Russian Revolution, The Witte Era, and October Manifesto

A sketch portraying citizens in the Russia Revolution

We’re back at it again this week, and the topic is going to revolve all around the 1905 revolution! Some of you might have heard about Bloody Sunday or the Russo-Japanese war, but those were only two of the many events that happened in Russia at that time, shaping and evolving it to what it is today.

Like Gregory Freeze points out in chapter eight of his book “Russia: A History”, any analysis of imperial Russia at the beginning of the 20th century must note that Russia was still an Autocracy. This all was changing however, and the tension of what some call the ‘Witte Era’ was about to begin.

Sergei Witte was a very unique an interesting man that during this era became one of the most prominent and influential figures in the political scene. He was head of the Railway Ministry and also an extremely successful Finance Minister. Being the Finance Minister he made some very important decisions, and one that I think set Russia on the course for progressive political reform until it got disrupted by World War I was the creation of the ruble backed by the gold standard.

Not all things that Witte wanted done happened however even if he was such a powerful person. On October 30th, 1905 The October Manifesto, which was like a constitution for Russia was released marking the end of unlimited autocracy in Europe. The reason I say this didn’t go Witte’s way is because he had some reservations about this and challenged Nicholas II to make sure it’s what he wanted to do.

My question for you all now is, how big of an impact do YOU think the October manifesto had on Russia, and do you think that if WWI hadn’t interrupted this change happening Russia would have risen up dramatically? How big of a deal is it that Russia was ending the long-lived autocracy that had been governing the people for centuries?


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5 comments for “Russian Revolution, The Witte Era, and October Manifesto

  1. B. Knickerbocker
    8 September, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Interesting post! I think that the October Manifesto had a noticeable impact because it illustrated more of a ‘direction’ that Russia was moving towards. If the start-up of World War I hadn’t put so much pressure on Russian industrialization, Russia would have been on a fast track to establishing a more refined constitutional government. The fact that Russia signaled its desire to end the autocracy was a huge step forward.

  2. rwinkler
    9 September, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    You bring up some good questions. First answer would be the October Manifesto put basic civil liberties that here in America we enjoy like freedom of speech and a parliament procedure that no Russia man or women had before. This idea is very important even though it does not result in much. If WWI would not had happen I do think Russia would have seen the change happen more dramatically. I think that any time you change the structure of a society it is a huge deal.

  3. Kelsey Shober
    9 September, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    This was a really well thought out post! I think that it was a great idea to use the Freeze quote to remind everyone that Russia was still an autocracy. This idea is really important in the context of the Witte Era because of the stuff animosity between Nicholas II and Witte. Although Witte had an awesome vision for Russia, many of his ideas were either put down or simply not realized due to the tsars absolute power. I really got the feeling that Nicholas II only called upon Witte when he needed him and set him aside when he got the chance. Witte had a great vision set out in the October Manifesto, but unfortunately Nicholas II was unable to truly give up some of his power in the long run. As far as World War I interrupting Russian rise up.. Personally, I don’t think it would have been a successful political system in the long run. The tsar’s reluctance to give some power away would have persisted, and ultimately would have either 1. Would have made the new government a failure or 2. Provided the conditions for another revolution. Ps- cool opening picture!

  4. Austin Wood
    9 September, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the feedback. I definitely see where you’re coming from Kelsey, and I guess I didn’t really think about how the Tsar felt about the manifesto. When reading about the implementation of it I didn’t really think about how Nicholas II would be very reluctant to give up power. Since it was so much different from an autocracy there would be immense struggles which I also could see creating another revolution. Great response!

  5. 11 September, 2013 at 2:59 am

    Excellent discussion of one of the “big questions” for this week here. I also like the image, but it is from World War I / 1917 (because the reference is to defending “Petrograd,” rather than the more Germanic sounding “Petersburg”).

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