The Science Work
Site is for sale:
Category: History

The first Russian Prime Minister hostage and victim of opposition of the autocratic power and society

k. V. Gavrilov


Work is presented by department of history of the Leningrad state university of A.S. Pushkin.

The research supervisor - the doctor of historical sciences, professor V.S. Volkov

Article is devoted to one of the most drama periods of the Russian history of 1905-1906. This period is inseparably linked with a name of S.Yu. Witte - the first prime minister of the Russian Empire. In article the question of impact of the liberal and conservative trends of the Russian society on S.Yu. Witte's activity during formation of the government reveals on the basis of generalization of materials of periodicals, documents and memoirs of eyewitnesses. On the example of concrete steps of S.Yu. Witte tactics and the strategy of the government at the solution of pressing problems of time are shown.

K. Gavrilov


The paper is devoted to one of the most dramatic periods in the Russian history-1905-1906. This time is inseparably connected with the name of S. Yu. Witte - the first Prime Minister of the Russian Empire. Basing on the periodical press, documents and reminiscences of the witnesses, author of the paper views the problem of the Russian liberal and conservative tendencies& influence on the activity of S. Yu. Witte during the government forming. The author shows the tactics and strategy of the state power in urgent problem solving through the example of S. Yu. Witte&s certain steps.

Events and transformations in the country in 1905 changed activity of the government and its attitude towards public opinion.

In a revolutionary way and socialist the adjusted elements regarded the Manifesto on October 17 from the point of view of stated to them

civil liberties. They saw a powerful tool in them both for distribution of the ideas, and for strengthening of the revolutionary actions, but the manifesto did not suit them. Many declared perfect insufficiency of the followed state act.

The liberal radical saw approach of the moment when they turn into ruling class in the manifesto and will become in power. They expressed joy frostily, noting that the manifesto can be welcomed only as the first step on the way of transformation of autocratic Russia to strictly constitutional monarchy.

Thus, only moderately liberal part of the public expressed joy, seeing in the manifesto implementation of the wishes fully.

Therefore the government and personally to S.Yu. Witte had to win round new allies at the price of concessions.

From the first days of premiership of Witte, understanding all importance of public opinion, began to look for a support in society. He stipulated questions of formation of the government with the tsar, having rejected such odious figures as K.P. Pobedonostsev and A.G. Bulygin. It was decided what on posts of ministers of premieres can attract also public figures if they are able to help to calm the reputation public disorders.

Began implementation of this idea of Witte with the press, considering its influence on public opinion. Already on October 19 Witte invited to himself representatives of the majority of the St. Petersburg newspapers, hoping to find in circles of the liberal intellectuals of allies.

"So, I could not expect the help from the grown dull press; opposite to that, newspapers or were eager for any given from me the benefits", - Witte judged [4, page 60]. He obviously did not assess those consequences which emergence of the Manifesto had on October 17. The condition of euphoria which captured liberals was expressed in a number of demonstrative steps concerning the authorities - "basic disobedience of the government".

But there is also other opinion on this meeting, Witte asked newsdealers to help it to calm the public. "From you, the main thing from you, this calm depends... I need support. Help me. If you calm public opinion if the true national representation is, everything will be facilitated. Then government

will play a role such, as in the cultural countries" [11, page 100-101].

The first A.S. Suvorin started talking - for calm first of all the complete amnesty is necessary. It was strongly promised to it. The editor of "News" O.K. Notovich said: "We trust you, but the people do not trust". Newsdealers demanded freedom of the printed word. "It is already announced, - S.Yu. Witte told, - but yet there are no new laws on the press, it is necessary to observe old". Some demanded to withdraw troops from St. Petersburg, and for protection of an order to found national militia. The publisher of "Our life" professor-economist L.V. Hodsky took in head to threaten: "We will not publish newspapers until troops leave". S.Yu. Witte: "To take away troops? No, it is better to be left without newspapers and without electricity. If troops leave, other inhabitants will have the right to blame for this measure the government. Robberies, robberies and an other outrage will begin!" [11, page 103-104].

