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The Reforms of Pyotr Stolypin

Russia was in a period of great instability when Pyotr Stolypin took power as the Prime Minister of the Russian Empire in 1906. The Russian Empire was beginning to experiment in (minor) democratic reforms in the years prior to this. With the establishment the Duma and rise of powerful forces urging a revolution, Styolypin became a leader tasked with passing reforms and legislation that Nicholas II would permit while dealing with the anger and demands for reform that Octobrists and other Left wing groups demanded.

Pyotr Stolypin

Agriculture and land reform that Stolypin became known for was likely the most important and consequential policy decision he made as Prime Minister. The issues of what to do with the peasant land was a long standing problem. The several political factions split over whether and how to address the dispute over peasant lands. The more Left-wing factions desired compulsory redistribution of gentry land with the Kadets demanding compensation and the radicals arguing against compensation. Stolypin’s solution was to reallocate the communal lands, opposed to the gentry lands, and transfer them to individual peasants for them to farm. This reform was eventually approved by Third Duma and was intended to create a large number of self-sustaining farmers and property owners who would feel loyal to the government and supportive of the political system. These peasants, Stolypin hoped, would become a powerful base of support for the imperial regime. The opposition, which had called for redistribution of the gentry lands to village communes and included political groups such as the Kadets, Octobrists, and even anti-individualistic conservatives, found themselves in disagreement with Stolypin’s reform. This reform led to the collapse and dismemberment of the Second Duma, further angered many Russians and pushed the state down the path towards violent revolution.

While not having anywhere near as much authority as the Emperor, Stolypin had considerable power in Russia during this tumultuous period. Contributing to further instability in the country, in 1907 Stolypin aided in the passage of infamous Article 87, a law that gave the tsar the ability to not only abolish the Duma, but to pass laws between elections, such as laws that could alter the composition of the next Duma. The result of this law was not only the creation of a new, more agreeable Duma for Stolypin, but also allowed his agricultural reform to be passed between elections and skew the next Duma’s composition to ensure its passage. This reform’s resulting Third Duma heavily embodied with landowners, businessmen, nobility, and others who supported the tsar and favored Stolypin’s agriculture policy. From this reform and election of the next Duma, Stolypin’s obtained a large nationalist coalition whose main opposition was the left-leaning Kadets and the centrist Octobrists. Major divides persisted throughout the Third Duma, with even Stolypin’s cabinet becoming divided on a wide variety of issues. In spite of this, this was the only Duma to remain for the duration of its designated term.

Stolypin’s leadership during the Russian Empire produced a major impact on Russian culture and politics. Due to numerous intense political pressures from both the Right and the Left, Stolypin ultimately produced reforms and policies that drew favor from the tsar and fueled the anger in the political opposition. While a consequential leader in a tumultuous time, Stolypin’s political decisions during his time in Prime Minister accelerated the coming Russian Revolution.

Source

Freeze, Gregory L. ed. Russia. A History, 3rd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Wyhnar, Bohdan. “Stolypin Agrarian Reforms.” Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5, 1993. Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Posted in 2001. Viewed on January 30, 2016. http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.asp?linkpath=pages%5CS%5CT%5CStolypinagrarianreforms.htm

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3 Responses to “The Reforms of Pyotr Stolypin”

  1. A. Nelson says:

    This really gives us a sense of how complex the political landscape became after 1905, and of Stolypin’s key role in Russia’s “Constitutional Experiment” – both in terms of the land reforms and his ingenious use of article 87 to revise the electoral law so that the next duma would be one the regime could work with. Any New York Times articles about the Stolypin reforms?

  2. A. Nelson says:

    Also – check back – you reference Alex II at the beginning of the post, but I think you mean Nicholas II?

  3. Logan Herschbach says:

    Very interesting, I ddin’t realize the Stolypin helped to pass a law that allowed the Tsar to enact allows between Duma elections, not that there were many before the empire collapsed!

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