Revision Notes Russia 1917 - 1939 [History GCSE Edexcel]

These are my revision notes for Russia 1917 - 1939. They are very thorough and are basically a slightly shortened version of my textbook.

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Chapter 1: Russia before the First World War
Why was Russia so difficult to govern?
The size of the Russian Empire made it difficult to govern.
There were also many different peoples and ethnic groups within Russia
Many of these peoples resented being part of the Empire, especially as the
Rulers carried out a policy called Russification. This meant making non
Russians speak Russian, wear Russian clothes and follow Russian customs.
How was Russia ruled?
Russia was an autocracy which meant all the power was in the hands of the
Tsar. The Tsar believed he had the divine right to rule.
There was no parliament to represent the people´s views. The tsar did have a
council of ministers that ran various government departments but they could
not make important decisions.
The Russian people had little freedom. All unions of workers and strikes were
forbidden. Newspapers and books were censored by the government.
The Okhrana was the Tsar´s secret police. They used spies and agents to find
those who opposed the Tsar and his system of government. Such opponents
could be imprisoned without trial or exiled to far off Siberia.
The Orthodox Church
About 70% of the population were members of the official Orthodox Church.
The Church was very closely linked to the Tsar & was very wealthy
It was unpopular because large minorities belonged to other Churches and
religions, and they resented the power and privileges of the Orthodox Church.
Why was Nicholas II such a weak Tsar?
The system of autocracy only worked if the Tsar was strong and able to
control the government and the different nationalities of the vast Russian
Nicholas II (became Tsar in 1894) was not a strong character. He was
reluctant to become Tsar but he insisted on governing as an autocrat.
He and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, believed that they have been chosen by
God and no one had the right to challenge them.
He was ignorant of the nature and extent of the opposition to Tsarist rule and
refused to share power.
Why was the economy so backward?

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Russia´s population lived in the countryside but Russian agriculture
was poor. Only 5% of the land could be used for farming because of desert,
tundra and forests.
Old fashioned farming methods resulted in low food production and frequent
famines. The farming system also encouraged sustenance farming (enough to
live off) using primitive tools.
Even though Russia was rich in minerals and oil, industrialisation would not
take place until the end of the nineteenth century.…read more

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Many peasants felt bitter towards the aristocracy. The nobles had kept most of
the land when serfdom had ended in 1861 and peasants resented having to
work on noble´s estates to earn money.
Population growth of 50% between 1860 and 1897 brought greater
competition for land and even smaller peasant plots.
Why were many town workers discontented?
The most rapidly growing group were the new workers in industry in towns and
Large numbers of peasants had flocked to the cities to work in industry.…read more

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Chapter 2: Opposition to Tsarist Rule
Why was there a revolution in 1905?
Poor harvests in 1900 and 1902 along with industrial depression meant that by
1904 Russia was experiencing terrible problems.
There were also frequent strikes, demonstrations and attacks on landlord´s
The RussoJapanese War of 1904 to 1905
To add to these problems the Tsar was facing war with Japan.…read more

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Strikes, riots, and disturbances in nonRussian parts of the empire, mutiny in
the navy and an unreliable army in Moscow and St. Petersburg clearly showed
Nicholas and his ministers that something had to been done to restore order.
In September, a general strike began and a soviet was established in St.
The soviet became the government of St. Petersburg and at last, the workers´
had some power.…read more

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Social Democratic Labour Party ­ Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Julius Martov
o This party followed the teachings of Karl Marx and believed that the
workers would one day stage a revolution and remove the tsar. The
revolution would lead to the setting up of a communist state.
Marxism dictated that a successful proletarian (worker) revolution
could only occur when there was an industrial society.
o In 1903 the party split into 2, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.…read more

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The Duma argued constantly with Nicholas so he dissolved it. It lasted 2
The Second Duma (February ­ June 1907)
Elections saw a move to the left. Mensheviks won 9% and SRs won 7%
Duma criticised the running of the army, and was unwilling to work with
Stolypin over land reform.
The duma was dissolved after an alleged plot to assassinate the tsar by the
Soviet Revolutionary and Social Democratic deputies.…read more

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After 1907 the Tsar and the Tsarina relied on the help and guidance of the
holy man Rasputin. Rasputin had the ability to control the life threatening
illness of their son Alexei
His power at court grew so much that he eventually helped to choose
government ministers.
There were many aristocrats who disliked the influence of Rasputin but there
were also many who sought in his company.
Rasputin was another piece of ammunition for those who did not like Tsarism.…read more

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Chapter 3: The impact of the First World War on Russia
What was Russia´s involvement in the First World War?
After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1915,
Austria, supported by Germany declared war of Serbia. Russia was the
protector of Serbia so to help them Russia joined the war in August 1914.…read more

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The peasants, who provided most of the army´s recruits, had their image of
a wise and caring tsar shattered by the experience of war.
Poor leadership from generals and officers
Poor communication
Outdated tactics
Lazy, incompetent, overconfident officers
Generals did not work as a team
o In 1914, they moved their armies too quickly into East Prussia, confident of
victory, and were too far ahead of their support and supplies
What affect did these defeats have?
Enthusiasm for the war soon ended.…read more


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