Agreed that so far the government was not organized, will postpone a conversation. The publisher of "The St. Petersburg newspaper" S.N. Khudyakov wished: "Let all freedoms, and especially freedom of press, will receive implementation at once". S.Yu. Witte promised this: "Tomorrow we will practically discuss it. So far I will tell: do not break the law on censorship. I will talk to the chief of head department on cases of the press of elimination of misunderstanding today..." [11, page 104-105].

The public figure V.I. Gurko wrote in memories of this meeting: "Witte's speech came down.k to the fact that he very much values public opinion and recognizes as very useful to the government to hear quite freely stated and precisely formulated public program of public policy. Of course, he cannot speak forward, what does he think of this program and whether he will support it entirely, but it is a question further, nowadays important, according to him, only one, namely not to interfere with the public publicly to formulate the thoughts and expectations" [7, page 367].

S.Yu. Witte kept the promises. The first official meeting of Council mini-

str of the Russian Empire it was devoted to a question of immediate taking measures to implementation of freedom of the printed word.

Freedom of speech declared in the Manifesto tied hands to the authorities, and measures against some newspapers were taken only when the threat of panic in the money market owing to publications appeared.

Despite efforts of the prime minister, the press did not weaken attacks on its office. Especially the chernosotenny press tried. So, on February 19, 1906 in printing house of the St. Petersburg city's mayor the leaflet of the Russkoye Znamya newspaper was passed for the press. In it it was said: "Now the honest Russian people loving Russia strive at the sovereign that he drove from the presidential place of the main enemy of the Russian people and the chief assistant Jewish with his Jewess the wife rather" [6, page 338]. Also A.I. Guchkov from pages of the "Voice of Moscow" threw mud at the prime minister. The leader of the party of Octobrists told the employee of government office A.A. Spassky: "We do not cease to expose the favourite as a liar and atrocities, arbitrary punishments and first of all in deliberate procrastination of term of convocation of the State Duma... You with your Witte water a big fire with kerosene. Witte all shows off the constitutionality, and in practice proves to be the executioner. However he hangs by a thread. The Moor made the business, the Moor can leave" [6, page 339].

Not better editions of cadet sense proved to be. "Reading. daily Moscow body "Russian sheets", - the count I.I. Tolstoy wrote, - I am directly enraged by the consecutive system of jugglings, party illumination of all facts, intolerance to all dissidents and at the same time a shocking doctoralnost of tone at analysis of any question. Just in a disgusting way and annoying for the Russian professorate which leyb-body was always this newspaper". He had a low opinion also of suvorinsky "Modern times" - the solid newspaper which was constantly seen on a desk of the Russian monarch: ". "Modern times" so (though no more, alas!) it is shocking though

in other relation: on the one hand, wagging to the right and to the left, and with another - persecution of nationalities non-russian, inhabiting Russia: favourite objects of a lganye and mean attacks are, of course, "kikes", Finns and Poles. As "The Russian sheets" do not hesitate the truth when it is necessary to prove superiority of cadet prejudiced theories, so "Modern times" lie continually when it is necessary to pour slops of foreigners." Compared the Russian periodicals of columns of I.I. Tolstaya to rubbish pits ". in which only also do that evil spirits add" [16, page 50-51].

The emperor with gloating noticed in a conversation with the grand duke Nikolay Mikhaylovich: "Press, bad at Witte. Even "Modern times" and that will wear and refuse to it trust" [10, page 339].

After unsuccessful attempt to lean on Witte's press, decided to look for allies among public figures" [5, page 253].

