Milyukov, Pavel

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early career as historian and teacher
founder and leader of the kadets
role in russian revolution and its aftermath

MILYUKOV, PAVEL (1859–1943), Russian historian and politician.

One of late imperial Russia's most influential and widely read historians, Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov is best known in the early twenty-first century as a principal theoretician of liberalism in Russia and as the founder and leader of the liberal Constitutional Democratic Party, known as the Kadets. The author of some sixteen books and hundreds of articles on historical and topical themes, he twice served as a deputy to the Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, organized its wartime coalition known as the Progressive Bloc, and, in the February 1917 revolution, helped organize the Provisional Government, serving as its first minister of foreign affairs. He participated in the anti-Bolshevik movement in the Russian civil war, and, after 1920, he was a controversial leader of the Russian émigré community in Paris and editor of the widely read newspaper Poslednie novosti (Latest news). He married Anna Sergeyevna Smirnova in 1887; they had three children.

early career as historian and teacher

Milyukov was born in Moscow on 27 January (15 January, old style) 1859 to an educated family. He received his undergraduate and advanced (magister) degrees in history from Moscow University, where he taught from 1886 to 1895. A self-proclaimed positivist, Milyukov, with his teachers Vasily Osipovich Klyuchevsky, Pavel Vinogradov, and Maxim Kovalevsky, helped create and disseminate the sociological and archive-based approach to history known as the Moscow (or Klyuchevsky) school of historiography. Milyukov's most important historical works include his 1892 dissertation, The Russian State Economy in the First Quarter of the Eighteenth Century and the Reforms of Peter the Great, in which he provocatively argued that the socioeconomic costs of making Russia a great power had nearly ruined the country, and his popular three-volume Studies in the History of Russian Culture, which went through numerous editions between 1896 and 1917. Several theses of this work provided a foundation for his mature political conviction that Russia could and would become a constitutional state. These include his emphasis on the enormous, dynamic role of the state in shaping Russian society; his contention that Russia, despite important singularities, had followed a "European" path of development; and his arguments concerning the adaptiveness of the Russian "national type" and the extent to which even putatively traditional Russian institutions were actually borrowed.

Milyukov's university career in Russia ended in January 1895 when he was dismissed from Moscow University and sent into internal exile for his critical views of autocracy. He then spent several years in the Balkans, teaching and participating in archaeological expeditions. Returning to Russia in 1899, Milyukov settled in St. Petersburg and increasingly became involved in publicistic writing and oppositional groups, primarily around the socialist journal Russkoe bogatstvo (Russian wealth). He was jailed for his political speeches and writings three times between 1901 and late 1905, which had the effect of enhancing his public reputation.

In spring 1902 Milyukov became involved with a group of urban intellectuals and activists in provincial (zemstvo) government, who planned to produce a journal to be published abroad and smuggled into Russia, for the purpose of organizing a liberation movement. Milyukov contributed thirteen articles between 1902 and 1905 to Osvobozhdenie (Liberation); these articles, along with those of the journal editor, Peter Struve, decisively shaped the liberation movement's program and a new kind of Russian liberalism. This liberalism, democratic, activist, and social reformist in its program, had much in common with the "new liberalism" contemporaneously being worked out in Britain and France by such thinkers as J. A. Hobson, L. T. Hobhouse, and Alfred Fouillée. Milyukov most fully articulated his liberal views in the book Russia and Its Crisis (1905), based on lectures he gave in the United States in 1903 and 1904, in which he traced Russian liberalism's "intellectual" rather than bourgeois origins, the broadening of its social basis, and its rapprochement with socialism. Liberals, he maintained, had come to realize that individual freedom and political rights are only the first goals of the liberal program, not its end; liberals and socialists could work together for the foundation of a democratic Russia and broad social reforms.

founder and leader of the kadets

From early 1905, as the revolutionary situation in Russia intensified, Milyukov devoted himself to full-time political activity. Initially he drew on his personal connections in both moderate and socialist camps to promote a broad-based, united political front through the union movement, but as he became disenchanted with the growing radicalism of the unions and the revolutionary parties, he began working to organize a formal liberal party, one that would cooperate with but be distinct from the Left. He helped draft the program of the Constitutional Democratic Party—popularly known as the Kadets—which held its founding congress in October 1905. In addition to calling for a constitution granting individual rights and full equality for all citizens of the empire, and the creation of a legislature elected by universal suffrage, the party program contained sweeping social provisions, including the right to unionize and strike, introduction of state-supported health insurance and old-age pensions, and partial redistribution of land to the peasantry. By virtue of his theoretical and publicistic talents, organizational skills, and ability to mediate between left and right wings of the new party, Milyukov naturally emerged as its de facto head, from 1907 to 1917. He was also able to shape liberal views through his position as coeditor of the party's unofficial newspaper, Rech (Speech), from 1906 to 1917.

