‘Make it look more democratic, Mikhail Mikhailovich!’ Potemkin Parliamentarism and the Project to Redesign the Russian State Duma
Image source: OMA, 2012. Doctored image of the Russian Duma from “Urban Competition for the Elaboration of the Concept of the Moscow City Agglomeration”. Project presentation, p.219.

Michał Murawski
Lecturer in Critical Area Studies
School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL

Ben Noble
Lecturer in Russian Politics
School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL

This paper, co-authored by Russian parliamentarism expert Ben Noble and anthropologist of architecture Michał Murawski, discusses the renovation project of the Russian State Duma–the lower chamber of the country’s bicameral federal parliament. The paper reconstructs key discussions around the renovation project, tracing the flow and collision of ideas. In particular, the paper discusses the role played by the fashionable Dutch architecture practice XML Studio’s 2017 Parliament book, which features figure-ground diagrams of parliamentary chambers around the world. The paper explores some of the rhetorics, aesthetics, and strategies deployed in the Duma to make itself look democratic when, in practice, it largely serves to enact the legislative agenda of Vladimir Putin and his government. This latest Duma project is placed in the broader context of multiple attempts to rehome and reshape the Russian parliament. Overall, the paper provides a case study of reflexivity –between democratic form and content – drawing on insights from political science, anthropology, and architecture.

October 8, 2020