The Octobrist Party was founded in 1906 by Russian moderate liberals, taking its name from the October Manifesto. Unequivocal support for the new constitutional system and rejection of compulsory land expropriation except in extreme state need distinguished it from the major left party, the Constitutional Democratic Party (Cadets), which represented more radical liberal opinion.
In the elections to the First and Second Dumas (1906–1907), the Octobrist Party fared relatively poorly while parties to its left had strong showings. The government, finding itself unable to work with the first two Dumas, dissolved them. Alexander Guchkov, the Octobrists' first leader, during the Second Duma softened some of the party's positions, thus enabling cooperation with the government. Loyalty to the new constitutional system and willingness to work with the government to achieve its full implementation and accompanying social reform were now the broad guiding principles of the party. Dissolving the Second Duma, Peter Stolypin, chairman of the Council of Ministers (1906–1911), restricted the voting franchise which lessened the voting power of the peasants and working classes. His goal was to limit the number of radical left deputies and increase Octobrist Party representation so that it could provide a solid base of support for the government in the Duma. Stolypin found himself in a difficult position in the Duma, stuck between the right with its hatred for the new system and the radical left. In the 1907 elections to the Third Duma the Octobrist Party more than tripled its representation, receiving 153 seats.
The party's unity and its relationship with the government depended on the latter's dedication to the spirit of the constitutional system and policy of reform. The great increase in the party's numbers made maintenance of unity between its left and right wings problematic.
Initially the Stolypin-Octobrist alliance worked relatively well, especially in regard to peasant reform. However, by 1909 conservatives fearful of the institutionalization of the new system by the Stolypin–Octobrist partnership worked to break it. The Naval General Staff crisis was the first step in this direction. The Octobrists regarded Nicholas II's rejection, with the urging of conservatives, of a bill concerning the Naval General Staff that had already been passed by both houses of parliament, as a violation of the spirit of the October Manifesto. Conservative attacks on Stolypin and increased fragmentation within the party forced Stolypin to turn increasingly to the right, thereby placing his relationship with the Octobrists and their unity under additional strain.
In 1911 the conservatives in the State Council, with the help of Nicholas II, rejected the Western Zemstvo Bill already passed by the Duma. Stolypin, infuriated by constant conservative attempts to block his policies, forced Nicholas II to disband the parliament provisionally, as allowed by Article 87 of the Fundamental Laws, and make the bill law by decree. The Octobrists, although they had supported this bill, considered Stolypin's step to be a betrayal and undermining of the constitutional system. They went into opposition.
In elections to the Fourth Duma (1912), the Octobrists, while remaining the largest party, saw their share of the vote collapse to ninety-five. Morale in the party was at an all-time low, reflecting the over-all disappointment with the gradual but successful emasculation of the constitutional system by conservatives and Nicholas II.
Octobrist unity cracked in 1913 when Guchkov, admitting that attempts to cooperate with the government to achieve needed reform had failed, urged adoption of a more aggressive stance toward the government, which since the assassination of Stolypin in 1911 had showed few signs of continuing reform. While the Central Committee supported this step, the larger body of deputies split on this issue. Disappointed with lack of party backing for such a move, some twenty-two deputies formed the Left Octobrists. The majority formed the Zemtsvo Octobrists under the leadership of M.V. Rodzyanko, the party's leader. Some ten to fifteen remained uncommitted to either side. The party ceased to have any real power.
The weakening and fragmentation of the Octobrist Party mirrored the collapse of Russia's experiment with constitutional monarchy.
See also: constitutional democratic party; nicholas ii; october manifesto; stolypin, peter arkadievich
Hosking, Geoffrey. (1973). The Russian Constitutional Experiment: Government and Duma, 1907–1914. London: Cambridge University Press.
Seton-Watson, Hugh. (1991). The Russian Empire, 1801–1917. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Waldron, Peter. (1998). Between Two Revolutions: Stolypin and the Politics of Renewal in Russia. London: UCL Press.