The Constitutional Democrats were the largest single party in both of the first two State Dumas, in 1906 and 1907. Although the authorities barred Milyukov from standing for election, he played an important role in defining Kadet strategy and tactics. Overestimating governmental weakness, he shared responsibility for the confrontational nature of Kadet tactics in the First Duma, which contributed to the legislature's swift dissolution in July 1906. Milyukov was elected from St. Petersburg to the Third and Fourth Dumas, in 1907 and 1912, respectively. As head of the Kadets' Duma deputation, which had been greatly reduced in size thanks to restrictive changes to the franchise, Milyukov strove to create a meaningful legislative role for the party as a constructive opposition. Beyond this general goal, Milyukov's interests in the Dumas were education, foreign policy, defense reforms, and the nationality question. Here, his concerted efforts to protect the rights of Finns, Jews, Armenians, and other minorities from chauvinistic legislation caused nationalists to excoriate his and the Kadets' patriotism, as well as making him the target of physical assaults and death threats from the extreme Right. On the central committee of the party itself, Milyukov worked to combat disunity and disillusionment among Kadets in an increasingly repressive political climate.

Milyukov's convinced pacifism was reflected in his writings on the arms race and the Balkan Wars (1912–1913), and particularly in his stand against Russia's taking action on behalf of Serbia in summer 1914. This position—courageous as it was unpopular—has been overshadowed by his subsequent, ardent support of Russia's war effort and interests as a Great Power, once Germany formally declared war. Milyukov and the Kadets' patriotism and war work did much to restore the liberals' reputation, also opening the door for closer cooperation with other parties. In summer 1915, military debacles and rising public dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war prompted Milyukov to organize a broad coalition in the Duma, the Progressive Bloc, which pressed for a ministry enjoying public confidence and other measures intended to restore national unity and morale. The government's refusal to cooperate with the bloc, and rising public discontent, prompted Milyukov's influential denunciation in the Duma of government failures. His November 1916 speech in which he asked "Is this stupidity or treason?" is often characterized as the opening salvo of the Russian Revolution.

role in russian revolution and its aftermath

Though he had not desired the outbreak of revolution, once it began Milyukov played the lead role on the Duma's side in negotiating establishment of a Provisional Government with representatives of the new Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, from 13 March (28 February, O.S.) to 14 March (1 March, O.S.). Milyukov was named minister of foreign affairs, and expected that he and his party would dominate the new government. Instead, he held his position for only two months, thanks in part to the unpopularity of his insistence that Russia obtain Constantinople and the Straits after the war: street demonstrations in Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) precipitated his resignation from the cabinet on 15 May (2 May, O.S.) and the formation of a new coalition government. In the following months, though he remained one of the most prominent political figures in Russia, he was powerless to stem his party's declining influence or the disintegration of the state.

Declared an "enemy of the people" shortly after the Bolshevik seizure of power in October (November, new style) 1917, Milyukov joined forces with the anti-Bolshevik (White) Volunteer Army in southern Russia. From November 1918, he worked on behalf of the anti-Bolshevik cause from abroad, despite his misgivings about the conservatism of the White generals. Following the Red victory, Milyukov first settled in Paris, little suspecting he would never see his homeland again. He died in poverty in Aix-les-Bains, France, on 3 March 1943, at the age of eighty-three.

See alsoKadets; Liberalism; Revolution of 1905 (Russia); Russia.


Primary Sources

Milyukov, Pavel N. Gosudarstvennoe khoziaistvo Rossii v pervoi chetverti XVIII stolietiia i reforma Petra Velikogo. St. Petersburg, 1892.

——. Ocherki po istorii russkoi kul'tury. 3 vols. St. Petersburg, 1896–1903. Followed by 6 subsequent editions.

——. Russia and Its Crisis. Chicago, 1905. Reprint, with a foreword by Donald W. Treadgold, New York, 1962.

——. Vospominaniia. 2 vols. 1955. Reprint, Moscow, 1990.

Secondary Sources

Makushin, A. V., and P. A. Tribunskii. Pavel Nikolaevich Miliukov: Trudy i dni (1859–1904). Ryazan, Russia, 2001.

Stockdale, Melissa Kirschke. Paul Miliukov and the Quest for a Liberal Russia, 1880–1918. Ithaca, N.Y., 1996.

Melissa K. Stockdale