Alexander III: 1881 - 1894

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Alexander III: 1881 - 1894

Alexander III: Background

Alexander III became Tsar after the assassination of his father in 1881. 

  • He had many personal qualities - he was a man of great strength, rumours said he could bend an iron poker and crush silver roubles in his hand . Everything about him suggested imperial power, he greatly fitted the imperial Russian stereotype. His conservative outlook was very different than the liberal views of his father and later encouraged liberal opposition. 
  • He reacted very angrily to the assassination of his father. It only exacerbated his conservative outlook. 
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Industrialisation: Ivan Vyshnegradsky

Ivan Vyshnegrasky

Alexander III appointed Ivan Vyshnegradksy to deal with economic policy as Minister of Finance. Vyshnegrasky's basic emphasis was on achieving a balanced budget by increasing taxes and tariffs and attempting to reach a positive trade balance to attract foreign investors. 

Aims and Methods: 

  • Aim: Increase Russia's gold reserves - Method: Higher indirect taxation 
  • Aim: more export of grain - Method: Grain requisitioning (lead to famine of 1891/92)
  • Aim: Bring investment to Russia - Method: Loan from France in 1888. 

Successes and Failures: 

  • Success: Foreign investment was brought to Russia. 
  • Failure: 1891 famine lead to Vyshnegradsky getting the sack! 
  • Success: By 1892 - Russia was in surplus. 
  • Failure: Prices rose as a result of indirect taxation. 
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Witte's Great Spurt

Witte's Great Spurt

Due to Vyshnegradsky getting sacked by causing the famine of 1891, Sergei Witte replaced him as Finance Minister. 

In the year of 1887 a new rouble was introduced which was backed up by gold. This further encouraged foreign investment. 

Witte wanted to develop the economy and help industrialisation. 

  • Trade tariffs were increased to 30%. 
  • Foreign investment was encouraged by an increased indirect tax. 
  • The middle class grew by 144% from 1850-1900 due to many peasants leaving the mirs and leading small businesses. Judicial reforms of the 1860's and 70's meant lawyers were needed. 
  • By 1914 (WW1 year) 75% of inhabitants in St. Petersburg were born in the country. 
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Weaknesses in the Russian Economy

Russian Economy - Weaknesses: 

Despite a makeover from both Vyshnegradsky and Witte, the economy wasn't completely developed (although it had improved from Alexander III's father). 

  • Tariffs on foreign goods were as high as 33% - as a result, government income rose by almost 50%. 
  • The peasants were forced to pay high redemption payments in order to be free people. Their grain was given to the state to maximise export profits. 
  • Grain requisitioning led to famine. 
  • Rent prices were high and living conditions were poor. 
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Religious Life in Russia

What contribution did Alexander III make to relgious life in Russia? 

Repression under Alex. III continued through the Russian Orthodox Church. 

As Over Procurator of the Holy Synod (head of the Church) Pobedonostsev thought that ''re-educating the people was the best way to stop revolution. 

Under Pobedonostsev, 250 new churches and 10 new monastries were built. 

The Orhtodox Church expanded its influences in the 1880s and 1890s as a part of the government Russification policy. 

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Konstantin Pobedonostsev

Pobedonostsev: 

In terms of developing and industrialising the empire, Pobedonostsev played an important role in developing government policies. 

As Alexander III's childhood tutor, Pobedonostsev was responsible for Alexander's conservative outlook and with liberalist ideologies growing, he attempted to enflict a more conservative approach towards society. 

  • He was also in favour of Russification policies which imposed Russian customs onto other cultures in the Empire. It was racist and many nationalities were condemned for the way they were. Jews were confined to and area known as the Pale of Settlement and as for other nationalities such as Poles and Ukranians, they were forced to practive Orthodox methods and speak Russian rather than their own language.
  • This lead to growth in liberal opposition. 
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Liberal Reforms

Why did the more liberal reforms fail? 

In his earlier years, Alexander III's ministers passed more liberal reforms similar to his fathers in order to strengthen autocracy. 

