A2 Russian History 1855-1964 Russia and its Rulers Notes

This is synoptic content of the entire OCR History A Unit F966: Russia and its Rulers 1855-1964. It is arranged into themes, and comparisons between the leaders are made. 

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Alexander II 1855-81
He was a keen reformer, made significant moves towards regaining Russia's position as an ally.
His reform programme gained him the name `Tsar Liberator' as it was so far reaching, more so than
any seen previously.
The Crimean War was the cause of his reforms.
The brutal defeat of Russia during this war emphasized a need for significant reform as many as
500,000 Russian soldiers died due to poor health, illness and disease that sparked due to their `serf'
status. They were so harshly defeated because the British, French and Turkish forces they were
fighting didn't have armies of serfs and had advanced weaponry and machinery.
Modernization was sought in the end of serfdom, liberalization of the legal system, education and
military reforms.
War was a major catalyst in these changes ­ although this should not be over exaggerated as talks
had already been made prior to the war about a possible emancipation, as Alexander stated he
would rather `reform from above'.
Military ­ suspended recruitment in 1856, abolished military colonies, made every man over 20
whom were medically fit liable to conscription, reduced length of service from 25 to 15 years.
Education ­ promotion of private schools, overhaul of curriculum, set up an inspection system,
allowed Jews into higher education
Political ­ reduced censorship on publishers and writers, Trial of the 50 in 1877 after the
assassination attempt made in 1866 showed he was still ruling autocratically but slowed down his
radical reforming, 1864 Zemstva, 1870 Dumas set up for towns and cities, introducing of juries to
criminal cases, removed restrictions on Jews, 1866 State Bank placed currency on firmer footing.
Social ­ Emancipation was controversial, sounded good on paper but in reality the peasants were
worse off as they had 20% less land and the redemption payments were at 6% interest over a
period of 49 years, higher than the typical life expectancy of a peasant. The emancipation was made
with the idea that peasants would migrate to industry and hoped it would reduce the number of
peasant revolts. Emancipation was not a success as peasant riots increased. Freed the Decembrists;
political prisoners, similar to the Provisional Governments amnesty of political prisoners.
Economic ­ Reutern reforms (1862 ­ 1878) encouraged foreign investment and expertise,
construction of the Trans-Siberian railway, rail lines grew to over 20,000km.
Alexander was notable for promoting railway construction during the `Great Spurt'. Changes in
agriculture came from land reform in the emancipation of the serfs.
Reforms made were the most far reaching since Peter the Great. They couldn't have worked because
there was unrest and a huge wave of opposition that wasn't being dealt with. Poll tax increased by
over 80%. There was no popular representation and the reforms simply didn't go far enough,
although ironically Alexander's direction of restoring autocracy failed in that this period of
leadership can be seen as the eventual downfall of Tsarism in 1917. It revealed the corrupt nature of
Opposition to Alexander II was enormous, peasant violence was increasing, and the Mir was exposed
as a brutal community. The Peoples Will was the biggest opposition and they assassinated
Alexander II in 1881.
In response to opposition Alexander II initially used the Third Section to exile opponents but
switched to a less radical body in the form of the Okhrana. Opposition was not as effective as

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Alexander II stuck closely to autocratic principles especially after the attempt on his life in 1866.
He was a willing reformer, but his policies were still carried out with the need to preserve
autocracy in mind.
Administration - The Tsars used a Council of Ministers as a main link, the Imperial Council of State
that advised the tsar on legal and financial matters, a Committee of Ministers and the Senate.…read more

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Alexander III 1881-94
When Alexander came to the throne he was faced with the mounting opposition that was
encouraged to grow during his fathers reign. He was determined to ensure and retain autocracy by
reversing the liberal reforms his father had implemented that led to opposition growth. He had to
deal with land ownership issues as a result of the emancipation and demands for more rapid
industrialization.…read more

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This combination brought about the revolution. Populism were the extreme radical
intellectuals like the Narodniks and the Peoples Will whom believed terrorism and assassination
were the answers to gaining a collective Russia ­ where everything was shared.
Administration ­ his appointment of Sergei Witte to Finance Minister made a significant impact
upon the success of his economic reforms. The economy under Alexander III significantly improved,
building upon the positive measures Alexander II had encouraged.…read more

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Nicholas II 1894-1917
Nicholas II's domestic policies never seemed to deal effectively with the economic, social and
political challenges Russia faced. Opposition to his rule proliferated and became more organised. To
distract people's attention from growing domestic issues Nicholas engaged in the Russo-Japanese
War (1904-1905) and committed Russia to taking part in the First World War (1914-1918).
Nicholas made a tactical mistake by appointing himself commander-in-chief of the armed forces in
1915, leaving his German tsarina in charge who was already disliked among the people.…read more

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Economic ­ Yet again, there was enormous economic progress. In 1897 the rouble was placed on the
gold standard, which resulted in increased foreign investment. This gave impetus to the `Great
Spurt' where industrial production increased annually by 7.5%.
Great Spurt ­ coal production doubled, iron and steel increased sevenfold, railway track increased
again nearly doubling in 10 years by 1901, foreign capital investment increased annually by 120%,
income earned from industry increased by 119 million roubles in 4 years.…read more

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Working and living conditions ­ In 1910 there were over 100,000 deaths due to cholera, a disease
associated with urbanization, in St. Petersburg. The living standards of the population suffered a
rapid decline after the outbreak of fighting in 1914. Russia enjoyed good harvests in 1914, 1915
and 1916. Although grain stocks were high during autumn 1916 but the grain was not getting to
the people.…read more

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Provisional Government March 1917 ­ October 1917
The February Revolution of 1917 led to a dramatic change in government.
The Provisional Government was made up of politicians who had been elected to the Duma in 1912
and were associated with the `old' guard ­ the incumbent political elite that represented traditional
On 2nd March 1917 Provisional Government was established to take over from Nicholas II.…read more

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Summary of reforms ­ There was little time for the Provisional Government to successfully work or
establish significant change, as they were an unelected body that significantly lacked authority.
They entered `power' in a time of economic, social and political crisis and the First World War was
having devastating impacts any leader/government would struggle to deal with successfully.
Opposition ­ Significant opposition was forming extensively in this short period of time.…read more

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Lenin ­ October 1917 ­ 1924
Lenin had a great influence on the revolutionary movement even though he was often in exile.
He played a major role in the Bolshevik seizure of power and the establishment of Communist rule
in Russia.
Revisionist historians have argued that Lenin laid a base for future Communist leaders to build on.
Thus, Stalin and Khrushchev are thought to have simply continued with Leninist ideas and policies
rather than introducing their own style of communism.…read more



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