Octobrist

Octobrist

[ok-toh-brist]
The Octobrist Party (Russian Октябристы) was a non-revolutionary centrist Russian political party formally called Union of October 17 (Союз 17 Октября). The party's program of moderate constitutionalism called for the fulfilment of Emperor Nicholas II's October Manifesto granted at the peak of the Russian Revolution of 1905. Founded in late October 1905, from 1906 on the party was led by the industrialist Alexander Guchkov and drew support from centrist-liberal gentry, businessmen, and some bureaucrats.

Unlike their immediate neighbors to the Left, Constitutional Democrats, the Octobrists were firmly committed to a system of constitutional monarchy. At the same time they emphasized the need for a strong parliament and a government that would be responsible to it. They were generally allied with the governments of Sergei Witte in 1905-1906 and Pyotr Stolypin in 1906-1911, but they criticized the government for taking extralegal measures and a slow pace of reforms, especially after the revolution ended in 1907 and they no longer saw the need for the extraordinary measures that they reluctantly supported in 1905-1907. The Octobrists' program included private farming and further land reform, which were in tune with Stolypin's program. They also supported the government in its unwillingness to grant political autonomy to ethnic minorities within the empire, although they generally opposed legal restrictions based on ethnicity and religion.

The Octobrists and groups allied with them did poorly in the 1906 elections of the First and Second State Dumas. However, after the dissolution of the Second State Duma on June 3, 1907 (Old Style), the election law was changed in favor of propertied classes and the party formed the largest faction in the Third State Duma (1907-1912). The apparent failure of the party to take advantage of this majority and inability to influence the politics of the government led to a split within the party in 1913 and poor showing in the 1912 Duma election, resulting in a smaller faction in the Fourth State Duma (1912-1917).

With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, moderate political parties became moribund in Russia. The Octobrists all but ceased to exist outside the capital, St. Petersburg, by 1915. Several of its prominent members, particularly Guchkov and Mikhail Rodzianko, continued to play a significant role in Russian politics until 1917, when they were instrumental in convincing Nicholas II to abdicate during the February Revolution and in forming the Russian Provisional Government. With the fall of the Romanovs in March, the party became one of the ruling parties in the first Provisional Government.

Some members of the party later participated in the White Movement after the October Revolution and during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920), becoming active in émigré circles after the Bolshevik victory in 1920.

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