Witte was appointed by Tsar Alexander III to help Russia's struggling economy. Witte was very successful, and under his tenure the nation saw unprecedented economic growth. Witte strongly encouraged foreign capital to invest in Russia, and to do so he put Russia on the gold standard in 1897. Witte encouraged the growth of Russian industry, and the industrial sector of the economy expanded rapidly, especially the metals and petroleum sectors. To improve the economy and to attract foreign investors Witte also advocated curbing the powers of the Russian autocracy.
Witte's failure was in the agrarian peasant sector of the economy. During his time in office the lot of the peasants slowly declined and unrest increased in the peasant population. In part because of this and because of the nobility's dislike of him, Nicholas II replaced Witte in 1903.
Witte returned to the forefront in 1905, however, when he was called upon by the Tsar to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War. Witte traveled to America, where the peace talks were being held, and negotiated brilliantly on Russia's behalf. Despite losing dramatically on the battlefield Russia lost very little in the final settlement.
After this success Witte was brought back into government to help deal with the civil unrest following the war and Bloody Sunday. Witte advocated the creation of an elected parliament and the formation of a constitutional monarchy. Many of his reforms were put into place, but they failed to end the unrest, and Witte was forced to resign.