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Entries / Constituent Assembly, All-Russian

Constituent Assembly, All-Russian

Categories / Social Life

ALL-RUSSIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY, a body of representatives established on the basis of universal suffrage in order to form a government and draft a Constitution for Russia. Officially, the Provisional Government's prime task after the February Revolution of 1917 was to convene the Constituent Assembly. The election law was drawn up at a special meeting (chaired by Constitutional Democrat F.F. Kokoshkin). In order to arrange and hold elections, the All-Russian Commission for the Election of a Constituent Assembly (Vsevybory) was organized. The elections were postponed several times and finally took place on 12-14 (25-27) November 1917. In Petrograd, about 930.000 people voted, including 45% for Bolsheviks, 27% for the Socialist-Revolutionaries and 17% for the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets). On the whole, the Bolshevik vote increased by 24%, the Socialist Revolutionary vote by 40%, the Constitutional Democrat vote by 5%, and the Menshevik vote 2%. While the Soviet government would not officially refuse the sitting of the Constituent Assembly, it made every effort to put off its opening and to replace its deputies. As a consequence, the Union for the Protection of the Constituent Assembly was created on 23 November (6 December) 1917, and the slogan "All power to the Constituent Assembly" was advanced to unite anti-Bolshevik forces. On 26 November (9 December) 1917, the Soviet of People's Commissars passed a decree that permitted the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly to take place as soon as more than 400 deputies (half of then entire assembly) had arrived in Petrograd. On 28 November (11 December) 1917, the date the Provisional Government fixed to open the Constituent Assembly, a mass demonstration took place in Petrograd with 10.000 to 100.000 people (according to various sources), which supported the Assembly. Columns of demonstrators approached the Tauride Palace, the residence of the Constituent Assembly. The Guards showed no resistance and about 60 deputies entered the palace, but, for lack of a quorum, declared themselves a private meeting and sat in the White Hall for some hours. Later on the same day, the Soviet of People's Commissars passed a decree proclaiming that the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) were enemies of the people and arrested its leaders. On 29 November (12 December) 1917, the Soviet of People's Commissars unseated the members of the Vsevybory; M.S. Uritsky was put in charge of convening the Constituent Assembly. On 30 November (13 December), private meetings between deputies of the Constituent Assembly were forbidden. On 20 December 1917 (2 January 1918), a decision was made to open the Constituent Assembly on January 5 (18) 1918. Three days later, on 23 December 1917 (5 January 1918), a state of siege was declared in Petrograd, followed by the establishment of the Emergency Military Staff (Y.M. Sverdlov, V.D. Bonch-Bruevich, N.I. Podvoysky, P.P. Proshyan, and others) and Red Guard garrison units and detachments loyal to the Bolsheviks were put into military readiness. The Aurora cruiser company and a detachment of sailors from the Baltic Fleet were sent to protect the area of the Tauride Palace. Barrier troops were arranged at the approaches of the Tauride and Smolny Palaces. On 4 (17) January 1918, the Petrograd Soviet called upon workers and soldiers to keep away from counterrevolutionary demonstrations that supported the Constituent Assembly on 5 (18) January 1918. In the morning of 5 January 1918, demonstrators (officials, university and high school students, workers and soldiers) assembled at nine separate points throughout the city. The route rows of demonstrators joined together at the Field of Mars, heading towards Tauride Palace from Liteiny Avenue. As they approached the Palace, however, the demonstrators were stopped and broken up; this led to armed clashes in some places (12 people were killed and at least 20 wounded). The Constituent Assembly started work at 16:00 on January 5 (18) 1918, and was attended by about 410 of 715 deputies. Centrist Socialist-Revolutionaries held the majority, while Bolsheviks and left-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries held 155 seats. V.M. Chernov, leader of the Socialist-Revolutionary party, was elected Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. The majority of the Constituent Assembly refused to discuss the Working and Exploited People's Declaration of Rights (brought forth by Sverdlov, chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee) and similarly refused to validate decrees put forth by the Soviet of the People's Commissars. The Bolshevik group responded by leaving the meeting hall. Left wing Socialist-Revolutionaries followed the Bolsheviks when right wing groups refused to vote on the Soviet government's policy. The rest of the deputies, though without a quorum, passed acts relating to peace and land, a law proclaiming Russia a federative democratic republic, and others. The meeting lasted about 13 hours and was closed at 04:40 on 6 (19) January 1918, as requested by the Commander of the Guard, A.G. Zheleznyakov, who claimed it was necessary to leave the hall since it was late and the Guard was tired. On the night of 7 (20) January 1918, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee passed a decree dissolving the Constituent Assembly. Opposition groups decided to move their meetings out of Petrograd, and some of them later established a Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly in Samara.

References: Знаменский О. Н. Всероссийское Учредительное собрание: История созыва и полит. крушения. Л., 1976; Учредительное собрание, Россия, 1918: Стенограммы и др. док. М., 1991; Протасов Л. Г. Всероссийское Учредительное собрание: История рождения и гибели. М., 1997.

A. M. Kulegin.

Bonch-Bruevich Vladimir Dmitrievich
Chernov Viktor Mikhailovich
Kokoshkin Fedor Fedorovich
Podvoysky Nikolay Ilyich
Proshyan Prosh Perchevich
Sverdlov Yakov Mikhailovich
Uritsky Moisey Solomonovich
Zheleznyakov Anatoly Grigorievich

Liteiny Ave/Saint Petersburg, city
The Field of Mars/Saint Petersburg, city

Знаменский О. Н. Всероссийское Учредительное собрание: История созыва и полит. крушения. Л., 1976
Учредительное собрание, Россия, 1918: Стенограммы и др. док. М., 1991
Протасов Л. Г. Всероссийское Учредительное собрание: История рождения и гибели. М., 1997

The subject Index
February Revolution of 1917
Provisional Government of 1917
Union for Constituent Assembly Protection
Tauride Palace
Aurora, cruiser
Baltic Fleet
Smolny Architectural Ensemble


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