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A Cossack parliament?

The local administration was present at the Rada in full composition: the senior and junior assistants of the acting ataman, the chief of staff, the district atamans, generals on active service and those retired, councilors of the provincial board, etc.62 Such supervision kept the Rada's discussions under control, but at the same time it authorized its work, giving an appearance of full legitimacy to everything that was happening at its sessions. The assembly’s meetings went smoothly and, with the single exception of the case mentioned above, did not cause any complaints from the part of the officials. It gave its members room for hope. The Rada’s gathering was not conceived to be a one-time event. Its organizers, participants, and the local public envisaged that it would become a long-lasting institutional instrument of tackling the most urgent social, economic, and administrative issues of the day. This conviction was reflected in the mere fact that it was often referred to as "the first rada," either by its deputies or in the press.63

Even before the closure of the Rada, the press published a proposal on the agenda of the Rada's next convention. Its author suggested raising the issue of improving the system of medical care in the oblast (since only a few settlements were lucky to have a doctor).64 In his opening speech, Shcherbina expressed his hope that “the present Host’s Rada will not be an exceptional case, but a general rule for solving all the most important military and rural questions, affairs and undertakings.”65 Likewise, at the concluding session, he once again addressed to the ataman his belief that due to the restoration of the rada many other issues would be solved in the future. He suggested improved education, fishery development, construction of channels and irrigation, the connection of the Kuban River with the Black Sea, building lines of communication, and land that had been taken over by officers being given back to the owners. To this end, he even proposed to build a special building (khata) for the next Rada’s conventions.66 The Rada’s deputies, as a local newspaper reported, voiced unanimous support for making the Rada a regular institution in charge of Cossack needs.67

Mikhailov believed that the Rada would raise the prestige of the Host in the eyes of the government. In January 1907, he went to personally report about its results first to Tbilisi/Tiflis, where, according to his companion, the Viceroy of the Caucasus Illarion Vorontsov-Dashkov and the chief of staff of the Caucasus military district expressed their full satisfaction and support, and then to the Emperor. Pleased with the outcome of the assembly, Mikhailov presented to Nicholas II an album, containing photos of the Rada's delegates. The Emperor, as the press proudly noted, looked through the photos and even recognized some of them as former guards of his Convoy.68

The resolutions of the Rada were approved in the capital and acquired the force of law.69 But the seeming personal bonds between part of the Rada and the Tsar, however, did not result in its institutionalization as a consultative regional body. Despite the hopes of some and the firm beliefs of others, no second rada ever convened again. According to some vague information published in the press, in early 1907, an uncertain number of Kuban Cossack representatives elaborated a mandate for the newly elected deputies to the Second Duma, where they outlined a vision of the Host possessing a broader autonomy and self-governance, as well as broader electoral rights that would enable the Cossacks to elect representatives to the "supreme Cossack representative institution, the Rada.” A number of reports in liberal newspapers rejoiced at the Cossacks’ sudden political “maturity,” characterizing their demands as “unexpected liberalism” and even a “betrayal of loyalty” to the oppressive regime on the part of Cossack electors.70

Later that year, the question of the second rada was overshadowed by - and to a large extent conflated with - the issue of the introduction of zemstvo to the Cossack provinces of the Caucasus, contemplated by the administration in Tiflis.71 To this end, the head of the oblast organized a meeting in Ekaterinodar in October, mostly composed of members of local officialdom. Participants of the meeting stressed the need to transform the local administration along the lines of self-governance but disagreed over the form of zemstvo concerning diverging interests of Cossacks and inogorodnie. To further elaborate the foundations of the zemstvo functioning, the meeting decided to convoke two separate radas at once - apart from a Cossack rada, a special rada of inogorodnie was supposed to convoke at the same time.72 In November, Mikhailov went to Tiflis to present the viceroy a petition about the convocation of the second rada, but the further fate of the petition remains unclear. Various newspaper reports expressed divergent statements, claiming that the second Rada did not meet sympathies on the part of the Caucasus administration or, alternatively, the administration left the question of the rada open.73

Still, the October meeting in Ekaterinodar in 1907 was followed by a convention in the administrative center of Labinskii district, Armavir, in February 1908. The latter was particularly reminiscent of yet another rada, although on a smaller scale, uniting up to 200 participants that included heads of stanitsas and representatives of local intelligentsia. The delegates met to discuss questions concerning education, roads, medicine, the spread of agricultural knowledge, forestry, and the development of cooperatives, but all those issues remained in the background as the most heated and protracted discussions revolved around the issue of zemstvo, which turned out a veritable stumbling block for all the participants involved. The question was whether to include inogorodme or to make it an exclusive Cossack institution. It was not resolved and postponed for the future.74

The question of the zemstvo remained unsolved and the idea of the second rada never became a reality. Apparently, the central authorities, who experienced recurring troubles even with the State Duma, did not dare approve of establishing a separate organ that was not envisaged by the state legislation, due to suspicions of its potential ambition. In subsequent years, some of the state officials implicitly accused the Rada of institutional separatism. In 1913, a member of the State Council, Count Fedor Uvarov, while talking with Cossack representatives in Vladikavkaz about the issue of zemstvo, denounced this idea on the ground that it would “very much resemble the former Cossack Rada and, in the end, it would be a state within the state.” Remarkably, the case of the Rada was not a subject of the discussion, but served as an obvious, well-known example of what the empire should avoid while dealing with its periphery.75

 
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