Witte, Sergey (Yulyevich), Count

Witte, Sergey (Yulyevich), Count

biographical name

(born June 29, 1849, Tiflis, Georgia, Russian Empire—died March 13, 1915, Petrograd, Russia) Russian statesman and premier (1905–06). He entered the imperial administrative service in 1871 and served as minister of finance (1892–1903). He improved communications, promoted construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and planned to modernize the Russian Empire. He represented Russia in the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War. Although opposed to constitutionalism, he persuaded Tsar Nicholas II to issue the October Manifesto in 1905 and was appointed the first constitutional premier. He organized the repression of all the forces of disruption in 1905–06—e.g., the St. Petersburg Soviet, or workers' council, the troop mutinies in the Far East, strikes in South Russia, and peasant uprisings in the Baltic provinces—and he concluded arrangements with European bankers for a series of loans that restored Russian finances. In 1906 the tsar, favouring a more conservative regime, replaced him with Pyotr Stolypin. He never returned to office, and in 1914–15 he vainly opposed Russian entry into World War I and was sympathetic to peace feelers put out by the German government through Witte's own German banker.

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