Participated in negotiations: from the government - S.Yu. Witte and the prince A.D. Obolensky, the member of the State Council and the chief prosecutor of the Holy Synod. The side of the public was represented: F.A. Golovin is the chairman of the Moscow provincial territorial justice, the chairman of Bureau of the unions of territorial and city figures, the member of the Central Committee of party of cadets; A.I. Guchkov is Union on October 17 party leader; F.F. Kokoshin is professor of the Moscow university, the member of the party of cadets; prince G.E. Lvov is a chairman Yepifan district and Tula provincial justices, the member of the party of cadets; A.S. Posni-kov (Postnikov) is the dean of Polytechnical institute of St. Petersburg, the territorial figure; M.A. Stakhovich is a participant of the territorial movement and one of creators "The union on October 17"; N.S. Tagantsev is a lawyer, professor of Aleksandrovsky lyceum and St. Petersburg university; the prince E.N. Trubetskoy is professor of the Kiev university, it was close to cadets; the prince S.D. Urusov is a territorial figure, the member of the party of democratic reforms was close to cadet party, then; D.N. Shipov - one of leaders "The union on October 17".

Witte stopped on moderate figures, relatives on positions, in D.N. Shipov and A.I. Guchkov - future party leaders of Octobrists. To the first he wanted to offer a post of the state controller, to the second - the minister of trade and the industry, to the prince Trubetskoy - a post of the minister of national education. Shipov was invited as the public figure who had authority and support in certain public circles. It says about S.Yu. Witte's understanding importance of accounting of public opinion at the crisis moments of history.

Shipov did not object against to hold the post offered it, but considered what needs to be attracted to confidence-building in structure of an office not only the right figures, but also "representatives of various public circles" of more left direction.

"Society knows your past, - and society does not trust you. - the leader of cadets Milyukov said. It does not know also on what you have powers and on what you have no. But it, naturally, is afraid that figures famous to society will be used only for cover as screens behind which will be done things which society cannot approve.

"But how to achieve trust of society? - the count Witte objected, - the trust it can be got only by affairs and in order that these affairs were, it is already necessary to have public trust and public action?"

"Of course, situation is psychologically extremely difficult, - Milyukov answered, - and it is very similar to a vicious circle. But here that it would seem to me a possible outcome. Now no public figure to you will go. But you can begin reforms immediately, without waiting for the introduction them in your ministry: form what abroad is called the transitional ministry, cabinet d affaires, the business ministry in similar cases" [15, page 325].

During negotiations there were insuperable disagreements concerning the candidate for a post of the Minister of Internal Affairs. Witte before -

laid down P.N. Durnovo's candidacy though protests of liberals were known to him. Witte did not make the wrong choice though he recognized then that it worsened its already difficult situation as a premiere.

Subsequently one of leaders of cadets V.A. Maklakov stated a regret on the fact that because of short-sightedness of his party fellows the unique chance of peaceful evolution of the mode was missed: Whether "The delegation understood what it made? I remember pride with which Kokoshkin by the voice which got hoarse from repetition told about a victory of zemets over Witte..." [14, page 439].

According to V.V. Leontovich, Witte sincerely looked for the agreement with public members. He attached it so great value that he sacrificed development of the clear and accurate government program to efforts to reach the agreement with the public.

"Of course, it was the mistake, - V.V. Leontovich considers. - Accurately developed program would facilitate the agreement with opposition as definiteness always has attractive force" [13, page 486].

Witte did not find a common language neither with the cadet Milyukov, nor with Octobrists Guchkovy and Spiked.

As a result Witte created kind of the provisional, working government from little-known figures - "a business office". "on October 17 the change was announced. In Russia "government" in the technical meaning of a concept - the government with the political program, not exhausted "devotion", "fidelity" and "obedience", ideological integrated and solidary and responsible was for the first time formed..." [2, page 412].

V.I. Lenin in 1905 noted: "Witte rubs from pleasure of a hand, seeing & #34; великие" progress of the surprisingly cunning game... But in the meantime it gets together with hatred and a kapitalets because it remains the head royal the government keeping all power in the hands and waiting only most for an opportunity for transition to resolute approach against revolution" [12, page 50].

