Russian Constituent Assembly
The All Russian Constituent Assembly (Всероссийское Учредительное Собрание, Vserossiiskoe Uchreditelnoe Sobranie) was a constitutional body convened in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 after the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 of 1917. It is generally reckoned as the first democratically elected legislative body of any kind in Russian history. It met for 13 hours, from 4 p.m. to 5 a.m., , whereupon it was dissolved by the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

-Left SR coalition government.


A democratically-elected Constituent Assembly to create a Russian constitution was one of the main demands of all Russian revolutionary parties prior to the Russian Revolution of 1905
Russian Revolution of 1905
The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies...

. In 1906, the Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 decided to grant basic civil liberties and hold elections for a newly created legislative body, the State Duma
State Duma
The State Duma , common abbreviation: Госду́ма ) in the Russian Federation is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia , the upper house being the Federation Council of Russia. The Duma headquarters is located in central Moscow, a few steps from Manege Square. Its members are referred to...

. However, the Duma was never authorized to write a new constitution, much less abolish the monarchy. Moreover, the Duma's powers were falling into the hands of the Constitutional Democrats and not the Marxist Socialists. The government dissolved the Duma, as was their legal agreement, in July 1906 and, after a new election, in June 1907. The final election law
Coup of June 1907
The Coup of June 1907 is the name commonly given to the dissolution of the Second State Duma, the arrest of some its members and a fundamental change in the Russian electoral law by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia on June 16, 1907 . It is sometimes called coup d'état of June 3, 1907 because it was on...

 written by the government after the second dissolution on favored the landed and ruling classes. What little the Duma could do after 1907 was often vetoed by the Tsar or the appointed upper house of the Russian parliament. The Duma was therefore widely seen as unrepresentative of the lower working classes, and the demands for a Constituent Assembly that would be elected on the basis of universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 continued unabated.

The Provisional Government (February - October 1917)

For details see the main article Russian Provisional Government
Russian Provisional Government
The Russian Provisional Government was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II . On September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire was officially dissolved by the newly created Directorate, and the country was...

With the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II
Nicholas II of Russia
Nicholas II was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland. His official short title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until...

 in the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

 of 1917, power in Russia passed to a Provisional Government
Russian Provisional Government
The Russian Provisional Government was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II . On September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire was officially dissolved by the newly created Directorate, and the country was...

 formed by the liberal leadership of the Duma.

The Provisional Government was so named because it was made up of parliamentary figures, last elected (as the Fourth Duma) in 1912, who claimed provisional authority for managing the revolutionary situation in the midst of the First World War until a more permanent form of government could be established by an elected Constituent Assembly.

Grand Duke Michael
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia was the youngest son of Emperor Alexander III of Russia.At the time of his birth, his paternal grandfather was still the reigning Emperor of All the Russias. Michael was fourth-in-line to the throne following his father and elder brothers Nicholas and...

 had refused to ascend to his older brother Nicholas II's throne without the consent of an elected Constituent Assembly
Constituent assembly
A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

, and it was broadly assumed that an elected Constituent Assembly was the only body with the authority to change Russia's form of government. The Provisional Government claimed that it would organize elections once the First World War had concluded, but in spite of the initial agreement in July 1917, they declared Russia a republic and began preparations for elections in the "Preparliament", later named the Council of the Russian Republic
Council of the Russian Republic
Council of the Russian Republic was a legislative assembly in Russia. It convened at the Marinsky Palace on October 20, 1917, but was dissolved by the Bolsheviks on November, 7/8 1917. It was headed by a presidium of five members with Nikolay Avksentiev as president.- Sources :*...

. These actions triggered criticism from both left and right. Monarchists saw the declaration of a republican form of government in Russia as unacceptable, while the left considered the declaration a power grab intended to weaken the influence of the Soviets.

The Bolsheviks and the Constituent Assembly

The Bolsheviks' position on the Constituent Assembly evolved during 1917. At first, like all the other socialist parties, the Bolsheviks supported the election of a Constituent Assembly. Lenin himself later argued: 'The demand for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly was a perfectly legitimate part of the programme of revolutionary Social-Democracy, because in a bourgeois republic the Constituent Assembly represents the highest form of democracy'.

