Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin ended the possibility of a reconciliation between the czarist government and the elected Duma on the eve of World War I.

Summary of Event

The full story of the murder of Russia’s premier in September, 1911, has long been a mystery. Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin had numerous enemies on both the Right and the Left. The assassin was well known to the police as a social revolutionary and as a police informer. Agents provocateurs were linked to numerous assassinations of political leaders, including a grand duke of the Romanov family. The mystery lies in the motive for this particular killing: Did the killer commit the act out of revolutionary zeal, or did reactionary circles use him to eliminate a moderate voice in the government? How did Czar Nicholas II figure in this story? Assassinations;Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[Stolypin] [kw]Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin (Sept. 14, 1911) [kw]Stolypin, Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich (Sept. 14, 1911) Assassinations;Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[Stolypin] [g]Russia;Sept. 14, 1911: Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[02860] [g]Ukraine;Sept. 14, 1911: Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[02860] [c]Government and politics;Sept. 14, 1911: Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[02860] [c]Terrorism;Sept. 14, 1911: Assassination of Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[02860] Stolypin, Pyotr Arkadyevich Bogrov, Dmitry Nicholas II [p]Nicholas II[Nicholas 02];Stolypin assassination Alexandra Rasputin, Grigori Yefimovich Kokovtsov, Vladimir Nikolayevich

In the midst of revolution in Russia in 1905, the czar in his October Manifesto October Manifesto promised a nationally elected legislature, or Duma, which first met in April, 1906. In July, Stolypin was appointed chairman of the Council of Ministers. Concluding that absolutism was impossible to restore, he instituted a program that called for further reforms but repression of revolutionaries—hence the source of his disfavor among reactionaries and radicals alike. Stolypin was called on to deal with a Duma united in opposition to the government. In 1907, he suggested the electoral law that resulted in the Third Duma, with the conservative party (Octobrists) in a majority. Stolypin then introduced a land reform that freed peasants from the confinement of the village communes and opened up variations in peasant ownership. The immediate effects were harsh, but Stolypin reasoned that benefits would result in twenty years. Then, when terrorists bombed his own home, killing several people, he was criticized for too quickly restoring the death penalty. Opponents labeled the nooses used at the resulting police hangings “Stolypin’s neckties.” Yet he also infuriated the ultrarightists by proposing an expansion of civil liberties and by dealing with the Duma as a legitimate instrument of state.

Early in 1911, Stolypin sponsored a measure to extend elected local assemblies to the western provinces. His measure was designed to strengthen the Russian peasants’ participation in government, one that pleased not only some liberal groups but also nationalists, as Jewish merchants and Polish landowners would be underrepresented. Conservatives strongly resisted the proposal, but Stolypin staked his career on this measure and threatened to resign if the czar did not support it. Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna wrote that if Stolypin held his ground, the czar would give in, but that Nicholas’s pride would hide his inner agitation. She was correct; the czar invoked the emergency provision of the Fundamental Laws to override the vote of the Council of State, but he felt humiliated by pressure from his premier.

Meanwhile, reactionary elements at court undermined the chief minister, whispering that he was a traitor, willing to use the Duma to steal prerogatives assigned the czar by God. Stolypin confided to associates that he was losing confidence in himself and even predicted that he would be killed by the ultrarightist factions. In addition to his house bombing, nine other attempts were made on his life. Early in 1911, responding to appeals from numerous quarters, Stolypin forced the monk Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin to leave the capital. This move earned Stolypin the deep scorn of Empress Alexandra, who was certain that her son’s life depended on Rasputin’s ability to cure his hemophilia. The consensus in government circles was that Stolypin soon would be replaced as head of state.

This would not be necessary. In September, Czar Nicholas II journeyed to Kiev to celebrate a new memorial to Alexander II, the czar who had freed the serfs fifty years earlier. He was accompanied by several ministers of state, including Stolypin and Count Vladimir Nikolayevich Kokovtsov. The usual security precautions were taken wherever the czar traveled, but none were extended to the premier, although he did have a bodyguard. At the parade through the streets of Kiev, one of the individuals in the crowd was Rasputin, who was heard saying that Stolypin soon would be dead.

Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin.

