Purishkevich’s speech to the Duma (1916)

Vladimir Purishkevich (1870-1920) was a Russian politician associated with ultra-conservative and anti-Semitic groups such as the Black Hundreds. He was known for his plain-spoken outbursts and gained a measure of popularity for them. Purishkevich is best known for participating in the murder of Gregori Rasputin. On December 2nd 1916, a few days before Rasputin’s murder, he gave a speech in the Duma, criticising the tsarist government for its lack of unity, authority and decisiveness:

“The State Duma has listened with profound attention to the words of the President of the Council of Ministers. They offer many brilliant prospects, and one must believe that the time will come when the hopes and desires enunciated in the speech of the President of the Council of Ministers will be realised. But at this time, we must take notice of the sad and dark picture of Russian reality. I am speaking here of conditions in the rear, for at the front the situation is splendid, thanks to the incomparable courage of our troops.

The situation in which we find ourselves at present, and in which we have been placed, to a considerable extent, by the chaos prevailing among our rulers, compels me to speak today on this tribune. This tribune serves today as the only ventilator, the only air-valve, through which Russian public sentiment can escape. This tribune is, at the present moment, enjoying extraordinary confidence in Russia, and we should, above all, see to it that the speeches that are heard here reach the ears of the nation. We must see to it that the honest, truthful words which go forth from this place penetrate to the mass of the people, for there is not and cannot be in Russia today any other watchword but that of “Victory!”…

With soldiers and officers such as we have, we cannot be defeated. But the hour of victory may not be very near, because the enemy is stubborn, and I want to add that, because of the chaos we observe in the Government at this time, the hour of that victory will be long delayed…

The Government is suffering, from top to bottom, from a disease of the will power… Russia has reached the end of her patience waiting for a strong government. Not the authority of the police bigotry, such as Russia has known since olden times, but a government that could show us that it has some program and some system. But the only strong authority which we see is the systematic and consistent internal disorganisation of the State.

The disorganisation of our rear is undoubtedly being carried out by the enemy, and it is being done by a strong and relentless hand. This system was set up by William himself and is being thoroughly practised with the aid of the German party working in our rear, and of those elements the scum of Russian society who can bring themselves to serve the enemy. More than anyone else, it is the Government itself which, through its lack of a program, its lack of a system, has been killing the patriotism of the nation. It has had a depressing effect on popular enthusiasm; it has paralysed the impulse to work for the achievement of victory…

We have before us a boundless ocean of gubernatorial orders which show that each province, even each district, pursues its own policy, particularly in questions of food. This is due to the fact that there is no guidance from the centre… Really, at this time, when the representatives of the highest authority are daily bursting like soap bubbles, one is at a loss to whom to turn, whom to question, from whom to expect a word of truth. Every Minister is now playing his own game, or, at all events, has been so far. He has his day and then disappears without a trace. Public opinion and the Government are unable to agree because of these constant changes of administrators…

The principal scourges of Russian public and official life right now are four in number. The first is the senseless censorship of that which ought not to be censored at all. The second is the hypocrisy and paralysis of the Government. The third is the dangerous symptoms of the triumph of pro-German tendencies among the organs of the Government. And, in this connection, the fourth is absolute uncertainty as to the morrow, with governmental decrees and legislative bills framed and baked from day to day…

But there are still worse things. While campaign plans are being carried out at the Imperial Headquarters, a regular clique is organizing a queer, totally incomprehensible German orgy. There are numerous facts to show that this is not mere accident, that there is in existence some evil will, some powerful hand, that is directing all this…”