But there was a potential contradiction in Bolshevik policy. Since Lenin's return from Switzerland in April 1917, the Bolsheviks had distinguished themselves from other socialists by calling for "All Power to the Soviets
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

". The Bolsheviks thus opposed "bourgeois" parliamentary bodies, like the Provisional Government and the Constituent Assembly, in favour of the Soviets (directly elected revolutionary councils of workers, soldiers and peasants) which had arisen after the February Revolution.

On , the Bolsheviks acted on this policy by leading the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 against the Provisional Government. The uprising in Petrograd coincided with the convocation of the Second All-Russian Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Soviets. The Soviet deputies of the more moderate socialist parties, the Mensheviks and the Right SRs
Socialist-Revolutionary Party
thumb|right|200px|Socialist-Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" , short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries...

, walked out of the Congress in protest at what they argued was a premature overthrow of the "bourgeois" government in which they had participated.

Over the next few weeks, the Bolsheviks established control in urban areas and in almost all of Great Russia
Great Russia
Great Russia is an obsolete name formerly applied to the territories of "Russia proper", the land that formed the core of Muscovy and, later, Russia...

, but had less success in the countryside and in ethnically non-Russian areas. Although the new Soviet government limited the freedom of the press
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

 (by sporadically banning non-socialist press) and persecuted the liberal Constitutional Democratic party
Constitutional Democratic party
The Constitutional Democratic Party was a liberal political party in the Russian Empire. Party members were called Kadets, from the abbreviation K-D of the party name...

, it allowed elections for the Constituent Assembly to go ahead on , as scheduled by the Provisional Government.

Officially, the Bolshevik government at first considered itself a provisional government and claimed that it intended to submit to the will of the Constituent Assembly. As Lenin wrote on (emphasis added):
Hence the Soviets of Peasants' Deputies, primarily the uyezd
Uyezd or uezd was an administrative subdivision of Rus', Muscovy, Russian Empire, and the early Russian SFSR which was in use from the 13th century. Uyezds for most of the history in Russia were a secondary-level of administrative division...

 and then the gubernia Soviets, are from now on, pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, vested with full governmental authority in their localities

Election Results (November 12/25, 1917)

For details see the main article Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917
Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917
The elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly that were organised as a result of events in the Russian Revolution of 1917 were held on November 25, 1917 , around 2 months after they were originally meant to occur...

More than 60 percent of citizens with the right to vote actually voted for Constituent Assembly. The election yielded the following results:
Party Votes Number of deputies
Socialist Revolutionaries
Socialist-Revolutionary Party
thumb|right|200px|Socialist-Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" , short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries...

17,490,000 370
Bolsheviks 9,844,000 175
Mensheviks 1,248,000 16
Constitutional Democrats 2,000,000 17
Minorities 77
Left Socialist Revolutionaries 2,861,000 40
People's Socialists 4
Total: 41,700,000 703

However, due to the size of the country, the ongoing World War I and a deteriorating communications system, these results were not fully available at the time. A partial count (54 constituencies out of 79) was published by N. V. Svyatitsky in A Year of the Russian Revolution. 1917-18, Moscow, Zemlya i Volya Publishers, 1918. Svyatitsky's data was generally accepted by all political parties, including the Bolsheviks, and was as follows:
Party Ideology Votes
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n Socialist Revolutionaries
Socialist 16,500,000
Bolsheviks Socialist 9,023,963
Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Ukrainian Socialist-Revolutionary Party was a political party in the Russian Empire from 1907-1917. It was simply referred as Essery and was one of the most influential in Ukraine as it was representing the interest of the major social class - peasants...

, Moslem, and other non-Russian Socialist Revolutionaries
Socialist 4,400,000
Constitutional Democrats Liberal
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

Mensheviks Socialist 668,064
Moslems Religious 576,000
Jewish Bund Socialist/Ethnic 550,000
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

Social Democratic/Ethnic 507,000
Populism can be defined as an ideology, political philosophy, or type of discourse. Generally, a common theme compares "the people" against "the elite", and urges social and political system changes. It can also be defined as a rhetorical style employed by members of various political or social...

