Alternate History

1956 Alaskan constitutional crisis (Napoleon's World)

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The 1956 Alaskan constitutional crisis refers to a showdown between the Alaskan Duma and its Premier, Yakov Sighovaryin, who was siding with Tsar Alexander I in a major debate about the expansion of suffrage in Alaska which led to the establishment of the precedent of a government shutdown as a political tool as well as the option of threatening an electoral postponement or dissolution of the Duma.

The Duma, already feeling scorned about Sighovaryin's arguably extralegal granting of suffrage to women in 1955 and his coercive measures to pass the voting reform, were outraged upon his announcement of universal suffrage for all citizens of Alaska, including Native Alaskans, who up until then had been required to achieve the notoriously restrictive Alaskan citizenship through the same channels as most foreigners, although this requirement was not in place for Native Alaskans who fought in the Alaskan army.

When most of the Duma, including many of Sighovaryin's political allies such as President of the Duma Kirill Osopek, refused to consider a bill introduced by Igor Golovko that would grant Natives citizenship and suffrage in time for the 1957 elections, a standoff ensued in which the Tsar threatened to dissolve the Duma instantanously or to refuse to extend an invitation to form a government in 1957, countered by a Duma threat to postpone the election until the 66-month limit between elections, which would have fallen in 1958. The crisis soon involved the Alaskan Patriarchy, which released a Church Creed which endorsed the law, causing a further uproar over the politicization of the Church by Sighovaryin. Eventually, Sighovaryin was forced to suspend the government to prevent the Duma from meeting to veto the Creed, which would have significantly damaged the standing of the Patriarchy, and was able to negotiate a compromise in which the Native Alaskan component was removed in return for women's suffrage remaining.

The crisis of 1956 was an extremely damaging event for all corners of the Alaskan government. While they would hold on to power for the next decade and a half save a sixteen-month interlude, the episode significantly damaged the standing of the Conservative coalition in the eyes of the public and could very well have driven them from power in the 1957 elections, which many historians contend they only won due to Sighovaryin's support amongst moderate female voters for his insistence on their suffrage. The episode also damaged the Liberals, many of whom opposed both measures and were decried as hypocrites for their earlier sympathy towards Marxism, which would have been theoretically compatible with broader equality. Most significantly, however, it was the first major challenge by anyone in the Alaskan government to Sighovaryin's power, which in 1956 was at its peak, and revealed deep rifts within his power ruling coalition, setting the stage for the rivalry between heavyweights Golovko and Osopek that would boil over a decade later. Sighovaryin would never enjoy the same kind of unfettered power as he had in the past. The debacle contributed to the decline in the importance of the Alaskan Orthodox Church in the political sphere, which was not completely undesired by the Church, which had long been frustrated with attempts to politicize it over the prior decades.

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