Duma Voter List FAQ
These records are the registration lists of those eligible to vote for indirect representatives to the last constitutional body in Russia before the fall of the old regime in 1917, the Duma. The Registration records are from the first decade of the 20th century (i.e., 1900 to 1910). The records are called the Duma voting list records. The title is a little misleading in that the lists are not records of votes cast, or of those who voted. They are earlier records and record the names of those men who were 24 years of age and older who were eligible to vote. Whether they actually voted is not found in these records.
Eligibility, after meeting the first two requirements (age and sex), is based on various things, but mainly it is based, with regard to Jews, on the payment of taxes. Unlike in the United States today, eligibility to vote in pre-Revolutionary Russia was not determined on citizenship (Jews were not citizens of Russia, but “subjects” of the realm), but on taxes paid, guild and professional membership, and other criteria. The eligibility lists included Jews and non-Jews. These lists were required to be published in the official Russian newspapers, Gubernskie Vedomosti and the lists that have been preserved were found in the published newspapers in various libraries
The lists of eligible voters may have been compiled from different sources for different towns. In some towns they were compiled from records in financial offices, governmental agencies, apartment registries, etc. or from “in person” registration of individual potential voters. The lists for each town are different, but all have certain similarities. There are many abbreviations on the lists, some of which are still not clearly understood. Most of the unclear abbreviations appear to relate to business dealings of the listed persons. The names for most Jews, but not all, include a first name, patronymic, and surname.
by Harry Boonin
Q: What is a Duma?
A: The Duma is the Russian Parliament. There were four czarist-era Dumas with election periods as follows:
- 1st Duma: Jan. 1906 to Apr. 1906
- 2nd Duma: Dec. 1906 to Feb. 1907
- 3rd Duma: Sep. 1907 to Oct. 1907
- 4th Duma: Sep. 1912 to Oct. 1912
Q: What is Gubernskie Vedomosti?
A: Gubernskie Vedomosti means "provincial gazette". These were Czarist-era provincial newspapers, something like the U.S. Federal Register in purpose, combined with business news and commercial advertisements. In addition to Duma voter lists, G.V. contain a variety of lists of interest to Jewish genealogists, including military draft call-up lists, tax lists, merchant lists, and lists of families required to pay military fines, etc. Most lists were published for a single uezd (district).
Q: What is the genealogical value of Russian Duma voter lists?
A: Other than revision (census) lists, voter lists are one of the most geographically comprehensive, largest accounting of Jews (~ 15% of adult males) in Czarist Russia that exist today. While revision lists are much more comprehensive, they are from an earlier period in time and relatively few from Belarus are currently easily accessible. Voter lists document Jews in the early 20th century, a period for which more genealogists have definite names. Information available in Duma lists is for men over age 24: name (last, first, patronymic), place of residence, voter qualification reason, property/business values, nationality (most lists have only some of these items - see table below). Another valuable feature of Duma voter lists is that particular care was taken by the government to ensure their accuracy. That is apparent by observation and by studying the history of the pre-revolutionary Dumas. Districts sometimes published errata lists, indicating spelling mistakes and typos in the publishing of the original list. Not many compilers of genealogical records of any kind went to those lengths. Supplemental lists, which recorded voters left off of the original list are common.
|Content by District||Minsk||Pinsk||Mozyr||Novogrudok||Igumen||Borisov||Slutsk|
|Number of voters||16373||2700||3638||3448||3700||3331||4066|
* The 1906 Rechitsa District list was acquired and translated by Gladys Friedman Paulin and donated to the JewishGen Belarus SIG.
Q: Why do voter lists vary in content and format?
A: Because each uezd (district) of each gubernia was responsible for compiling and publishing its own list, and interestingly, this contract was sometimes given to a Jewish printing company. Each district provided the same core information, but some districts provided more or distinct info. A common difference is how the voter list was sorted. Usually it is sorted alphabetically by first letter of last name, but sometimes by voter eligibility reason, etc. Another important reason for variability is that voter eligibility qualifications changed between the 2nd and 3rd Duma.
Q: If a name appears on the list, does that imply the person voted?
A: No. These were voter eligibility lists, analogous to voter registration rolls in the U.S. and other countries. A tiny percentage of voters were later excluded from voting, and no one has yet reported any documentation available to confirm whether a specific individual actually voted.
Q: I have more questions about the Duma and voter lists. Where can I read more?
A: Here are some good selections:
- "An Analysis and Guide to Beider's Sources in the United States" Avotaynu: XIV/3/33.
- Alexander Beider. A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire. Avotaynu, 1993.
- "Gubernskie Vedomosti: A Genealogical Resource" Avotaynu: XII/4/27-28.
- Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History (MERSH) "Duma" pp. 39-49.
- Alfred Levin. The Second Duma. Archon Books, 1966.
- Norman Ross. Vedomosti Project:
- Harry D. Boonin. "Gospodskaia Duma, Summer 1907; Voter Registration Lists" Avotaynu: Volume XVI, Number 2, Summer 2000
This FAQ was given to the Belarus SIG by an anonymous donor. Suggested changes and additions should be sent to the Help Desk.