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Pavel Milyukov

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Title: Pavel Milyukov  
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Subject: Constitutional Democratic Party, Mikhail Tereshchenko, Russian Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, October Revolution
Collection: 1859 Births, 1943 Deaths, Imperial Russian Historians, Members of the MacEdonian Scientific Institute, Members of the State Duma (Russian Empire), Members of the State Duma of the Russian Empire, Ministers of the Russian Provisional Government, Moscow State University Alumni, People from Moscow Governorate, Politicians from Moscow, Russian Constituent Assembly Members, Russian Constitutional Democratic Party Members, Russian Expatriates in Bulgaria, Russian Liberals, Sofia University Faculty, White Russian Emigrants to France
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Pavel Milyukov

Pavel Milyukov c. 1917

Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov (Russian: Па́вел Никола́евич Милюко́в; 27 January [O.S. 15 January] 1859 – 31 March 1943) was a Russian historian and liberal politician. He was the founder, leader, and the most prominent member of the Constitutional Democratic party (known as the Kadets). In the Russian Provisional Government, Milyukov was in charge of the foreign policy and tried hard to prevent Russia's exit from the First World War. His name is sometimes rendered in English as Paul Miliukov or Paul Milukoff.[1]


  • Pre-revolutionary career 1
  • "Stupidity or treason" speech 2
  • February Revolution and its aftermath 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Pre-revolutionary career

Milyukov was born in Moscow in the middle-class family of an architect who claimed in his autobiography to be a nobleman from the House of Milukoff.

Milyukov studied history and humanities at the Moscow University, where he was influenced by the liberal ideas of Konstantin Kavelin and Boris Chicherin. He was expelled for taking part in student riots, but was readmitted and allowed to take his degree. He specialized in the study of Russian history and received the degree of Master in History for a learned work on the State Economics of Russia in the First Quarter of the 18th Century.[2]

He lectured with great success at the university and at a training institute for girl teachers. These lectures were afterwards expanded by him in his book Outlines of Russian Culture (3 vols., 1896–1903, translated into German). He also started an association for “home university reading,” and, as its first president, edited the first volume of its programme, which was widely read in Russian intellectual circles. His liberal opinions brought him into conflict with the educational authorities, and he was dismissed in 1894 after one of the ever-recurrent university “riots.” He was even imprisoned for some time as a political agitator.[2] The last volume of Outlines of Russian Culture was actually finished in jail, where he spent six months for his political speech at a private event (1901).

When released from jail, Milyukov went to Vyborg Manifesto, calling for political freedom, reforms and passive resistance to the governmental policy. He was invited to contribute an analysis of contemporary Russia, based on his lectures at the University of Chicago and for the Lowell Institute, to the University of Chicago Press; Russia and Its Crisis, which he penned in fluent English, was published by the Press in August 1905.

With the outbreak of World War I, Milyukov swung to the right, promoting patriotic policies of national defense, insisting his younger son (who subsequently died in battle) volunteer for the army, and campaigning for the formation of the Progressive Bloc of moderate leaders. Milyukov was regarded as a staunch supporter of the conquest of Istanbul. His opponents mockingly called him "Milyukov of Dardanelles". In 1916, however, he again moved to the left, sharply criticising the government for its inefficiency.

"Stupidity or treason" speech

On 1 November 1916, during a speech in the Imperial Duma Miliukov highlighted numerous governmental failures with the famous question "stupidity or treason?". According to Melissa Kirschke Stockdale in Paul Miliukov and the Quest for a Liberal Russia, it was a "volatile combination of revolutionary passions, escalating apprehension, and the near breakdown of unity in the moderate camp that provided the impetus for the most notorious address in the history of the Duma..." The speech was a milestone on the road to Rasputin's murder and the February Revolution.

At Progressive Bloc meetings near the end of October, Progressives and left-Kadets argued that the revolutionary public mood could no longer be ignored and that the Duma should attack the entire tsarist system or lose whatever influence it had. Nationalists feared that a concerted stand against the government would jeopardize the existence of the Duma and further inflame the revolutionary feelings. Miliukov argued for and secured a tenuous adherence to a middle-ground tactic, attacking Boris Stürmer and forcing his replacement.

According to Stockdale he had trouble gaining the support of his own party; at the 22–24 October Kadet fall conference provincial delegates "lashed out at Miliukov with unaccustomed ferocity. His travels abroad had made him poorly informed about the public mood, they charged; the patience of the people was exhausted." He responded with a plea to keep their ultimate goal in mind:

It will be our task not to destroy the government, which would only aid anarchy, but to instill in it a completely different content, that is, to build a genuine constitutional order. That is why, in our struggle with the government, despite everything, we must retain a sense of proportion.... To support anarchy in the name of the struggle with the government would be to risk all the political conquests we have made since 1905.

