Speaking of collusion

The late Richard Pipes’s narrative history The Russian Revolution is a great work of humane learning. Pipes’s mastery of the sources inspires awe and shines through his lucid text. The text itself reflects a lifetime of study and reflection.

I have been reading around lately in chapter 7 (“Toward the Catastrophe”), covering the assassination of Rasputin. Over the weekend I came across this passage on the November 14, 1916 speech in the Duma by Kadet party leader Pavel Miliukov. Criticizing the czarist government’s conduct of the war, Miliukov concluded with a flourish. Playing off a comment by the “decent but unqualified” (as Pipes calls him) General Dmitry Shuvaev, Miliukov accused high government officials of treason. Professor Pipes comments (page 255):

The “subjective certainty” which Miliukov claimed to possess of high officials’ acts of collusion with the enemy had no basis in fact: to put it bluntly, it was a tissue of lies. Miliukov knew, even as he spoke, that neither [Russian Prime Minister Boris] Stürmer nor any other minister had committed treason, and whatever his shortcomings, the Prime Minister was a loyal Russian. Later on, in his memoirs, he admitted as much. Nevertheless, he felt morally justified in slandering an innocent man and sowing the most damaging suspicions about the government because he thought it essential for the Kadets to take charge of the country before it fell apart.

In reality, he contributed as much as anything the government did or failed to do to inflaming revolutionary passions….

I only want to say that I found this passage striking.

NOTE: In the 2018 CRB reading list Brian Domitrovic deems Pipes’s book “[p]erhaps the greatest narrative history written in the last century[.]”