Memoirs of Count Witte


(translated and edited by Sidney Harcave, professor emeritus of history at the State University of New York at Binghamton (1990)

“It is probably the case that most, if not all, of the documents that Witte kept abroad are in the Bakhmeteff Archive in New York. As for the documents he kept in his home in St.Petersburg, it seems that all of these that was not destroyed are in the Soviet Archives (today St. Petersburg Arcives ” (Professor S. Harcave 1990).

The government of Tsar Nikolai II was also very interested to prevent the publication of the Witte’s memoirs and tried with all means to confiscate them from his house in St. Petersburg and from his villa in Biarritz after his death the 28th of February 1915.

“Immediately after my husbands death in February 1915, his study was sealed and everything found in it examined and taken away by the authorities.(…) thereafter an official from the Russian embassy in Paris entered our villa in Biarritz and in the absence of its owners, carried out a thorough search…” (Professor S. Harcave The Memoirs of Count Witte, from Countess Witte’s foreword,  USA 1990)

Professor  Sidney Harcave, the State University Binghamton, NY (1990)

· What is my judgment of Witte’s place in history?  “I consider him the most outstanding official to have served under the last two tsars and probably the ablest official in the last century of the Romanov dynasty.” (Professor S. Harcave

· Is anyone still interested in Witte’s memoirs? The answer is an emphatic YES.

· “His memoirs are a major source for the history of Russia during this crucial period of rapid industrialization, foreign expansion, war, revolution, and fundamental political change. For many important events his memoirs provide the only source of information. In addition the Memoirs tell us much about his times in general.” (Professor S. Harcave)

· The memoirs have been read and studied with microscopic care. There is no sign that interest in the memoirs has flagged.

· is acknowledged as the most important book yet published on the Russian problem and the whole international situation.

· in February 1915 Witte died of short illness, leaving the responsibility for publishing his Memoirs to his widow. In May 1919 she sailed for New York and in the spring of 1921 there would appear simultaneous publications of abridged English, French, Spanish, Czech, German, Hungarian and Japanese translations of the memoirs.

· after the appearance of the memoirs, the task of analyzing and evaluating Witte’s work began and has continued to this day.

· Countess Witte: “…censorship under the old regime, which was more severe for the prime minister of the Tsar than for the ordinary citizen (…) made it impossible for Count Witte to express his thoughts fully and frankly. For that reason he wrote this memoirs for the later generation, for it to pass judgment on his work. Sidney Harcave (1990.



The idea called “the Eurasian Land-Bridge concept”, was presented in the 1860s U.S.A by Henry C. Carey the economist who was also a partner of President Abraham Lincoln. Carey proposed that the lessons of Europe and the United States in opening up the western lands from the Atlantic to the Pacific and then similarly in Europe, via railroad development corridors, be utilized throughout Eurasia. This policy, presented by Carey was adopted in Germany, France and was also spread into Russia, China, Japan and the others.

In the decades that followed, a small but powerful faction in the Russian Ministry of Finance and among the countries entrepreneurs fought to copy the American System. Mikhail A. Reutern  Witte’s predecessor became minister of fiancé 1862. He was a student of Henry C. Carey’s economics. Reutern emphasized that without railways and mechanical industries, Russia cannot be considered secure in her boundaries. The foremost statesman who promoted the American System in Russia were the scientist Dmitri Mendeleyev, known for his development of periodic law in chemistry, and his friend and ally Count Sergei Witte,