Between Two Revolutions: Stolypin and the Politics of Renewal in Russia

Article excerpt

Peter Waldron. Between Two Revolutions: Stolypin and the Politics of Renewal in Russia. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998. viii, 220 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $36.00, cloth.

In 1911 an assassin fatally shot the Russian Prime Minister Peter Arkad'evich Stolypin, and with him, according to many, died Imperial Russia's last hope. Stolypin first rose to national prominence during the Russian revolution of 1905-1907, when Nicholas II appointed him to stabilize the country and protect the monarchy. The new Prime Minister believed that Russia's economic, political, and social order needed wide-ranging reform, and his legislative agenda aimed to restructure many Imperial Russian institutions and legal structures. Observers have forever wondered whether Stolypin had any real chance to "save" Russia and avoid another revolution. In this book Peter Waldron provides a clear answer: no.

Written in clear prose, this is a straightforward, carefully-researched, and brief (220 pages) evaluation of Stolypin and his reform program. Waldron gives us the first English-language look at this figure since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. His stated purpose is to explore why Stolypin's reforms failed (p. 2), but he also evaluates Imperial Russia's chances for survival in the twentieth century. Recent archival work and a good bibliography support Waldron's monograph.

The guiding idea in this book is that Imperial Russia's divided new political order after 1905 doomed Stolypin's reforms to failure (p. 181). The national Duma, conservative elites, court, and political opposition could not agree on Stolypin's proposals for local government, the justice system, civil and religious rights, and education. These projects all failed in the Duma or in the bureaucracy, while deadlock on agrarian reforms led Stolypin to enact them by decree. Conservative noble elites were able to block reform because Russia's new political institutions had "ossified rapidly and failed properly to represent" a changing Russian society (p. 183). Waldron points out Stolypin's lack of certain political skills, but presumably no one could have succeeded in such a political environment.

Despite its timeliness in the 1990s, Between Two Revolutions provides little new significant information about Stolypin, his life, or his work. …