You can Count on Witte


Sergei Witte, one of the most influential men in early 20th century Russia is one who despite being both loathed and praised should be admired for unwavering dedication to his cause.  According to Freeze, Witte set Russian industrial growth on the fast track to success at a rate of 8% increase in production each year prior to the 1905 revolution.  This success was short lived by the actual outcomes of the policies in Russian society including first and foremost the unrest of the workers.

There is nothing like a mixed message or kicking those who are already down though, and this comes through Czar Nicholas’ praise of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers.  An article from the 11 October 1905 New York Times reads: “Highly appreciating the ability and statesmanlike experience you have shown and as a grateful recognition of your great and highly important services to the Fatherland, I grant you the rank of Count of the Russian Empire… I remain ever your well-disposed and highly grateful, Nicholas.”  I can see this as the gasoline added to the fire for many, and is a defining moment which made the struggling feel that their voice was even less important.

One may say that Witte gave up on his cause when he became the first Prime Minister of the Constitutional Government when he found his position next to impossible and respectfully withdrew from the mainstream politics in Russia in 1906. What do you think would have happened without the some of Witte’s so called controversial successes in 1905 Russia?

Image of Sergei Witte:

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  • A. Nelson says:

    While Witte is mainly remembered for his visionary efforts to industrialize and modernize the Imperial economy, this post highlights some important and more complex aspects of his role in the 1905 revolution. What kind of political reforms did Witte champion in 1905 and why do you think he withdrew from politics shortly thereafter?

  • hgiannoni says:

    With a growth rate of 8%, Russian industry would have steadily grown had Witte’s policies been adhered to and unrest wasnt rampant. Sure, it still would have been behind other countries but Russia wouldnt have needed to ravage its country to industrialize in a very quick time after the 1917 Revolution as opposed to sticking to the gradual growth and not using work camps to rapidly build. Its also no surprise that Witte left government after being appointed Prime Minister if he realized how little of an impact the position would truly have in Imperial politics. However, he may have left the country anticipating a Revolution given events like Bloody Sunday and he would not have wanted to be caught by the Revolutionaries as he would likely have been seen as a collaborator and enemy of the common people. Interesting article.

  • jrc554 says:

    I find it very interesting that Witte improved the growth of Russia industry yet was still disliked by the workers. I would assume that improving the economy would increase the rate of employment, and possible salaries. Could you explain why this was the case?

  • A. Nelson says:

    Good question! Could it be that workers felt that Witte’s policies favored the industrialists and saw them prospering even as their own conditions failed to improve?

  • A. Nelson says:

    Also, very punny title to this post!

  • […] Soviet History Blog with the “Blog Beautification Upgrade” award, and Josh’s post “You Can Count on Witte” as the punniest title in a week that also included some lovely U2 […]

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