The Vyborg Manifesto Turns 108 Today

marks the 108th anniversary of the issuing of the Vyborg Manifesto. I thought I’d celebrate by digging through the archives and finding examples of how the English-language newspapers were covering the Russian tax resistance movement of the time.

From the Ithica Daily News (excerpts):

Passive Resistance Policy.

A policy of passive resistance to the government, in an endeavor to cripple its power has been decided upon by members of the duma. This course was voted , after the deputies had been in session continuously since their arrival here.

They are determined to issue a manifesto to the people, calling on them to follow out the passive resistance policy by refusing to pay taxes or serve in the army.…

From the Daily Saratogian (excerpts):

Long and Stirring Debate.

The decision to offer only passive resistance to the government in retaliation for the dissolution of the Douma was not arrived at until after a long and somewhat stirring debate. A number of the deputies urged the Douma to issue a fiery appeal to the people directing them to take up arms and overthrow the government by force. Other speakers declared that the Douma must meet the Czar’s challenge by proclaiming that the country must have a constituent assembly and by drawing up an election program.

This suggestion was received with loud applause when it was first made and discussed seriously. The agreement upon the passive resistance plan was a later decision, however.

From the Auburn, New York Daily Bulletin:

Appeal to People

Douma’s Manifesto Asks Russians to Resist.

Was Unanimously Adopted

It Urges the People to Refuse to Pay Taxes or Respond to Military Summons.

 The members of the Douma who came here for a conference after the Russia Parliament was dissolved by the Czar were ordered by the government to disperse and were told that they would not be allowed to hold such meetings in Finland.

The order for their dispersal was too late to prevent the object for which they came here, namely, the adoption of a manifesto to the Russian people on behalf of Parliament and in defiance of the Czar.

While the members were in session at the Hotel Belvedere, the governor of Viborg went there and told them that he had been ordered by the governor general of Finland to close the assembly at once and to use military force, if necessary, to carry out his orders.

The work of preparing the parliamentary manifesto had gone on all night and was then in progress. Before the members dispersed, the document was completed and was adopted by a unanimous vote.

Text of Manifesto.

The manifesto issued by the members of the Douma says:

To the people from the popular representatives of the citizens of all Russia:

The Douma has been dissolved by the decree of . You elected us as your representatives and instructed us to fight for your country and freedom. In execution of your instructions and our duty, we drew up laws in order to ensure freedom to the people. We demanded the removal of irresponsible ministers, who, infringing the laws with impunity, oppressed freedom. First of all, however, we wanted to bring out a law respecting the distribution of land to working peasants, and involving the assignment to this end of the crown appenages, the lands belonging to the clergy, and the compulsory appropriation of private estates. The government held such a law inadmissible, and, upon the Douma once more urgently putting forward its resolution regarding compulsory appropriation, the Douma was dissolved.

The government promises to convoke a new Douma seven months hence. Russia must remain without popular representation for seven whole months at a time when the people are standing on the brink of ruin, when industry and commerce are underminded, when the whole country is seething with unrest, and when the ministry has definitely shown its incapacity to do justice to the popular needs.

Arbitrary Action of Government.

For seven months the government will act arbitrarily, will fight against the popular movement in order to obtain a pliable, subservient Douma. Should it succeed, however, in completely suppressing the popular movement, the government will convoke no Douma at all.

Citizens, stand up for the trampled on rights of popular representation and for the imperial Douma. Russia must not remain a day without popular representation. You possess the means of acquiring it. The government has, without the assent of the popular representation, no right to collect taxes from the people, nor to summon the people to military service. Therefore, you are, now that the government has dissolved the Douma, justified in giving neither money nor soldiers.

Should the government contract loans in order to procure funds, such loans will be invalid without the consent of the popular representatives. The Russian people will never acknowledge them and will not be called upon to pay them. Accordingly, until the popular representatives are summoned, do not give a kopeck to the throne or a soldier to the army. Be steadfast in your refusal. No power can resist the united and inflexible will of a people.

Citizens, in this obligatory, unavoidable struggle, your representatives will be with you.

The manifesto is signed by all the members of the Douma, except Mon. Heyden and Stakhovitch, who abstained on the ground that they had only arrived in time to spend a short half hour in the conference.

After the manifesto was drafted a committee of six submitted it to the conference. It met with some opposition. Several hesitated to sign it. While the discussion was proceeding the news of the governor’s threat to close the conference arrived. Opposition almost immediately vanished. The dissenters waived their objections and signed the manifesto in rapid succession.

From The Carthage Republican (excerpts):

The members of parliament had been at the moment [when the Finnish authorities announced their intention to forbid the assembly] frantically hurrying forward their final discussion of the proposed manifesto and had hoped to be able to adopt it before the arrival of the troops. The Constitutional Democrats were desperately fighting a demand of the Group of Toil members that the document should include a declaration against the payment of taxes.

The Radicals carried the day, and in the last hours of the meeting a proclamation was hurriedly adopted containing a protest against the illegal dissolution of the parliament and an appeal to the people to refuse to pay taxes or recruit the army or to recognise the issue of a government loan.

The former members of parliament then adjourned, realizing the helplessness of refusing to recognize the edict of dissolution in the face of the bayonets of the government.

From the Oswego Daily Times:

Villages Are Voting to Refuse to Pay Taxes

Effect of Viborg Manifesto Begins to be Felt in Outlying Regions — Government Issues Counter Appeal Asking People to Help to Restore Order.

