23/11/1916 Tsar Nicholas rearranges the deck chairs

Russia’s Duma is increasingly unruly. The deputies have turned against Stürmer, the prime minister, demanding his removal. Stürmer has become a deeply unpopular unpopular figure, widely believed not just to be incompetent and corrupt but also a traitor, actively working to undermine the war effort. His unfortunate German surname may have a part to play here.

Whatever his faults, Stürmer is completely loyal to the Tsar. Nicholas would rather not part with this pliant servant. The Tsar is temperamentally opposed to any kind of concession to popular rule and finds the idea of the Duma being able to replace his prime minister unacceptable. But these are not normal times and the Tsar accepts that some concessions are necessary. He dismisses Stürmer and today appoints a new prime minister, Alexander Trepov.

Trepov is loyal to the Tsar but he hopes to implement a reform programme and win the support of moderates in the Duma. However the radicals in the Duma are increasingly in the ascendant. They continue to denounce the government and seek to position themselves as the champions of the masses outside parliament. And Trepov’s ability to implement reform is hamstrung by the Tsarina’s opposition to him. Perhaps guided by Rasputin, her spiritual advisor, Alexandra is implacably opposed to reform and is determined to thwart Trepov’s attempts to bring in any meaningful change.

Russian politics thus remains deadlocked. The Duma liberals are seeing their hopes for reform blocked by the reactionary clique around the Tsar and Tsarina. Meanwhile the wider population is becoming increasingly radicalised, with their views amplified and reflected by the radical Duma. But this is not a state of equilibrium. Some kind of change is coming, even if its form cannot yet be determined.

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