(Library of Congress)

On September 14, 1911, the party attended a performance of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan at the Kiev Municipal Theater. During the second intermission, a well-dressed man walked down the aisle to the first row of orchestra seats below the imperial box. Just a few feet away, Stolypin was standing and speaking to Kokovtsov, who was about to leave. The assassin, Dmitry Bogrov, shot the premier in the chest two times with a Browning revolver. The czar thought that something had dropped on the floor and stepped into the box to see Stolypin facing him. He saw blood staining Stolypin’s white tunic; Stolypin crossed himself before falling into the chair. Bogrov, who was given a ticket to the theater by the police, allegedly to protect Stolypin, was captured as he headed in the direction of the only lightly guarded door. The police seized him and tried to protect him from the mob that was beating him mercilessly.

Stolypin was sent to a local hospital and lay in great pain for four days before he died. Kokovtsov was at his bedside throughout, but Stolypin’s wife refused to allow the czar to enter his room. Meanwhile, Bogrov, a lawyer and the son of a Jewish merchant in Kiev, was kept incommunicado, and his trial and later execution, on October 10, 1911, were handled with unusual dispatch.

Significance

Although the Duma called for an investigation of the police in Kiev, Czar Nicholas dismissed the resulting report, which was highly critical of General P. G. Kurlov for negligence. The czar was rejoicing at the recovery of his son from a grave illness, and, he said, he was not in a mood to punish anyone. According to Duma member Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky, the prosecutor had told Stolypin’s son-in-law that the deed was carried out at Kurlov’s instigation.

The suspension of the inquiry and failure to interrogate the prisoner left the public to speculate on the nature of the crime, its motive, and its backers. Had Bogrov acted on his own, using his police connections to commit a revolutionary crime? It has been argued that Bogrov’s deed was a desperate attempt to save his own life from terrorist comrades who had discovered his police connections and delivered an ultimatum to him in August. Or was Bogrov hired by reactionary forces who thought Stolypin too moderate? After Stolypin’s assassination, the Duma was convened as scheduled on October 28, on the fortieth day after the government leader’s tragic death, but members were told not of Stolypin’s death but of the death of another Duma member from Minsk Province. Nevertheless, one deputy, the social democrat I. P. Pokrovskii, delivered a scathing attack on the police and claimed that the Kiev secret police arranged the murder of the premier, just as other prominent persons were killed at the behest of the double agent Yevno Azef a few years before. In particular, he singled out General A. I. Spiridovich, commander of the palace secret police, and Kurlov as head of the secret police.

Stolypin was succeeded as premier by Kokovtsov, who soon lost favor at court and was replaced by the aging and weak Ivan L. Goremykin. Neither could command the respect of the court and the Duma as the nation plunged into world war. Assassinations;Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin[Stolypin]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ascher, Abraham. P. A. Stolypin: The Search for Stability in Late Imperial Russia. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001. Biography discusses Stolypin’s ideas regarding socioeconomic and political reform. Includes photographs, bibliography, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ferro, Marc. Nicholas II: The Last of the Tsars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Discusses Stolypin’s assassination and accepts the conspiracy theory involving the security forces.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kerensky, Alexander. Russia and History’s Turning Point. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1965. Memoir by the head of the provisional government in 1917. Traces the public antagonism toward Stolypin to his restoration of capital punishment.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lincoln, W. Bruce. In War’s Dark Shadow: The Russians Before the Great War. 1983. Reprint. De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003. Discussion of Stolypin’s assassination focuses on the conservative reactionaries in the State Council and their hatred of the premier.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pares, Sir Bernard. The Fall of the Russian Monarchy. 1939. Reprint. London: Phoenix Press, 2001. History by an Englishman who conducted numerous interviews with many of the participants in the political drama of those years.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pipes, Richard. A Concise History of the Russian Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. Discussion of Stolypin’s assassination defends the police from the charge of instigating the murder.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shulgin, V. V. Memoirs of a Member of the Russian Duma, 1906-1917. New York: Hippocrene, 1984. Includes the lengthy letter Czar Nicholas wrote to his mother about Stolypin’s assassination as well as Pokrovskii’s address that accused the secret police of responsibility.

Pogroms in Imperial Russia

Bloody Sunday

October Manifesto

First Meeting of the Duma

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