The Russian Constitution of 1906 refers to a major revision of the 1832 Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire, which transformed the formerly absolutist state into one in which the emperor agreed for the first time to share his autocratic power with a parliament. It was enacted on April 23, 1906, on the eve of the opening of the first State Duma. This first-ever Russian Constitution was a revision of the earlier Fundamental Laws, which had been published as the Set of Laws of the Russian Empire (Свод законов Российской империи) in 1832. It was granted during the Russian Revolution of 1905, in a last-ditch effort by the imperial government to preserve its own existence and keep the nation from sliding into all-out anarchy.
The new constitution provided for a two-housed Russian parliament, without whose approval no laws were to be enacted in Russia. This legislature was composed of an upper house, known as the State Council, and a lower house, known as the State Duma. Members of the upper house were half appointed by the Tsar, with the other half being elected by various governmental, clerical and commercial interests. Members of the lower house were to be chosen by various classes of the Russian people, through a complex scheme of indirect elections—with the system being weighted to ensure the ultimate preponderance of the propertied classes. While the Duma held the power of legislation and the right to question the Tsar's ministers, it did not have control over their appointment or dismissal, which was reserved to the monarch alone. Nor could it alter the constitution, save upon the emperor's initiative. The Tsar retained an absolute veto over legislation, as well as the right to dismiss the Duma at any time, for any reason he found suitable. The emperor also had the right to issue decrees during the Duma's absence—though these lost their validity if not approved by the new parliament within two months.
This charter had been granted under duress, and Nicholas abhorred its restrictions upon his power, which he had sworn at his coronation to pass on to his son. He dismissed the First and Second Dumas when they proved "unsatisfactory" to him, and unilaterally altered the election statutes (in violation of the constitution) to ensure that more landed persons would be elected to future Dumas. Although the resulting Third and Fourth Dumas proved more lasting, they still quarreled with the Tsar and his government over the general direction of state policy, and over the fundamental nature of the Russian state. Ultimately, with the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Duma took a leading role in bringing about the Tsar's abdication, which led in turn to the abolition of the monarchy and the ascent to power of the Communists.
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