The reforms included: 

  • 1882 - 1885: Labour legislation - to protect the rights of women and children in the workplace
  • 1886: Law specifying procedures for hiring and firing workers and paying wages.

These reforms were inadequate - factory inspectors were mistrusted and the reforms therefore failed. 

The main reason that they failed was due to a growing conservative support. 

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Urban Workers

Urban Workers

After emancipation in 1861, peasants were more inclined to leave the mirs and start life in the factories in the prospering cities (by 1914, 75% of St.Petersburg had been born in the country.) There was nothing for the peasantry back in the country, they often went hungry and they lived a hand-to-mouth lifestyle. 

But... The life of an urban worker was not easy. Here are some problems with the life of an urban worker: 

  • Extremely poor and dirty housing leading to poor standards of public health. 
  • Communal everything - everything was shared, houses, bedding, food etc. 
  • Disease was easily spread. 
  • Food was poor and workers were hungry. 
  • Hours were long and wages were very poor. 

Peasants were ignored in the drive to industrialisation. They joined bands of migrant labourers to stop themselves going hungry. 

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The Mirs

The Mirs 

After emancipation in 1861, the mirs controlled the peasantry. A mir was a ''peasant commune'' run by the more elderly peasants. They controlled land distribution, payment and farming methods. 

Mirs were controlled by volosts (which were collections of mirs). They were more sophisticated and had greater power than the mirs. By 1863, the volosts were established to run the mir. They were even blessed with their own courts. 

As a result of the mirs controlling land distribution - peasants felt cheated and like they had an unfair deal. 

What's more, with the mirs controlling farming methods, nothing was able to progress. British farms produced four times as much as Russian farms because the Russians were set in their old fashioned ways of living. 

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Kulaks vs Peasants

Kulaks vs Peasants 

Russia was very divided in terms of class. To make matters worse, there was a division within the peasantry - kulaks vs peasants. 

The Kulaks were richer versions of peasants (among the 50% of peasants who could produce a surplus from their farming). They borrowed money from the Peasant Land Banks so they could buy up good land and make profits for themselves. 

The peasants became poorer and poorer. They often went hungry, they never had any money and many left their homes to join bands of migrant labourers in search of fortune. 

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Slavophiles vs Westernisers

Slavophiles vs Westernisers 

Under Alexander III there were many social groups who believed they knew what was best for developing Russia. 

Slavophiles were those rooted in Russian culture and traditions. Proud Russians that wanted to abolish any sorts of threatening behaviour that might threaten Russian traditions. Slavophiles were in favour of Russification (imposing Russian traditions on other cultures.) Alexander III was a slavophile. 

Westernisers were the opposite of slavophiles. They wanted to move on from ancient Russian traditions and make Russia more like the superpowers of the West. Other countries were clearly doing better than Russia - British farms produced 4x as much produce as Russian farms and USA had a railroad that spanned the continent. Westernisers wanted to make Russia more like this. Alexander II with his liberal outlook was a Westerniser. 

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Slavophiles vs Westernisers

Slavophiles vs Westernisers 

Under Alexander III there were many social groups who believed they knew what was best for developing Russia. 

Slavophiles were those rooted in Russian culture and traditions. Proud Russians that wanted to abolish any sorts of threatening behaviour that might threaten Russian traditions. Slavophiles were in favour of Russification (imposing Russian traditions on other cultures.) Alexander III was a slavophile. 

Westernisers were the opposite of slavophiles. They wanted to move on from ancient Russian traditions and make Russia more like the superpowers of the West. Other countries were clearly doing better than Russia - British farms produced 4x as much produce as Russian farms and USA had a railroad that spanned the continent. Westernisers wanted to make Russia more like this. Alexander II with his liberal outlook was a Westerniser. 

