The Manifesto Calling the First Duma (August, 1905)

[excerpted from Readings in Modern European History, James Harvey Robinson and Charles Beard, eds., vol. 2 (Boston:Ginn and Company, 1908), pp. 375-377]

The empire of Russia is formed and strengthened by the indestructible union of the Tsar with the people and the people with the Tsar. This concord and union of the Tsar and the people is the great moral force which has created Russia in the course of centuries by protecting her from all misfortunes and all attacks, and has constituted up to the present time a pledge of unity, independence, integrity, material well-being, and intellectual development in the present and in the future.

In our manifesto of February 26, 1903, we summoned all faithful sons of the fatherland in order to perfect, through mutual understanding, the organization of the State, founding it securely on public order and private welfare. We devoted ourselves to the task of coordinating local elective bodies [zemstvos] with the central authorities, and removing the disagreements existing between them, which so disturbed the normal course of the national life. Autocratic Tsars, our ancestors, have had this aim constantly in view, and the time has now come to follow out their good intentions and to summon elected representatives from the whole of Russia to take a constant and active part in the elaboration of laws, adding for this purpose to the higher State institutions a special consultative body intrusted with the preliminary elaboration and discussion of measures and with the examination of the State Budget. It is for this reason that, while preserving the fundamental law regarding autocratic power, we have deemed it well to form a Gosoudarsivennaia Duma (i.e. State Council) and to approve regulations for elections to this Duma, extending these laws to the whole territory of the empire, with such exceptions only as may be considered necessary in the case of some regions in which special conditions obtain. . . .

We have ordered the Minister of the Interior to submit immediately for our approbation regulations for elections to the Duma, so that deputies from fifty governments, and the military province of the Don, may be able to assemble not later than the middle of January, 1906. We reserve to ourselves exclusively the care of perfecting the organization of the Gosoudarsivennaia Duma, and when the course of events has demonstrated the necessity of changes corresponding to the needs of the times and the welfare of the empire, we shall not fail to give the matter our attention at the proper moment.

We are convinced that those who are elected by the confidence of the whole people, and who are called upon to take part in the legislative work of the government, will show themselves in the eyes of all Russia worthy of the imperial trust in virtue of which they have been invited to cooperate in this great work; and that in perfect harmony with the other institutions and authorities of the State, established by us, they will contribute profitably and zealously to our labors for the well-being of our common mother, Russia, and for the strengthening of the unity, security, and greatness of the empire, as well as for the tranquillity and prosperity of the people.

In invoking the blessing of the Lord on the labors of the new assembly which we are establishing, and with unshakable confidence in the grace of God and in the assurance of the great historical destinies reserved by Divine Providence for our beloved fatherland, we firmly hope that Russia, with the help of God Almighty, and with the combined efforts of all her sons, will emerge triumphant from the trying ordeals through which she is now passing, and will renew her strength in the greatness and glory of her history extending over a thousand years.

Given at Peterhof on the nineteenth day of August, in the year of grace 1905, and the eleventh year of our reign.

NICHOLAS