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|Print version. Published on site Rusnet.NL 10 November 2003
Sergey Witte, Russian premier.
A railway administrator, he became minister of communications in 1892 and minister of finance (1892-1903). He introduced the gold standard, reformed finances, encouraged the development of Russian industries with the help of foreign capital, and opened up Siberia to large-scale colonisation with the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
These measures reduced the gap between the industrial development of Russia and that of Europe and also expanded the Russian industrial proletariat, which was concentrated in a few large cities.
Witte was dismissed in 1903, probably because he opposed the aggressive policy of Tsar Nicholas II in East Asia, but he was recalled in 1905 at the close of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) to negotiate peace with Japan. He secured unexpectedly favourable terms for Russia in the Treaty of Portsmouth and was rewarded with the title of count.
Returning to Russia during the Revolution of 1905, he was called on by the tsar to draw up the manifesto of October, 1905, by which Nikolay II promised more liberal government under a duma, or legislative assembly.
Appointed premier (October, 1905), Witte failed to gain liberal support against the Social Democrats and the reactionaries. He secured a loan from France and suppressed a workers' uprising in Moscow (December, 1905 - January, 1906).
His resignation was accepted (April, 1906) by Nikolay II, who restored a more conservative regime.