratic government had to rely on zemstvo instead of bureaucracy and officers in order to save Russia from “turning into hell.” A new, reformed, zemstvo, “organized and closely connected to the government,” was supposed to take place of the nobility as the stabilizing “social force” locally. Although Fadeev argued that zemstvo would limit only bureaucracy and not autocracy itself, he suggested that the reform had to be developed locally by the representatives of three social estates - landowners, peasants, and merchants - to be united in provisional consultative committees. Despite the frequent appeals to autocracy, Fadeev’s project was that of decentralization, since he expected zemstvo to acquire major fiscal and economic competence. Furthermore, the zemstvo reform was supposed to bring about the convocation of all-Russian consultative zemskii sobors by the government. Relying on Slavophile ideas and appealing to the “zemskii sobors" of the past, Fadeev expected the sobors only to inform the government about local needs, stressed the moral aspects of the proposed system, emphasized that the sobors had little in common with “the European parliament,” and firmly rejected a constitution as a contract between the Tsar and the people.125 Fadeev’s project hence fused autocratic and democratic understandings of the zemskii sobor.

The assassination of Alexander II by the members of the People’s Will on March 1, 1881, prevented him from approving Loris-Melikov’s consultation reform. During the prosecution of the organization’s members in 1882, Aleksandr Dmitrievich Mikhailov, one of them, used the term zemskoe uchreditel’noe sobranie (“the constituent assembly of the land”), which was to be universally elected. lurii Nikolaevich Bogdanovich, another member of the organization, stressed in his testimony that the people were to decide all major state matters at a zemskii sobor when discussing the program of the People’s Will. Other members, however, interpreted the zemskii sobor as an unneeded concession from the government. In 1882, Petr Lavrovich Lavrov opposed the simultaneous demands to convene a zemskii sobor from the government and the attempts to stage a coup against it, arguing that a zemskii sobor of nobles, bureaucrats, merchants, and rich peasants would not defend social interests.126

The connection between the terrorists of the People’s Will and the zemskii sobor proved important for the public debates, contributing to the rejection of the institution in its Slavophile version, proposed by Ignat’ev, in 1882. Despite the publications by I. S. Aksakov and Golokhvastov, other conservative authors opposed it. Rejecting the idea of a zemskii sobor, Mikhail Nikiforovich Katkov stressed that Andrei Ivanovich Zheliabov, one of the organizers of Alexander H’s assassination, and other radicals used it as their slogan.127 The Geneva newspaper Vol’noe slovo (“Free Word”) (1881-1883), which was edited by Drahomanov and was possibly a government-sponsored organ of a fictitious opposition group, continued to use the term zemskii sobor in its more moderate constitutional reform suggestions.128 Vladimir Il’ich Lenin was among those who considered the convocation of a zemskii sobor by the government as a means to Russia’s political liberation in the 1890s.129

In the 1890s and 1900s, zemstvo activists greatly contributed to the production of the oppositional discourse. According to Ivan Petrovich Belokonskii, a zemstvo employee, the liberal zemstvo opposition consolidated around 1891-1892, agreeing on the need for a “popular representation” (a parliament). In 1895, however, Nicholas II rejected the zemstvos’ interest in participation in the government, pledging to defend autocracy. Dmitrii Nikolaevich Shipov, who chaired the Moscow Provincial Zemstvo Administration, nevertheless initiated unofficial congresses of provincial zemstvo heads in 1896. Although the government tried to prevent regular zemstvo congresses, zemstvo activists continued to meet and discuss possible reforms. The more radical part of the liberal opposition, active both in Russia and abroad, opposed a future zemskii sobor in 1903-1904, which some activists proposed, due to its unclear relations to autocracy and unclear membership. Although Shipov supported a consultative zemskii sobor, he continued to partake in the movement which shifted toward constitutionalism. The majority at the unofficial zemstvo congress (also known as the first “legal” one), which took place on November 6-9,1904, in Saint Petersburg and was chaired by Shipov, supported a legislative “popular representation.”130

