The Original Mr. October

With the signing of the October Manifesto came a new era of rule in Russia. No longer was the country under an autocracy; a constitutional monarchy was in the works. The document granted civil liberties and even created a legislative body known as the Duma. In support of this legislation came a group initially known as the Union of October 17, but today is famously known as the Octobrists.

The leader of this group Alexander Guchkov (who truly deserves the “Mr. October” moniker, sorry Reggie) wanted the Tsar to finally undertake the reforms they had sought to complete. With the signing of the October Manifesto, he got his wish, and the Octobrist party could finally move forward.

The Octobrists’ agenda featured four main parts:

1. The preservation of the unity and indivisibility of the Russia state, whilst allowing individual nationalities significant rights in the cultural field;
2. The development and strengthening of the foundations of a constitutional monarchy with a representative assembly elected on a broad franchise…
3. The guaranteeing of civil rights, and the inviolability of the individual, his residence, correspondence and property.
4. The urgent summoning of the State Duma to put through political reforms… to deal with such matters as

  • the peasant question- the peasantry should be granted the same civil rights as the rest of the population; peasant land-holding should be extended and regulated
  • workers’ insurance, a limitation of the working day and the freedom to form trade unions and to strike
  • the development of local self-government
  • measures on education
  • judicial and administrative reforms
  • economic and financial measures to achieve a more rational and just tax system (Source: D.N Shipov, Vospominaniia i dumy o perezhitom. Moscow, 1918, pp. 404-6. via Web)

The group wanted peace throughout Russia and between the classes, and they wanted a stronger government to help with these reforms. By the third Duma, the Octobrist party held the majority. This, however, did not help with speeding the pace of the reforms.

Guchkov was elected to be the speaker of the Duma in 1910 (interestingly enough, after this dueling incident), but as chairman Pyotr Stolypin “became more and more violent and reactionary,” the Octobrists were forced out of office and Guchkov resigned.


COUNT WOUNDED IN DUEL.: Guchkoff, Leader of Russian Octobrists, Shoots Count Uvaroff. New York Times (1857-1922); Dec 1, 1909; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010)

DUMA RECONVENES TO-DAY.: Octobrists Instruct Their Deputies to Press for Reforms. New York Times (1857-1922); Oct 23, 1909; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010)

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4 Responses to The Original Mr. October

  1. Love the reference to Reggie Jackson. This is interesting because it seems like the creation of the Duma was just too little too late. If it would have been created a couple decades earlier, it may have had time to implement some meaningful changes but the revolutionary fever outpaced the efforts at changing things through legislation.

  2. The Duma didn’t have the power to really do anything as long as there was a Tsar or “supreme emperor.” The changes that the Octoberists were looking for would have to come after the monarch was overthrown. Unfortunately, the October Manifesto and the Fundamental Laws didn’t give the Duma any power to make or initiate changes in Russia.

  3. Love the title! It would have been good if you had expanded a little on why the Octoberists choose these points as the basis for their movement.

  4. What a good post on an important topic. And a duel — as if there weren’t already enough drama! Given that the Octobrists #1 priority is national unity (keeping the state together), how far do you think their support for non-Russian ethnic groups went? It’s interesting that they refer to increased autonomy “in the cultural sphere.” But what about in politics?

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