As History, Russia 1855-1917 AQA

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Section 1: Reform and Reaction 1855-1881
Chapter 1: Alexander II
Motives for reform
Impact of the Crimean war
Suffered two disastrous defeats against Britain, France, Turkey and Piedmont-Sardinia at Balaclava in Oct
1854 and at Inkerman in Nov 1854
Sebastopol (great naval base) had fallen to enemies = shock and humiliation
Only one musket for two soldiers + weaponry outdated and inferior to French and British
No railway system to transport troops or supplies to the front lines
2/3 of men in some Russian battalions died from starvation or sickness before even reaching the front lines
Showed Russia's military and admin inadequacies
Provoked peasant uprisings
Shown the gap between Russia and the west
Treaty of Paris 1856 ended war
o Reduced Russia's influence in black sea area
o Declared black sea neutral zone ­ preventing use by warships in times of peace
Defeats + Treaty = intelligentsia raised questions about the state of Russian society and the use of peasant
Inadequate railway and communication systems = failures in war
Needed to reform to prevent humiliation and repeat
Alexander II's personal views
Fully committed to maintaining tsarist autocracy and upholding God-given duties
o Believed part of these duties was to enhance the power and prestige of Russia and restoring the
country's dignity as a leading power of Eu
Accepted Russia needed to change
Believed by granting limited freedoms and reforms he would help to stimulate a more dynamic economy
Had worked for over 10 years in the Council of State
Had travelled around empire ­ incl Siberia = first-hand knowledge of conditions ­ saw a need to remove
reliance on serfdom to modernise
Surrounded by a number of `enlightened bureaucrats' (Alexander Milyutin ­ minister for internal affairs
1859-61) and members of his family who supported his vision to modernise (Grand Duke Constantine &
Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna)
Modernise `from above' instead let it happen `from below' ­ quoted from a speech addressing the Moscow
nobility in 1856 ­ set tone for reign
o Earlier reforms ­ release of political prisoners, relaxing censorship, lessening restrictions on travel
etc. ­ confirmed determination to rule in a more enlightened manner
Political Considerations
Father, despite repression, had not been able to stop new social and political thought ­ politicising the
intelligentsia and create undercurrents of disloyalty
Peasant unrest increased leading up to the Crimea as landlords tried to drive their peasants to produce more
and protests against military conscription escalated
o More than 300 separate peasant uprisings
o Murders of landowners and bailiffs had grown more common ­ threatened the social stability of the
Russian social structure did nothing to help the nobility ­ on which the tsarist autocracy relied
o Nobles' incomes were falling, they had no incentive to involve themselves with business ventures
Economic Considerations
Recognition of Russia's need to catch up with the west in order to reassert `great power status'
Accepted that serfdom was stopping economic progress - handicap to industrialisation
o Prevented movement of workers to factories, limited capital accumulation and kept internal market
demand low

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Removal of serfdom was essential to introduce modern methods into agriculture
o no incentive for peasants to develop land when landowners could just take profits
o Noticed that in areas where peasants were able to engage in paid work or, as in Siberia, where free
peasant labour was the norm, peasants were more productive
Russia's population had doubled in the first half of the 19th century
o The inefficient agricultural system made it hard for serfs to produce enough to feed themselves and
provide surplus…read more

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Nicholas I considered serfdom to be `evil palpable to all' ­ convened 10 secret committees to discuss the
matter but there had been little change
· Law of Obligated peasants 1842 ­ allowed landlords to negotiate fixed agreements on land-holding and
obligations in a contract but also freed the landlord from having to support the peasants in hard times
o Only 27,000 had become obligated peasants by 1858
The emancipation of the Serfs
· Released from ties to landowners and become free men ­ free…read more

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Some peasants fell into debt and had to sell out to the kulaks who
became a new source of resentment whilst the landless became
labourers and were forced to seek work for wage
Personal serfs received no land and became dependent on wages too
Industrial development failed to keep pace with the increased numbers
of such workers who drifted to the towns in search of work
Mir system ­ peasants legally and economically tied to the commune ­
land often redistributed when a male was…read more

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Reforms allowed talented, educated, charismatic priests to get promotions to key positions in the church
o Little was done to address the initial concern about clerical poverty or the suitability of rural priests
to do their job
· Alexander II relaxes restrictions on Catholicism, the language and overt displays of national identity in Poland.
Similarly in Finland the Finnish language was encouraged and a representative assembly accepted as a
semi-independent Gov.…read more

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Less expensive Remained a peasant conscript army and the problems of
supply and leadership were not fully resolved
Literacy within the army improved ­ mass army education
campaigns 1870s-90s.…read more

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The cotton industry expanded and mining grew in the Remained comparatively weak
Donets coalfield
Some improvements in agriculture Public could not scrutinise the budget and there was no
reform of the tax system
66% of Gov.…read more

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Relaxed censorship
o Removal of salt tax
o Abolition of the Third Section ­ replaced by Okhrana
Produced Loris-Melikov Constitution ­ proposed that elected representatives from the nobility, zemstvas
and dumas and should discuss some state decrees
o Al III signed the report on March 13th 1881 and called for a meeting of the Council of Ministers but
the same day killed by a bomb
Emergence of opposition groups
Al II's reforms inspired people for further change
Press was less censored so more criticism of…read more

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Young Russia' in which they argued revolution was the only way forward
Class struggles ­ between proletariat and bourgeoisie
Communist society ultimately ­ everyone is equal
Largely irrelevant to largely rural state with little proletariat and bourgeoisie
Limited number and underground
The Populists
Aimed to win over peasantry
Future of Russia depended on land redistribution and the development of peasant commune
But peasant hostility ­ twice
o 1874 ­ 1,600 were arrested
o 1876 ­ `land and liberty', tried to stir up revolution…read more

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Section 2: Political Reaction: social and economic change 1881-1904
Chapter 3: The Russian Economy 1881-1904
Alexander II
In response to defeat in Crimea
o Development of railway building programme and a limited spread of factories
By 1881 Russia's economic development was still far behind that off the west
There was a huge gap between Russia's potential, given the amount of resources
Alexander III
The Crimean War
Industrial Backwardness
Industry = better rival militaries
Protection of the empire = industry = develop military
Population growth…read more


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