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members of the Union of October 17, a counterrevolutionary party of big landlords and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie of Russia, representing the right wing of Russian liberalism.
The true masters of capitalist society, the Octobrists represented and defended the interests of both the big bourgeoisie and of landlords who operated in a capitalist manner. The party was organized at the beginning of November 1905, first in Moscow, then in St. Petersburg; it acquired its name from the Manifesto of Oct. 17, 1905, in which the tsar had agreed to establish a constitutional monarchy. The founders of the Union of October 17 included Count P. A. Geiden, D. N. Shipov, M. A. Stakhovich, A. I. Guchkov, N. I. Guchkov, N. A. Khomiakov, M. V. Rodzianko, and others representing the right wing of the Zemstvo and Municipal union congresses. Beginning in late 1905, the union also spread to the provinces; at its first congress in Moscow (Feb. 8–12, 1906), 38 provinces and 86 district branches of the union were represented.
The Octobrists advocated “strong monarchical power,” regarding as legitimate all the actions of the tsarist government aimed at the suppression of the revolution. The Octobrists’ program that was announced in February 1906 included a declaration on the unity and indivisibility of the Russian empire. In practice this meant support for the great-power chauvinism of the tsarist government, for a constitutional monarchy with bicameral representation, and for political freedom within the limits defined by the Manifesto of October 17. The Octobrists proposed to resolve the agrarian question primarily by giving the peasants the same civil and property rights as the other strata. They favored the regulation of small-scale land rents, financial aid to peasants for resettlement, and measures facilitating the secession of peasants from the obshchiny (peasant communes). The Octobrists also suggested that state and crown lands be used as a source of allotments to the peasants. With respect to the working class, the program contained a vague demand for a legislative “settlement” of the issues. The Octobrist program also provided for the development of local and municipal self-government throughout Russia.
After A. I. Guchkov’s letter to the editors of Novoe Vremia (Aug. 28, 1906) approving the introduction of field courts-martial, Shipov, Stakhovich, and Geiden left the Octobrists and founded the Party of Peaceful Renewal. At the second congress of the Union of October 17 (May 7–10, 1907), the political program of the Octobrists was revised along more conservative lines. The Octobrist faction in the First Duma had 16 deputies, and in the second, 54. The change in the electoral law of June 3, 1907, provided the Octobrists with a sharp increase, to 154 seats, in the Third Duma. In the Fourth Duma the Octobrists held 98 seats. The Octobrist delegates in the Duma formed blocs with the Black Hundreds and the Constitutional Democrats (the Cadets), thereby facilitating the government’s implementation of reactionary policies.
In December 1913, after a November conference in St. Petersburg, the Octobrist party split into three factions: the left Octobrists (16 persons, including I. V. Godnev, S. I. Shidlovskii, and Khomiakov), the zemstvo Octobrists (57 persons, including Rodzianko, N. I. Antonov, and A. D. Protopopov), and the right Octobrists (13 persons, including N. P. Shubinskii and G. V. Skoropadskii).
With the declaration of World War I (1914–18), the Octobrists called for support of the government; they participated in the Zemstvo and Municipal unions and the war industries committees. When the tsarist government’s complete inability to govern the country became evident, the Octobrists were among the six factions that signed an agreement on Aug. 22, 1915, providing for the establishment of the Progressive Bloc. After the February Revolution of 1917, A. I. Guchkov joined the bourgeois Provisional Government, and Rodzianko and others took part in the Conference of Public Figures, which was held at the initiative of the Octobrists in August 1917. After the victory of the October Revolution of 1917, the Octobrists fought against the Soviet Republic, occupying prominent posts in White Guard organizations and governments.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. “Opyt klassifikatsii russkikh politicheskikh partii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 14.
Lenin, V. I. “Tret’ia duma.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Lenin, V. I. “Itog.” Ibid., vol. 20.
Lenin, V. I. “Dva tsentra.” Ibid., vol. 20.
Osnovnaia programma Soiuza 17 okt. [Moscow, 1906.]
Avrekh, A. Ia. Stolypin i tret’ia Duma. Moscow, 1968.
Chermenskii, E. D. Burzhuaziia i tsarizm v revoliutsii 1905–1907, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
V. V. SHELOKHAEV