"In effect, I had to operate one Russia, Russia which rose, revolutionized at this time without having any tools of control of the difficult mechanism of the empire in the hands", - Witte wrote in "Memoirs" [4, page 73]. If to it to add that a strike of the railroads, and then mail and telegraph was interfered with messages, transfer of orders, then it will be absolutely clear that in the first weeks after October 17 there was a full disorganization of the power. "I in return know that I was powerless, and then all the time of my premiership with the power castrated by eternal cunning if not to tell insidiousness, the emperor Nicholas II", - described the condition of Witte [4, page 73].

In November Moscow rebelled. Nicholas felt deceived. It gave to people the constitution, he stepped through himself. And in reply everything proceeds. What Witte's government? In the letter to the Kaiser from 10 on November (23) Nicholas II complained: "I often should force by force Witte when he needs to decide on any given measure" [9, page 273].

Influence of the general D.F. Trepov on the sovereign became a problem for Witte. He held an influential post of the palace commandant of Tsarskoye Selo where mostly and there was a family of the monarch. "Thus, Tre-pov during my ministry had much more influence on its majesty, than I; in any case, on each question with which Trepov did not agree I had to combat. After all, he was kind of the irresponsible head of the government, and I responsible, but a little influential prime minister", - Witte wrote [4, page 73].

The General's wife has Bogdanovich in the diary: "Every day Witte feels the ground slipping away from under the feet more and more, nobody trusts him. The press of all shades abuses him" [1, page 268].

Owing to the thought-over Witte's measures could seize a situation gradually. He allocated a number of priorities. First of all - suppression of revolution.

The main threat proceeded from working councils. A.S. Suvorin sneered: "... Father -

go, say, Khrustalyov-Nosar will not arrest the count Witte? He opposed to the government of the count Witte Khrustalyov-Nosar's government." "I was not afraid of either Nosar, or his government, or all these working deputies and in a penny did not put them", - Witte writes [4, page 89]. On November 26, 1905 the government arrested Nosar, and all structure of the St. Petersburg council was arrested on December 3.

Disorders declined, but on December 2

1905 in Moscow there was a revolt of the 2nd grenadierial Rostov regiment. The chosen revolutionary regimental committee demanded convocation of the constituent assembly, etc., Council of soldier's deputies from representatives of a number of regiments of garrison was created. It was the revolution peak, it was necessary to take emergency measures for suppression. As V.V. Leontovich wrote, Durnovo managed it rather easily.

Witte wrote: "I put to myself in a special merit that for half a year of my premiership during the revolution in St. Petersburg everything several dozen people were killed, and nobody is executed" [4, page 62].

Witte, probably, consciously speaks only about St. Petersburg. At the end of 1905 - the beginning

1906 the government published the whole series of confidential circulars about execution extrajudicially of participants of revolutionary movement, about arrests of strikers, administrative eviction of participants of peasants uprisings.

Drastic measures of the government achieved the objectives, disorders declined.

In days of recession of revolution of the spouse put some idea to the tsar about evil intention Witte. The manifesto supposedly did not lead to anything, - not without reason after it proceeded revolts.

The grand duke Nikolay Nikolaevich, still yesterday and embracing Witte, and the glorifying Manifesto joins the empress.

noted Witte's

that in suppression of revolution the significant role belonged also to the Black Hundreds. Right after the announcement of the Manifesto on October 17 across Russia the wave of the counterrevolutionary performances accompanied with the Jewish riots swept.

Tsar's authorities did not interfere and even tolerated the chernosotenny organizations in suppression of strikes for intimidation of the bourgeois and the intellectuals.

Witte's attitude towards the Black Hundreds always was almost sneering and hostile. Witte understood that rabble-rousing activity of the Black Hundreds undermined prestige of tsarist Russia in the opinion of world public opinion. It complicated carrying out political reforms, the only thing, according to Witte, a tsarism resort from accident.

