Main Periods of rule (Russia)

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  • Created on: 21-12-17 11:07

Alexander II (1855-1881)


- Social unrest over living and working conditions had begun before his rule.

- The effects of the Crimean War added to the discontent. 

- There was also concern that Russia would becom a second-rate power.

Domestic Policies

- The majority of the tsar's reforms were stemmed from the emancipation of the serfs in 1861.

- Societal changes (eg. economic and educational) suggested a more liberal age.

- This did not prevent Alexander II from resorting to repression.

- As the people became more liberated they showed an inclination to threaten the security of the    ruling elite and were consequently clamped down on again.

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Alexander III (1881-1894)


- Alexander II's assassination in 1881 illustrated the degree of opposition and threat to autocracy.

- Alexander III had to deal with land ownership issues that resulted from the emancipation of the serfs and clamours for more rapid industrialisation.

Domestic Policies

- A 'reaction' to the liberal policies of Alexander II ocurred. 

- Many of the reforms prior to 1881 were reversed or altered. 

- In particular, the 1881 Statute of Social Security which sanctioned greater use of repression.

- Russification was implemented to control the discontent among natonal minorities. 

- On a more positive note, he appointed Sergei Witte as the finance minister to modernise the Russian economy.

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Nicholas II (1894-1917)


- Unlike his father and grandfather, he lacked the qualities of a successful leader.

- Opposition heightened and became more organised: the radicals - the Social Democratic Worker's Party (SDs) / the Social Revolutionary Party (SRs) & the liberals (Kadets and Octobrists).

- The Bolsheviks (a division of the SDs) went on to seize power from the Provisional Government and to murder Nicholas and his family.

- Nicholas began the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) in an attempt to distract the public from growing economic problems; the consequences of this fuelled the so-called revolution of 1905.

- He never got to grips with the enormous challenges posed by WW1.

- His decision to take personal control of the armed forces and leaving his wife and Rasputin in charge of domestic affairs was a huge mistake.

- In 1917, he was forced to abdicate; his regime was replaced by the Provisional Government.

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Nicholas II (1894-1917)

Domestic Policies

Economic Reforms

- Nicholas encouraged WItte to continue with his plan, particularly focusing on railways and the expansion of heavy industries. Agricultural issues were addressed mainly by Stolypin and his land reforms.

Political Reforms

- As a result of the 1905 unrest, Nicholas set up a representative political chamber called the Duma; he came to distrust the Duma and as a result severly restricted its composition and powers.

Social Reforms

- Education was expanded and censorship was relaxed. Alhough, Nicholas showed little intention of diverting from autocracy and his general attitude towards the Russian people did not marry well with their changing wants and needs.

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The Provisional Government (March 1917 to October


- The Provisional Government was only intended to be a temporary measure; it could not hide the fact it was unelected. 

- It was also pushed into accepting a power share with the Petrograd soviet.

- This meant the Provisional Government had to rely on the members of the soviet to provide support if reforms were to be pushed through.

- The two biggest problems it faced were demands for fairer land distribution and Russia's war performance.

- Neither  were tackled with any confidence (which led to the opposition gaining momentum and eventually taking over.

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The Provisional Government (March 1917 to October

Domestic Policies

The Provisional Government attempted to halt social unrest by imposing a number of liberal measures:

  • The police department was disbanded and all policing was to be carried out by local militias.
  • Old-style regional governers and officials were replaced with a new wave of administrators.
  • Many political prisoners (eg. Trotsky) were released or given amnesty to return to Russia.
  • Newspapers, books and pamphlets increased in circulation, in an attempt to allow Russian people to voice their opinion on how they wanted their government to be run.
  • From the beginning, the Provisional Government had promised and planned for a democratically elected Constituent Assembly, but their promises did little to appeasr agitators.

The clear weakness of the government and the context it was operating in provided the Bolsheviks an opportunity to take over.

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Lenin (1917-1924)


- He faced two immediate problems: confronting opposition and tackling Russia's involvement in WW1.

- Then, he had to consolidate Bolshevik power and win acceptance of the new regime from the rest of the world.

Domestic Problems

- Lenin solved the problem of war by authorising the igning of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 (essentially a peace treaty with Germany, the terms for Russia were harsh).

- Bolshevik authority was quickly established through the setting up of Sovnarkom.

- The Socnarkom set up decrees focused on banning opposition, enforced through a new secret police force, the Cheka.

- Opposition was difficult to contain due to the geographical size of Russia.

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Lenin (1917-1924)

- The strength and spreak of opposition resulted in a Civil War which the Bolsheviks won using the Red Army, the Cheka and the despised policy of War Communism.

- When the war was over, it was replaced with the New Economic Policy, the main plank in Lenin's strategy to stabilise and modernise the economy.

- After his death, a power struggle ensued, with the viability of the NEP being one of the main debated issues.

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Stalin (1928-1953)


- Stalin had to deal with the negative legacy of Lenin.

- He was also forced to deal with ongoing problems related to agriculture and national minorities.

- Russia became involved in the Second World War and was invaded by Germany.

- Before his death in 1953, Russia also became involved in the Cold War, the most challenging aspects of which had to be dealt with by Khrushchev, who took over from Stalin.

Domestic Policies

- Stalin dealt with oppisition by using the secret police (NKVD) to arrest people (who ended up being jailed, exiled or executed). These arrests happened in waves and were known as purges.

- Show trials and other forms of propaganda were used to control the behaviour of the population.

- The scale of repression was far greater than under any other leader - this terror meant he had absolute control.

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Stalin (1928-1953)

- The problem of agriculture was tackled through the imposition of collectivisation and dekulakisation.

- Agricultural policies were geared towards aiding the development of heavy industry; those employed in growing numbers in factories, mines and industrial plants relied totally on peasants for their food.

- Stalin's industrial policy focused on centralised planning (Five-Year Plans); workers who did not meet targets were usually punished severly.

- After the Second World War, Stalin was seen as a hero and he strengthened his position as a prominent world leader.

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Khrushchev (1953-64)


- He had to make his own stamp on Russia and remove that of Stalin.

- Heavy industry ahd progressed, to the detriment of living standards.

Domestic Policies

- He carried on with the centralised planning of the economy but with more focus on the enhancement of light and consumer industries.

- The Khrushchev era continued to witness the use of repression to maintain law and order.

- Political prisoners were released and the Gulag was mostly made redundant. 

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