Tsarist Russia 1855-1917 Revision Guide

A complete and comprehensive revision guide for the AQA Tsarist Russia 1855-1917 course

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Tsarist Russia 1855-1917
Revision Guide
Serfs were a peasant labour force owned and controlled by the landowners. Serfs were
basically agricultural slaves. Serfdom was extremely unpopular in Russia. A prominent
opponent was Catherine the Great who held an essay writing competition about serfdom
around 1767. In 1856, Alexander II said to the Moscow gentry; "It is better to begin to
abolish serfdom from above than to wait for it to abolish itself from below."
The `Tsar Reformer'
On 2nd March 1855 Tsar Nicholas I died leaving Alexander II to sign the Treaty of Paris in
March 1956, signifying Russia's defeat in the Crimean war.
Alexander II was keen to implement various reforms which he predicted would transform
and modernise Russian society (however he became increasingly reactionary after an
assassination attempt in 1866). His reasons for wanting reform were:
Personal Wanted to modernise Russia
Thought that granting limited freedoms would stimulate the economy
Wanted to enhance the power and prestige of Russia
However he was fully committed to maintaining the Tsarist autocracy
Political Autocracy was creating disloyalty
Peasants were beginning to rise up and protest
Military conscription was extremely unpopular
Nobility incomes were failing and they had no talents for business etc.
Economic To catch up with the modernised west
Serfdom was stopping economic progress
Population increased yet productivity stayed the same causing a supply crisis
Serfdom caused lack of income for landowners during supply crisis
Intellectual Nihilists moved for education to stop Russia's `backward' nature
Owning people was immoral and detrimental to serfs' moral fibre
Since 1855 the intelligentsia moved for reform
Alexander issued the emancipation ukase on 3rd March 1861 and effectively freed the serfs.
However, the negative aspects of emancipation outweighed the positives for the Tsarist
government, the nobility and even the serfs themselves. Emancipation pleased nobody.
Orlando Figes - "The Emancipation came as a rude shock not only to the economy but also to
the whole of the gentry"
Alexander II's other reforms included:
Education - Autonomy for universities, responsibility for education transferred from the
hands of the church to that of the Zemstva, schools were declared `Open for all' regardless
of religion/class/sex. Primary school was still centralised around religion, freedoms in
education produced many radical thinkers, in 1866 government reasserted control over
Judicial - Clarification of Russia's many confusing laws was implemented, a principle of
`Equality before the law' was created and the accused were allowed to employ a defence
council. Judges were still appointed by the Tsar, a jury system was never established in
Poland, the western provinces or the Caucasus and ecclesiastical and military courts were
immune to these reforms.
Local Government - Elected local councils called Zemstva (pl. Zemstvo) were put in place;
Zemstva could make improvements to public services and were to administer poor relief in

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Votes were arranged so that the nobility could dominate (42% of votes of
district and 74% of provincial voting power), no national assembly was implemented and
corruption was rife among the Zemstva with members looking out for themselves.
Military - Military service was stopped as a punishment available to the courts, Better
provisioning/accommodation/medical care was introduced and the minimum length of
service was reduced from 25 years to 15. Conscription was made compulsory for all men
above the age of 20 (incl.…read more

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Konstantin Pobedonostsev, who also served as Grand-Procurator of the Holy Synod of the
Russian Orthodox Church. Alexander II also strengthened reformed the secret police (which
he renamed from the `Third Section' to the `Okhrana') as well as encouraging anti-Semitic
However, he was reasonably unautocratic when it came to the economy as he set up the
Peasants and Nobles land bank to stimulate the economy and did not reinstate serfdom.…read more

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Georgi Plekhanov. The All-Russian Social and Democratic Labour Party was formed in
1898 (later the Bolshevik and Menshevik parties).…read more

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Lenin's revisionary Bolsheviks and Martov's Pure Marxist Mensheviks.
The Okhrana took special interest in the SDs and arrested/exiled many members of both
The Intelligentsia
Key members of the Intelligentsia included Leo Tolstoy (Author of `War and Peace' and `Anna
Karenina') and Pyotr Struve (A Marxist who became a liberal political and then later an
opponent to Lenin's Bolsheviks). They were normally members of Russian society, well
educated and of the upper classes.…read more

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Grand Duke Sergei (Nicholas's uncle) is assassinated by an SR terrorist
The Bulygin report was created; promising a consultative assembly, freedom of
speech, religious tolerance and a reduction in redemption payments
Bulygin report does not go far enough and students demonstrate in St Petersburg
More strikes break out across Russia despite copious arrests
The St Petersburg Soviet is formed and it spreads the revolutionary message
Witte (Supported by Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich) persuades Nicholas II to issue
the October Manifesto.…read more

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Bolsheviks, SRs and the Union of Russian People). The Duma did not vote for the budget,
Nicholas thought it was too radical and stated that its demands were "totally inadmissible".
The Tsar dissolved the Duma after 10 weeks.
The Second Duma - Feb-June 1907 (4 months) Biggest Party=Trudoviks. The left wing
parties agreed to participate. Both the left and right wanted the Duma to fail. The tsarist
government influenced the vote towards the Octobrists.…read more

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Tsar with the sign of the cross. The next morning Tsar Nicholas knelt at
Stolypin's hospital bed and repeated the words "Forgive me". Stolypin died four days later
on 18th September and Bogrov was hanged 10 days after this.
Orlando Figes ­ "There was a Stolypin but no Stolypinites"
Richard Pipes ­ "The more successful his policies were the less his services were required"
A.…read more

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­ Nicholas orders the suspension of the Duma and troops to stop protests
26th ­ Protestors are shot on the streets of Petrograd (but troops soon mutiny)
2nd March ­ Nicholas sends General Ivanov to crush mutiny in Petrograd but Ivanov's
troops mutiny against him. Nicholas's train is stopped at Pskov on the way to
Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on 2nd March 1917.…read more

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April 3rd ­ Lenin returns to Petrograd
4th ­ Lenin issues his April Theses
April Theses
The April Theses suggested that February had not been a genuine class revolution but a
palace coup, which had given power to the bourgeoisie.…read more


Ste Smith

I've used all of your revision material, absolutely superb mate




brilliant! thank you!

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