Far right paid the same, their spiteful attacks to Witte began before fall of 1905

At the end of January, 1907 was two attempts to assassinate Witte's life are committed. At legal investigation of Witte said that no personal enemies has, and not anarchists, and "the union of the Russian people", i.e. the far-right were his political enemies. Investigation dragged on. Enemies floated rumors that the incident is arranged by nearly Witte. Plot threads, according to Witte, reached for Dubrovin who used agents of security office. Later the assumption completely was confirmed.

Having calmed revolution, having eliminated anarchy and having relatively stabilized a situation in the country, Witte began to pay more attention to implementation of provisions of the Manifesto on October 17, of which transition to parliamentarism in Russia was main.

But the sovereign and his environment, having felt a discharge, did not want to carry out promised the people, against Witte and the liberal members of the cabinet attacks of right amplified. The minister of education of columns I.I. Tolstoy wrote in Witte's letters: "I consider that the more sharply you will raise a question to its Majesty, the better... that now came... the moment when it is necessary to find out whether Russia on a new way will go or it is at least temporary... will return on old... It is sure that the sovereign does not trust either you, or me, but hesitates to tell it" [3, page 508].

As a part of the integrated office serious disagreements, and already in were found

February, 1906 Witte decided to ask resignation. But there were unresolved questions, first of all about the Duma which he had to solve owing to responsibility.

The question of the State Duma arose October, 1905 much earlier, but after adoption of the manifesto on October 17 process gained other character. There were two ways of introduction in Russia of the constitutional system: through convocation of the Constituent assembly and grant of the Constitution by the tsar. In this question the opinions of zemets differed. At a congress in November, 1905 their most part (the party of "cadets" was created then from them) supported the concept of the Constituent assembly that was not wanted in any way by Witte. All its efforts were directed to it and were not vain, from minority the party of Octobrists ("The union on October 17") which set the purpose peacefully to carry out the principles of constitutional monarchy proclaimed the Manifesto was born. From their name the appeal in which need of association of all those was emphasized was heard, "who sincerely wishes peaceful updating of the country who rejects equally stagnation and revolutionary shocks and who recognizes need of creation of the strong authoritative power which together with national representation could bring in the country a pacification by creative legislative activity" [13, page 480]. The response to an appeal was positive. In provinces, groups of Octobrists began to arise.

It seemed, positions of leaders of Octobrists and Witte had to bring together them, and the party of Octobrists to become a support. However it did not occur. Though Witte also intended to invite Shipov and Guchkov in the government, but they were not in accord. "I would not agree to deal with the chairman of this party Guchkov." [3, page 508].

Without having got direct support, Witte did not interrupt contacts with public figures. He charged to A.I. Guchkov and D.N. Shi-povu to make the electoral law. The manifesto promised to attract to participate on October 17 those population groups which were deprived of suffrage in elections.

Public figures offered direct and universal suffrage. Witte wanted to move towards public wishes, but at the same time was afraid of a general election owing to unpredictability of their results. At a meeting of Council of ministers on November 19, 1905 the conservative wing of the government sharply objected to universal suffrage.

Witte parried that the general principles of the bu-lyginsky provision on elections cannot be changed and the class system has to be kept. It is many surprised as before this Witte adhered to the opposite point of view. It was the obvious concession to pressure of conservative forces. Further Witte in this way proved still more than once. Such behavior was condemned by public members and at the tsar aroused mistrust.

Adoption in December, 1905 of the law on the State Duma with the limited legislative rights and selectivity on curia, i.e. class representation became result of discussions. As also this system did not guarantee that the faithful deputy corps will be provided, in the highest spheres the thought appeared to put the second legislative institution over the Duma.

The State Council became this institution. Witte suggested to make it at least partially electoral body. And it worked well.

