The paper analyzes the mechanism of discrediting political opponents during the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Empire. It is based on the materials of the struggle between conservatives and liberals. In the early 20th century, the right wing forces waged a fierce ideological and political battle against liberals, mostly against the Cadets (Constitutional Democrats), who were regarded more dangerous than revolutionary parties. During the pre-election campaign, liberals were branded as “the most vicious enemies of Russia”. The Black Hundreds (extreme reactionaries) saw a substantial threat for the foundations of traditional society in the Cadets’ political activities. An active propaganda campaign was unleashed against them, engaging a variety of channels, from church sermons to leaflets and pamphlets. The right wing press played the main part in that campaign. The author points out the role of Ilya Gurland, the executive chief of “Rossiya”, the para-governmental newspaper, in discrediting the Cadet party. The techniques of discredit, such as exaggerations, fact distortions, mockery, lies and slander, are analyzed. The measures proposed by the Cadets to rebuild the Russian society were interpreted as hostile intrigues of enemies, mainly Jews, who wished to destroy Russia and then establish their domination on its ruins. Anti-Semitic motives were widely used in the fight against the Ca-dets. The conservatives tried to show voters that ideas and programs were not significant for the liberals, who only needed them as an instrument to cause people’s discontent with the existing regime and to organize a coup d’etat. The right wing agitation campaign relied on emotions: being unable to debate with the liberals on the subject, the right wing publicists and politicians appealed to feelings. They tried to display their political opponents as failed personalities distanced from reality and incapable of important government activities. The paper shows that the right wing political journalism was persistent to promote the image of a liberal as “a twisty politician” striving for power through the Duma at any cost to destroy the foundations of the Russian Empire.
Key words: liberalism, conservatism, public opinion, election campaign, the State Duma, the Revolution of 1905–1907.