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 Pyotr Stolypin


Born:   2 April 1862
Deceased:   5 September 1911

A prominent statesman of the Russian Empire, the Prime Minister of the country from 1906 to 1911, great reformer

      

A prominant statesman of the Russian Empire, the Prime Minister of the country from 1906 to 1911, Stolypin is a quite controversial figure in Russian history. He is famous chiefly for his agricultural reforms and the draconian methods he used to deal with his opponents. He was known as a great orator, reformer and a man choking on the revolution of 1905. He is often cited as one of the last major statesmen of Imperial Russia with a clearly defined political programme and determination to undertake major reforms. Some consider him to be the demon of Imperial Russia, others – the driving force of history.

Biography:

Pyotr Stolypin came from an old aristocratic lineage. He was born in Dresden, Saxony, on 2 April 1862. His father was a famous general in the Russian army while his mother was the daughter of the Russian foreign minister at the time. Stolypin was related to generals, senators and the famous Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov.

Pyotr spent his chilhood in the Serednikovo estate in Moscow province. Then his family moved moved to Kalnaberžė manor (now Kėdainiai district of Lithuania), built by his father. His family also often visited Swiss Alps in summer. In 1876, the Stolypin's family moved to Vilnius, where they bought a house, so that their son could study at the local grammar school. On his graduation in 1881, he entered St. Petersburg University where he studied at the faculty of physics and mathematics. Afterwards, in 1885 he entered the Russian Imperial Ministry of State Property – the traditional path for members of his family. He made there a brilliant career, rising up from the 5th to the 10th rank in Russian Bureaucracy System within only two years. Four years later Stolypin was elected marshal of the Kovno Governorate. This public service gave him an inside view of local needs and allowed him to develop administrative skills. He was busy with the Agricultural Society, which took over the control of the whole region. Stolypin's diligence in his work was awarded with new ranks and decorations. 

In 1884, Stolypin married Olga Borisovna Neidhardt, daughter of a prominent Russian family and maid of honour of the empress Maria Fydorovna. Their marriage was very successful, the couple gave birth to six children.

In 1902 Stolypin was appointed governor in Grodno, becoming the youngest person ever to be appointed to the post in the area. After adapting to his new postion, Stlypin began to reform an agricultural sector of the region. He tested the reforms, which later was successfully implemented to the whole Russian agricultural system.

In 1905 Pyotr Stolypin was transferred to Saratov province in southern Russia as a governer where he became known for the suppression of peasant unrest in 1905, gaining a reputation as the only governor who was able to keep a firm hold on his province in the period of widespread revolt. Stolypin took office at what was a difficult time for Russia in general and for this agriculturally-driven province specifically. Civil unrest spread through peasant communities and Stolypin had very distinctive views on how to resolve the issue. He dealt with the revolts using an unlikely combination of firmness and understanding, which attracted the attention of Nicholas II, the Tsar at the time, who expressed his personal gratitute to Stolypin twice. Moreover, as a result of his decisive actions in Saratov, Stolypin was appointed Interior Minister under Ivan Goremykin. And few months later, in 1906, Nicholas II appointed Stolypin to replace Goremykin as Prime Minister. He also  retained the post of the Interior Minister. 

The politician pleased the Tsar and the moderate conservatives in his entourage with his energetic disposition and excellent oratory skills. In 1906 Russia was plagued by revolutionary unrest and wide discontent among the population. Stolypin instituted a series of fast-paced trials of terrorists. The verdicts were reached quickly and were often harsh. Over 3,000 suspects were convicted and executed by these special courts in 1906-1609. It was during this time that the term “Stolypin's tie” came in to use – meaning the hangman’s noose and the expression “Stolypin's wagon” was used to describe the trains which took prisoners to hard labour camps.