The flow of antigovernmental publications rushed since the end of 1905. Satirical works differed in the greatest virulence. Hundreds of writers, artists and editors in editions under such names as "Lamp", "Machine gun", "Bombs", "Evil ghost", "Scorpion" - to only 380, were filled on the government, the emperor, a royal surname, sometimes is furious and unbridled. Many images of government officials reached inhumanity" [8, page 25-30]. Witte could not treat coolly criticism and repeatedly addressed P.N. Durnovo, the Minister of Internal Affairs, with the requirement to accept against satirists of sou -

rovy measures, but Durnovo did not react, though itself was exposed to criticism.

Reorganization of the State Council was approved by the tsar in February, 1906

The basic state laws were entered by the royal decree to the senate of April 23, 1906. In them political freedoms were for the first time stated, in the system of public authorities the place was allocated to electoral legislative institutions. And, despite criticism, this document became a noticeable step in the direction to the constitutional state.

Having achieved receiving a loan, saving for the monarchy, and having prepared opening of the first State Duma, on April 14, 1906 Witte submitted to the tsar the application on resignation which was accepted by Nicholas II with relief.

For conservatives this resignation was a symbol of refusal of a reformist course, there was a confidence that an end will be put to fluctuations and the power will start talking to the enemies appropriate tone. Liberals apprehended resignation as the certificate of the force, defeat of the crafty bureaucrat and author of regressive Basic laws. Not less them the tsar who, at last, got rid of "the mean person" was happy.

On a post of the chairman of the board of ministers of the Russian Empire Witte showed surprising flexibility and ability to maneuvring, acting in extraordinary conditions of revolution the firm, ruthless guardian, the skillful peacekeeper.

At heart unlimited and imperious Witte belonged to autocracy. "I" and all personal stood at it not on the forefront. Witte was sharply expressed identity in policy. The public in his eyes was necessary, or for search of actions at the solution of specific questions, or for collecting and illumination of the facts relating to the huge and motley state that as management not to do gross blunders. In other words, the role of the public was purely supporting for Witte.


1. A.V. Bogdanovich. Three last autocrats. Diary A.V. Bogdanovich. M.: News, 1990. 604 pages
2. Bulletin of Europe. 1906. No. 1.
3. S.Yu. Witte. Memoirs: in 3 TM: Sotsekgiz, 1960. T. 2. 539 pages
4. S.Yu. Witte. Memoirs: in 3 TM: Sotsekgiz, 1960. T. 3. 723 pages
5. S.Yu. Witte. From S.Yu. Witte's archive. Memoirs: in 2 t., 3 kN. T. 2: Hand-written notes: stories in the stenograph / sost. B.V. Ananyich, R.Sh. Ganelin. SPb.: Dm. Bulanin, 2003. 649 pages
6. Ganelin R.Sh.S.Yu. Witte is the first chairman of the board of ministers of the Russian Empire in A.A. Spassky-Odyntsa's memoirs//Angliyskaya Embankment, 4. Year-book. SPb., 1997.
7. V.I. Gurko. Lines and silhouettes of the past... M.: New litas obozr., 2000. 810 pages
8. J. Daley. The press and the state in Russia (1906-1917)//history Questions. 2001. No. 10.
9. Ignatyev of A.V.S.Yu. Witte is a diplomat. M.: International relations, 1989. 336 pages
10. Ilyin of S.V. Witte. M.: Young Guard, 2006. 511 pages
11. S.Yu. Witte's interview with representatives of the press//Red archive. 1925. No. 4-5.
12. V.I. Lenin. Complete works. the 5th prod. M.: Politizdat. T. 12. 575 pages
13. V.V. Leontovich. The history of liberalism in Russia 1769-1914 M.: JV Russky put: Poly-grafresursy, 1995. 548 pages
14. V.A. Maklakov. The power and the public in the twilight of old Russia. Paris, 1936. 603 pages
15. P.P. Milyukov. Memoirs: in 2 TM: Contemporary, 1990. T. 1. 446 pages
16. I.I. Tolstoy. Diary. 1906-1916. SPb.: European house. 1997. 732 pages
Thomas Barnes
Other scientific works: