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Entangled Parliamentarisms: Constitutional Practices in Russia, Ukraine, China and Mongolia, 1905–2005

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENTPAR (Entangled Parliamentarisms: Constitutional Practices in Russia, Ukraine, China and Mongolia, 1905–2005)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

The project addresses the interconnected histories of parliamentarism in Russia, Ukraine, China, and Mongolia between 1905 and 2005. The four contexts were connected through the shared legacies of the Russian and Qing Empires and their experience with revolutions and socialist state-building. The project explores how parliaments were introduced in imperial and post-imperial contexts, how the issue of social diversity (ethnic, religious, gender, class, and so on) featured in the parliamentary designs and practices, and how Eurasian parliaments differed from their Western European and North American counterparts. The project seeks to determine why façade parliamentarism emerged and consolidated over the twentieth century in these and other contexts and why, despite their similar historical trajectories, the post-authoritarian transformations in Russia, China, Ukraine, and Mongolia proved so different.
The project investigates the ways in which political institutions function and accumulates new data on democratic institutions in Eurasia. The imperial and post-imperial developments in Eurasia are crucial for understanding the global spread of parliaments, both potent and façade. Understanding why over the twentieth century most governments introduced a parliament, but at the same time why many of them ended up having only a façade one is important in the context of the ongoing debates on democracy, social justice, and diversity management. Furthermore, the resilience of authoritarian regimes requires further research on how institutions function.
An important objective of the project is to determine how the shared imperial experiences with parliamentarism in the Russian and Qing Empires and the imperial and post-imperial transformations, which witnessed the rise of nationalism and socialism, led to the emergence of a variety of parliamentary institutions, such as duma, soviet, dahui, yuan, rada, khural, and others. Another objective is to understand the political languages by scrutinizing unique and shared concepts. A further objective is to specify the key factors in the emergence, development, and collapse of parliamentary institutions under different regimes, including those dominated by a single party. Finally, it is important to determine what role diversity played in the development of Eurasian parliamentary institutions and their difference from Western European and American counterparts.
The team of five researchers conducted individual and collaborative research. Ivan Sablin explored the history of parliamentary institutions in Russia and the Soviet Union, with special attention to diversity management and the role of global developments. Working in Germany, Russia, and Hungary, he collected documents on the State Duma of the Russian Empire, revolutionary parliaments, the Soviet representative bodies, the assemblies of the Communist Party, the Supreme Soviet, and several hundred works on parliamentarism, written by intellectuals and politicians. The role of global developments was especially important for his chapter “Russia in the Global Parliamentary Moment, 1905–1918: Between a Subaltern Empire and an Empire of Subalterns” (in Locating the Global: Spaces, Networks and Interactions from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. by Holger Weiss. Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020, pp. 257–282), in which he analyzed the positions of Russian intellectuals on parliamentarism. In the article “Parliaments and Parliamentarism in the Works of Soviet Dissidents, 1960s–80s” (Parliaments, Estates and Representation, vol. 40, no. 1, 2020, pp. 78–96), Ivan Sablin explored the views of the oppositional intellectuals on the Soviet “parliament” and their alternatives to it. Jargal Badagarov conducted archival research in Russia and Mongolia. He looked at how the terms “democracy,” “parliament,” and “constitution” contributed to the making of the Modern Mongolic languages. Irina Sodnomova worked in Russian archives and libraries, including those of the Republic of Kalmykia. She contributed to the group’s research on the translatability of the concept of “parliament” and the history of khurals in Russia and Mongolia. Martin Dorn went to Ukraine for his fieldwork and collected materials on the revolutionary transformations in Ukrainian territories after the Habsburg and Russian empires. In particular, he was interested in how Jews and Poles participated in the Ukrainian representative institutions. He also contributed to the group’s study of concepts, exploring that of rada. The members of the project engaged in cooperation outside the group through two workshops and one collaborative publication. The Workshop “Parliaments and Political Transformations in Europe and Asia: Diversity and Representation in the 20th and 21st Century” traced the similarities between the post-imperial and post-socialist periods in Eurasia, with special attention to parliaments. Some of the papers were developed into articles and published in the edited collection “Parliamentary Formations and Diversities in (Post-)Imperial Eurasia” (Journal of Eurasian Studies, vol. 11, nos. 1 and 2, 2020, Special Issue, ed. by Ivan Sablin). The Workshop “Eurasian Parliamentary Practices and Political Mythologies: Imperial Legacies, Diversities, and Representations in the 20th and 21st Century” focused on the peculiarities of the concepts and practices, which accompanied parliamentary developments in Eurasia. The project also hosted three visiting scholars, Prof. Dr. Christopher Atwood, Maria Ukhvatova, and Dr. Aimar Ventsel.
The members of the project and its international collaborators systematized the functions of parliaments in Eurasian imperial and post-imperial regimes and enriched the conceptual, intellectual, and political histories of parliamentarism outside of Western Europe and North America. The elites of the Russian and Qing empires considered parliaments as an element of political modernization but viewed their primary function in strengthening the state through exchanging information with localities and streamlining imperial bureaucracy. Even though for oppositional intellectuals the parliament was ideally an institution for gaining a voice, many of them also subscribed to the state-centered ideas of it. The issue of diversity also proved key to the formation of imperial parliaments. In many Eurasian contexts parliamentary institutions did not become potent legislatures. At the same time, they proved to be representative of multiple social groups, especially ethnic, which made them more representative in this aspect than the parliaments of the British, French, and other European empires. These findings helped broaden the horizons of research on parliamentarism and helped accentuate the role of Eurasian developments in the making of the modern world. Anti-parliamentarism and the understandings of parliamentarism, which were diverged from the universalist liberal notions, emerged early on and nourished the development of peculiar representative institutions. Collaborative studies within and outside the group revealed similar tendencies in the Russian, Qing, Ottoman, and Japanese imperial and post-imperial contexts. It was hence not just the sophisticated design of modern façade parliaments but the different meanings associated with the concept of parliament in Eurasia which contributed to the variety of contemporary representative institutions.
Left to right: Paula Simon, Martin Dorn, Irina Sodnomova, Ivan Sablin, Jargal Badagarov