Pyotr Stolypin

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Pyotr Stolypin
Pyotr Stolypin LOC 07327.jpg
3rd Chairman of Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire
In office
21 July 1906 – 18 September 1911
Monarch Nicholas II
Preceded by Ivan Goremykin
Succeeded by Vladimir Kokovtsov
Personal details
Born (1862-04-14)14 April 1862
Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony, German Confederation
Died 18 September 1911(1911-09-18) (aged 49)
Kiev, Russian Empire
Nationality Russian
Spouse(s) Olga Borisovna Neidhardt

Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin (Russian: Пётр Арка́дьевич Столы́пин, IPA: [pʲɵtr ɐˈrkadʲjɪvʲɪtɕ stɐˈlɨpʲɪn]; 14 April [O.S. 2 April] 1862 – 18 September [O.S. 5 September] 1911) served as Prime Minister and the leader of the third Duma, from 1906 to 1911. His tenure was marked by efforts to counter revolutionary groups and by the implementation of noteworthy agrarian reforms. Stolypin's reforms aimed to stem peasant unrest by creating a class of market-oriented smallholding landowners.[1] He is considered one of the last major statesmen of Imperial Russia with clearly defined public policies and the determination to undertake major reforms.[2]

Family and background[edit]

Stolypin was born in Dresden, Saxony, on 14 April 1862. His family was prominent in the Russian aristocracy, and Stolypin was related on his father's side to the poet Mikhail Lermontov. His father was Arkady Dmitrievich Stolypin (1821–99), a Russian landowner, descendant of a great noble family, a general in the Russian artillery, and later Commandant of the Kremlin Palace. His mother was Natalia Mikhailovna Stolypina (née Gorchakova; 1827–89), the daughter of the Commanding General of the Russian infantry during the Crimean War and later the Governor General of Warsaw Prince Mikhail Dmitrievich Gorchakov.

From 1869, Stolypin spent his childhood years in Kalnaberžė manor (now Kėdainiai district of Lithuania), built by his father, in what remained his favorite residence for the rest of life.[3] In 1876, the Stolypin family moved to Vilnius, where they bought a house, so that their son could study at the local grammar school. He received a good education at St. Petersburg University and entered government service upon graduating in 1885, joining the Ministry of State Property. Four years later Stolypin was elected marshal of the Kovno Governorate. This public service gave him an inside view of local needs and allowed him to develop administrative skills. He was fascinated by the common lifestyle of the northwestern provinces (especially what is now Lithuania, where his family held estates) and sought to propagate their privately owned, single-family farmsteads throughout the Russian Empire.[4]

In 1884, Stolypin married Olga Borisovna Neidhardt, the daughter of a prominent Russian family. They raised five daughters and a son.[5]

Governor and interior minister[edit]

In 1902 Stolypin was appointed governor in Grodno, where he was the youngest person ever appointed to this position. Next, he became governor of Saratov, where he became known for suppressing peasant unrest in 1905, and gained a reputation as the only governor able to keep a firm hold on his province during this period of widespread revolt. Stolypin was the first governor to use effective police methods. Some sources suggest that he had a police record on every adult male in his province.[6] His successes as provincial governor led to Stolypin being appointed interior minister under Ivan Goremykin.

Prime minister[edit]

A few months later, Nicholas II appointed Stolypin to replace Goremykin as Prime Minister. In 1906, Russia was plagued by revolutionary unrest and discontent was widespread among the population. With broad support, leftist organizations waged a violent campaign against the autocracy; throughout Russia, many police officials and bureaucrats were assassinated. To respond to these attacks, Stolypin introduced a new court system that allowed for the arrest and speedy trial of accused offenders. Over three thousand suspects were convicted and executed by these special courts between 1906 and 1909. In a Duma session, Kadet party member Feudor Rodichev referred to the gallows as "Stolypin's efficient black monday necktie". As result, Stolypin challenged Rodichev to a duel, but the Kadet party member decided to apologize for the phrase in order to avoid the duel. Nevertheless, the expression remained.

Stolypin dissolved the First Duma on July 21 [O.S. July 8] 1906, despite the reluctance of some of its more radical members, in order to facilitate government cooperation.[2] Stolypin introduced land reforms in order to resolve peasant grievances and quell dissent. He also tried to improve the lives of urban laborers and worked towards increasing the power of local governments.

In July 1906, he was elected as Prime Minister. He aimed to create a moderately wealthy class of peasants that would support societal order. (See article "Stolypin's Reform").[7]

On 25 August 1906, assassins bombed a public reception Stolypin was holding at his Dacha on Aptekarsky Island. Stolypin was only slightly injured by flying splinters, but 28 others were killed—among them his 15-year-old daughter. Stolypin's three year old son was also seriously wounded.[8]

Stolypin changed the nature of the Duma to attempt to make it more willing to pass legislation proposed by the government.[9][10] After dissolving the Second Duma in June 1907 (Coup of June 1907), he changed the weight of votes more in favor of the nobility and wealthy, reducing the value of lower class votes.[10] This affected the elections to the Third Duma, which returned much more conservative members, more willing to cooperate with the government.[2]

In the spring of 1911, he resigned when one of his bills was defeated. He proposed spreading the system of zemstvo to the southwestern provinces of Russia. It was originally slated to pass with a narrow majority, but Stolypin's political opponents stopped it. Afterwards, he resigned as Prime Minister of the Third Duma.


