September 01, 2011

Pyotr Stolypin

The story of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin can be told in very different ways. There is the narrative that starts with the man of integrity who distinguished himself as governor of Grodno and later Saratov provinces before suddenly, in April 1906, making a leap up the career ladder that surprised everyone (not least of all himself) to the post of Minister of Internal Affairs. This promotion was soon followed by an appointment to chair the Council of Ministers that July. Stolypin worked tirelessly to bring peace and prosperity to the country, castigating the adversarial Duma with the words, “You need great upheaval, we need a great Russia.”

He saw his most important task as reconciling the country after the revolution of 1905 and was therefore unbending in his pursuit of revolutionaries, who responded with hatred and a bombing of his Aptekarsky Island dacha on August 12, 1906 that injured dozens and left one of his daughters permanently disabled. This attack led to the institution of military field courts that meted out harsh justice to terrorists.

In November 1906, Stolypin began his famous agrarian reform. He lifted restrictions that prevented peasants from leaving their rural communities (общины), proclaiming that he was relying “On the strong and the prosperous rather than the weak and drunk.” He went on to institute a far-reaching resettlement policy that offered Siberian lands to those willing to develop them.

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