Count Sergei Witte


Biographies and Glossary


Alexandra (1872-1918) - The Czarina; the last Empress of Russia.  High-strung and superstitious, with extremely poor political judgment.  German granddaughter of Queen Victoria.  Happily married to Nicholas II from 1894, she was very much the dominant partner.  Greatly valuing Rasputin’s apparent ability to heal her ailing son, she came under his influence from about 1907.  Her disastrous effect on government affairs was very strong from 1915, and contributed to the collapse of Imperial authority in the February Revolution of 1917.  Executed with her family by the Bolsheviks, Jul.16.1918.

Alexis (1904-1918) - The Czarevitch, son of Nicholas II and heir to the Russian throne.  Rasputin’s influence was based on his seemingly successful treatment of Alexis’ hemophilia.  Alexis was executed with his family by the Bolsheviks, Jul.16.1918.

Anarchism - A vaguely defined movement that opposed the organized authority of the state.  There were all sorts of Russian anarchists: the term was used by peaceful idealists like Kropotkin, tough revolutionaries like Makhno, and blatant bandits using political cover for criminal activity.  Its roots go back centuries; especially strong in the Nineteenth Century, it revived during the 1905 Revolution but was afterwards crushed by the regime.  It began to revive again from 1911, and became a powerful force in 1917, opposed to the Provisional Government.  Anarchists were a considerable factor in the Civil War, especially in the Ukraine, but the Soviets destroyed the movement in 1921-1922.

The Assembly (Assembly of Russian Workingmen) - Government-sponsored labor union, founded by Father Gapon in spring 1904.  Intended as a tame association, in Jan.1905 it launched strikes and organized a march in St. Petersburg, which led to Bloody Sunday.  Immediately afterwards, it was suppressed.

Yevno Azef (1869-1918) - Terrorist leader and police agent, who for years played the left and the authorities off against each other.  Short, squat, and strikingly ugly, but with a compelling personality.  He was already active on the left when he willingly became a police agent in 1893.  A key figure in the SR from its founding in 1901; he controlled its Battle Organization from 1903, and organized many spectacular acts of terror (including the assassination of Interior Minister Plehve in 1904: Azef in effect murdered his own boss); at the same time he betrayed many of his revolutionary colleagues. Finally unmasked in 1908, he fled abroad and eluded both the police and SR agents intent on revenge.  Ironically, he was jailed in Germany 1915-1917 as a revolutionary; the strain of imprisonment undermined his health and he died in Berlin in 1918.

Nikolai Bauman (1873-1905) - Prominent early Bolshevik.  Murdered in Moscow by reactionaries in the violence after the proclamation of the October Manifesto in 1905.

Black Hundreds - A generic term for right-wing extremist groups, such as the URP, that engaged in violence against Jews, leftists, students, workers, and liberals.  Most of these groups were formed in 1905-1906; some received support and subsidies from the regime.

Alexander Bogdanov (1873-1928) - Revolutionary philosopher.  A physician by training, he was one of the original Bolsheviks, but split with Lenin in 1908-1909 and formed the ultra-left, semi-spiritual Ultimatist faction (or Vpered group) with Gorky, Lunacharsky, and Krasin.  After 1911, he drifted from political activism to writing on philosophy, culture, and economics.  Served as an Army doctor in WWI.  From 1917, he objected to Bolshevik authoritarianism.  Died while experimenting with blood transfusions.

Bolsheviks - The wing of the Russian socialist party (the RSDRP) that recognized Lenin’s leadership; it was opposed by the rival Menshevik group, which was suspicious of Lenin’s motives.  The factional split occurred in 1903, and became permanent despite periodic attempts at reconciliation; from about 1904, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks were effectively two separate parties.  Generally, the Bolsheviks saw themselves as a small, tightly organized revolutionary vanguard - though they were far less centralized than they would become after the revolution - and were opposed to the formation of a mass socialist party.  They also tended to be more unscrupulous than the Mensheviks, feeling that their revolutionary ends justified any means.  Prior to 1917, they were fairly strong in Moscow, but did not really have a large base.  After Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia in the October Revolution in 1917, the faction was renamed the Communist Party.

Nikolai Bukharin (1888-1938) - Outstanding Communist leader and purge victim.  From a scholarly family; joined the Bolsheviks in 1906; in exile from 1911, he became an influential Marxist theoretician, initially on the Party’s left wing.  Bukharin was active in the events of 1917, rose rapidly in the Party, and participated in the factional struggles of the 1920’s as a moderate pragmatist.  By 1929 he was isolated and defeated by his former ally Stalin, demoted and co-opted.  During the height of the Great Purge, he was subjected to the humiliation of a Stalinist show trial, but conducted himself with dignity; he was executed immediately afterwards, on Mar.15.1938.  Bukharin was rehabilitated in 1988.

Alexander Bulygin - Interior Minister during the 1905 Revolution.

Bund - see Jewish Bund

Victor Chernov (1873-1952) - Leader of the SR.  Grandson of a serf; a radical populist from his youth; editor of SR paper from 1901; leader of the party by 1906.  The SR grew to be the largest revolutionary party, but Chernov’s direction was weak.  Participated in the Provisional Government; opposed the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution, but was squeezed out between them and the reactionary Whites in the Civil War and fled abroad.