Pyotr Stolypin's grave
Kiev Opera House where Stolypin was assassinated
A statue of Pyotr Stolypin was placed in central Kiev after his assassination.

In September 1911 Stolypin traveled to Kiev despite police warnings that an assassination plot was afoot. He traveled without bodyguards and refused to wear his bullet-proof vest which, he complained, smelt bad.

On 1 September 1911 while he was attending a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tale of Tsar Saltan at the Kiev Opera House in the presence of the Tsar and his two eldest daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, Stolypin was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the chest, by Dmitry Bogrov (born Mordekhai Gershkovich). Stolypin was reported to have coolly risen from his chair, removed his gloves and unbuttoned his jacket, exposing a blood-soaked waistcoat. He sank into his chair and shouted "I am happy to die for the Tsar" before motioning to the Tsar in his imperial box to withdraw to safety. Tsar Nicholas remained in his position and in one last gesture Stolypin blessed him with a sign of the cross. Bogrov then attempted to stab Stolypin, but tripped and was subsequently caught. The next morning the distressed Tsar knelt at Stolypin's hospital bedside and repeated the words "Forgive me". Stolypin died four days later. Bogrov was hanged 10 days after the assassination; the judicial investigation was halted by order of Tsar Nicholas II. This gave rise to suggestions that the assassination was planned not by leftists, but by conservative monarchists who were afraid of Stolypin's reforms and his influence on the Tsar. This, however, has never been proven. Stolypin was buried in the Pechersk Monastery (Lavra) in Kiev, the capital of present-day Ukraine.


Opinion about Stolypin's work are divided. In the unruly atmosphere after the Russian Revolution of 1905 some say that he had to suppress violent revolt and anarchy. However, historians disagree over how realistic Stolypin's policies were. The standard view of most scholars in this field has been that he had little real chance of reforming agriculture since the Russian peasantry was so backward and he had so little time to change things. Others, however, have argued that while it is true that the conservatism of most peasants prevented them from embracing progressive change, Stolypin was correct in thinking that he could "wager on the strong" since there was indeed a layer of strong peasant farmers. This argument is based on evidence drawn from tax returns data, which shows that a significant minority of peasants were paying increasingly higher taxes from the 1890s, a sign that their farming was producing higher profits.

There remains doubt whether, even without the interruption of Stolypin's murder and the First World War, his agricultural policy would have succeeded. The deep conservatism from the mass of peasants made them slow to respond. In 1914 the strip system was still widespread, with only around 10% of the land having been consolidated into farms.[11] Most peasants were unwilling to leave the security of the commune for the uncertainty of individual farming. Furthermore, by 1913, the government's own Ministry of Agriculture had itself begun to lose confidence in the policy.[12]

In a 2008 television poll to select "the greatest Russian", Stolypin placed second, behind Alexander Nevsky and followed by Joseph Stalin.[13]


  1. ^ Piotr Arkadevich Stolypin — at
  2. ^ a b c Imperial Russia, 1815-1917 - Position Paper
  3. ^
  4. ^ Memory of Stolypin immortalized in Vilnius
  5. ^ Blumberg, Arnold. Great Leaders, Great Tyrants?: Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History, p. 302. Greenwood Press, 1995, ISBN 0-313-28751-1.
  6. ^ ::Peter Stolypin::
  7. ^ P.A. Stolypin and the Attempts of Reforms
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy 1891-1924, P225
  10. ^ a b Oxley, Peter (2001). Russia, 1855 - 1991: from tsars to commissars. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-913418-9. 
  11. ^ Lynch, Michael From Autocracy to Communism: Russia 1894-1941 p.42 ISBN 978-0-340-96590-0
  12. ^ Lynch, Michael From Autocracy to Communism: Russia 1894-1941 p.42 ISBN 978-0-340-96590-0
  13. ^ Stalin voted third-best Russian

Further reading[edit]

  • Ascher, Abraham (2001). P. A. Stolypin: The Search for Stability in Late Imperial Russia. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3977-3. 
  • McDonald, David MacLaren (1992). United Government and Foreign Policy in Russia, 1900-1914. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674922396. 
  • Conroy, M.S. (1976), Peter Arkadʹevich Stolypin: Practical Politics in Late Tsarist Russia, Westview Press, (Boulder), 1976. ISBN 0-8915-8143-X

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Pyotr Nikolayevich Durnovo
Minister of Interior
July 1904– February 1905
Succeeded by
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Makarov
Preceded by
Ivan Goremykin
Prime Minister of Russia
21 July 1906—18 September 1911
Succeeded by
Vladimir Kokovtsov