1908-01-24 The Duma and the Navy

London Times, 24 January 1908, p. 7: “Russia. The Duma and the Navy.” (From our own correspondent). St. Petersburg, Jan. 23. Count Uvaroff, one of the Octobrist leaders, declares in an interview that an intimation has been given by the Government that the Duma will be dissolved if the credits for rebuilding the battle fleet are refused. This statement confirms my telegram of December 31, in which the eventuality was first indicated. At the time few imagined a conflict possible. Now the Russian papers print columns on the subject, without, however, throwing much further light upon it. Whether a conflict is precipitated or not depends on the attitude of the Octobrists, who are able to carry a majority for either side. The leaders are all opposed to a revival of the battle fleet; on the other hand, the rank and file are scarcely bold enough to refuse a categorical demand from the Ministerial benches.

The question itself, in its broad aspects, is already irrevocably settled by public opinion. The Navy League, the majority of naval officers, and every important newspaper, including the Novoe Vremya, are unanimously resolved against any present attempt to rebuild the battle fleet. Any such attempt is regarded as foolhardy in itself and calculated to bring Russia into further adventures and disaster. I doubt if there is another question on which so many Russians think alike, and if the Duma really represented the public opinion of the country the credits for battleships would be rejected in advance.

By a paradox peculiar to the bureaucracy the naval programme itself, although a pretext for an informal ultimatum to the Duma, has not yet reached the House. Deputies do not know how many millions are wanted for battleships, yet they are already threatened with a dissolution unless they vote them.

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin