Stupidity or Treason?

Leader of Duma moderates, albeit viewed by the Tsarist faction as a dangerous radical, Pavel Milyukov twice stated in Duma speeches (1915 and 1916):

from one end of the Russian land to the other, there are spreading the dark rumors of treachery and treason [dhr.history] [Russian text.]

In his 1916 speech, he also quoted from a declaration of provincial zemstvo boards (emerging local political institutions):

Painful, terrible suspicions, sinister rumors of treachery and treason, of occult forces fighting for the benefit of Germany and striving, through the destruction of national unity and the sowing of dissention, to prepare the ground for a disgraceful peace, have reached a point where it is generally felt that an enemy hand is secretly influencing the course of our State affairs. It is but natural that from such foundation there should arise the rumor that our governing circles have admitted the uselessness of further struggle, the timeliness for ending the war, and the necessity of a separate peace.

Milyukov flatly states his perspective as of November 1916, three months before the first Russian Revolution “suddenly” broke out:

Today we see and understand with this Government we cannot legislate, any more than we can with this Government, lead Russia to victory….

does it matter, gentlemen, as a practical question, whether we are, in the present case, dealing with stupidity or treason? When the Duma keeps everlastingly insisting that the rear must be organized for a successful struggle, the Government persists in claiming that organizing the country means organizing a revolution, and deliberately prefers chaos and disorganization. What is it, stupidity or treason? 

These were the opinions of upper class but non-ruling elites toward the Tsarist regime heading the country’s war effort. One can only imagine the degree of anti-regime feeling in the rest of society if the most comfortable propertied elements of the emerging upper middle class were this alienated. But the regime was nonetheless taken completely by surprise when in the course of a couple days, the whole population of the capital overtly turned its collective back.


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