Czar (Tsar) . . . see Nicholas II

Czarevitch (Tsarevitch) . . . see Alexis

Czarina (Tsarina) . . . see Alexandra

Dashnaks (Dashnaktustiun) - Revolutionary Armenian party.  Formed in the 1890’s, it was the dominant regional party during the 1905 Revolution, but it declined after 1907, and most of its leadership was imprisoned from 1911.  The Dashnaks revived in 1917-1918, opposed the Bolsheviks, and dominated independent Armenia from 1919-1920.   After the Red Army overran Armenia in late 1920, the party was suppressed.

A. I. Dubrovin - Extreme right-wing activist.  An unbalanced St. Petersburg physician, he founded the URP in fall 1905, and for a time enjoyed the direct support of the Czar, but lost influence after 1907.  Executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Duma - The Russian elected legislative assembly from 1906 to 1917.  In the October Manifesto of 1905, the Czar was compelled to pledge to call a Duma, but he moved to undermine its authority even before it convened.  The first two Dumas (1906 and 1907) were predominantly liberal and highly uncooperative with the regime.  The government responded by restricting the franchise law, and the Third and Fourth Dumas (1907-1912 and 1912-1917) were far more conservative, but still troublesome to the Czar.  

Peter Durnovo - Fiercely reactionary Interior Minister Nov.1905-Apr.1906.  He began the harsh crackdown on unrest after the October Manifesto and alienated liberals from supporting the Witte government.  Yet, in early 1914 he quite accurately predicted the impending war and social revolution in a warning memo to the Czar.

Mikhail Frunze (1885-1925) - Early Soviet military leader.  Fought in the Moscow revolt in 1905; imprisoned and exiled until 1915.  One of the best commanders in the Civil War.  In 1924, he ousted Trotsky as military chief, and established a sound basis for the future Red Army.  His death during a medical operation was possibly arranged by Stalin.

Georgi Gapon (1870-1906) - Orthodox priest, labor leader, revolutionary, police informant, and finally murder victim.   Charismatic, but politically naïve. He formed the police-sponsored Assembly labor union in 1904, soon made it more radical than the authorities intended, and organized the St. Petersburg march that sparked Bloody Sunday on Jan.22.1905, setting off the 1905 Revolution.  Gapon - now defrocked - fled abroad and fell in with the exiled revolutionaries, but he was out of his depth.  Within a year of Bloody Sunday, he had returned to Russia as a police agent; on Apr.10.1906, the SR lured him to an isolated cottage and had him strangled by disillusioned workers who he had once led.

Alexander Gerasimov - Efficient police official who headed the St. Petersburg Okhrana from 1905, crippling the revolutionary groups after the 1905 Revolution.  Azef was one of his informants.  Gerasimov fled abroad after the Bolsheviks seized power.

Ivan Goremykin (1839-1917) - Conservative Czarist PremierAn aging, old-fashioned bureaucrat who was twice installed as Prime Minister by the Czar during especially turbulent times, in 1906 and in 1914-1916.  Both times, Goremykin proved to be entirely unsuitable for the position.

Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) - Novelist; pro-revolutionary, but essentially humane and independent until his last years.  Impoverished background, no formal education, wandered as a vagabond during his youth.  He achieved literary success in the 1890’s; mostly lived abroad 1905-1917; was associated with Lenin, but joined the semi-spiritual Vpered group that split from the Bolsheviks in 1909.  Suspicious of the new Communist state after 1917, he remained on good terms with Lenin and used his influence to save the lives of many intellectuals during the Civil War era.  Again lived abroad 1921-1931, but he became more docile with age, and from about 1928 he publicly supported Stalin’s policies.  Resettled in Russia from 1931.  Gorky’s death is suspicious; it is likely he was killed on Stalin’s orders.  

Alexander Guchkov (1862-1936) - Moderate conservative politician.  From a wealthy family; well educated and widely traveled.  Founding member of the Octobrist Party in late 1905; supported Stolypin’s tough policies against unrest from 1906; named President of the Third Duma 1910-1911; opposed the rise of Rasputin, displeasing the Czar.  Critical of the Imperial regime in WWI, he secured the Czar’s abdication and briefly served in the first Provisional government in 1917.  Fled abroad after the Bolsheviks seized power.  

Iliodor (Sergei Trufanov) - Fanatic monk and fierce enemy of Rasputin.  A highly popular and highly seditious right-wing preacher in Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad) around 1908-1911. He was protected by Rasputin for a time, but turned against his benefactor by late 1911, physically attacking him and releasing compromising letters from the Czarina.  Iliodor was arrested and defrocked in 1912, but still encouraged assassination attempts on Rasputin.  He wound up in America, working as a janitor in New York City and dying in 1952.

Alexander Izvolsky (1865-1919) - Czarist diplomat.  Foreign Minister 1906-1910; outfoxed and humiliated in the Bosnian Crisis in 1908; Ambassador to France 1910-1917.

