Piotr Arkadevich Stolypin

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Piotr Arkadevich Stolypin

The Russian statesman and reformer Piotr Arkadevich Stolypin (1862-1911) is known for his victory over anarchist forces, for his attempt to transform the Russian autocratic monarchy into a constitutional one, and for his land reform.

Piotr Stolypin was born in Baden. A country squire and landlord in Kovno, he was named marshal of the nobility of that province from 1887 to 1902. In 1903 he was appointed governor of the adjoining province of Grodno and a year later was transferred in the same capacity to Saratov on the Volga. There he ruthlessly put down the peasants, and his determination and personal courage led to his appointment as minister of the interior in 1906. Later that year he became prime minister.

Stolypin was the most competent and clear-sighted official to serve Czar Nicholas II. His policy was twofold— to bring law and order to society and to institute reform. An enemy of revolution and a conservative, Stolypin tried to break up the revolutionary groups and also to undermine their popular support through social and political reforms. As a monarchist and a constitutionalist, he wished to work harmoniously with the elected Duma in the passage of reform legislation.

An intelligent and well-educated man, Stolypin pondered for some time the poor condition of the Russian villages and concluded that the low level of rural economy was due to the fact that the land did not belong to the peasants. He realized also that Russia could not become a strong power until the majority of the Russian population— the peasants—became interested in the preservation of individual property. The Revolution of 1905 with its agrarian excesses only strengthened Stolypin's conviction on this point. He came to believe finally that the primary need of Russia was the creation of a class of well-to-do landowners.

Under Stolypin's agrarian reform law peasants made remarkable progress in obtaining private land ownership. Stolypin spared no money in order to consolidate and to increase the peasantry. He encouraged the practice of granting the peasants small credits; he maintained an army of land experts, land surveyors, and agronomists; and he spent large sums of money on public education.

Stolypin's creative efforts in the work of the state were not always within the limits of the constitutional order at which he aimed. The introduction of local assemblies in the western province aroused the entire Russian people against him. The left wing and the center were indignant at such a flagrant violation of the constitution, and the right wing was indignant at his treatment of its leaders in the State Council. Stolypin was killed in Kiev on Sept. 18, 1911. His assassin was a double agent whose motives remain cloudy to this day.

Further Reading

The only full-length study of Stolypin in English is by his daughter Maria Bock, Reminiscences of My Father, Peter A. Stolypin (trans. 1970). Vladimir I. Kokovtsov, Out of My Past (trans. 1935), and Vladimir I. Gurko, Features and Figures of the Past: Government and Opinion in the Reign of Nicholas II (trans. 1939), are memoirs by czarist officials and contain useful material on Stolypin. A biographical sketch of Stolypin is in Arthur E. Adams, ed., Imperial Russia after 1861 (1965). □

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Piotr Arkadevich Stolypin (pyô´tər ərkä´dyĬvĬch stəlĬ´pĬn), 1862–1911, Russian premier and minister of the interior (1906–11) for Czar Nicholas II. He sought to fight the revolutionary movement with both severe repression and social reform. He instituted a regime of courts-martial to suppress revolutionary terrorism and peasant disorders, and hundreds were executed in 1906 and 1907. To stem peasant unrest Stolypin attempted to create a class of peasant landowners that would be conservative and loyal to the czar. The roots of unrest lay partly in the Edict of Emancipation of 1861 (see Emancipation, Edict of), which had given land to the village communes, instead of individually to the newly freed serfs. The commune usually distributed scattered strips to provide families with generally equal allotments. Stolypin's land reforms of 1906 gave the peasant communes the right to dissolve themselves, entitled each peasant to own and consolidate the strips given him by the commune, and provided financial aid to peasants who wished to buy more land. The land reform was designed to transform the peasants gradually into landowners without hurting the interests of the large landowners. At the same time it enabled peasants to seek industrial employment in the cities if they wished to leave the land. It was opposed by the leftist majority in the first duma, which favored extensive expropriation of the land. The first and second Dumas were dissolved, and Stolypin made sure of a conservative majority in the third Duma by altering (1907) the election laws. Some of Stolypin's measures were opposed by the Socialists and liberals, others by the extreme reactionaries. His agrarian reform came too late to conciliate the peasantry as a body. When the Russian Revolution of 1917 broke out, the number of small holdings had increased but not sufficiently to create a conservative peasant class. His attempt to extend the government's policy of Russification to Finland, where he restricted (1910) the authority of the diet, met with wide opposition. While his secret police continued their repressive activities, the government took no action against the anti-Jewish pogroms organized by extreme reactionary societies. Stolypin was assassinated by a revolutionary terrorist who was also a police agent.