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Authoritarian Reform

Stolypin's constitutional model was more Prussian than English. He saw the Duma as an appendage to the state, a public body to endorse government policies, but not to check or direct it. His conflict with the Duma in 1907 revealed his authoritarianism.

Stolypin failed to find a workable majority in the Second Duma, which convened in February 1907. The 54 Octobrists (a 'party of state order'), even if supported by the 98 Kadets and 60 other Centrist and Rightist deputies, were outnumbered by a huge block of 222 socialists, including 37 SRs and 65 SDs. Led by the Socialists, the Duma became a forum of angry opposition to the government and its policies of land reform.

The Tsar dissolved the Duma and, by a decree on 3 June, changed the electoral system so that when the next assembly convened it would be dominated by conservative elements. When the Third Duma assembled in November 1907 the pro-government parties (Octobrists and Rightists) controlled 287 of the 443 seats. The radicals called it a 'Duma of Lords and Lackeys'.

The 3 June decree was an infringement of the Fundamental Laws and the liberals were quick to denounce it as a coup d'état. Even the Octobrists were uncomfortable with it. By his high-handed treatment of the Duma, Stolypin had undermined the one potential base of political support - the liberals - capable of bridging the divide between the tsarist regime and society.

He also faced a growing number of opponents on the Right - in the court, the military, the Orthodox Church, the United Nobility and the Union of the Russian People - all of whom resisted his reforms once the threat of revolution passed.

I recommend this 30-minute documentary on Stolypin from Voice of Russia. It has excellent images and film chronicle and the English commentary is very good.

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