Jewish Bund - Jewish socialist organization.  Formed in 1897, it helped found the RSDRP the next year, but split off again in 1903 over the issue of ethnic autonomy.  At its height around 1905, the Bund was a large and active group, but it declined after 1907.  In 1917, it opposed the Bolsheviks; after the October Revolution, the Bund fell apart.  Many of its surviving leaders were killed in Stalin’s purges in the late 1930’s.

Kadets (Constitutional Democratic Party) - The foremost Russian liberal party.  Formed in fall 1905 under the leadership of Milyukov, the Kadets advocated moderate reform, though they initially used radical tactics.  They dominated the First Duma in 1906, but were unable to prevent its dissolution; their subsequent decision to issue the reckless Vyborg Manifesto led to a harsh government crackdown that greatly weakened them, and they were further undermined by the restrictive electoral laws of 1907.  The party briefly dominated the Provisional Government in 1917, but by then they had become the right wing of Russian politics; after the Bolsheviks seized power the Kadets faded away.

Lev Kamenev (Rosenfeld) (1883-1936) - Prominent Old Bolshevik and purge victim.  Scholarly, amiable, relatively moderate.  Son of a radical railway worker; an early Bolshevik; in exile from 1908, when he became closely associated with Lenin and Zinoviev; active in 1917, often in opposition to Lenin; major figure in the early Soviet government.  Involved in the factional struggles after Lenin’s death; by 1926-1927, he had lost out to Stalin.  Arrested in 1935 in the early stages of the Great Purge; subjected to a show trial in 1936, and executed Aug.15.  Rehabilitated in 1988.

Kamo (Semion Ter-Petrosian) (1882-1922) - Daring but unbalanced Bolshevik ‘expropriator’ (robber).  Active in the Caucasus, he often worked with Stalin, with whom he staged a spectacular robbery in Tiflis in 1907; was soon after imprisoned and pretended (?) insanity for four years.  After the October Revolution, he worked with the Cheka and the Red Army.  Killed in a traffic accident, possibly arranged by Stalin.  

Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) - Radical leader who failed to prevent the Bolsheviks from seizing power.  Well-educated, but at first something of a dilettante.  Joined the SR in 1905; briefly imprisoned 1905-1906; developed an impressive reputation as a lawyer defending tough political cases.  Elected to the Fourth Duma; gained wide popularity through his oratory; opposed the Imperial regime during WWI.  1917 was his big year: he was a major figure in the February Revolution and increasingly dominated the Provisional Government, becoming Prime Minister in July... but he lost control of events and was overthrown by Lenin in the October Revolution.  Went abroad in 1918; steadfastly opposed both the Bolsheviks and the reactionary Whites.  Fled Paris in 1940, just ahead of the Nazis, and settled in the US where he was active in academia for many years.

Sergei Kirov (1886-1934) - Leading Communist, whose murder in 1934 set off the Great Purge.  Modest background; showed great promise as a student; an active Bolshevik while still in his teens.  After the October Revolution, he rose steadily in the Soviet government.  Allied with Stalin in the factional struggles of the 1920’s; by the early 1930’s he was seen by some as a successor.  Kirov was murdered Dec.01.1934, evidently on Stalin’s orders.

Count Vladimir Kokovtsov (1853-1942) - The last competent Czarist Premier.  Highly effective Finance Minister 1906-1914.  Became Prime Minister after Stolypin’s assassination in Sep.1911; opposed by Rasputin, who once tried to hypnotize him (!), and by the Czarina; dismissed Jan.1914 and followed by a series of inept Premiers until the end of the Czarist regime 1917.

Alexandra Kollontai (1872-1952) - Revolutionary feminist.  Daughter of a Czarist general; she grew radical in the 1890’s; involved in the 1905 Revolution; fled abroad after 1908; actively supported radical feminism throughout Europe, but opposed purely middle-class women’s groups.  Generally aligned with the Mensheviks before WWI; supported Lenin through 1917; joined an opposition faction 1920-1922, an indiscretion that put an end to her political activities; assigned to diplomatic posts until her retirement in 1945.  Kollontai was one of the very few oppositionists to escape execution in Stalin’s purges.  

Leonid Krasin (1870-1926) - Highly capable revolutionary jack-of-all-trades.  An engineer by training, in the years before 1917, Krasin built and ran a power station, helped operate a textile mill, oversaw a major electrification project, managed a bank, and directed a munitions factory - at the same time, he set up an underground press, helped administer the Bolshevik Party, and made extensive preparations for armed revolt.  After the October Revolution, he proved to be one of the most talented Soviet diplomats.

Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) - Grand old man of the anarchist movement; respected lecturer, writer and theorist.  From an old aristocratic family; military officer and explorer in his youth, before converting to anarchism; in exile in Western Europe from 1876.  Generally humane, he envisioned a society based on mutual aid, and was opposed to Marxism.  Returned to Russia in 1917; supported the Provisional Government, opposed Bolshevik excesses.  His funeral was the last public anarchist demonstration in Moscow.

Nadezhda Krupskaya (1869-1939) - Lenin’s wife and assistant.  Daughter of an aristocratic officer of reduced circumstances.  An early Russian Marxist; married Lenin in 1898, while both were exiled in Siberia, and thereafter worked closely with him on political matters.  Active in education policy after 1917.  Occasionally clashed with Stalin, who threatened her when she objected to the Great Purge in the 1930’s.

