Russian Constitutionalism and Elections in Noble Assemblies under Alexander I

Keywords: Russian constitutionalism, power, and society, constitution, selfgovernment of the nobility, elections of the nobility, M. M. Speransky


In historiography, the Russian constitutionalism of the first quarter of the nineteenth century has traditionally been considered a result of the ideological influence of the European political and legal theories and the content of foreign constitutions known to contemporaries. What escaped researchers’ attention was the influence of the existing experience of holding elections in noble assemblies which the authors of constitutional projects referred to as a basic model for forming bodies of class representation. Electoral practices allowed the emperor and his immediate environment to estimate the degree of formation of one of the most significant conditions for introducing a constitution in Russia, i. e. the fact that the eligible for political rights possessed necessary moral qualities, desire, and abilities for partnership in the development and discussion of laws. The author analyses archival materials from the Russian State Historical Archive, acts, and M. M. Speransky’s private correspondence with V. P. Kochubey. For the first time in national historiography, the article presents recurring problem situations deemed by contemporaries as critical, interfering with the normal functioning of election systems. The most significant of them was the impossibility to draw up electoral lists in due time and authentically, reveal and prevent facts of a deliberate distortion of data on property, cases of false purchase and sale of manors; lack of the necessary number of noblemen who would correspond to all to the criteria established by the law and have the skills required; conspiracy or bribery of electors by the persons interested in the victory of a candidate; cases of “evasion of duty” by already elected candidates. Such cases were treated as a manifestation of unworthy behaviour of noblemen who turned the election procedure into an instrument of negative selection of candidates. Finally, the author concludes that in the government circles of Russia in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, together with the understanding of the inefficiency of the existing local management system, the negative experience of electoral practices was an argument for the inopportuneness of introducing a constitution.

Author Biography

Dmitry Timofeev

Dr. Hab. (History), Head of the Department of Social History, Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

16, S. Kovalevskaya Str., 620990, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-6578-8762


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How to Cite
Timofeev, D. (2022). Russian Constitutionalism and Elections in Noble Assemblies under Alexander I. Quaestio Rossica, 10(3), 848–866.
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