Embassy of the Russian Empire in Berlin on the Socialist Movement in Germany in 1890–1898

Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Institute of World History, RAS
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameNovaia i noveishaia istoriia
EditionIssue 5

The study focuses on assessing the representativeness and relevance of diplomatic documents for the study of key aspects of German domestic politics. Three issues are central to the analysis of the documents from the Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire: the completeness of the indicated sources for understanding the factors of the German Empire’s inner policy; the assessment of the subjectivity of the author of diplomatic dispatches, i.e. how much the ambassador's personality determined the content of the dispatches that he sent to the ministry; the relevance of highlighting key issues of internal life in Germany from the point of view of Russian diplomats. Among constantly present in the messages, the most important was the problem of the socialist movement and the Social-Democratic Party’s activities. The socialists were mentioned for significant reasons: the repeal of the Law against the Socialists, the Berlin Conference on the Labor Protection (1890); elections to the Reichstag (1893, 1898); the Reichstag votes on issues important for Russia. The measures of counteraction to the socialists, discussed by the emperor and the government, also aroused interest. The study of archival documents (1890–1898) allows the author to draw the following conclusions. The dispatches adequately reflect the main trends in the socialist movement and the tactics of the SPD, therefore they can be used to study many internal problems faced by Germany in the course of its political evolution. The development of the social-democratic movement was rightly interpreted by Russian diplomats as one of the fundamental reasons for the internal instability of the German state during the reign of Wilhelm II. At the same time, the conclusion drawn by the diplomats can be primarily explained by the Russian imperial regime and its substantial characteristics, rather than the political realities within Germany itself. They considered parliamentarism, limiting the monarch actions (the state interests), to be the main reason for the high popularity and the broadest electoral support of the SPD. The key factor preventing the monarch from defeating the “coup parties” was defined as the activities of liberal political parties, which demanded the unconditional observance of the freedoms prescribed in the Сonstitution of 1871, as well as the prevention of the introduction of Exceptional Laws and other measures of an extraordinary nature.

KeywordsArchive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Empire, the embassy in Berlin, German Empire, domestic policy, the socialist movement, Social Democratic Party of Germany, P.A. Shuvalov, A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky, N.D. Osten-Sacken, diplomats, diplomatic missions
Publication date11.10.2021
Number of characters43499
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