Vladimir Lamsdorf - Russian Foreign Minister 1900-1906.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Ulyanov) (1870-1924) - The man who established Communism.  Intelligent, single-minded, ruthless, unscrupulous.  The son of a provincial school official; his older brother was executed for plotting to kill the Czar.  Educated as a lawyer; an active Marxist from the early 1890’s; arrested and exiled to Siberia 1895-1900, after which he went abroad.  Published What Is To Be Done? in 1902, calling for an ultra-disciplined socialist party under ultra-centralized leadership - with Lenin in charge, naturally.  An attempt to impose this program at a Party Congress in 1903 split the RSDRP into Lenin’s Bolshevik faction and the opposing Menshevik group; the rift never healed, and the RSDRP was weakened by factional squabbles.  Lenin returned to Russia 1905-1907, but failed to play a significant role in the 1905 Revolution, and in the following years he seemed to be feuding himself into oblivion.  WWI revived his prospects - thinking that he might be useful, the Germans shipped him back to Russia in Apr.1917; he subsequently systematically undermined the Provisional Government until he was able to seize power in the October Revolution, perhaps the first modern coup.  Lenin immediately began creating a harsh revolutionary dictatorship; he was soon facing Civil War and foreign intervention, but responded with brutal determination, and defeated his many enemies piecemeal.  After once-loyal Bolsheviks rebelled at Kronstadt in 1921, he partly moderated his extreme policies.  Wounded by an SR terrorist in 1918, Lenin’s health began to decline, and from 1922 he suffered a series of strokes.  In his last months he began to issue warnings against Stalin, but was paralyzed before he could take action and died Jan.21.1924.

Maxim Litvinov (1876-1951) - Soviet diplomat.  From a middle-class Jewish family; one of the earliest Bolsheviks; politically active while in exile - by 1917 he was wanted by the police throughout Europe.  Became a diplomat after the October Revolution; named Commissar for Foreign Affairs in 1930.  From 1934 he promoted the Popular Front policy, an attempt to align with the West against Hitler; when Stalin turned to Germany in 1939, Litvinov was replaced by Molotov.  Ambassador to Washington, 1941-1943.  One of the few Jewish Old Bolsheviks to escape execution under Stalin and to die a natural death.

Anatoli Lunacharsky (1875-1933) - Bolshevik intellectual.  Became a Marxist in the 1890’s; he and Bogdanov developed a sort of revolutionary spiritualism, breaking with Lenin in 1909.  Very active in the events of 1917, he rejoined the Bolsheviks and became their commissar for education until 1929; he enacted surprisingly useful reforms despite his lack of administrative skill, and encouraged the cultural diversity of the 1920’s.

Nestor Makhno (1889-1935) - Formidable anarchist guerilla leader.  Ukrainian peasant background; joined the anarchists while still a teenager.  In the Ukraine 1918-1920, he helped direct an anarchist revolution and led a major partisan movement that fought against the Germans, the Austrians, the Ukrainian nationalists, the Whites, and finally against his former allies, the Bolsheviks, who destroyed his forces in 1920.  Makhno escaped over the border in 1921; he died of tuberculosis and poverty in Paris in 1935.

Roman Malinovsky (1876-1918) - Dynamic trade unionist, Bolshevik leader... and police informant.  A rising trade union organizer, he became a Okhrana agent in 1910 after several arrests. He joined the Bolsheviks in 1912, and was quickly installed by Lenin on the Central Committee; the same year, he was elected to the Duma, where he became the leader of the Bolshevik deputies.  He was unmasked in May.1914 when the police ordered him to resign from the Duma - Lenin was astonished.  After the October Revolution, Malinovsky unwisely returned to Russia, and was tried and executed by the Bolsheviks.

Maximalists - One of the most extreme and violent groups on the revolutionary left.  Appeared as an ultra-left faction of the SR in 1904, breaking away completely in 1906.  They called for an absolute and immediate socialist revolution, but they were most famous for their great faith in terrorism, and their many assassinations and ‘expropriations’ (armed robberies).  Destroyed by the Czarist police by 1908; reappeared in 1917, at first allied with the Bolsheviks but soon opposed to the new Soviet state; faded away in the 1920’s.

Mensheviks - Those members of the Russian socialist party (the RSDRP) who opposed Lenin and the Bolsheviks.  Generally, the Mensheviks believed in a less centralized and more broad-based party.  They had capable leaders and were often more effective and generally more numerous than the Bolsheviks.  The Mensheviks were very active in the 1905 Revolution, built strong support in the Caucasus and other regions, and successfully engaged in trade unionism and electoral politics - but they were less focused than Lenin’s group, and failed to crush the Bolsheviks when they had the chance.  In 1917, they and the SR dominated the left after the February Revolution, but were outmaneuvered by Lenin and were broken by 1921.