Stolypin's key reform, the one for which he is remembered in high school history books, is the agrarian one. He dissolved the First Duma on July 22, 1906, after the reluctance of some of its more radical members to cooperate with the government and calls for land reform. Stolypin aimed to create a moderately wealthy class of peasants, who would be supporters of societal order. Being a staunch conservative, also sought to eliminate the commune system and to reduce radicalism among the peasants, preventing further political unrest. He made it possible for ex-serfs to buy themselves out of the peasant commune and for small strips to be consolidated into capitalist farms, aided by loans from the Peasant Land Bank. In fact, Stolypin's reforms replaced the old communal system with a capitalist-oriented form highlighting private ownership and consolidated modern farmsteads.
The main points of Stolypin's agrarian reform:

  • Development of large-scale individual farming (khutors)
  • Introduction of agricultural cooperative
  • Development of agricultural education
  • Dissemination of new methods of land improvement
  • Affordable lines of credit for peasants

The Stolypin reforms and the majority of their benefits were reversed by the Soviet agrarian program in the 1920s. Furthermore, Stolypin instituted other important reforms into the running of pre-revolutionary Imperial Russia. He extended religious freedoms to Jews and other political groups. Old Believers, a breakaway group of the Russian Orthodox Church since 1666, gained political freedoms for the first time. He instituted changes to the welfare state, insuring workers in case of illness, accidents, death of family members and other events. He decentralised the government, giving more autonomy to local politicians and made education more widely accessible.

Stolypin changed the nature of the Duma to attempt to make it more willing to pass legislation proposed by the government. After dissolving the Second Duma in June 1907, he changed the weight of votes more in favour of the nobility and wealthy, reducing the value of lower class votes - the conservative members, more willing to cooperate with the government.
In September 1911 Stolypin travelled to Kiev on an official visit with the Tsar.  He travelled without bodyguards and even refused to wear his bullet-proof vest. On September 14, at the Kiev Opera House, in the presence of the Tsar and his two eldest daughters, Stolypin was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the chest, by a radical Dmitri Bogrov. Wounded Stolypin blessed Nicholas ll with a sign of the cross and said: "I am happy to die for the Tsar". He died four days after being shot. Bogrov was hanged 10 days after the assassination. Stolypin was buried in the Pechersk Monastery (Lavra) in Kiev.

Pyotr Stolypin is currently a historical figure who creates a wide field for debate. On one side, Stolypin's supporters consider him to have been Russia's last potential saviour from Bolshevism. They say that his patriotism caused him to have a harsh, but realistic stance on contemporary realities. Others see him as a tyrant, driven by arrogance and indifference, who didn't see the reality behind his own idealised vision of Russia. Vladimir Lenin criticised Stolypin for the peasantry's oppression and called him "the main rival of counter-revolution". In his turn, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a famous Russian writer and Nobel laureate in Literature, said if Stolypin had been alive, he would able to prevent Russia's loss in World War 1 and, thereby, to prevent Bolshevik's seizure of power, the Civil War and death of millions people. Anyway, Pyotr Stolypin is a very important figure in Russian history, and his policy had a great impact on the whole Russian political system. 

Modern Russian sociaty perfectly recognizes Stolypin's services for the country. Stolypin came second after the 13th-century warrior prince Alexander Nevsky in a state-sponsored nationwide poll to find Russia's greatest historical figure in 2008.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised Stolypin for his "unbending will" in striving to ensure economic growth at a troubled moment in the country's history, while recognising the threat of radicalism. He personally headed the Committee  of  Preparation for Pyotr Stolypin's birth 150th anniversary, which will be celebrating in 2012. It is planned to hold several events dedicated to this date, to set up monuments in some big Russian cities and to rename some streets and public organizations in Stolypin's honour. The anniversary will also receive substantial press attention.

Sources: Wikipedia Russia Today Guardian Stolypin's reforms RIA News

Related News: Alexei Kudrin Transfers his Salary for Stolypin's Monument (9.08.2011)

Pyotr Stolypin Monument to be Set up in Omsk (9.06.2011)

Monument to Stolypin to Appear in Moscow (22.03.2011)

  Julia Alieva


Tags: Russian history Russian politicians Pyotr Stolypin   




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