Speakers at a Seminar held at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC) on June 15, 2012 paid glowing tributes to the noted Russian statesman and reformer Pyotr Stolypin. The seminar was organised by the RCSC jointly with the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) on the occasion of Stolypin’s 150th Birth Anniversary. The expert discussion was led by a galaxy of academics and diplomats, and attended by an elite gathering.
The participants of the Seminar included Former Foreign Secretary of India, Ambassador Krishnan Raghunath; Associate Professor, Department of History, Delhi University, Dr. Arup Banerji; Senior Counsellor, Embassy of the Russian Federation in India, Mr. Sergey Karmalito; Deputy Director, RCSC, Mr. Gadzhi M. Akhmedov; Renowned Historian and Archaeologist, Former Member Secretary, ICHR, Former Additional Director-General, Archaeological Survey of India, Prof. R.C. Agrawal; Member-Secretary, ICHR, Dr. Ishrat Alam, and Consultant (OSD), ICHR, Mr. Shabi Ahmad.
In his welcome remarks, Mr. Gadzhi M. Akhmedov described Pyotr Stolypin as a multi-dimensional personality, during whose time in office both as Minister of Interior and Prime Minister, he distinguished himself as the author of many landmark, progressive policies in finance, economy, military and education.
Delivering his presidential address, Ambassador Krishnan Raghunath noted that Pyotr Stolypin instituted important changes into the running of pre-Revolutionary Imperial Russia. He is often cited as one of the last major statesmen in Imperial Russia with a clearly-defined political programme and a determination to undertake major reforms. Mr. K. Raghunath also cited that some even go as far as comparing Stolypin with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
In his keynote address, Mr. Sergey Karmalito underlined that the topic of the Seminar is very relevant not only for contemporary Russia but also for the better understanding of the current global economic developments. “In fact, Stolypin’s name has become synonymous with reforms in modern Russia”, Mr. Karmalito said. He continued saying that Stolypin has said that if Russia were allowed 20 years of domestic and foreign tranquillity, his contemporaries would not have recognised the country any more. Mr. S. Karmalito mentioned that a hundred years later, the words of Mr. Vladmir Putin echo Stolypin’s ideas. “....we must do everything for Russia to become a prosperous and strong state where people have every opportunity for self-realization and where their rights and freedoms are protected. It will happen, I am sure we will achieve this”, Mr. S. Karmalito quoted Mr. Vladimir Putin.
Making an in-depth analysis on the agrarian reforms of Pyotr Stolypin, Dr. Arup Benerji underscored the point that the distinguished Russian statesman and reformer remained eminent chiefly for his agricultural reforms and harsh methods he used to deal with his opponents. He added that Stolypin took office at what was a difficult time for Russia in general and for the agriculturally-driven Saratov Province in Southern Russia specifically. Civil unrest spread through peasant communities, and Stolypin had very distinctive views on how to resolve the issue. He dealt with the revolts using an unlikely combination of firmness and understanding, which attracted the attention of Nicholas II, the Tsar at the time. Referring to Stolypin’s agrarian reforms, Dr. A. Banerji noted that he aimed at a “wager on the strong”, that is the creation of an independent peasantry, which would become a bulwark for the reformed autocracy. He made it possible for ex-serfs to buy themselves out of the peasant commune and for small strips to be consolidated into capitalist forms, aided by loans from the Peasant Land Bank. About two million households took advantage of these arrangements before 1916, many moving into the less populated Siberia and Central Asia, Dr. Banerji said.
In his brief but thought-provoking observation, Dr. Ishrat Alam expressed the view that ten years ago only a narrow circle of specialist was interested in Pyotr Stolypin and his reforms, but now his ideas, experience and intellectual potential are considered relevant for Russia’s on-going transformation. Most of the society understands Stolypin’s ideas about reforms, and his name appears in the media more often, his reforms are widely discussed and his personality and activities are dissected in student papers and internet communities. This testifies to society’s growing role in the efforts to resolve government problems, Dr. Alam said.
Dwelling upon Pyotr Stolypin’s brilliant statesmanship and clear perception on reforms and diplomacy, Dr. R. C. Agrawal noted that Stopypin’s passionate love of his homeland was the driving force of his life and work, and he regarded Russia as single economic, legal, political, social and cultural space. Advocating civil and political rights and an end to ethnic and religious restrictions, he was paving the way for the formation of a Russian nation. He believed that ethnic and religious problems could be resolved by granting equal civil and political rights and freedoms to Russian various ethnic groups and faiths and by spreading local self-governance throughout Russia, Dr. Agrawal concluded.