Paul Milyukov (1859-1943) - The leading Russian liberal.  Idealistic, energetic, and highly intelligent, but inflexible and self-assured to a fault.  Very prominent historian; dismissed from Moscow University for his politics in 1895; taught in Europe and the US for several years; returned to Russia during the turmoil of 1905.  Milyukov believed that the Czarist regime was irredeemably reactionary, and though he was basically moderate, for a time he adopted highly radical tactics and briefly allied with the revolutionary left.  In 1905 he helped form the Union of Unions and the Kadet Party; in 1906 he helped draft the Vyborg Manifesto, calling for passive disobedience - which gave the government an excuse to crack down hard on the Kadets, badly damaging the liberal movement.  By 1907, Milyukov had abandoned radicalism; he served in the Duma for the next decade, developing expertise on foreign policy.  In WWI he initially supported the government, but grew disillusioned by its incompetence.  He was briefly Foreign Minister after the February Revolution, but was forced out as politics moved to the left.  During the Civil War, he supported the Whites, but was eventually compelled to flee abroad, remaining politically active in exile.

Peter Sviatopolk-Mirsky (1857-1914) - Moderate Czarist official who lost control of events at the onset of the 1905 Revolution.  His appointment as Interior Minister in Sep.1904, after Plehve’s assassination, briefly encouraged liberals to believe that the regime was ready for reform, but the government was already adopting a harder line before Bloody Sunday occurred on Jan.22.1905.  Mirsky was abruptly sacked shortly afterwards. 

Nicholas II (1868-1918) - The last Czar, whose catastrophic rule brought on the Russian Revolution.  Amiable, courteous, and diligent in his fashion, but passive, timid, and simple-minded, with very little grasp of the reality of the situation he faced.  His father Alexander III instilled in him a deep belief in the principles of autocratic monarchy, but distrusted his ability and gave him little preparation for his role before he succeeded to the throne in 1894.  Nicholas’ ultraconservative nationalism led him to oppose all progressive reform and to impose ‘Russification’ on ethnic minorities, instilling powerful discontent throughout the Empire.  His disastrous war with Japan in 1904-1905 weakened the regime’s authority, and during 1905 Russia was convulsed by immense waves of unrest.  Unable to control the growing chaos, the Czar was finally compelled to issue the October Manifesto, ending autocratic rule and creating a legislative Duma - even then, it took a policy of brutal repression to slowly restore order.  Nicholas successfully undermined his liberal opponents, destroying any chance for moderate reform and leaving the field clear for the revolutionary left, while his open support for reactionaries and his association with the disreputable Rasputin eroded the prestige of the crown.  Although he opposed the onset of WWI in 1914, he was not able to prevent it; his decision a year later to take direct command of the Imperial Army handed the government to the Czarina and Rasputin, with calamitous results.  The February Revolution in 1917 finally forced him to abdicate, and the Imperial family was taken into custody, eventually falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks.  On Jul.16.1918, Nicholas and his family were executed.

Octobrists - Moderate conservative political party.  Founded by Guchkov in Nov.1905; initially supported Stolypin; dominated the Third and Fourth Dumas 1907-1917; increasingly critical of the government from 1910; allied with the Kadets to oppose the regime’s handling of WWI in 1915.  After the fall of the monarchy in the February Revolution in 1917, the party faded away.

Okhrana - The Czarist security police.  It included both the Okhrana proper, which infiltrated revolutionary groups, and the Gendarmerie, which investigated revolutionary crimes; the two agencies were bitter rivals.  The Okhrana maintained thousands of agents, many operating in foreign countries, and although it suffered from a cumbersome structure it could be quite efficient; by 1909, it had virtually destroyed the revolutionary movement - though only temporarily.  The Bolsheviks learned a great deal from the Okhrana, which they put to use when they formed their own security forces after 1917.

Vyacheslav Plehve (1846-1904) - Hard-line Interior Minister; capable but reactionary.  Long experience in the Czarist bureaucracy; appointed Interior Minister in 1902 in a time of rising discontent.  Though he at first made some token attempts at conciliation, he soon resorted to a blunt repression of political opposition and ethnic minorities.  It is not true that he promoted “a short, victorious war” with Japan, but he was unprepared for the revolution that the war would unleash.  Before the storm broke, he was blown up by an SR assassin on Jul.28.1904; the general public response to his death was joyful.

Georgi Plekhanov (1856-1918) - The founder of Russian Marxism.  A leading populist in the 1870’s, he split from most of the movement in 1879 by rejecting terrorism, and a year later began a long exile.  He converted to Marxism in 1882-1883, gaining a reputation as a leading theorist.  Plekhanov strongly supported revolution, but strongly opposed revolutionary despotism, which put him in a difficult position.  His attitude in the feud between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks was erratic, costing him much of his prestige; after his return to Russia in 1917, he alienated both groups and died without influence.

Konstantin Pobedonostsev (1827-1907) - Arch-reactionary Czarist official.  Law professor; Pan-Slav nationalist; tutored the future Alexander III; Procurator of the Holy Synod, 1880-1905.  For a generation, he was one of the most influential advisers on Russian domestic policy, consistently upholding full Czarist autocracy and opposing all liberal reform.  He was finally ousted by Witte shortly after the October Manifesto ended autocracy in 1905.

