The First State Duma, Russia’s first ever elected parliament, was the direct result of the 1905 Revolution, and sat between April and July 1906 at St Petersburg’s Tauride Palace (built by Catherine the Great for Potemkin in the 1780s). It was always going to be difficult, even though the Bolsheviks and others had boycotted the elections, and after only ten weeks of debate among the 478 deputies tensions between the Duma and the Tsar, who had been reluctant to share power from the start, became too much and the army was sent in to dissolve the parliament. Any frustrations, however, evidently did not prevent publishers such as Karl Fisher, a photographer who specialised in souvenir albums marking particular events, from cashing in. This portfolio, published in 1906, contains 60 photogravure plates with portraits of all the Duma members. (A facsimile was produced in 2006 to mark the Duma’s 100th anniversary.)
Another popular publication to appear at the time was Lev Velikhov’s great Comparative Table of Russian Political Parties (815 × 1094 mm), which sought to explain to the interested reader over 20 of the political parties then active in Russia, from the ultranationalist Black Hundreds, through Slavophiles, Tsarists, socialist revolutionaries, and Tolstoyans, to anarchists. Among the information given are the parties’ essence, their history, tactics, printed publications if any, their attitude towards the new State Duma, and their views on peasants, workers, economics, religion, war etc.
It is clear that demand for information on the various parties was high. Velikhov’s table went through at least three editions, with thousands of copies printed, but due to its ephemeral nature few examples survive, certainly in Western libraries.