Social Democratic 312,000
Other Rightist groups Rightist 292,000
Association of Rural Proprietors and Landowners Rightist 215,000
The Bashkirs are a Turkic people indigenous to Bashkortostan extending on both parts of the Ural mountains, on the place where Europe meets Asia. Groups of Bashkirs also live in the republic of Tatarstan, Perm Krai, Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, Tyumen, Sverdlovsk, Kurgan, Samara and Saratov Oblasts of...

Ethnic 195,000
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

Ethnic 155,000
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

Ethnic 130,000
Ukrainian Social-Democrats Social Democratic/Ethnic 95,000
Cossacks Ethnic 79,000
Old Believers
Old Believers
In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

Religious 73,000
Letts may refer to the following people:*Arthur Letts, English-born millionaire developer of Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California*Barry Letts , British actor, television director and producer...

Ethnic 67,000
Co-operators Social Democratic 51,000
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

Social Democratic/Ethnic 44,000
Yedinstvo or Edinstvo was a faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party between 1914 and 1917 and then a small independent party in 1917 and 1918. It was led by Georgi Plekhanov.-Background:...

Social Democratic 25,000
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

Social Democratic/Ethnic 14,000
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

Ethnic 12,000
Total: 35,333,666

The bottom line was that the Bolsheviks received between 22% and 25% of the vote, albeit as clear winners in Russia's urban centers and among soldiers on the "Western Front" (two-thirds of those soldiers' votes). In the city of Moscow, for example, the Bolsheviks won 47.9% of the votes, the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets) 35.7% and the SRs 8.1 percent. While losing the urban vote, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party received around 57-58% (62% with their social democratic allies), having won the massive support of the country's rural peasantry who constituted 80% of the Russian population. However, this is a half truth because the Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries did not attend the Constituent Assembly when it convened. Another major factor is the split within the Socialist Revolutionaries which led to support for the Bolsheviks by the leftist SR faction.

Between the Election and the Convocation of the Assembly (November 1917-January 1918)

Lenin and the Bolsheviks began to cast doubt on the value of the Constituent Assembly as soon as it seemed likely that the Assembly would not contain a majority in favour of Soviet government. On , Lenin told the Extraordinary All-Russia Congress Of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies that the Constituent Assembly should not distract the peasants from the fight against capital:
The peasants want land and the prohibition of hired labour; they want implements for the cultivation of the soil. And this cannot be obtained without defeating capital. [...] You are throwing down a challenge to capital, you are following a different path from ours; but we are at one with you in that we are marching, and must march, towards the social revolution. As for the Constituent Assembly, the speaker [i.e. Lenin] said that its work will depend on the mood in the country, but he added, trust in the mood, but don't forget your rifles.

On , People's Commissar for Naval Affairs Pavel Dybenko
Pavel Dybenko
Pavel Efimovich Dybenko was a Russian revolutionary and a leading Soviet officer.- Until the military service :...

 ordered to keep 7,000 pro-Bolshevik Kronstadt
Kronstadt , also spelled Kronshtadt, Cronstadt |crown]]" and Stadt for "city"); is a municipal town in Kronshtadtsky District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on Kotlin Island, west of Saint Petersburg proper near the head of the Gulf of Finland. Population: It is also...

 sailors on "full alert" in case of a convocation of the Constituent Assembly on . A meeting of some 20,000 Kronstadt "soldiers, sailors, workers and peasants" resolved to only support a Constituent Assembly that was "so composed as to confirm the achievements of the October Revolution [and would be free of] Kaledinites and leaders of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie".

With the split between the Right and Left Socialist Revolutionaries finalized in November, the Bolsheviks formed a coalition government with the latter. On , the Soviet government declared the Constitutional Democratic Party "a party of the enemies of the people", banned the party and ordered its leaders arrested. It also postponed the convocation of the Constituent Assembly until early January. At first the Soviet government blamed the delays on technical difficulties and machinations of their enemies.

On , Lenin's Theses on the Constituent Assembly were published anonymously in the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda. The theses argued that "revolutionary Social-Democracy has ever since the beginning of the Revolution of 1917 repeatedly emphasised that a republic of Soviets is a higher form of democracy than the usual bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly."

