On March 2, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted a discussion of Reform or Revolution: The Quest for Responsible Government in the First Russian State Duma, a book by IMR Senior Policy Advisor Vladimir Kara-Murza.



Vladimir Kara-Murza’s book, Reform or Revolution, recounts the attempt by the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party to form a government during the short existence of the first Russian Parliament from April to July of 1906. The Kadets, who won the election and formed a majority in the Duma, maintained that only far-reaching reforms could forestall a revolution. In its quest, the party found allies at the top levels of the Czarist regime (the book recalls a secret meeting between Kadet leader Pavel Milyukov and Imperial Palace commandant Dmitri Trepov at the Cubat restaurant in St. Petersburg), but the plan was disrupted by Interior Minister Pyotr Stolypin, who convinced Nicholas II to dissolve Parliament.

The book is based on the original 1906 parliamentary record and newspaper reports, as well as memoirs of the participants of the events.

“Having dashed the hopes for a peaceful legislative transformation of the country, the Czarist authorities laid the ground for future revolutionary upheavals,” said Vladimir Kara-Murza, who called the failure to establish parliamentary government in 1906 “one of the greatest missed opportunities in Russian history.” The book’s epigraph is a saying by German statesman Otto von Bismarck: “The strength of revolutionaries lies not in the ideas of their leaders, but in a small dose of moderate demands not satisfied in time”. According to Kara-Murza, these words remain relevant in our day.

The discussion of Reform or Revolution was moderated by Alla Roylance, curator of Russian literary and film series at the Brooklyn Public Library. The book was previously presented in Moscow and St. Petersburg.