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Boris Vladimirovich Stürmer Edit Profile

Lawyer , politician

Baron Boris Vladimirovich Stürmer was a Russian lawyer, a Master of Ceremonies at the Russian Court, and a district governor. He became a member of the Russian Assembly, and as a master of political compromise, he served as Prime Minister, and Minister of Internal Affairs and Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire in the year 1916.

Background

Stürmer was born into a landowning family in Baykovo, Kesovogorsky District, Tver Governorate. His father Vladimir Vilgelmovich Stürmer was a retired Captain of Cavalry in the Imperial Russian Army. His mother was Ermoniya Panina.

Education

As an honorary graduate of the Faculty of Law, Saint Petersburg State University in 1872, Stürmer entered the Ministry of Justice, the Governing Senate and the Interior Ministry.

Career

He entered the Ministry of Justice in 1875, served as an official in the tsar's court entourage (1878-1892), and was rewarded with the post of provincial governor: in Novgorod in 1895, then in Yaroslav, 1896-1902. In 1902 his appointment as deputy to the minister of the interior brought him close to the apex of government authority. In 1904, following the assassination of the minister, Sturmer was considered the leading conservative candidate to assume this powerful office. But the political tide was running momentarily in the opposite direction, and Sturmer was disgarded in favor of a more moderate figure. He received the customary sop to the pride of a failed bureaucrat, appointment to the State Council, and left the political limelight for over a decade.

Sturmer's ambitions continued to burn. He went on with his work as a court official, helping to plan the three-hundredth anniversary of the dynasty in 1913. That same year, he established ties with Grigory Rasputin, confidant to Empress Alexandra. At the same time the aging bureaucrat founded a political salon. There Russian conservatives could gather both before and after the outbreak of World War I to lament such dangerous official actions as Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich's pledge, in August 1914, to restore unity to the people of Poland at the close of hostilities.

By late 1915 Russia's many-sided misfortunes operated to give Sturmer his chance. The tsar had departed for Mogilev to take charge at Russian military headquarters. Liberal bureaucrats like Minister of Agriculture Aleksandr Krivoshein were being purged from the council of ministers, paying the penalty for opposing the tsar's decision to take direct control over the field armies. The empress and Rasputin were exercising an increasing degree of influence on political appointments. Finally, the in-eptitude of Premier Ivan Goremykin in presiding over the war effort was impossible to ignore; witnessed by inflation, a paucity of goods of all kinds in urban marketplaces, and rising anger in the Duma. Sturmer offered the monarchy a fresh face, behind which stood a record of proven obedience and devotion to the political status quo.

What Sturmer lacked was the ability to lead a major nation caught in the maelstrom of total war. As other nations were drawn to replace weak leaders with the likes of a Lloyd George or Ludendorff, tsarist Russia hoisted a nondescript bureaucrat to the top step of its governmental ladder.

Appointed on February 2, 1916, Sturmer busied himself with courtesy calls on members of the Duma. But it quickly became evident that he lacked any constructive ideas to offer his tormented country. He gathered Cabinet portfolios unceasingly; in addition to his duties as premier, he took on the responsibilities of minister of the interior (March-July) and foreign minister (July-November). To his colleagues, however, he was a younger Goremykin: a sixty-seven-year-old in poor health, with a habit of dozing through Cabinet meetings.

Things fell apart. Sturmer forced able ministers like Aleksei Polivanov at the War Ministry and Sergei Sazonov at the Foreign Ministry out of office. Polivanov left in March over a jurisdictional quarrel involving the right to repress strikes in war plants;

Sazonov departed in July, after Sturmer had torpedoed the foreign minister's plans for winning over the Poles. But, in both cases, personal friction with Sturmer had exacerbated specific policy differences. Government increasingly became a resting place for the incompetent, the reactionary, and the emotionally unstable.

In June/July, despite the spate of good news brought from the fighting front by the first results of General Aleksei Brusilov's offensive, the domestic crisis worsened. The tsar then considered energizing the home front through the creation of a legal dictatorship under Sturmer. The project was stillborn, but it served to bring Duma opposition to the premier to the boiling point. We have no hard evidence to support the rumor, widespread in mid-1916, that Sturmer acted the traitor to the Entente and angled for a separate peace with Germany. But the cordial relationship Sazonov had built with Britain and France then cracked, even as the basic direction of Russian policy went unchanged. One is jolted to realize that Russia's premier and (since July) foreign minister was widely considered a German agent, both at home and abroad.

In July Sturmer temporarily deprived some of his political critics of a forum: he persuaded the tsar to prorogue the Duma. But the parliamentary body reconvened in November, and, by then, Sturmer's position had become untenable. The empress ceased to be his stalwart backer; by assuming the portfolio of foreign minister, Sturmer had roused her suspicion that he might be more ambitious than obedient.

A general strike exploded in Petrograd in October, just as a revolt in Russian Central Asia indicated crumbling government control in the provinces. On November 14, Sturmer, and by implication Empress Alexandra, received an unprecedented verbal pum- meling in the Duma. Kadet leader Paul Miliukov led off with a speech asking whether government failures stemmed from "stupidity or treason." More conservative spokesmen gave vent to similar abuse. The imperial family turned to a new champion in the person of Minister of the Interior Aleksandr Protopopov. His multitude of flaws were to be exhibited in due course; but in the meantime, on November 22, 1916, Sturmer was told to depart. He had been premier for nine irretrievable months.

Sturmer was arrested by the provisional government following the revolution of March 1917. He languished in a Petrograd prison until his death on September 2, 1917. Had he hung on for a few more months of life, he would likely have stood alongside Protopopov before a Bolshevik firing squad.