Abstract: Reassessing "The Loan That Saved Russia": The Hidden Costs of the Imperial Russian Government 5% 1906 Loan

Hassan Malik


On April 16, 1906, the Russian government signed a contract for a 2.25 billion franc loan that former finance minister and then-prime minister Sergei Witte famously called "the loan that saved Russia." Given that the loan was contracted after Russia's humiliation in the Russo-Japanese War, and after months of unrest during the 1905 Revolution, many historians accept this view in traditional narratives of the Russian Revolution. An examination of correspondence held in London among leading members of the issuing syndicate and with Russian and Western government officials, however, suggests that the 1906 loan had a much more conflicted and complex legacy. Rather than marking an end to the 1905 Revolution, the 1906 loan in many ways exacerbated the problems confronting the tsarist regime by angering and radicalizing domestic opponents of the regime, while also opening new fronts of confrontation between the regime and its opponents internationally. In this sense, the legacy of the 1906 loan stretched far beyond the end of the 1905 Revolution into the events of 1917.