Witte - The Great Spurt

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  • Introduction to Witte
  • The main strands of Witte's plan
  • The Effects on economic and industrial activity
  • Criticisms of Witte's policy
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A2 History 24th February 2011
The Great Spurt ­ Witte
By 1893, Russian economic activity revolved primarily around agricultural
Witte was the first Minister to show total commitment to industrialisation n an
attempt both to compete with other industrial nations and to improve Russian
military capability
This was to be achieved mainly at the expense of agriculture (part of the
socalled `substitution' effect, with more investment being made in industry than
agriculture), which caused suspicion and consternation among sections of the
Russian elite
Witte claimed that `all thinking Russia was against me' which emphasizes how
radical he thought his approach was
The main strands of Witte's plan
Witte resurrected Reutern's idea of encouraging foreign experts to come to
Witte also went back to the idea of taking out foreign loans, raising taxes and
interest rates to boost available capital for investment in industry
A major development was the placement, in 1897, of the rouble on the gold
standard (The fixing of a country's currency to a specific quantity [and therefore
value] of gold)
The idea behind this was to give potential investors confidence in the value of the
Russian currency
Witte insisted that most investment went on heavy industry and the railways as
this was what had made Britain, France, and Germany great economic powers
and had already reaped some dividends for Russia
Further industrialisation was to be planned and managed mainly by the state with
a move away from private enterprise
The effect of this was a socalled `Great Spurt' in economic and industrial activity which
resulted in the following:
Coal production doubled and that of iron and steel increased sevenfold
A stimulus was provided to the development of more specialist and `new'
technologies in the oil and chemical industries
The total amount of railway track opened rose from 29,183 km in 1891 to 56,612
km in 1901
Much of this was facilitated by the stupendous growth in capital from abroad
which increased on average 120% every year from 1893 to 1898
Income earned from industry shot up from 42 million roubles in 1893 to 161
million roubles by 1897
Chris Cartwright

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A2 History 24th February 2011
There was also indication that Russia had at last started to catch up with other
industrialised nations by 1900, for example, France had been ousted into fourth place
in world iron production.
All of this, according to Trebilcock, led to an annual average rate of increase in
industrial production of 7.5%, `far exceeding Russian achievement for any comparable
period before 1914 and establishing one of the most impressive performances in late
19th century Europe.…read more


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