Minister S.J. Witte
Prime Minister (1905 - 1906)

Designed Manifesto which made Russia a constitutional monarchy. It gave people fundamental civil freedom, including real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association. Participation of Duma was granted first time to those classes of the population which were before deprived of voting powers.

The October Manifesto

17 October 1905 (o.s)

We, Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russians, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc. etc., declare to all our loyal subjects:

The disturbances and unrest in St Petersburg, Moscow and in many other parts of our Empire have filled Our heart with great and profound sorrow. The welfare of the Russian Sovereign is inseparable from the welfare of His people, and national sorrow is His sorrow. The present disturbances could give rise to profound disaffection among the masses, presenting a threat to the unity and integrity of Our State. The oath which We took as Tsar compels Us to use all Our strength, intelligence and authority to put a speedy end to this unrest which is so dangerous for the State. The relevant authorities have been ordered to take measures to deal with direct outbreaks of disorder and violence and to protect people who only want to go about their daily business in peace. However, view of the needed for successful implementation of earlier measures aimed at pacifying the country, we have decided that the work of the agencies of government must be coordinated. We have therefore ordered the government to take the following steps in fulfillment of our unbending will:

  • Fundamental civil freedoms will be granted to the population, including real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association.
  • Without halting the elections that have already been scheduled, participation in the Duma will be granted to those classes of the population which are at present deprived of voting powers (insofar as is possible in the short period before its convocation). Further development of a universal franchise will be left to the newly established legislature (i.e. according to the law of August 6, 1905, to the Duma and Council of State).
  • It is established as an unshakeable rule that no law can come into force without its approval by the State Duma and representatives of the people will be given the opportunity to take real part in the supervision of the legality of authorities appointed by Us.

We call on all true sons of Russia to remember their duty to the homeland, to help put a stop to this unprecedented unrest and, together with this, to devote all their strength to the restoration of peace and quiet in our native land.

Issued at Peterhof on the 17th of October in the year of Our Lord 1905, in the eleventh year of Our reign.

Original signed by Nicholas II.

Source: Unattributed translation from Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi Imperii, 3rd series, vol. XXV/I, no. 26803. Revised (syntax emendations) Jon Bone.


Minister of Finance (1892-1903)

Implementing the first industrialization plan for Russia. “Witte’s arguments: “The industrialization of the country, creation of a huge industry is a historical necessity to maintain the international prestige”.

Main methods

Witte’s conviction was in line with the German economist Friedrich List’s ideas of using protectionism as the state policy.

  • Protectionism is a policy where the state protects the domestic market from foreign competition by putting export and import customs to complicate the inflow and outflow of commodities.
  • State capitalism, monopoly of the state, strongly regulating the entire economy.
  • Reforms, supporting entrepreneurship - guaranteed state orders, subsidies and tax reductions for the industrial sector, in the tax policy and banking.

Further means

Monopoly on alcohol, currency reform (introduction of gold Ruble followed convertibility of the Ruble, guaranteed foreign credits and investments).

Siberian railroad according to Witte’s plan

“It should be noted that both Emperor Alexander III and Emperor Nicholas II considered the Siberian Railroad as purely economic undertaking, not as an instrument for annexing foreign territory.” (Professor Sidney Harcave p. 230).

Witte wrote in 1902, “Joining Europe and Asia by a continuous rail connection, that road becomes a global means of transit, on which the exchange of goods between West and East will have to flow. China, Japan and Korea, (...) enter into closer relations with Europe, a market with a developed manufacturing culture, and thereby create a greater demand there for the raw materials of the East. Thanks to the Siberian Road, these countries will also increase their demand for European manufacturers, and European know-how, and capital will find for itself an extensive new field of employment for the exploration and development of the natural riches of the Eastern nations.” (The Schiller Institute: Conference “How to Reconstruct a Bankrupt World”, Washington DC 2003)

“Witte hoped through state support and foreign investments to stimulate a faster industrialization in a certain period of time and catch the western countries (...) he was also creating future markets in Asia for the developing domestic industry (...) he supported commercial education in Russia and thanks to him many polytechnic and commercial institutes have been opened all over the country.” (S. J. Witte I evo Vremja (S. J. Witte and his time) B. V. Ananich Saint Petersburg 1999)).


Minister of Ways and Communications (1891-1892)

Building railroads was the infrastructure for industrialization such as “Trans-Siberian railroad” and East Chinese railroad. This could also be compared with the “railway approach” to economical questions of the American model for example.

Implementation of the Witte’s system: “An extensive railroad construction had started which was meant to stimulate the development of heavy industry which, in turn, would create favorable conditions for the growth of light industry” (The Annals, The American Academy of Political and Social Science 1969)