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Tales of Imperial RussiaThe Life and Times of Sergei Witte, 1849-1915$
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Francis W. Wcislo

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199543564

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199543564.001.0001

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4. A City of Dreams: St Petersburg, the Empire of the Tsars, and Imperial Horizons in the Gilded Age (1889–1903)

4. A City of Dreams: St Petersburg, the Empire of the Tsars, and Imperial Horizons in the Gilded Age (1889–1903)

(p.138) 4. A City of Dreams: St Petersburg, the Empire of the Tsars, and Imperial Horizons in the Gilded Age (1889–1903)
Tales of Imperial Russia

Francis Wcislo (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Witte's visions of empire. Appointed to the ministerial state in 1888 and by 1892 Minister of Finances to Tsar Alexander III, Witte reached the height of his personal and public powers in the equally triumphant gilded age of the 1890s. He oversaw the construction of a Eurasian transcontinental railroad across Siberia to the Pacific, began to effect the renovation of imperial commercial-industrial life, expanded Russian industrial investment significantly, and brought his modernizing influence to bear throughout the imperial state. His was a vision grounded in the objective economic reality of international capitalism. Economic historians both old and new share the view that Russia's gilded age saw a commercial and industrial expansion of the imperial economy that became self-sustaining. Its motive power, in Witte's always somehow neo-mercantilist mind, derived from the international capitalist order of which the empire was a constituent element; the international circulation of capital, commodities, and labor that coursed through it; and finally, through the instrument of the state, the attraction of capital investment to the imperial economy, and thus the intensification of the movement of goods, capital, and labor that created wealth and power within it.

Keywords:   1890s, imperial economy, empire, Tsar Alexander III, capital investment, industrial expansion

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