|Born||December 18, 1866
Simbirsk, Russian Empire
|Died||October 27, 1918 (aged 51)
Moscow, Russian SFSR
Alexander Dmitriyevich Protopopov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Дми́триевич Протопо́пов; December 18, 1866 – October 27, 1918) was a liberal publicist, statesman and politician in Imperial Russia. He held the position of Minister of the Interior from September 1916 to February 1917. According to Bernard Pares "He was merely a political agent; but his intentions as to policy, considering the post which he held, are of historical interest."
Protopopov was the son of a wealthy member of the nobility who owned extensive land holdings and a textile factory. The younger Protopopov was born in Simbirsk, the home both of Alexander Kerensky and Vladimir Lenin. He attended the select Nickolaev Cavalry School as a cadet before being commissioned into the Horse Grenadier Regiment of the Imperial Guard. After leaving the army in 1889, Protopopov studied law. He then became a director of his father's textile plant. At some point he moved to St Petersburg where he became active in the financial community.
As a member of the centralist Octobrist Party Protopopov was elected in 1907 as a delegate to both the Third and Fourth Dumas. He was granted the rank of Marshal of Nobility of the Korsunsk Uezd (1912), and of Simbirsk Gubernia (1916). In the latter year Protopopov became also president of the Council of the Metal-Working Industry, controlled by banks dependent on German syndicates.
In November 1913 or May 1914 he was appointed as vice-president of the Imperial Duma under Mikhail Rodzianko. Protopopov served as Deputy Speaker from 1914 to 1916. He founded a newspaper (Russkaya Volya) The Will of Russia, which was financed by the banks, and appointed Nikolay Gredeskul and Alexander Amfiteatrov as journalists. According to Joseph T. Fuhrmann Protopopov was hospitalized from the end of 1915 for six full months in the clinic of Peter Badmayev. In Spring 1916, at the request of Rodzianko, Protopopov led a delegation of Duma members (with Pavel Milyukov) to strengthen the ties with Russia's western allies in World War I: the (Entente powers). He met with the German industrialist and politician Hugo Stinnes and Knut Wallenberg, the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On Protopopov's return from France and the UK, he met on 20 July 1916 formally with Tsar Nicholas who described him as "a man I like very much". Kerensky had described him as "handsome, elegant, captivating .... moderately liberal and always pleasant". Repeatedly Empress Alexandra urged her husband to appoint Protopopov as Minister of the Interior. Placing the vice-president of the Duma in a key post might improve the relations between the Duma and the throne. His secret contacts on peace became a scandal; according to the NY Times an indication of the reapproachment between the Russian and German Governments. Protopopov was widely suspected of contacts with Hellmuth Lucius von Stoedten, the German envoy in Sweden and Fritz M. Warburg, a banker - and member of the Warburg family. Although impressed by Protopopov's charm, Nicholas was initially doubtful about his suitability for a position that included responsibility for police and food supplies at a time of instability and shortages. He had no bureaucratic experience and knew little of the police department. However the Tsar approved his appointment as manager of the Ministry of Interior some time between 16 and 20 September 1916. According to Richard Pipes Protopopov received carte blanche to run the country.
Minister of Interior
Although earlier considered fairly liberal, Protopopov saw his new role as that of preserving Tsarist autocracy. With the Tsar absent at the army headquarters of Stavka, the government of Russia appeared managed as a kind of personal concern between the Empress, Rasputin and Protopopov, with the auxiliary assistance of Anna Vyrubova. Protopopov continued in the main the reactionary policies of his predecessor Boris Stürmer. According to Rodzianko and Pares Protopopov was mentally unstable. His speeches were incohesive. "In spite of his planning on paper, he seems never to have had any effective proposal for the solution of any of the grave and critical problems which he was there to settle."
In October Protopopov proposed to let a group of Petrograd bankers purchase all the Russian bread and distribute it through the country. Then he ordered the release of Vladimir Sukhomlinov from prison. He intended to suppress the public organizations, especially Zemgor and the War Industry Committees, to win back the support of the business world, which he knew better than anything else. In November he sought the dissolution of the Duma.
The new prime minister Alexander Trepov informed Protopopov that he wished him to give up his post in the Ministry of the Interior and take over that of Commerce, but Protopopov refused. In November 1916 Trepov made the dismissal of Protopopov an indispensable condition of his accepting the presidency of the Council. The Tsarina tried to retain Protopopov in his influential position in the Ministry of the Interior. On 14 November 1916 (O.S.) Trepov travelled to Stavka to meet with the Tsar to discuss the growing crisis. Trepov threatened to resign on the next day. On 17 November Nikolai Pokrovsky was appointed as a foreign minister, but announced his resignation four times over disagreements with the Alexander Protopopov. Pokrovsky favored the attraction of the American financial capital into the Russian economy. On 7 December the cabinet demanded that Protopopov should go to the Emperor and resign, but he was appointed as Minister at the request of the Tsarina. In December 1916 Protopopov banned the zemstvos from meeting without police agents in attendance. "Protopopov felt that this organization was dominated by a revolutionary salaried staff and that in general the demand of opposition activists for a role in food-supply matters was meant to further political, and not practical, aims."
When the supply problems proved beyond Protopopov's capabilities to manage he lifted registration requirements on Jewish residents of Moscow and other cities.
Relations with Rasputin
Rasputin had a closer relationship with Protopopov than with his predecessor Stürmer. They had known each other since 1912. Protopopov was suffering from advanced syphilis, and in a mystical and deeply superstitious condition. This made him physically weak and mentally unstable. He was a frequent visitor to Peter Badmayev and Rasputin for treatment. On the evening of 16 December 1916 Protopopov urged Rasputin not to visit Felix Yusupov that night. Rasputin however disregarded this advice and was murdered at the Yusopov Palace in St. Petersburg a few hours later. It is alleged that Protopopov subsequently sought advice from the dead Rasputin at seances.
On February 22 the workers of most of the big factories were on strike. On International Women's Day, March 8 [O.S. February 23] working women came out in the streets to demonstrate against starvation, war and tsardom. During a session of the Council of Ministers on 25 February 1917, Pokrovsky proposed the resignation of the whole government. On the 26th Protopopov, and Commander of the Petrogradsky Military District Nikolay Iudovich Ivanov tried to suppress the February Revolution. However, Protopopov ignored warnings from the Tsar's secret police, the Okhrana, that the ill-disciplined and poorly trained troops of the Petrograd garrison were unreliable. The reservist battalions of four regiments of the Imperial Guard then mutinied and joined the revolutionaries. Pokrovsky reported about his negotiations with the Progressive Bloc (led by Vasili Maklakov) at the session of the Council of Ministers in the Mariinsky Palace. The Bloc spoke for the resignation of the government. It seems Protopopov refused to give up. On the 27th the Duma was dissolved and Protopopov was proclaimed dictator. Not long after his apartment and office were sacked by demonstrators. Protopopov took refuge at the Marie Palace. According to M. Nelipa: "On February 28, Protopopov freely walked into the Tauride Palace at 11.00 p.m. and handed himself in." He was taken to the main hall, where the former cabinet ministers were surrounded by soldiers with fixed bayonets. The new Russian Provisional Government under Georgy Lvov requested him to retire from his post, giving the plea of 'illness' if he desired. Like Prince Golitsyn he was taken to the Peter and Paul fortress that night.
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- B. Pares, p. 451.
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|Minister of Interior
6 September 1916 O.S.– 28 February 1917