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Count Sergei Yulyevich Witte

Witte, Count Sergei Yulyevich (syĭrgāˈ yōˈlyĭvĭch vĭtˈə) [key], 1849–1915, Russian premier. A railway administrator, he became minister of communications (1892) and minister of finance (1892–1903). He introduced the gold standard, reformed finances, encouraged the development of Russian industries with the help of foreign capital, and opened up Siberia to large-scale colonization with the construction of the Trans-Siberian RR. These measures reduced the gap between the industrial development of Russia and that of Europe and also expanded the Russian industrial proletariat, which was concentrated in a few large cities. Witte was dismissed in 1903, probably because he opposed the aggressive policy of Czar Nicholas II in East Asia, but he was recalled in 1905 at the close of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) to negotiate peace with Japan. He secured unexpectedly favorable terms for Russia in the Treaty of Portsmouth and was rewarded with the title of count. Returning to Russia during the Revolution of 1905 (see Russian Revolution), he was called on by the czar to draw up the manifesto of Oct., 1905, by which Nicholas II promised more liberal government under a duma, or legislative assembly. Appointed premier (Oct., 1905), Witte failed to gain liberal support against the Social Democrats and the reactionaries. He secured a loan from France and suppressed a workers' uprising in Moscow (Dec., 1905–Jan., 1906). His resignation was accepted (Apr., 1906) by Nicholas II, who restored a more conservative regime.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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