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Octobrists

OCTOBRISTS

OCTOBRISTS , constitutional-monarchist party in czarist Russia founded after the issue of the Manifesto of *Nicholasii of Oct. 30, 1905. The goal of the Octobrists was to attain certain limited freedoms, i.e., the freedom of speech, of assembly, and organization. The party also demanded the right to a legislative assembly (*Duma), elected democratically as had been promised to the Russian people in the Manifesto. In the First Imperial Duma (1906), composed mostly of constitutional-democratic factions, the Octobrists did not occupy a significant place, having only 16 seats out of a total of 500. In the Second Duma (1907) they had 44 representatives. The strength and influence of the party rose in the Third Duma (1907–1910) which was elected after electoral reforms had been introduced, conferring preferential rights on the aristocracy and restricting the electoral rights of the broader levels of the social strata. The Octobrists drew close to the reactionary right wing of the Duma which unreservedly supported the czar and his government; the leader of the faction, A. Guchkov, was elected as chairman of the Duma.

On the Jewish question the Octobrists from the very outset adopted an evasive policy. When compelled to take a clear stand, they supported the retention of restrictions on Jewish rights and did not refrain from open antisemitic attacks. In connection with the bill permitting greater freedom of residence outside the *Pale of Settlement (1908), the Octobrists supported the restricting amendment introduced by the reactionary majority of the Duma, which sought to intensify the restrictions. In military affairs the Octobrists demanded that the Jews be withdrawn from army service, since in their opinion the loyalty of Jews could not be relied upon in the event of war. Their opposition to the appointment of Jews as justices of the peace was rationalized on the ground that to place a Jew in such a position was contrary to the principles of a Christian state (1909). By agreement with the reactionary representatives of the Polish faction in the Third Imperial Duma, the Jews were deprived of their municipal rights in the cities of Poland. A slight relaxation in the stand taken by the Octobrists on the Jewish question was evidenced when 26 of its members in the Duma signed a bill submitted by the opposition to abolish the Pale of Settlement (1910).

[Simha Katz]

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