1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Guchkov, Alexander

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GUCHKOV, ALEXANDER (1862- ), Russian politician, was born in Moscow in 1862. His father was a factory owner of some means, whose family came from a stock of Old Believers, who had acknowledged the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church while keeping the ancient ritual for which their forefathers had endured persecution since the days of Patriarch Nikon. Guchkov's mother was French. He studied history and humanities at the university of Moscow, and, after having gone through his military training in a grenadier regiment, left for Germany where he read political economy in Berlin under Prof. Schmoller. Academic studies were, however, not suited to his active and adventurous character. He gave them up and started travelling. He rode alone on horseback through Mongolia to western Siberia, and narrowly escaped being slaughtered by a mob. During the Boer War 1899-1902 he volunteered for service against the English and joined Gen. Smuts's commando. He was shot in the leg, picked up by the English, and successfully treated, although he remained slightly lame. He was elected by the Moscow municipal Duma to be a member of the executive (Uprava), and took active part in the self-government of the city. During the Russo-Japanese War he served in the Red Cross and in the Municipal Union for the organization of hospitals; he was left to take care of the Russian wounded after the battle of Moukden, and showed much dignity and efficiency in the performance of his arduous duties. When the first Russian revolutionary movement developed in 1905 he took part in the meetings of Zemstvo representatives, but did not join the Cadets, whom he considered to be too doctrinaire and cosmopolitan. Together with D. Shipov, E. Trubetzkoy and N. Lvov, he founded the Octobrist party, in the hope that the Tsar's Government would recognize the necessity of great reforms and work with the moderate Liberals of the Zemstvos while safeguarding the monarchical principle. Stolypin was for some time in sympathy with that programme, and even contemplated the formation of a Ministry strengthened by leaders of public opinion, of whom Guchkov, Count Heyden and N. Lvov would have been prominent members. When this project came to grief, Guchkov continued to support Stolypin. In the third Duma, elected on a restricted franchise, the Octobrists assumed the leading rôle. After Khomiakov's resignation in 1910 Guchkov was elected speaker. He attacked with patriotic eloquence the “irresponsible influences” at Court and the shortcomings of the Ministry of War in preparing for the inevitable conflict with Germany. As Stolypin became more and more violent and reactionary, the Octobrists lost their standing ground, and Guchkov eventually resigned the presidentship of the Duma. In the elections to the fourth Duma he failed to secure a seat. He came again into prominence, however, during the World War. He was put in charge of the Red Cross organization on the German front, and it fell to him to search for the corpse of the unfortunate Samsonov. When the campaign of 1915 had disclosed the incredible inefficiency and corruption of the Russian War Office, Guchkov threw his whole energy into the work of refitting the army on the technical side. He was one of the principal workers and leaders of the mixed committees for the defence of the country, formed with the help of the Zemstvos and towns. He was not content with laying the blame at the door of the effete War Office, but deplored the apathetic way in which the Tsar passed the time at headquarters, without any clear political plan, holding on supinely to formalism and routine, yielding to the spasmodic interference of the Empress.

When the March Revolution of 1917 broke out Guchkov was called in to take charge of the Ministry of War. Together with Shulguin, he submitted the Act of Abdication for signature to Nicholas II. He was powerless against the mounting flood of desertion and demoralization in the army, and he was the first of the ministers to resign in despair. In the “emigration” he found himself without proper place and influence. He would have liked to organize a big move against the Bolsheviks from the west, but such a move could not be made while the Entente Powers were resolved to keep Germany out, and while they sympathized with all the new organizations hostile to Russia — Esthonia, Latvia and Poland. Later he took refuge in Paris, where he pleaded for a national reunion of all parties against the Red tyrants. (P. Vi.)