Vladimir Purishkevich (1870-1920) - Radical right-wing politician.  Assistant to Interior Minister Plehve; helped found the proto-fascist, anti-Semitic URP in 1905, breaking with it three years later; served as a far-right Duma deputy.  Helped assassinate Rasputin in Dec.1916.  One of the few monarchists active after the February Revolution.

Grigori Rasputin (1860’s?-1916) - Bizarre, dissolute religious con-man whose close ties to the Imperial family allowed him to become a major political player, with tragic consequences.  A Siberian peasant, he was a wild youth; after a religious conversion he became an itinerant holy man, evidently influenced by the sexually-charged khlyst heresy.  He arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903; his down-home religious style and powerful personality made a strong impression and he soon began to penetrate high society - literally so, for he enjoyed sexually humiliating his upper-class followers.  From about 1906 he developed a close, but non-sexual, rapport with the Imperial family, presenting himself as a pious man-of-the-people and successfully faith-healing the ailing Czarevitch.  When objections arose to his growing influence, he protected his position by increasingly interfering in state affairs, developing a taste for power and becoming a major political influence by 1911.  This odd situation did much to destroy any remnants of respect for the crown.  After the Czar left to take direct command of the army in 1915 during WWI, Rasputin virtually ruled Russia through the Czarina, installing incompetent and corrupt favorites in key positions.  On Dec.29/30.1916, he was murdered by a group of well-connected conservatives; the Russian monarchy fell a few weeks later.

RSDRP (Russian Social Democratic Labor Party) - The main Marxist revolutionary organization in Russia, which was split into factions from 1903.  Local Marxist groups began forming in the 1880’s, and the RSDRP coalesced out of these in 1898.  From the beginning, it was weakened by police repression and doctrinal disputes.  At the Party’s Second Congress in 1903, Lenin’s attempts to impose tight control split the RSDRP into the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, and the Jewish Bund, and from then on these factions acted as independent parties, despite fitful attempts at reconciliation.  In 1914 the Second International, the worldwide socialist organization, intervened and was preparing to impose unity and expel Lenin when World War I broke out.

Boris Savinkov (1879-1925) - Famed SR terrorist.  Son of a Czarist official; joined the SR Battle Organization under Azef in 1903; involved in the assassinations of Plehve in 1904, of Grand Duke Sergei in 1905, and others.  He became a noted author of cynical novels.  After 1914, Savinkov strongly supported the war effort; in 1917, he was briefly part of the Provisional Government.  During the Civil War, he actively fought against the Bolsheviks, and continued to work against them in exile until he was captured at the border by Soviet authorities in 1924; he died in prison a year later, supposedly a suicide.

Sergei Sazonov (1861-1927) - Czarist diplomat.  Charming but erratic.  From the landowning nobility; brother-in-law of Stolypin.  Diplomat from 1883; Foreign Minister 1910-1916.  Played a major role in the July Crisis that brought on WWI.

Dmitri Shipov (1851-1920) - Moderate leader of the zemstvo movement.  Wealthy landowner; long active in public affairs.  Head of the Moscow zemstvo 1893-1904, when he was ousted for advocating reform.  By 1905, he felt that the zemstvo movement had gone too far to the left and he broke away, helping to found the Octobrist party.  By 1906, he felt that the Octobrists had gone too far to the right and he broke away from them as well.  Retired 1911.

Socialist Revolutionaries - see SR

soviets - Impromptu working-class governing bodies that appeared in 1905.  Soviets first appeared as strike committees; by the time of the October general strike they were challenging the local governments in St. Petersburg and other cities.  Of course, the Czarist regime crushed them as soon as it was able to, by early 1906.  Soviets reappeared in 1917, when the Bolsheviks made use of them to gain power.

SR (The Party of Socialist Revolutionaries) - The largest Russian revolutionary group; unlike the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, it focused more on peasants than on urban workers.  Its roots go back to the defeated populist movement of the 1870’s; local populist groups began to reappear by the mid 1890’s, and these were consolidated into the SR in 1901-1902.  It was very active in the 1905 Revolution, when it was the leading advocate of political terror, although its most violent faction, the Maximalists, broke away in 1906.  Weak leadership, police infiltration, refusal to participate in the Duma, and disenchantment with terrorism caused the party to decline in the years before WWI.  It revived in 1917, entering the Provisional Government and briefly becoming the largest party in Russia, but it soon split: most of the SR’s opposed the Bolsheviks and were defeated in the Civil War, while the Left-SR’s allied with the Bolsheviks and were soon destroyed by them.   

Josif Stalin (Josif Dzhugashvili, aka Koba) (1879-1953) - Brutal Soviet dictator.  Sociopathic, manipulative, vengeful, ambitious - but a gifted administrator with excellent political skills.  His early life is obscure - Georgian; poor background; seminary education; active in revolutionary politics from about 1899 as an underground organizer for the Bolsheviks in the Transcaucasus; frequently arrested, often escaped.  He was a minor figure before 1917, but played an active role in the October Revolution and in the Civil War.  Commissar for Nationalities to 1922; General Secretary of the Communist Party thereafter.  He outmaneuvered his more prominent rivals in the factional struggles of the 1920’s, and secured dominance over the Soviet regime by 1929.  He then suddenly switched from a pragmatic to an extreme approach, horrifically collectivizing agriculture and establishing a tightly controlled command economy.  From 1934-1938 he instigated the Great Purge, exterminating most of the Old Bolsheviks, a great many Soviet military and naval officers, and millions of other citizens, while making his own power absolute and promoting an extreme cult of personality.  His leadership in WWII was sometimes inept and often brutal, but ultimately effective.  After the war, he clamped down harder than ever and seemed to be preparing a new purge when he died suddenly in 1953.