Zhand P. Shakibi
"Octobrist Party." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/octobrist-party
"Octobrist Party." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/octobrist-party
The October Manifesto was published at the peak of Revolution of 1905, following the general strike of October of 1905 in which 2 million people took to the streets and railroads were blocked. The government considered two possible solutions to the crisis: a military dictatorship and liberal reforms to win popular support. Those who supported reforms were led by Sergei Witte, who wrote a report urging Tsar Nicholas II to grant a constitution, a representative assembly, and civil freedoms. On October 27 (October 14 O.S.) Nicholas ordered that the main points of the report were to be listed in the form of a manifesto. The draft was written overnight by Prince Alexei Obolensky. Nicholas signed it on October 30 (October 17 O.S.), and the next day it was published in the newspaper Pravitelstvennyi Vestnik (Governmental Courier ).
The October Manifesto gave the ruling body permission to use every means to end disorders, disobedience, and abuse, and gave the "highest government" the responsibility to act, in accordance with the tsar's "unbendable" will, to "Grant the population the undisputable foundation for civil freedom on the basis of protection of identity, freedom of conscience, speech, assemblies and unions." Voting rights were promised, "to some extent, to those classes of the population that, at present, do not have the right to vote," and it was proclaimed as an "undisputable rule that no law can be passed without the approval of the Duma and for the possibility of supervision of the lawfulness of the actions of the administration to be given to the national representatives." The manifesto concluded by calling upon "all true sons of Russia to end… the unimaginable revolt" and, along with the emperor, "to concentrate all forces on restoring peace and quiet on the homeland."
The October Manifesto was highly controversial. There were mass meetings and demonstrations welcoming its promise of freedom in the regional capitals and many other cities. Similarly, there were mass meetings and demonstrations, often violent, calling for an autocracy of "patriots" and condemning the manifesto as perpetrated by revolutionaries and Jews. In the three weeks after the manifesto was issued, there were outbreaks of violence in 108 cities, 70 small towns, and 108 villages, leaving at least 1,622 dead, and 3,544 crippled and wounded.
The liberal reaction to the manifesto was mixed. Right-wing liberals saw it as a realization of their political hopes and united as the Union of October 17. Left-wing liberals, joining together to organize the Constitutional Democratic Party, believed that further reforms were needed, and their leader, Paul Milyukov, stated that nothing changed and the struggle would continue. Left-wing parties and leaders saw the manifesto as a sign of the government's weakness; its capitulation under revolutionary pressure showed that the pressure on the government had to be intensified.
The political program embodied in the manifesto began to take effect on October 19, 1905, with the appointment of a government headed by Witte. Between October 1905 and March 1906 the government published a series of orders regarding political amnesties, censorship, modification of the State Council, and other matters. All of these were incorporated in the second edition of the Fundamental Laws, passed on April 23, 1906.
The most important outcome of the October Manifesto was the creation of a bicameral representative institution and the legalization of political parties, trade unions and other social organizations, and a legal oppositionist press.
See also: constitutional democratic party; duma; fundamental laws of 1906; october general strike of 1905; revolution of 1905; witte, sergei yulievich
Ascher, Abraham. (1988, 1992). The Revolution of 1905. Vol.1: Russia in Disarray ; Vol. 2: Authority Restored. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Harcave, Sidney. (1970). First Blood: The Russian Revolution of 1905. New York: Macmillan.
Harcave, Sidney, trans. and ed. (1990). The Memoirs of Count Witte. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Mehlinger, Howard D., and Tompson, John M. (1972). Count Witte and the Tsarist Government in the 1905 Revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Szeftel, Marc. (1976). The Russian Constitution of April 23, 1906: Political Institutions of the Duma Monarchy. Brussels: Editions de la Libraire encyclopédique.
"October Manifesto." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/october-manifesto
"October Manifesto." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/october-manifesto