| Duma |
Tsar Nicholas II's opening speech before the two chambers of the State Duma in the Winter Palace.
A duma (дума) is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative functions. The term comes from the Russian verb думать (dumat’) meaning "to think" or "to consider".
The first formally constituted duma was the Imperial State Duma introduced to the Russian Empire by Emperor Nicholas II in 1905. The Emperor retained an absolute veto and could dismiss the State Duma at any time for a suitable reason. Nicholas dismissed the First State Duma (1906) within 75 days; elections for a second Duma took place the following year. The Russian Provisional Government dissolved the last Imperial State Duma (the fourth Duma) in 1917 during the Russian Revolution.
Since 1993 the State Duma has functioned as the lower legislative house of the Russian Federation.
Under the pressure of the Russian Revolution of 1905, on 6 August 1905, Sergei Witte issued a manifesto about the convocation of the Duma, initially thought to be an advisory organ. In the subsequent October Manifesto, Nicholas II pledged to introduce basic civil liberties, provide for broad participation in the State Duma, and endow the Duma with legislative and oversight powers.
However, Nicholas II was determined to retain his autocratic power. Just before the creation of the Duma in May 1906, the Tsar issued the Fundamental Laws. It stated in part that the Tsar's ministers could not be appointed by, and were not responsible to, the Duma, thus denying responsible government at the executive level. Furthermore, the Tsar had the power to dismiss the Duma and announce new elections whenever he wished. At this first meeting of the Duma members proposed that political prisoners should be released, trade unions given rights and land reform be introduced. Nicholas II rejected these suggestions and dissolved the assembly in July, 1906.
The imperial State Duma was elected four times: in 1906, twice in 1907, and in 1912.
The State Duma in Russia is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia (parliament), the upper house being the Federation Council of Russia. Under Russia's 1993 constitution, there are 450 deputies of the State Duma (Article 95), each elected to a term of four years (Article 96); this was changed to a five-year term in late 2008. In previous elections of 1993, 1995, 1999 and 2003 one half of the deputies were elected by a system of proportional representation and one half were elected by plurality in single member districts. However, the 2007 Duma elections were carried out in a new format: all 450 deputies were elected by a system of proportional representation. Russian citizens at least 21 years old are eligible to run for the Duma (Article 97).