The day before the opening of the Duma, the Progressist party pulled out of the bloc because they believed the situation called for more than a mere denunciation of Stürmer. At the start of the session government ministers, forewarned by an informant within the bloc of the attack to come, left the chamber. Alexander Kerensky spoke first, called the ministers "hired assassins" and "cowards" and said they were "guided by the contemptible Grishka Rasputin!"[3] The acting president ordered him away for calling for the overthrow of the government in wartime. Miliukov's speech was more than three times longer than Kerensky's, and delivered using much more moderate language.

He began by outlining how public hope had been lost over the course of the war, saying: "we have lost faith that the government can lead us to victory." He mentioned the rumours of treason and then proceeded to discuss some of the allegations: that Stürmer had freed Sukhomlinov, that there was a great deal of pro-German propaganda, that he had been told that the enemy had access to Russian state secrets in his visits to allied countries, and that Stürmer's private secretary had been arrested for taking German bribes but was released when he kicked back to Stürmer. After each accusation near the end of the speech, he asked, "Is this stupidity or is it treason?", and the listeners answered "Stupidity!", "Treason!", or "Both!" Miliukov stated that it did not matter as "the consequences are the same."

Stockdale also points out that Miliukov admitted to some reservations about his evidence in his memoirs, where he observed that his listeners resolutely answered treason "even in those aspects where I myself was not entirely sure."

Richard Abraham, in his biography of Kerensky argues that the withdrawal of the Progressists was essentially a vote of no confidence in Miliukov and that he grasped at the idea of accusing Stürmer in an effort to preserve his own influence.

February Revolution and its aftermath

Pavel Milyukov c. 1929

During the Prince Lvov, Milyukov became Minister of Foreign Affairs. He staunchly opposed popular demands for peace at any cost and firmly clung to Russia's wartime alliances. As the Britannica 2004 put it, "he was too inflexible to succeed in practical politics". On 20 April 1917 the government sent a note to Britain and France (which became known as Milyukov's Note) proclaiming that Russia would fulfill its obligation towards the Allies and wage the war as long as it was necessary. Soldiers and citizens of Petrograd demanded Milyukov's resignation, which followed on 2 May.

While Foreign Minister, Milyukov sent the British an official request that revolutionary Leon Trotsky be released from Amherst Internment Camp in Nova Scotia, Canada after the British had boarded a steamer in Halifax harbour in order to arrest Trotsky and other "dangerous socialists" who were en route to Russia from New York. Upon receiving Milykov's request the British freed Trotsky who then continued his journey to Russia and became a key planner and leader of the Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the provisional government.[4]

After the Bolshevik revolution Milyukov left Petrograd and advised various leaders of the White Movement. After the Russian Civil War he emigrated to France, where he remained active in politics and edited the Russian-language newspaper Latest News (1920–1940). While living abroad, Milyukov was the object of several assassination attempts. In one attempt, in Berlin in 1922, his friend Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, the father of famous novelist Vladimir Nabokov, was killed while shielding Milyukov from his attackers. In 1934, Milyukov was a witness at the Berne Trial.

Although he remained an opponent of the communist regime, Milyukov supported Stalin's foreign policy.[5] Thus, he commented on the

Political offices
Preceded by
Nikolai Pokrovsky
Foreign Minister of Russia
Succeeded by
Mikhail Tereshchenko
  • Works by or about Pavel Milyukov at Internet Archive
  • Works by Pavel Milyukov at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Russia and its crisis (1905) by P.N. Miliukov
  • Constitutional government for Russia an address delivered before the Civic forum by P.N. Miliukov. New York city, 14 January 1908 (1908)
  • Bolshevism: an international danger by P.N. Miliukov. 1920.
  • Russia, to-day and to-morrow (1922) by P.N. Miliukov.
  • "An Open Letter to Professor P.N. Miliukov", an early critique of Miliukov's liberalism by Leon Trotsky

External links

  • Melissa Kirschke Stockdale. Paul Miliukov and the Quest for a Liberal Russia, 1880–1918, Cornell University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8014-3248-0, 379pp.
  • Thomas Riha. A Russian European: Paul Miliukov in Russian Politics, University of Notre Dame Press, 1969, ISBN 1-121-78859-9, 373pp.
  • Макушин А. В., Трибунский П. А. Павел Николаевич Милюков: труды и дни (1859–1904). — Рязань, 2001. — 439 с. — (Новейшая российская история. Исследования и документы. Том 1.). — ISBN 5-94473-001-3


  1. ^ RUSSIA STRONGER WITH FREEDOM. New York Times. 20 April 1917.
  2. ^ a b c  
  3. ^ The Russian Provisional Government, 1917: Documents, Volume 1, p. 16 by Robert Paul Browder, Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky [2]
  4. ^ "Trotsky’s tactical ruthlessness may have won the Bolsheviks Russia. But he almost missed the uprising in a Canadian jail". National Post. 12 July 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Vail', Boris Borisovich (2010) Милюков и Сахаров, p. 12 in: Мыслящие миры российского либерализма: Павел Милюков (1859—1943). International Conference. Moscow, 23—25 September 2009. p. 12.
  6. ^ Н. Вакар. Милюков в изгнанье // Новый журнал. 1943. Вып. 6. С. 377


Milyukov died in Aix-les-Bains in France.


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