Monuments of Imperial Russian Law: The Constitution of 1906

Michael Widener

Szeftel, Marc. The Russian Constitution of April 23, 1906: Political Institutions of the Duma Monarchy. Brussels: Librairie Encyclopédique, 1976. Yale University Library

The Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 weakened the monarchy sufficiently for demands to introduce a “constitution” limiting the powers of the Emperor and creating a parliament called the State Duma to be realized. Although the word “constitution” was never used in the document itself, the expression “Basic Law” has come to mean the equivalent of a constitution in Russian political theory and practice.

Even though the canons of Marx, Engels, and Lenin did not contemplate the enactment of a post-revolutionary constitution, the Bolshevik Party together with the other Russian political parties and movements in existence after the abdication of the Tsar in February 1917 supported the preparation of a Constitution for the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, ultimately introduced in 1918. In the post-Soviet era those who prepared the present 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation looked back to the Basic Law of 1906 for inspiration and experience.

Marc Szeftel’s book contains the only English-language translation of the 1906 Russian Basic Law.

“Monuments of Imperial Russian Law,” curated by William E. Butler and Mike Widener, is on display Mar. 1 - May 25, 2012, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Level L2, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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