Peter Stolypin (1862-1911) - Tough, effective conservative Czarist Premier.  From a landowning family; experienced government official.  As Governor of Saratov, he sternly pacified his province during the 1905 Revolution.  Named Interior Minister in May.1906; became Premier in July.  He immediately moved against the government’s opponents: he cracked down on the Kadet Party in 1906 and heavily restricted the voting franchise in 1907, undermining the liberals and weakening the Duma; he also successfully but very brutally suppressed terrorism and peasant unrest - nooses became known as ‘Stolypin neckties’.  He passed agrarian laws intended to transform the peasantry into independent farmers, one of the rare attempts at constructive social reform by the Czarist regime in its final decades; but he also energetically pushed the oppressive Russification of ethnic minorities.  He was opposed by Rasputin and the Czarina, and eventually lost the support of the Czar, who tended to tire of capable advisers.  Stolypin was assassinated in Sep.1911 under suspicious circumstances, possibly with police involvement.

Peter Struve (1870-1944) - Activist and scholar who moved all over the political spectrum.  Conservative in his youth; Marxist in the 1890’s; helped found the RSDRP in 1898; revisionist Marxist by 1899; liberal by 1902; joined the Kadets in 1905 and served in the Second Duma in 1907; co-authored the Vyekhi Articles in 1909, which marked an abandonment of radicalism by intellectuals; served in the Provisional Government; aligned with the Whites in the Civil War; supported monarchism in his later years while in exile.

Vladimir Sukhomlinov (1848-1926) - Unpopular Czarist War Minister.  Army officer; Chief of the General Staff in 1908; War Minister from 1911.  Took some steps to build up the enfeebled Russian Army before WWI, but was obviously incapable of meeting the demands of his job in wartime; sacked for incompetence in 1915 and shortly afterwards imprisoned on bogus charges of espionage.

Yakov Sverdlov (1885-1919) - Key Bolshevik leader.  Active revolutionary from a very young age; frequently arrested.  From 1917, he handled much of the Bolshevik’s administrative work, organizing many of the institutions of the new Soviet state.  The rise of Stalin, who Sverdlov knew well and deeply distrusted, would have been far more difficult if Sverdlov had not died during the influenza epidemic in 1919.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) - Renowned Russian literary figure and pacifist.  From the 1880’s, Tolstoy foresaw the disasters and upheavals of the Twentieth Century, and developed a nonviolent but highly radical philosophy that rejected the state, the church, and many other modern institutions.  In 1908, he publicly condemned the Czarist regime’s suppression of peasant unrest; his death in 1910 set off student riots.

Dmitri Trepov (1855-1906) - Powerful Czarist police official.  An unsophisticated monarchist with a hard-line law-and-order viewpoint.  Head of Moscow police 1896-1905; Governor-General of St. Petersburg with extra-ordinary powers Jan.1905; Assistant Interior Minister with full control of the police Jun.1905.  His attempts to restore order were overwhelmed by the 1905 Revolution, but he retained influence with the Czar.  

Leon Trotsky (Lev Bronstein) (1879-1940) - Brilliant revolutionary leader and victim of Stalin.  Had a sharp and agile mind with wide interests and talents, but was also vain, aggressive, and ruthless, with little capacity for routine politics.  Son of a prosperous Jewish farmer; became an activist in 1898; from 1903, he stood alone, rejecting the Bolsheviks without joining the Mensheviks; from 1905, he advocated the ultra-radical idea of ‘permanent revolution’.  Played a leading part in the 1905 Revolution before being arrested; brilliantly defended himself at his trial in 1906; dramatically escaped from Siberia in 1907 and fled abroad.  After returning in 1917, he joined the Bolsheviks and had a key role in the October Revolution.  Negotiated the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with the Central Powers in early 1918; was then named Military Commissar, organized the Red Army, and successfully conducted the Civil War.  Although he seemed to be the heir apparent, Trotsky was already loosing influence before Lenin died in 1924, was exiled to Central Asia in 1927, and was deported in 1928.  From abroad, he opposed the rise of Stalin, but what few adherents he still had in the Soviet Union perished in the Great Purge of the 1930’s and on Aug.20.1940 Trotsky himself was assassinated in Mexico by a Stalinist agent.  

Trudoviks - A radical group active in the Duma and associated with the SR.  Kerensky was elected as a Trudovik.

Ultimatists - A far-left faction of the Bolsheviks.  In 1907, Bogdanov began objecting against Lenin’s strategy for participation in the Duma; in 1908-1909 he expanded his opposition and called for a religious dimension to Marxism.  Gorky, Lunacharsky, Krasin, and other prominent Bolsheviks were sympathetic, but Lenin denounced the group in 1909 and expelled its leaders.  For a time, the group published the newspaper Vpered.