Lenin argued that the Constituent Assembly did not truly represent the Russian people because its ballots had not represented the split between the anti-Bolshevik Right SRs and the pro-Bolshevik Left SRs:
[T]he party which from May to October had the largest number of followers among the people, and especially among the peasants — the Socialist-Revolutionary Party — came out with united election lists for the Constituent Assembly in the middle of October 1917, but split in November 1917, after the elections and before the Assembly met.

Lenin thus argued that
the interests of this [October 1917] revolution stand higher than the formal rights of the Constituent Assembly [...] Every direct or indirect attempt to consider the question of the Constituent Assembly from a formal, legal point of view, within the framework of ordinary bourgeois democracy and disregarding the class struggle and civil war, would be a betrayal of the proletariat's cause, and the adoption of the bourgeois standpoint

Lenin's proposed solution to the problem was for the Constituent Assembly to agree to new elections in order to better represent the current will of the people, and to accept Soviet government in the interim:
The only chance of securing a painless solution to the crisis which has arisen owing to the divergence between the elections to the Constituent Assembly, on the one hand, and the will of the people and the interests of the working and exploited classes, on the other, is for the people to exercise as broadly and as rapidly as possible the right to elect the members of the Constituent Assembly anew, and for the Constituent Assembly to accept the law of the Central Executive Committee on these new elections, to proclaim that it unreservedly recognises Soviet power, the Soviet revolution, and its policy on the questions of peace, the land and workers' control, and to resolutely join the camp of the enemies of the Cadet-Kaledin counter-revolution.

Not all members of the Bolshevik party were willing to go along with what increasingly looked like an upcoming suppression of the Constituent Assembly. In early December, the moderates even had a majority among the Bolshevik delegates to the Constituent Assembly, but Lenin prevailed at the meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee, which ordered Bolshevik delegates to follow Lenin's line.

Meeting in Petrograd (January 5–6/18–19, 1918)

On the morning of , a large crowd gathered in Petrograd to march on the Tauride Palace in support of the Constituent Assembly. It was shot at and dispersed by soldiers loyal to the Bolshevik-Left SR Soviet government. The march had not been as large as its organizers had hoped: far fewer soldiers and workers than expected had attended and the demonstration had consisted mainly of middle-class students, civil servants and professionals.

The Constituent Assembly quorum
A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group...

 met in the Tauride Palace
Tauride Palace
Tauride Palace is one of the largest and most historic palaces in Saint Petersburg, Russia.- Potemkin :...

 in Petrograd, between 4 p.m. and 4:40 a.m., . A prominent Bolshevik, Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov
Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov
Ivan Ivanovich Skvortsov-Stepanov was a prominent Russian Bolshevik.Skvortsov-Stepanov was one of the oldest participants in the Russian revolutionary movement, a Marxist writer....

, in a speech approved by Lenin, explained the Bolsheviks' opposition to "bourgeois democracy" in favour of class rule by the peasants and the workers:

"How can you," he wondered, "appeal to such a concept as the will of the whole people? For a Marxist 'the people' is an inconceivable notion: the people does not act as a single unit. The people as a unit is a mere fiction, and this fiction is needed by the ruling classes. It is all over between us," he summed up. "You belong to one world, with the cadets and the bourgeoisie, and we to the other, with the peasants and the workers."

The Assembly was dominated by anti-Bolshevik Right SRs
Socialist-Revolutionary Party
thumb|right|200px|Socialist-Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" , short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries...

: over-represented thanks to out-of-date ballot papers which failed to take into account their split from the pro-Bolshevik Left of the SR party. Victor Chernov, leader of the Right SRs
Socialist-Revolutionary Party
thumb|right|200px|Socialist-Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" , short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries...

, was elected Chairman of the Assembly with 244 votes against 153 for Maria Spiridonova
Maria Spiridonova
Maria Alexandrovna Spiridonova was a figure in Russian revolutionary circles at the beginning of the 20th century.- Biography :She joined the Socialist-Revolutionary Party during her training to become a nurse....

 of the Left SRs. The Bolsheviks placed the Second Soviet Congress' Decrees before the Assembly for endorsement. They were rejected by 237 votes to 136.

It was thus clear that, dominated by Right SRs who thought Russia unready for Soviet power, the Constituent Assembly was opposed to Soviet government and would not agree to new elections. In a recess, a special meeting of the Bolsheviks and Left SRs decided to dissolve the Assembly. The Deputy People's Commissar for Naval Affairs Fyodor Raskolnikov read a prepared statement and the Bolsheviks and Left SRs walked out. Lenin left the building to go to bed, instructing the soldiers not to use force against the deputies, but to wait until they left of their own accord:

There is no need to disperse the Constituent Assembly: just let them go on chattering as long as they like and then break up, and tomorrow we won't let a single one of them come in.

Around 4 a.m., the Commandant of the Tauride Palace, an Anarchist sailor called A. G. Zheleznyakov, approached Chernov and said:
The Right SRs tried to use the final minutes of the Constituent Assembly to pass socialist measures which they had failed to implement in months of power in the Provisional Government. Chernov responded to the Soviet Decrees on Land and Peace with the SR-drafted "Law on the Land", which proclaimed a radical land reform, a law making Russia a democratic federal republic
Russian Democratic Federative Republic
Russian Democratic Federative Republic , was a proposed federal form of government of Russia during the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was formally declared on January 19, when the democratically elected Russian Constituent Assembly drafted and adopted the Resolution on the form of government of...

 (thus ratifying the Provisional Government's decision adopted in September 1917) and an appeal to the Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

 Allies for a democratic peace. The Assembly voted for the proposals, scheduled the next meeting for 5 p.m. on and dispersed at 4:40 a.m. The next day the deputies found the building locked down and the Assembly declared dissolved by the Bolshevik-Left SR Soviet government. The government immediately called the Third Congress of Soviets, which produced a large Bolshevik majority, as a democratic counterweight to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. It was exactly as Stolypin had done to the State Duma
State Duma of the Russian Empire
The State Duma of the Russian Empire was a legislative assembly in the late Russian Empire, which met in the Taurida Palace in St. Petersburg. It was convened four times between 1906 and the collapse of the Empire in 1917.-History:...

 in 1906 after its first session. A Decree of dissolution of Parliament was ratified by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) later that day.

Public reaction to closure

Shortly after the closure of the Constituent Assembly, a Right SR deputy from the Volga region argued: "[T]o defend the Constituent Assembly, to defend us, its members - that is the duty of the people." Yet Ronald W. Clark notes that the closure of the Constituent Assembly provoked "comparatively little reaction, even in political circles." Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London.-Overview:Figes is the son of the feminist writer Eva Figes. His sister is the author and editor Kate Figes. He attended William Ellis School in north London from 1971-78...

 argued: "There was no mass reaction to the closure of the Constituent Assembly. ... The SR intelligentsia had always been mistaken in their belief that the peasants shared their veneration for the Constituent Assembly. ... [T]o the mass of the peasants ... it was only a distant thing in the city, dominated by the 'chiefs' of the various parties, which they did not understand, and was quite unlike their own political organizations."

Figes argues that the Right SRs' allegiance to the Provisional Government had isolated them from the mass of peasants: "Their adopted sense of responsibility for the state (and no doubt a little pride in their new ministerial status) led the Right SRs to reject their old terrorist ways of revolutionary struggle and depend exclusively on parliamentary methods."

Indeed, scholars have argued that the Constituent Assembly had not properly represented the will of the peasantry. The ballots for the Assembly had not differentiated between the Right SRs
Socialist-Revolutionary Party
thumb|right|200px|Socialist-Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" , short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries...

, who opposed the Bolshevik government, and the Left SRs, who were coalition partners with the Bolsheviks. Thus many peasant votes intended for the Left SRs elected Right SR deputies. In his study of the Constituent Assembly election, O. H. Radkey argues:
The election, therefore, does not measure the strength of this element [i.e. the Left S-Rs]. The lists were drawn up long before the schism [between Left and Right S-Rs] occurred; they were top-heavy with older party workers whose radicalism had abated by 1917. The people voted indiscriminately for the S-R label ... The leftward current was doubtless stronger everywhere on November 12 than when the lists had been drawn up

Radkey thus argued:
Of ... fateful significance was the fact that while the democratic parties heaped opprobrium upon him [i.e. Lenin] for this act of despotism, their following showed little inclination to defend an institution which the Russian people had ceased to regard as necessary to the fulfilment of its cherished desires. For the Constituent Assembly, even before it had come into existence, had been caught in a back-eddy of the swiftly flowing stream of revolutionary developments and no longer commanded the interest and allegiance of the general population which alone could have secured it against a violent death.

Between Petrograd and Samara (January–June 1918)

Barred from the Tauride Palace, Constituent Assembly deputies met at the Gurevich High School and held a number of secret meetings, but found that the conditions were increasingly dangerous. Some tried to relocate to the Tsentral'na Rada-controlled Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, but on Rada forces had to abandon the city, which effectively terminated the Constituent Assembly as a cohesive body

The Socialist Revolutionary Central Committee met in January and decided against armed resistance since:
Bolshevism, unlike the Tsarist autocracy
Tsarist autocracy
The Tsarist autocracy |transcr.]] tsarskoye samoderzhaviye) refers to a form of autocracy specific to the Grand Duchy of Muscovy . In a tsarist autocracy, all power and wealth is controlled by the tsar...

, is based on workers and soldiers who are still blinded, have not lost faith in it, and do not see that it is fatal to the cause of the working class

Instead the socialists (Socialist Revolutionaries and their Menshevik allies) decided to work within the Soviet system and returned to the Soviet All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK), the Petrograd Soviet and other Soviet bodies that they had walked out of during the Bolshevik uprising in October 1917. They hoped that Soviet re-elections would go their way once the Bolsheviks proved unable to solve pressing social and economic problems. They would then achieve a majority within local Soviets and, eventually, the Soviet government, at which point they would be able to re-convene the Constituent Assembly.

The socialists' plan was partially successful in that Soviet re-elections in the winter and especially spring of 1918 often returned pro-SR and anti-Bolshevik majorities, but their plan was frustrated by the Soviet government's refusal to accept election results and its repeated dissolution of anti-Bolshevik Soviets. As one of the leaders of Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

 Bolsheviks N. V. Kopulov wrote to the Bolshevik Central Committee in early 1918:
After the transfer of power to the soviet, a rapid about-face began in the mood of the workers. The Bolshevik deputies began to be recalled one after another, and soon the general situation took on a rather unhappy appearance. Despite the fact that there was a schism among the SRs, and the Left SRs were with us, our situation became shakier with each passing day. We were forced to block new elections to the soviet and even not to recognize them where they had taken place not in our favor.

In response, Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks started Assemblies of Workers' Plenipotentiaries which ran in parallel with the Bolshevik-dominated Soviets. The idea proved popular with the workers, but had little effect on the Bolshevik government.

With the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

 by the Bolsheviks on 3 March 1918, the Socialist Revolutionary leadership increasingly viewed the Bolshevik government as a German proxy. They were willing to consider an alliance with the liberal Constitutional Democrats, which had been rejected as recently as December 1917 by their Fourth Party Congress. Socialists and liberals held talks on creating a united anti-Bolshevik front in Moscow in late March. However, the negotiations broke down since the SRs' insisted on re-convening the Constituent Assembly as elected in November 1917 while the Constitutional Democrats, who had done poorly in the November election, demanded new elections.

Samara Committee (June–September 1918)

On 7 May 1918 (New Style, from this point on) the Eighth Party Council of the Socialist Revolutionary Party convened in Moscow and decided to start an uprising against the Bolsheviks with the goal of reconvening the Constituent Assembly. While preparations were under way, the Czechoslovak Legions
Czechoslovak Legions
The Czechoslovak Legions were volunteer armed forces composed predominantly of Czechs and Slovaks fighting together with the Entente powers during World War I...

 overthrew Bolshevik rule in Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, Urals and the Volga region in late May-early June 1918 and the center of SR activity shifted there. On 8 June 1918, five Constituent Assembly members formed an All-Russian Constituent Assembly Committee (Komuch) in Samara
Samara, Russia
Samara , is the sixth largest city in Russia. It is situated in the southeastern part of European Russia at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers. Samara is the administrative center of Samara Oblast. Population: . The metropolitan area of Samara-Tolyatti-Syzran within Samara Oblast...

 and declared it the new supreme authority in the country.

The Committee had the support of the Czechoslovak Legions and was able to spread its authority over much of the Volga-Kama
Kāma is often translated from Sanskrit as sexual desire, sexual pleasure, sensual gratification, sexual fulfillment, or eros54654564+more broadly mean desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, without sexual connotations.-Kama in...

 region. However, most of the Siberia and Urals regions were controlled by a patchwork of ethnic, Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

, military and liberal-rightist local governments, which constantly clashed with the Committee. The Committee functioned until September 1918, eventually growing to about 90 Constituent Assembly members, when the so-called "State Conference" representing all the anti-Bolshevik local governments from the Volga to the Pacific Ocean formed a coalition "All-Russian Supreme Authority" (aka the "Ufa
-Demographics:Nationally, dominated by Russian , Bashkirs and Tatars . In addition, numerous are Ukrainians , Chuvash , Mari , Belarusians , Mordovians , Armenian , Germans , Jews , Azeris .-Government and administration:Local...

 Directory") with the ultimate goal of re-convening the Constituent Assembly once the circumstances permitted:
2. In its activities the government will be unswervingly guided by the indisputable supreme rights of the Constituent Assembly. It will tirelessly ensure that the actions of all organs subordinate to the Provisional Government do not in any way tend to infringe the rights of the Constituent Assembly or hinder its resumption of work.
3. It will present an account of its activities to the Constituent Assembly as soon as the Constituent Assembly declares that it has resumed operation. It will subordinate itself unconditionally to the Constituent Assembly, as the only supreme authority in the country.

The All-Russian Constituent Assembly Committee continued functioning as "Congress of Members of the Constituent Assembly" but had no real power, although the Directory pledged to support it:
All possible assistance to the Congress of Members of the Constituent Assembly, operating as a legal state organ, in its independent work of ensuring the relocation of members of the Constituent Assembly, hastening and preparing the resumption of activity by the Constituent Assembly in its present composition.

Initially, the agreement had the support of the Socialist Revolutionary Central Committee which delegated two of its right-wing members, Nikolai Avksentiev
Nikolai Avksentiev
Nikolai Dimitrovich Avksentiev was a leading member of the Russian Socialist-Revolutionary Party . He was one of the 'Heidelberg SRs' , like V.M. Zenzinov...

 and Vladimir Zenzinov
Vladimir Zenzinov
Vladimir Mikhailovich Zenzinov was a member of Russia's Socialist-Revolutionary Party, a participant of the First , Second , and Third Russian Revolutions, and an author of a number of books.-Biography:...

, to the five member Ufa Directory. However, when Victor Chernov arrived in Samara on 19 September 1918, he was able to persuade the Central Committee to withdraw support from the Directory because he viewed it as too conservative and the SR presence there as insufficient. This put the Directory in a political vacuum and two months later, on 18 November 1918, it was overthrown by rightwing officers who made Admiral Alexander Kolchak the new "supreme ruler".

Final collapse

After the fall of the Ufa Directory, Chernov formulated what he called the "third path" against both the Bolsheviks and the liberal-rightist White Movement
White movement
The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

, but the SRs' attempts to assert themselves as an independent force were unsuccessful and the party, always fractious, began to disintegrate. On the Right, Avksentiev and Zenzinov went abroad with Kolchak's permission. On the Left, some SRs became reconciled with the Bolsheviks. Chernov tried to stage an uprising against Kolchak in December 1918, but it was put down and its participants executed. In February 1919 the SR Central Committee decided that the Bolsheviks were the lesser of two evils and gave up armed struggle against them. The Bolsheviks let the SR Central Committee re-establish itself in Moscow and start publishing a party newspaper in March 1919, but they were soon arrested and spent the rest of the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 in prison. Chernov went undercover and eventually was forced to flee Russia while the imprisoned Central Committee members were put on trial in 1922 and their leaders sentenced to death, although their sentences were suspended.

With the main pro-Constituent Assembly party effectively out of the picture, the only remaining force that supported its re-convocation was the Entente Allies. On 26 May 1919, the Allies offered Kolchak their support predicated on a number of conditions, including free elections at all levels of government and reinstating the Constituent Assembly. On 4 June 1919 Kolchak accepted most of the conditions, but he refused to reconvene the Assembly elected in November 1917 since, he claimed, it had been elected under Bolshevik rule and the elections were not fully free. On 12 June 1919, the Allies deemed the response satisfactory and the demand for a reconvocation of the original Constituent Assembly was abandoned.

Both Kolchak and the leader of the White Movement in the South of Russia, General Anton Denikin, officially subscribed to the principle of "non-predetermination", i.e. they refused to determine what kind of social or political system Russia would have until after Bolshevism was defeated. Kolchak and Denikin made general promises to the effect that there would be no return to the past and that there would be some form of popular representation put in place. However, as one Russian journalist observed at the time:
in Omsk
-History:The wooden fort of Omsk was erected in 1716 to protect the expanding Russian frontier along the Ishim and the Irtysh rivers against the Kyrgyz nomads of the Steppes...

 itself ... could be seen a political grouping who were prepared to promise anything that the Allies wanted whilst saying that "When we reach Moscow we can talk to them in a different tone".

Numerous memoirs published by the leaders of the White Movement after their defeat are inconclusive on the subject. There doesn't appear to be enough evidence to tell which group in the White Movement would have prevailed in case of a White victory and whether new Constituent Assembly elections would have been held, much less how restrictive they would have been.

After the Bolshevik victory in the Civil War in late 1920, 38 members of the Constituent Assembly met in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in 1921 and formed an executive committee, which consisted of the Constitutional Democrats leader Pavel Milyukov
Pavel Milyukov
Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov , a Russian politician, was the founder, leader, and the most prominent member of the Constitutional Democratic party...

, one of the Progressist leaders Alexander Konovalov
Alexander Konovalov
Alexander Ivanovich Konovalov was a Russian Kadet politician and entrepreneur. One of Russia's biggest textile manufacturers, he became a leader of the liberal, business-oriented Progressist Party and was a member of the Progressive Bloc in the Fourth Duma...

, a Ufa Directory member Avksentiev and the head of the Provisional Government Kerensky. Like other emigre organizations, it proved ineffective.

Historical disputes

According to a 1975 book, Leninism under Lenin by Marcel Liebman
Marcel Liebman
Marcel Liebman was a Belgian Marxist historian of political sociology and theory, active at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.- Biography :...

, the Bolsheviks and their allies had a majority in the Soviets due to its different electoral system. Per the 1918 Soviet Constitution, each urban (and usually pro-Bolshevik) Soviet had 1 delegate per 25,000 voters. Each rural (usually pro-SR) Soviet was only allowed 1 delegate per 125,000 voters. The Bolsheviks justified closing down the Assembly by pointing out that the election did not take into account the split in the SR Party. A few weeks later the Left SR and Right SR got roughly equal votes in the Peasant Soviets. The Bolsheviks also argued that the Soviets were more democratic as delegates could be removed by their electors instantly rather than the parliamentary style of the Assembly where the elected members could only be removed after several years at the next election. The book states that all the elections to the Peasant and Urban Soviets were free and these Soviets then elected the All-Russian Congress of Soviets which chose the Soviet Government, the Second Congress taking place before the Assembly, the Third Congress just after.

Two more recent books using material from the opened Soviet achieves, The Russian Revolution 1899-1919 by Richard Pipes
Richard Pipes
Richard Edgar Pipes is an American academic who specializes in Russian history, particularly with respect to the Soviet Union...

 and A People's Tragedy
A People's Tragedy
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 is an award-winning book written by British historian Orlando Figes. First published in 1996, it chronicles Russian history from the Famine of 1891-1892, the response to which, Figes argues, severely weakened the Russian Empire, to the death of...

by Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London.-Overview:Figes is the son of the feminist writer Eva Figes. His sister is the author and editor Kate Figes. He attended William Ellis School in north London from 1971-78...

, give a different version. Pipes argues that the elections to the Second Congress were not fair, for example one Soviet with 1,500 members sent 5 delegates which was more than Kiev. He states that both the SRs and the Mensheviks declared this election illegal and unrepresentative. The books state that the Bolsheviks, two days after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, created a counter-assembly, the Third Congress of Soviets. They gave themselves and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries 94% of the seats, far more than the results from the only nationwide parliamentary democratic election in Russia during this time.
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