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Growth in Opposition

Opposition under Alexander III: 

  • Populists: Populist opposition still existed but was diminished after the death of Alexander II in 1881. They still tried to assasinate his son but they failed. 
  • Social Democratic Movement: Sparked by Karl Marx - followers saw a divide in classes between the proletariat (working class), and the bourgeosie (middle class). The working class associated with Marx because he promoted equal rights for everyone. The SDP later split into the Bolsheviks led by Lenin and the Mensheviks led by Markov. 
  • The intelligentsia: Liberal intelligentsia recognised flaws in Russian society, however, they did not adopt revolutionary tactics like the SDP's or SR's. They pressed for improvements on welfare, education and the liberty of the law. By the mid 1890s, liberals were growing more vociferous in their demands for a parliament to represent and advise the government. 
  • Repression and the police: The Third Section was replaced by the Okhrana under Alexander III. They intercepted mail and telegraphs in a committment to eradicate revolutionary behaviour. 
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Changes to Policing

The department of police (including the secret police - Okhrana) was run by Pyotr Durnovo from 1884. 

  • Under Durnovo, the number of police was increased. 
  • New branches of criminal invesigation were set up. 
  • There was a drive to recruit spies.

The Okhrana: 

  • Had offices in Moscow, St.Petersburg and Warsaw. 
  • Secret police replaced the Third Section. 
  • Intercepted and read mail
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Russification in Russia

Keywords:

  • russification: imposing Russian language, religion and cultural ideas on the ethnic minorities within Russia.
  • anti-Semitic: being prejudice against and persecuting Jews.
  • chauvinism: exaggerated belief in national superiority and glory.
  • pogrom: anti-Jewish riot.

During Alexander III's reign, the best regime to help keep autocracy was the policy of Russification.

This involved the imposing of Russian culture, language and traditions on the ethnic minorities within the Empire, such as the Poles, the Finnish, Ukranians, Armenians and Jews. This official form of chauvinism only brought prostests from ethnic minorities and gave a great boost to nationalist movements. What this brought to the Empire is unclear. The aim of Russification was to crush the influence of other nationalities and allow Russian customs and traditions to prosper.  

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Alexander III - Key Policies: Reform and Reaction.

Reforms introduced:

  • 1881 - Law to end temporary obligation, reducing redemption payments for serfs.
  • 1882-90 - Laws created by Alexander's ministers working to protect children and women, reduce working hours in factories and factory inspectors appointed.
  • 1883 - Introduction of the Peasant Land Bank, (kulaks used this to buy up all the good land and produce a surplus while peasants just became poorer and poorer).
  • 1883-86 - Abolition of the poll tax.
  • 1885 - Noble's Land Bank introduced to provide cheap credit for nobles.

Reactionary policies:

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Anti-Semitism in Russia

Anti-Semitism: Alexander III and Nicholas II

Hostility increased towards the Jews in the 1870s.

  • Jewish schools were closed
  • Restrictions placed on civil rights of Jews in the revision of the town councils in 1870 (Zemstvas).

Routine pogroms occurred throughout the 1870s and 80s. These were organised by anti-Semitic organisations like the Holy League. Provisional and temporary rules were issued in 1882. These banned Jews from:

  • Settling in rural areas, owning or managing land.
  • Becoming a lawyer.
  • Running schools or printing books in Hebrew.
  • Marrying a Christian.

For the Tsar this prevented radicals and revolutionaries, most Slavophiles agreed with these anti-Semitic policies.  What's more is that  225, 000 Jews left Russia.

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Pobodonostsev and the Orthodox Church

  • Keywords: secular = not connected with religious or spiritual matters.

The Orthodox Church had a close bond with the Tsar it preached loyalty to him for he had been ''chosen by God".

By the late 19th century Church administration had been moved to the Holy Synod (a group of Bishops) and the Tsars position had become more secular but Russia was still very Orthodox.

1862 - Ecclesiastical Commission set up up to improve the Church, however, it mean that...

  • Most rural priests remained poor and uneducated.
  • Only talented and educated people were promoted within the Church.

Konstantin Pobodonostsev was promoted to Head of the Church (in Russia known as Over Procurator), he gave the final word on decisions made by the Holy Synod and also decisions of his own.

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Alexander III: Reform and Reaction

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