13/11/1916 Russia’s increasingly radicalised Duma meets in an atmosphere of rising tension

In Petrograd Russia’s Duma meets. The parliamentarians are increasingly hostile to the Tsarist regime, reflecting the tensions spreading through Russian society. The pressures of war and the ineffectiveness of the Tsarist regime are leading to increasing hardship for the general population. Food and other essential items are becoming harder and harder to come by. Prices are spiralling out of reach of ordinary workers. But the workers are striking back, downing tools and walking out from their workplaces in an effort to secure better wages.

These strikes have worrying aspects for the regime. They are happening simultaneously across many factories in Petrograd, suggesting that some kind of organisation is behind them. The strikes are also assuming a political character, with workers denouncing the war, Russia’s allies, and the Tsarist regime itself. The police are struggling to maintain order, but the army is proving unreliable as a tool of state repression. There are reports of army units siding with strikers and firing on the police, with only the Cossacks being completely loyal.

Across the political spectrum the Duma representatives are convinced that the Tsarist regime has failed. Some favour an explicit demand for an end to autocracy and the adoption of a constitutional and representative government. Others fear that overly antagonistic towards the Tsar will cause him to suppress the Duma. In the event the Duma members do not hold back in their denunciations of the regime, fearing that the country is on course for violent revolution if the government is not reformed.

The Duma members focus their rhetorical assaults on Boris Stürmer, the prime minister who is both incompetent and unfortunate enough to have a German-sounding name. Wild rumours that Stürmer and others in the imperial circle are guilty of treason have been circling for some time. Now they are voiced in the Duma itself.

The government is now so unpopular that even respectable elite figures like Pavel Milyukov join in its denunciation. Milyukov lists the government’s failings, asking after each: “Is this folly or treason?”. His words serve further to heighten the revolutionary atmosphere brewing in the country at large.

The Duma meets (in 1912) (Saint Petersburg Encyclopaedia)

Boris Stürmer (International Encyclopedia of the First World War)

Pavel Milyukov (Wikipedia)

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