Problems in Russia pre-1905

  • Created by: StephBea
  • Created on: 31-03-15 17:44
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  • Problems in Russia pre-1905
    • The Tsar
      • Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra came to the throne in 1894.
      • The Tsar was an autocrat meaning he had complete and absolute unquestioned power. He was believed to have the divine right to rule - he had been appointed by God.
        • The orthodox church was very important, holy men were held in very high regard and priests, bishops and the clergy were seen as workers of God and they were treated as 'little fathers'.
          • The Tsar ruled through the church, because the people thought the Tsar was chosen by God and the church leaders were carrying out the Tsars orders, they believed that they were following the orders of God.
        • Russian society was pyramid shaped, there was the Tsar on top then nobility, government officials, military, priests, merchants then peasants, each having absolute power over the next. It was a corrupt and unfair society where bribery was highly prevalent.
      • The Tsar kept control through official and secret police (the Okhrana) and the military. The Cossacks were originally a group of people conquered by Russia but they proved to be fierce fighters on horseback so they were used to brutally restore order.
      • The Tsar himself was a very poor leader, he had very few skills that made him suitable for the job and the realities of the hardships of life in Russia were carefully hidden from him by his officials.
        • The Tsar much preferred to spend time with his family and was kind and affectionate to those close to him. However when challenged he could be cruel and merciless to opposition.
        • The Tsarina had a very different personality to her husband, she was strong willed and stubborn and like him, deeply religious. She believed in and fully supported his right to rule and had great influence on him and his autocratic powers.
    • The Empire
      • Communications within  Russia were almost non-existant, there was around the same length of railroad in Russia as Britain at the time, which was more than 100 times smaller.
        • The Trans=Siberian railway, from St. Petersburg in the west to Vladivostok in the East took over a week to travel end to end making contact extremely slow.
      • Roads were very primitive and most were mud tracks making them almost impassible for most of the year. Even in villages and towns, people had to walk on wooden planks to avoid sinking into the mud.
      • Rivers were also commonly used for travel and most cities were along the river, in winter sleds could even be used to travel along the frozen river.
      • There were many different climates within Russia due to its huge expanse, however very little of it could be farmed, mostly only west of the Ural mountains with the rest of Russia being very similar to the settlement frontiers of the early  American west.
    • Social issues
      • There were people from over 172 different nationalities and ethnicities living in Russia at that time, this meant unity was an issue as each group had their own customs, clothes and most importantly; language.
        • Russification was a policy to try an make all peoples ruled by Russia to dress in Russian clothes and adopt the Russian way of life. Schools in Poland were even banned from teaching children in Polish.
          • This created hatred and resentment by many cultural groups in Russia, with some refering to it as the 'prison of nations'.
      • Due to the backwards ways of farming used, famine was a huge problem, most people used subsistence farming meaning they grew enough to feed themselves. Poor communications also meant there were often food shortages in the cities too.
      • Diseases such as diphtheria, syphilis and typhus were widespread and poverty, squalor and drunkenness were very common.
      • There was a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor, although the nobles only made up 1% of the Russia population, they owned 25% of the land.
      • A new middle class was emerging of bankers, merchants and capitalists they lived very comfortably and the government made them richer with large contracts and loans.
      • Working conditions were very poor in industry, people lived in very cramped and unsanitary cheap buildings and had a poor diet.
        • Illness spread quickly in these conditions and life expectancy was below 40. People were force to share living space with one working the day shift and the other the night shift.
        • Due to such poor working rates, people were forced to work 16 or more hours a day just to sustain themselves.
    • Backwards living
      • Russians were still going by their old fashioned calendar even though the rest of the modern world had adopted the Georgian calendar up to hundreds of years before, this meant they were out of sync with everyone else by 13 days.
      • Until around 1861 the majority of peasants had been Surfs, meaning they were owned and worked on huge estates of land owned by rich masters.
        • In 1961, the peasants were freed and given around 20-30 strips of land around their village to live off of, however this form of subsistence farming was inefficient and there was not enough land to go around.
          • Most peasants were only able to get these strips of land, which they needed to live off, from loaning money from the government, however they did not produce enough off of these strips to earn money and sometimes barely enough for themselves leaving most peasants in heavy debt.
          • Because of the rapid growth in population, there was an increasing demand for land to farm and by 1900 the situation was only getting worse; nobles still had large estates and peasants were angry because they simply wanted enough land to produce food for their families.


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