Some proponents of terrorism in the Party of Socialists Revolutionaries (formed in 1902) named the convocation of a popular zemskii sobor as the condition for stopping the terror, since it would hold the arbitrariness of the government in check in a peacefill and civilized maimer, in the early 1900s.131 The more radical left, however, rebuked the slogan. Responding to the assassination of Minister of Internal Affairs Viacheslav Konstantinovich fon Pleve by a Socialist Revolutionary in July 1904, an anarchist group opposed the slogan of a zemskii sobor, claiming that it would simply legalize the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and called for the struggle against capital and the state in a proletarian uprising.132 In November 1904, an Odessa anarchist-communist group dismissed the promises of “political freedom and a zemskii sobor" by the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats, claiming that they would simply replace the autocratic oppression with constitutional and citing the violence against workers in politically free countries.133 During the Revolution of 1905-1907, in March 1905, a further anarchist proclamation dismissed the zemskii sobor as a tool of exploitation to be used by the rich, again opposing the Social Democrats. It called for violence against the exploiters and concluded with the slogans against private property and the state.134 In April 1905, an anarchist proclamation dismissed the slogans of a zemskii sobor and a constituent assembly, as well as parliamentarism in general, claiming that socialists in a parliament only brought more harm.135 The same year, one anarchist group wrote in its proclamation: “Blessed is he who throws a bomb at the zemskii sobor on the first day of its convocation.”136

Interestingly, it was a right-wing author, Sharapov, who returned to the zemskii sobor in the context of decentralization after the introduction of the State Duma.

Sharapov’s 1907 futuristic “political fantasy” Dictator was anti-parliamentary, but it borrowed a lot from the democratic interpretations of the zemskii sobor. In the text, the future dictator of Russia (working under the Tsar) immediately dissolved the State Duma, abolished the new parliamentary system, and announced the convocation of a zemskii sobor, which was to work out the new fundamental laws. Sharapov not only defined the sobor as a constituent body but also suggested that it would divide Russia into large self-governing regions. Furthermore, self-government bodies were supposed to discuss legislation before its final approval by the sobor.137 In a way, Sharapov returned to Fadeev’s ideas but was more influenced by the democratic understanding of the zemskii sobor.

With the introduction of the State Duma, the zemskii sobor lost its relevance as a democratic slogan. The polemics on the historical sobors, however, continued. In 1905, loannikii Alekseevich Malinovskii, for instance, underscored both the development of representation at the sobors in the seventeenth century and the supposed exercise of supreme authority by the 1648-1649 sobor. Citing the works of Sergeevich and Mikhail Flegontovich Vladimirskii-Budanov, Malinovskii claimed that the sobors were not merely consultative and concluded that the sobors proved that the principles of political and civil liberty were not alien to Russia.138 Boris Borisovich Glinskii included the zemskii sobors, as a representative institution and a kind of “popular rule” or democracy, into his narrative of the struggle for constitution in a series of articles in 1905-1907. Like Shchapov, he maintained that Peter I destroyed the principle of democracy, noted the recent ban on using the term zemskii sobor in publications, and claimed that the idea survived among those who were dissatisfied with the existing order.139

Mikhail Vasil’evich Klochkov did not share such a view on the zemskii sobors in his popular publication in 1905. He acknowledged that historians had previously portrayed the zemskii sobors as “deeply popular” institutions but maintained that the introduction of new sources disenchanted them. Klochkov argued that the zemskii sobors lagged behind Western parliaments, since they were not convened according to law but in line with the desire of the supreme authority, were a primitive form of popular representation, and were hence hardly suitable for Russia at the thr eshold of a “new, better life.”140

The zemskii sobor, however, still had a place in the democratic mythology. Mikhail Vladimirovich Rodzianko, the Chairman of the State Duma, noted in his memoirs that for the official celebrations of the 300th anniversary of House Romanov in 1913, the members of the Duma were assigned places in the back, behind the State Council and the Senate. Rodzianko claimed that he had to tell the organizers of the ceremony that since the celebration had to be a popular festival, one should not have forgotten that in 1613 it was the people in the “Zemskii sobor” and not a group of bureaucrats who elected the Tsar. According to Rodzianko, the argument worked and the organizers made the Senate cede its place to the Duma.141

The zemskii sobor as a democratic slogan and a metaphor returned during the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War of 1918-1922. Interestingly, it was the anarchist Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin who internalized the ironic interpretation of the Moscow State Conference of August 1917 as a zemskii sobor and called it the “the sobor of the Russian land,” which needed to declare Russia a republic.142 In the anticipation of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly, the Old Believer activist Nikolai Petrovich Anufriev published a pamphlet, comparing the “constituent assemblies” of 1613 and 1917. He claimed that the idea of sobor as the way to reestablish authority became part of the popular consciousness during the Time of Troubles and that the sobors were supposed to be permanent due to Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov’s minority, representing hence parliamentary statehood in modern terms, but the idea of a people’s Tsar failed. Anufriev concluded that the anticipated All-Russian Constituent Assembly could constitute Russia on new principles, similar to the 1613 “Zemskii sobor,” but in order to avoid new “troubles” it needed to resolve social problems as well.143

The projects of a zemskii sobor emerged both on the left and on the right. According to some sources, Lavr Georgievich Kornilov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, whose attempted coup failed in late August 1917, planned to establish a representative body during the anticipated dictatorial regime and to call this body a sobor, possibly a zemskii one. Vasilii Stepanovich Zavoiko, a businessman and one of Kornilov’s associates, was allegedly the main advocate of the idea. According to other sources, Zavoiko simply meant the inclusion of the clergy, the Local Council (Sobor) of the Russian Orthodox Church, which assembled on August 15, 1917, into the Extraordinary State Duma, the legislative authority he envisioned.144 During the Bolshevik-Left Socialist Revolutionary Coup of October 25-26, 1917, Grigorii Il’ich Shreider, the moderate Socialist Revolutionary Mayor of Petrograd, attempted to rally the opposition around the Committee of Public Safety. In order to strengthen its positions, Shreider initiated the convocation of the “all-Russian zemskii sobor” of zemstvo and municipal self-government bodies, but only representatives of several provinces arrived by November 9, 1917, the planned opening date, and Shreider decided to call it the Conference of Representatives of Local Self-Government instead.145

Some participants of the White movement used the constituent assembly and the zemskii sobor as synonymous slogans and rhetorical devices during the Civil War. The government of Aleksandr Vasil'evich Kolchak in Siberia (1918-1920), for instance, refrained from recognizing Finnish independence, claiming that this could only be done by such an assembly. According to the program of the Western Volunteer Army in the Baltic region (1918-1919), the zemskii sobor (the constituent assembly) was supposed to determine the relations of the new postimperial states, fighting the Bolsheviks, with Russia, which in practice allowed it to ignore Latvian independence. In October 1919, the Czechoslovak politician Karel Kramarz proposed his draft Constitution of Russia to Russian émigrés in Paris. The project, which was later discussed in the anti-Bolshevik areas in the south of Russia, proposed a constitutional monarchy or a republic with a Tsar or a president as the head of state. If the system was to become monarchical, then each Tsar was to be elected from the House Romanov by the parliament for life. Explaining this compromise between monarchy and popular sovereignty, Kramarz cited the 300-year-long tradition dating back to the 1613 assembly.146

The idea of the zemskii sobor as a democratic institution proved especially prominent in Siberia. On July 7, 1919, Ivan Aleksandrovich lakushev, a Socialist Revolutionary and Siberian Regionalist, presented a proclamation to the population of Siberia to the Irkutsk Provincial Zemstvo Assembly, calling for the convocation of a zemskii sobor as a parliamentary body. In the fall of 1919, the Socialist Revolutionary zemstvo activists in Irkutsk refused to participate in the State Zemstvo Conference, discussed by the Kolchak government, demanded the convocation of a legislative zemskii sobor instead, and proposed a democratic “buffer” state in Siberia. In November 1919, the Czechoslovak commander Radola Gajda joined lakushev in organizing an uprising in Vladivostok, which was supposed to end with the convocation of a zemskii sobor, but it was suppressed by Kolchak's subordinates. The Siberian Regionalist Viktor Nikolaevich Pepeliaev, who became Kolchak’s Prime Minister later the same month, also called for an immediate convocation of a zemskii sobor.147

After the Kolchak government collapsed under the Bolshevik offensive and the successful Socialist Revolutionary coup in Irkutsk in early 1920, it was Zavoiko who proposed a zemskii sobor to the new non-Bolshevik authorities in the Far East. Zavoiko’s ideas were close to those of the Siberian Regionalists, as he aspired to start rebuilding Russia by organizing Siberia through a Siberian zemskii sobor.

In 1920, he published a draft Constitution in Japan. The draft pertained only to the Maritime Region but envisioned a reunited Russian federation and reaffirmed the idea of convening a zemskii sobor. It drew heavily on the US Constitution but included conservative elements, such as the elimination of political parties.149

When the Priamur Zemskii Sobor was about to convene in Vladivostok in the summer of 1922, there still was no consensus on what the assembly meant, and both the autocratic and democratic mythologies informed the discussions. Indeed, the Socialist Revolutionary slogan of a zemskii sobor as a legislative assembly and its more conservative reinterpretation by Zavoiko were still relevant. According to one account, the Priamur Zemskii Sobor was supposed to elect a provisional national government in order to organize the struggle against the Bolsheviks and build the state, while Diterikhs was the first one in the Vladivostok government to openly call for the restoration of monarchy, breaking with the moderates and aspiring to return to the pre-1905 period when the State Duma had not yet established the “hated constitutional principles.”150

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