The Russian historian and statesman Pavel Nikolayevich Miliukov (1859-1943) supported the Westernization and modernization of Russia while criticizing the ruthlessness and authoritarianism of its government.
Pavel Miliukov was born on Jan. 27, 1859, into a middle-class family in Moscow. He manifested an early interest in both history and politics. As a consequence of his independent views, he was suspended for a period of one year from the University of Moscow in 1881. He completed his formal training in the historical-philosophical faculty of Moscow University in 1886 and began the extensive archival research on his magisterial thesis, National Economy in Russia in the First Quarter of the XVIIIth Century and the Reforms of Peter the Great, which he defended successfully and published in 1892. In the meantime he began his teaching career as lecturer at the University of Moscow and as a secondary school teacher.
In the mid-1890s Miliukov became progressively more concerned with what may be called the political implications of his theoretical position as historian. As a Westernizer and liberal, Miliukov supported in-depth Westernization of the Russian national economy as well as public involvement in governmental decision making. These views, together with his efforts to encourage formation and activity of middle-class liberal organizations, were regarded by the czarist government as a direct challenge to established authority.
Miliukov was dismissed from the University of Moscow in 1895 and forbidden to teach in the Russian Empire; in addition, the Ministry of Internal Affairs arranged for his exile, first from Moscow and ultimately from the Russian Empire. Thus, in 1895, he left to accept a teaching position in Serbia and did not return to Russia until 1899. He was arrested once more, in 1900, for his liberal public utterances. After this he embarked on a series of exiles, which he characteristically combined with professional activities as a teacher and writer. He spent parts of 1901 and 1902 in England and parts of 1903, 1904, and 1905 in the United States. Miliukov continued his historical research and writing at an unabated pace, publishing no fewer than four major works in Russian history, including his classic Outlines of the History of Russian Culture (3 vols., 1896-1903) as well as an edition of his lectures at the University of Chicago, Russia and its Crisis (1905). In the meantime, police harassment did not prevent him from becoming a principal contributor to the left-wing journal of the liberal movement, Osvobozhdeniie (Liberation).
With the outbreak of the Revolution of 1905, Miliukov returned to Russia to participate in the organization of the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) party and to accept the editorship of the party organ, Rech' (Speech). He played a leading role in his party's delegation to the Third and Fourth Dumas (1907-1912, 1912-1916). He strongly supported the extension of private ownership of property, rapid development of industrial technology, and close political ties with western Europe. As a corollary to these views, he continued to support the concepts of broadly based electoral franchise and representative government, both of which were honored more in the breach than in fact in the interval between 1906 and 1917.
With the outbreak of World War I, Miliukov, while supporting the war aims of the government, became more critical of the actual prosecution of the war. In 1916 he participated in the so-called Progressive Bloc, which demanded a reorganization of the government to reflect party representation in the Duma. Typically, when the Revolution of 1917 broke out, Miliukov seems to have interpreted the events as resulting especially from a lack of public confidence in the handling of the war. Thus, as principal liberal critic of the war, Miliukov was invited to become minister of foreign affairs of the new provisional government, which the Duma took responsibility for organizing.
A rush of events during the spring and summer of 1917 proved the inadequacy of Miliukov's analysis, not only of the motivation for the Revolution but also of the relevance of the entire liberal position to the political crisis in which Russia found itself. By late spring Miliukov's position in the spectrum of political pressures to which the provisional government was subject was untenably conservative. Under fire from the workers' organizations (the soviets) and the socialist parties, he resigned from the Cabinet. After the October Revolution, he left European Russia to join the Volunteer Army in the south. By 1918 the position of the counterrevolution seemed hopeless, and he left Russia for the West.
A close student of Russian history and a participant in Russian politics, Miliukov was fated to observe some of the most significant political events in his country's history from Paris. A principal contributor to, and then editor of, the emigrant newspaper Poslednye novosti (Latest News), Miliukov continued his work as a commentator on the Russian political scene but without being able to influence it significantly. He died at Aix-les-Bains, France, on March 31, 1943.
Fascinating as period history as well as informative on Miliukov's career is his Political Memoirs, 1905-1917 (2 vols., 1955; trans., 1 vol., 1967). A full-length study of Miliukov is Thomas Riha, A Russian European: Paul Miliukov in Russian Politics (1969). Studies of Miliukov also appear in Anatole G. Mazour, Modern Russian Historiography (1939; 2d ed. 1958), and Bernadotte E. Schmitt, ed., Some Historians of Modern Europe: Essays in Historiography (1942).