In the fall of 1905, three men sat inside the cabin of a small steamer that rolled from side to side, but they were oblivious to this motion as they bent their heads over several sheets of paper on the table in front of them. They engaged in animated discussion, and from time to time, one of them corrected the document’s Russian script. In less than an hour, they arrived at their destination, disembarking at Peterhof, the country palace of the emperor, Nicholas II. While two of the men waited in an anteroom, the third, Sergei Witte, met with Nicholas and his advisors, including the tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke Nikolai. A sense of urgency marked the meeting, for a general strike was paralyzing St. Petersburg, the capital, and riots and disorders were spreading throughout the Russian Empire. It was clear to everyone that decisive action had to be taken promptly.