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Abstract

Parliaments are often seen as Western European and North American institutions and their establishment in other parts of the world as a derivative and mostly defective process. This book challenges such Eurocentric visions by retracing the evolution of modern institutions of collective decision-making in Eurasia. Breaching the divide between different area studies, the book provides nine case studies covering the area between the eastern edge of Asia and Eastern Europe, including the former Russian, Ottoman, Qing, and Japanese Empires as well as their successor states. In particular, it explores the appeals to concepts of parliamentarism, deliberative decision-making, and constitutionalism; historical practices related to parliamentarism; and political mythologies across Eurasia. It focuses on the historical and “reestablished” institutions of decision-making, which consciously hark back to indigenous traditions and adapt them to the changing circumstances in imperial and postimperial contexts. Thereby, the book explains how representative institutions were needed for the establishment of modernized empires or postimperial states but at the same time offered a connection to the past.
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Focusing on the debates in the First and Second State Duma of the Russian Empire, the article argues that the imperial parliament was the site for articulating and developing multiple approaches to political community. Together with the better studied particularistic discourses, which were based on ethno-national, religious, regional, social estate, class and other differences, many deputies of the State Duma, including those who subscribed to particularistic agendas, appealed to an inclusionary Russian political community. The production of this new, modern political community was part of the global trend of political modernization but often departed from the homogenizing and exclusionary logic of nation-building. It relied on the experience of the composite imperial space, with its fluid and overlapping social categories. Two approaches predominated. The integrative approach foregrounded civil equality. It resembled other cases of modern nation-building but still remained attentive to diversity. The composite approach synthesized particularistic discourses with the broadly circulating ideas of autonomy and federation and, relying on the imperial politics of difference, imagined individual groups as the building blocks of a new differentiated political community. Both approaches stressed loyalty to the Russian state but borrowed from aspirational patriotism, seeking to rebuild it on new principles.
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