Union of Liberation - The leading liberal organization in the 1905 Revolution.  Formed in 1903-1904 by zemstvo reformists and radical intellectuals, it advocated a democratic constitutional monarchy with full civil rights for all citizens.  From late 1904 it organized a tremendous amount of varied political activity, and played a very large role in the great crisis in Oct.1905.  After the October Manifesto, it was absorbed into the Kadet Party. 

Union of Unions - Organization of liberal professional unions.  In the spring of 1905, lawyers, physicians, journalists and other professionals formed progressive unions, which coalesced into the Union of Unions in May, closely associated with the Union of Liberation.  The Union of Unions played a major role in organizing middle-class liberal opposition to the government in the 1905 Revolution.

Union of the Russian People - see URP

URP (Union of the Russian People) - Extreme right-wing organization.  Established in fall 1905 by Dubrovin, Purishkevich, and other ultra-monarchists, it frequently engaged in pogroms, riots, and terror, but for several years it was publicly supported by the Czar and received government subsidies.  It was an early example of what would later be called fascism: a mass movement based on ultra-nationalism and anti-Semitism that used organized violence against its opponents.  Its leader Dubrovin mentally declined, and the group lost influence from about 1908.

Andrei Vyshinsky (1883-1955) - Pitiless Soviet prosecutor.  Legal education; Menshevik activist; joined the Bolsheviks only in 1920.  Held posts in law education in the 1920’s; active in show trials from 1928.  Became public prosecutor in 1935; prosecuted the infamous show trials of the Great Purge in the late 1930’s with fierce disdain for the defendants.  Moved into diplomacy from 1940; Foreign Minister 1949-1953.

Sergei Witte (1849-1915) - The most capable high official in the last decades of Czarist rule, and one of the most controversial.  Huge, coarse, cynical, devious, ambitious, energetic, farsighted; relatively liberal in outlook for a ranking Imperial official.  Background in railroad administration; appointed Finance Minister in 1893.  For a decade he dominated the government, directing the rapid industrialization of Russia, overseeing the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and conducting many other projects.  Nicholas II came to dislike him, and in 1903 abruptly demoted him to a meaningless post - but the Czar was reluctantly compelled to send him to negotiate a peace treaty with Japan, which Witte accomplished brilliantly in Sep.1905.  Witte returned to Russia in time to witness the near-collapse of the regime during the Oct. general strike; with great difficulty he persuaded the Czar to issue the October Manifesto, effectively ending the Imperial autocracy and establishing constitutional rule.  Witte was immediately named Premier.  He was in a difficult position: liberals refused to work with him, violent unrest was rapidly spreading, and the Czar’s hostility was reviving.  The exhausted Witte resigned in spring.1906, after the worst of the disorder was over, but the embittered Czar saw to it that he was never given another significant position.

Genrikh Yagoda (1891-1938) - Soviet security police chief and purge victim.  Joined the Bolsheviks during his teens; de facto head of the security police from the mid-1920’s; officially named chief of the NKVD in 1934 - probably helped to murder Kirov for Stalin and conducted the early stages of the Great Purge.  Replaced by Yezhov in 1936; arrested in 1937; subjected to a show trial in 1938 and executed.

Vera Zasulich (1849-1919) - Pioneering Russian revolutionary.  She gained fame as a radical populist in the 1870’s when she attempted to assassinate a police official and won acquittal from a sympathetic jury; soon afterwards, she repudiated terrorism.  In exile in the 1880’s, she became one of the first Russian Marxists.  She returned to Russia in 1905, but largely retired from politics; in 1917 she opposed the Bolsheviks.

zemstvos - Local assemblies that were the only elected governing bodies in Russia before 1905.  Introduced in 1864, they had very limited authority and unequal suffrage - and these restrictions were even further increased later.  But since they were the only legal outlet for political activity, they were attracting liberal activists by the 1890’s; zemstvo reformists played a large part in the founding of the Union of Liberation in 1903-1904, and helped ignite the 1905 Revolution.  After the Duma was established in 1905-1906, zemstvos were of less political importance, and were abolished by the Bolsheviks after 1917.

Grigori Zinoviev (1883-1936) - Prominent Old Bolshevik and purge victim.  Thoroughly disagreeable and generally disliked.  Helped Lenin organize the Bolsheviks in 1903, and thereafter worked closely with him and with Kamenev.  Accompanied Lenin on his return to Russia in 1917, but opposed his tactics prior to the October Revolution.  A major figure in the early Soviet regime; involved in the factional intrigues after Lenin’s death; defeated and reduced by Stalin in 1926-1927.  Arrested at the start of the Great Purge in 1935; subjected to a show trial and shot in 1936.  Rehabilitated in 1988.


 

Russia: Introduction   ///   (1)  1904: Prelude to Revolution
(2)  Jan-Sep.1905: Russia in Chaos   ///   (3)  Oct-Dec.1905: The Crisis of the Revolution
(4)  1906: Repression and Terror   ///   (5)  1907-1908: The Defeat of the Liberals
(6)  1909-1911: Order Restored   ///   (7)  1912-Jul.1914: Renewed Unrest
 

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