Russia Part 1

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The Bare Essentials: Imperial Russia
1. Geography
The Russian Empire was very large. So large, in fact, that it covered onesixth
of our planet's land surface. At it's greatest extent it was 5,000 miles from west
to east and 2,000 miles from north to south: a total of some 8.5 million square
miles. It stretched from the arctic north to the deserts south of the Caspian
Sea from Poland in the west to the Bering Sea by Alaska in the east. It was
both a European and an Asian country ­ in fact the bulk of the empire (but not
the bulk of the population) lay in Asia.
2. Agriculture and climate
Despite it's size, much of the Russian Empire was uninhabitable and its land
unproductive. Only about 6% of all Russian land could be used for farming. The
climate did not help either. It was very hot in summer and very cold in winter,
the coldest regions being in the east in Siberia. As a result the soil was only
suitable for farming a few months out of the year.
3. Population
The Russian population expanded dramatically in the nineteenth century as the
figures below show.
1815 40 million
1850 68 million
1864 74 million
1897 124 million
1914 170 million
4. Social Structure
Russian society was structured like a pyramid with the Tsar at the top and the
peasants at the bottom. The vast majority of the Russian population were
peasants (85% at the turn of the twentieth century). Difficulties in farming led to
families working together to survive. Encouraged by landowners and the state,
peasants had been organised into communes (mirs) since the middle of the
eighteenth century. The land was then divided into strips and distributed
according to family size. The mir not only provided security but also gave
peasants some experience of selfgovernment. Matters of common concern
were discussed and decided together.

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The peasants were largely illiterate, religious, superstitious and highly
conservative. At the middle of the nineteenth century most peasants were serfs
­ virtual slaves ­ with no personal freedom at all.
The rest of Russian society was made up of landowners, army officers,
government officials, bureaucrats, clergy, professionals (such as lawyers,
doctors and teachers), merchants, traders, businessmen and a very small
working class. The middle class and nobility were also relatively small groups
but they possessed most of the wealth.…read more

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Imperial Russia
1. How large was the Russian Empire?
2. How much of Russian land was suitable for farming? How did the
climate make matters worse?
3. Describe the change in Russia's population from 18141914.
4. Draw a simple diagram to show the structure of Russian society. Be
sure to add the groups situated in the middle, as well as those at the
top and bottom. Mark on your diagram where Russia's wealth lay.
5.…read more

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How did the Tsar view his relationship with his subjects?
9. The Tsar ruled by divine right. What does this mean?
10.Did the Tsar seek advice?
11.Why was it necessary to rule Russia as a colony?
12.Who kept order throughout the Empire?
13.…read more


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