Tsars Overview (1855-1917)

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Ideologies
Autocracy
1855-March1917
Tsars had absolute power which was said to be ordained by God ­ In practice all
Russians had to obey the will of the Tsar or suffer punishment, including the wrath of
God
According to the historian J.N Westwood, there were 3 strands of Tsarist rule:
o `The Tsar expected willing and total submission of his subjects ...Just as God
expected the Tsar's willing and total submission'. The system was based on
religious faith and therefore did not require the Tsar to answer to the people
through elections.
o The Tsar obliged to act as a kind of `moral judge' on behalf of God. The
`righteous' as defined by Tsar would be `saved' whereas the wicked would be
condemned and punished (seen as a way of controlling the Russian people
for their own good)
o Autocracy viewed as a practical necessity--Russian Empire was so vast and
diverse that it was better for one person to have control over imperial affairs.
Shared power would have resulted in inefficiency and chaos as far as the
Tsarist regime was concerned
Nicholas I ­ had enforced the importance of autocracy through the use of
propaganda and legislation. Fundamental law of 1832 which stated all emperors of
Russia is an unlimited and autocratic monarch and that God himself ordains the
ruler.
Alexander II- (1855-81) didn't waver from this sentiment despite showing a tendency
towards being a reformer. The attempted assassination of A II made him as
controlling and repressive as any of the Tsars that preceded or followed him and
strictly adhered to the concept of autocracy.
Enhanced by Russia's dismal performance in the Crimean war (1854-56) against
more advanced industrialised enemies, he went for a reform programme that
enhanced Russia's status as a major world power. Key aspect of this was
emancipation of the Serfs (1861) from which stemmed other reforms to local
government, the judicial system and education. Freeing serfs from both private and
state ownership was highly controversial and provoked much opposition from
landed classes.
Alexander III- (1881-94) after his father was assassinated he felt the need to make
sure the Russian people were aware of the necessity for the Tsar to have total and
unquestionable control over the lives of Russian people. Influenced by his father's
death which he claimed was partly due to a move towards a more `liberal' Russian
society. Opposition, especially the `People's Will' was ruthlessly suppressed and
many of the changes instigated by the previous Tsar were reversed.
Nicholas II- (1894-1917) The constitutional reforms of 1905 are seen as by some
historians as something that was forced on the Tsar to implement as a result of the
economic crisis and the severe consequences of the Russo-Japanese war (1904-5).

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His aim was to uphold and preserve autocracy as did his father. Generally, opposition
to Nicholas' rule thrived and became more organised in the form of radicals (Social
Democratic Workers' Party-the SDs- and the Socialist Revolutionary Party- the SRs)
and the liberals (Kadets and Octobrists). The Bolsheviks, a division of the SDs, went
on to seize power from the Provisional Government and murder Nicholas' family.…read more

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