The Memoirs of Count Witte

The Memoirs of Count Witte

The Memoirs of Count Witte

The Memoirs of Count Witte


A portrait of the twilight years of Isarism by Count Sergei Witte (1849-1915), the man who built modern Russia. Witte presents incisive and often piquant portraits of the mighty and those around them--powerful Alexander III, the weak-willed Nicholas II, and the neurasthenic Empress Alexandra, along with his own notorious cousin, Madam blavatsky, the "priestess of the occult".


This translation of the memoirs of Count Sergei Iulevich Witte (1849-1915) is based on the original texts of his memoirs which are held in Columbia University's Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture. Since this is not the first translation, one may ask why another is called for. Before dealing with this question, it is necessary to look briefly at the man and his memoirs.

Witte was the most notable and controversial minister to serve under the last two emperors of Russia. A huge, ungainly man, a brilliant mind, a tireless worker, plain-spoken, sometimes coarse, he evoked and provoked extreme characterizations, ranging from "Russia's evil genius" to "Russia's John the Baptist."

All agreed that he was remarkably able, but how able? A genius? The only statesman in Russia since Peter the Great? A Bismarck without a William I? A Colbert in the wrong century? The verdict is not yet in, and may never be, but there is no question that Witte was the ablest minister of the twilight years of Russian tsarism.

There is even less agreement about his character. There were many, in high places and low, who, prey to fearful fantasies, saw in him a sinister figure, one "of the angels who were not for God or God's enemies, but fought for themselves alone," a power-hungry man who conspired with Jews and revolutionaries for his own purposes. There were also many, in high places and low, who saw in him a devoted subject who alone among the emperor's ministers had the ability to cope with Russia's problems. The latter were closer to the mark than the former. No doubt Witte was extremely ambitious and sometimes devious, but he was devoted to Russia and the Romanov dynasty.

Witte was born in Tiflis, the administrative center of the Caucasus. His father . . .

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