 The Viborg manifesto adopted by the Douma after its dissolution with its keynote “not a kopec to the throne or a soldier to the army” is beginning to reach the people throughout the country, and its effect is already noticeable. Advices received show that in several villages where the manifesto has been distributed through revolutionary and underground channels the people have voted to refuse to pay taxes as the Douma advised. The action has been taken quietly but the villagers have shown that they are determined to abide by their pledge.

The calm spirit of the people has been shown in that while voting to thus oppose the government at its weakest point the villagers have made provisions to take care of their own public needs without depending upon taxes. The local schools, hospitals and other public institutions will be supported by voluntary collections.

A Counter Manifesto.

Realizing the effect which the Douma’s manifesto is certain to have upon the people especially in the outlying regions the government has taken steps to offset its influence by issuing a counter manifesto or proclamation to the people urging them to assist in preventing disorders. The appeal is issued through the semi-official organ, the Rossia. The people are implored to put down disorders. The government frankly confesses it is powerless to restore and maintain order without popular support and tells people they must choose between a liberal government or suicide in a whirlwind of revolution.

the government took a new step to keep news away from the people by extending the censorship to include even foreign news brought into the country. This is to prevent the people from reading the dispatches sent out from Russia.

The vulnerability of the government to attack upon its finances is well appreciated by the revolutionary leaders. Plans are now being laid to weaken the government’s credit in every possible way. The leaders of the workingmen’s organization have taken the lead in placing fresh obstacles in the way of the government raising money at home by advising their followers to refuse to use spirits upon which the government collects an enormous tax. This is the first step toward reducing revenues and it is probable that the same appeal will be made to people in all provinces.

A separate article in the same issue characterized Russian Premier Pyotr Stolypin’s reaction to the manifesto this way:

The Viborg manifesto M. Stolypin described as an opera bouffe production, unworthy of criticism. He laughed at the idea that the government had not arrested the signatories of the manifesto because of fear. To have done so, he declared, would have made martyrs of them in the eyes of the undiscerning and gratified their petty vanity. No steps, he said, would be taken against the members of parliament unless they attempted to agitate in their own constituencies or elsewhere in Russia. If they did they would be promptly arrested.

From The Spectator:

St. Petersburg being practically under martial law, a large number of the Members of the Duma withdrew at once to Viborg, in Finland, to consider their position. On they issued a Manifesto, which was signed by every Deputy present except Count Heyden and M. Stakhovitch. The Manifesto points out that the Duma had only demanded what was inherent in its Constitution, — the dismissal of irresponsible Ministers. Its agrarian policy was forced upon it by the needs of the country, and it would have been false to its trust if it bad shirked the task. The prospect before them was seven months of military government, with “industry and commerce undermined and the whole country in seething unrest.” The people must take the only remedy open to them. Without the assent of the popular representatives the Government had no right to levy taxes or summon recruits to military service. Let them, therefore, until the Duma was summoned again, “refuse a copeck to the Throne or a soldier to the Army.” If loans were raised abroad, Russia would not acknowledge them. “No power can resist the united and inflexible will of a people.” We have dealt at length with the matter elsewhere, and need only add that the Czar’s action has been received with universal disapproval throughout Europe, and that its effect on the money market promises ill for the chances of any loan raised without the consent of the Duma.

, the Syracuse Journal reported:

Massacre of Peasants Threatened

Will Be Shot Down If They Refuse to Pay Their Taxes.

 A determined attempt by the peasants of Kutals province, Trans-Caucasia, to live up to the program outlined in the Vibourg convention of deputies after the dissolution of the Douma of refusing to pay taxes, has resulted in serious trouble. From all indications the situation is bound to become steadily worse, and fears are entertained that a general massacre of peasants by soldiers will be the outcome.

Fully 50,000 persons have joined in the movement not to give the government a kopec. Notice has been given by the government that if the peasants do not pay within two weeks the troops will be sent into the district and they will be mercilessly shot down. Without waiting for the soldiers to put the threat of the government into execution the peasants have inaugurated a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the troops already in the province.

Tax collectors who have insisted upon the payment of money have also been severely handled in several instances. Within the last few days a number of military sentinels have been shot down in ambush or attacked by the peasants. These murders have infuriated the troops on the spot who have demanded that they be allowed to attack the peasants.

Also, here’s a bit more from the Rebecca Riots. From the Cambrian:

Rebeccaism, Incendiarism, &c.

We are sorry to announce that the depredations of Rebecca and her daughters now extent beyond the mere destruction of toll-gates and toll-houses. On , a plantation belonging to Capt. Davies, of Myrtle Hill, near Carmarthen, was cut down, and on the same night a large hayrick, and several stacks of straw, the property of Mr. H. Davies, of Conwil, were set on fire, and entirely consumed. Mr. Davies had always been strongly opposed to the course pursued by Rebecca. — On , a large party of Rebeccaites destroyed the toll-bar leading to the village of Abergwilly, near Carmarthen; and on , both the toll-house and gate at Tyllwyd, near Carmarthen, were entirely demolished by a party consisting of about thirty to forty Rebeccaites, who were disguised in the usual manner. The London Times reporter gives an account of a meeting of these disaffected persons at Cwm Ivor, which, regardless of personal danger, he attended, and was allowed to be present as a “gentleman of the press.” It appears that the grounds of complaint on the part of the rioters are, high rents, church-rates, tithes, tolls, and poor-laws.

A party of the 75th Regiment left Swansea for Carmarthen. They were to proceed through Llanelly, where it was intended they should remain for two days.