The Russian Empire’s State Duma met for the first time at the Taurida Palace in St. Petersburg.
The Duma was to form the lower house of a new legislative assembly. It was proposed by Sergei Witte, the Chairman of the Russian Council of Ministers, in response to the wave of violence that culminated in the Russian Revolution of 1905. Tsar Nicholas II formally declared the creation of the Duma when he issued the October Manifesto later that year.
Elections for the Duma took place in March 1906 and permitted men over the age of 25 to vote. Having been boycotted by a number of parties on the left, the election resulted in a centre-left parliament of which the moderate Constitutional Democrats held the most seats.
Witte, the architect of the October Manifesto, was forced to resign on 22 April and the following day the Tsar issued the Russian Constitution of 1906, otherwise known as the Fundamental Laws. Under the terms, the authority of the Duma was severely restricted while the Tsar was given the title ‘supreme autocrat’. He had the power to dismiss the Duma and call elections, while Article 87 permitted him to impose laws as emergency legislation.
Despite possessing such limited powers, the Duma adopted a broadly anti-autocratic agenda and pushed for further reforms after the liberal deputy Professor Sergey Muromtsev was elected as the Duma’s President. Their calls for increased liberties were ignored by the government. The first two bills sent to the Duma for approval were for the construction of a greenhouse a new laundry.
Just 72 days after it convened, the Tsar dissolved the assembly on 21 July. He appointed the more repressive Peter Stolypin to the position of Prime Minister the same day.