Edexcel Russian History 1881-1924

Some revision cards to help you remember key facts about important people/ events in this period of history to use in the exam.


Tsar Alexander II

Alexander II (1855-1881)

  • Russia suffered humiliating defeats in the Crimean War (1854-56) so Alexander II decided to make major domestic reforms to modernise it.
  • 1861- Emancipation of the serfs. All serfs given their own small plot of land and could marry without the land owner's permission. Over 20 million serfs were affected.
  • Serfs had to pay redemption payments for 49 years to compensate the nobles.
  • Alexander also reformed the military, social government and the justice system. Primary education and universities were expanded.
  • He earned himself the nickname 'The Tsar Liberator'.
  • His reforms encouraged the development of radical groups such as 'The People's Will' who were influenced by the views of Karl Marx and Michael Bukanin.
  • Many groups thought his reforms did not go far enough as they wanted autocracy to be replaced by a parliamentary system.
  • Ironically, in March 1881, while preparing to allow an elected Duma (Parliament) he was assassinated by the People's Will in St. Petersburg.
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Alexander III

Alexander III (1881-1894)

  • Alexander III was a reactionary, inflexible autocrat.
  • He issued the 'Temporary Regulations' which allowed governors to imprison people without trial, ban public meetings and exile offenders to Siberia.
  • The Okhrana restricted the press and suppressed revolutionary/radical groups.
  • Pobedonostev influenced the Tsar heavily and convinced him that maintaining power was reliant on 3 main principles: Nationality, Autocracy and Orthodoxy.
  • Nationality: Policy of Russification, Russian became the official language in 1885, Minority groups were discriminated against and European Russians had priority over Finns, Poles etc.
  • Autocracy: 1889- elected justices of peace were replaced by undemocratic land captains who could overrule the zemstva, 1890 and 1892 the right to vote for the zemstva and the dumas was restricted.
  • Orthodoxy: Primary schools came under church control and the ROC was championed over all other religions.
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  • Russia needed to industrialise to compete with other European Powers such as Germany and Britain.
  • It was very backward- largely agricultural economy, 80% of population lived in countryside, cities were small (Moscow and St Petersburg, under 1 million inhabitants).
  • Russia's population was growing rapdly: it doubled between 1881 and 1914 leading to overpopulation in the countryside.
  • Industrialisation was brought about by 3 Finance Ministers; Bunge, Vyshnegradsky and Witte.
  • Bunge: PRO-Peasant Land Bank CON-it was too small to work.
  • Vyshnegradsky: PRO-foreign investment and high tariffs on domestic industry CON-his exports of grain caused famine in 1891 (sacked in 1892).
  • Witte: By far the most effective.(See Witte RC)
  • Industrialisation was eventually successful 1881- Russia had the 11th largest economy ,1914- 5th largest.
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Sergei Witte

Sergei Witte (Super Witte!)

  • Finance Minister (1892-1903) industrailsed Russia in 'the great spurt'.
  • PROBLEM- absence of a business/ strong middle class SOLUTION- state intervention in the economy (sponsored and directed by state)
  • PROBLEM- lack of communication across a country so vast and lack of exploitation of natural resources SOLUTION- Creation of the Trans Siberian Railway 1891 (7000 miles from St P to Vladivostok), Railway from Baku- Batum oil refineries
  • PROBLEM- the Russian economy did not have sufficient funds to invest in modernisation, not enough surplus grain SOLUTION- foreign investment from Britain, France and Belgium + taxes on the peasants...again!
  • There were massive increases in iron, steel and coal production and the economy grew by 8% per year  in the 1890s.
  • HOWEVER...by 1914 the TS Railway was only partially complete, raised taxes caused resentment of the regime, state control of insustry meant that the middle class grew very slowly, the government ran up debts and agricultural industry didn't improve.
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Opposition to Tsarism

Reasons for Opposition to Tsarism (pre 1905)

  • Peasants- were still paying redemption payments and they were farming smaller plots than before emancipation because the nobles had kept the best land for themselves.  They couldn't leave the mir without permission and the gap between rich (kulaks) and poor had widened. Angry about taxes and lack of respnse to famine.
  • Urban workers- earned barely enough to live on. Factory hours were not regulated until Witte's introduction of the 11 and a half hour day which was mostly ignored. Safety regulations were ignored. Rapid growth of towns and cities led to overcrowding and insanitary living conditions. Health and Education services were poor. Life expectancy was 30 years. Increasingly radical in such extreme conditions.
  • The middle classes- wanted a constitutional government and unrestricted press. In 1903 the liberals formed the League of Liberation which wanted a shorter working day, more peasant land and an elected parliament.
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Radical Parties

Radical Parties- The Big Three

  • The Social Revolutionaries- evolved from Populists, believed revolution would begin in the countryside but the party was for both peasants and urban workers. They aimed to 1) redistribute land to the peasants, 2) improve urban living and working conditions, 3) overthrow Tsarism by force. Employed terrorism to achieve their aims. Leading member: Victor Chernov.
  • The Social Democrats- followed the political beliefs of Karl Marx, split into the Bolsheviks (Lenin) and the Mensheviks (Julius Martov) in 1903, the Okhrana kept a close eye on them because of Marxism's revolutionary philosophy. In 1899 many members were exiled including Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin).
  • The Liberals- mainly made up of the educated middle classes, wanted reform with the Tsar not complete revolution against the regime. Divided into the Kadets and the Octobrists following the October Manifesto. Leading Kadet: Paul Milyukov, Leading Octobrist: Alexander Guchkov.
  • These radical parties were unsuccessful in the early 20th century because they were too small and divided to face the Okhrana.
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Causes of the 1905 Revolution

  • STC The Russo Japanese War (1904-1905)- Russia suffered huge morale- crushing, humiliating defeats at Tsushima (loss of the baltic fleet) and the surrender of Port Arthur. This made people angry at Russia's humiliation and led to food shortages at home.
  • STC Bloody Sunday (Sunday 9th January 1905)- 150,000 workers led by Father Gapon marched peacefully to the Winter Palace to deliver a petition to the Tsar which called for 1) an end to the RJ War 2) fair wages and an 8 hour working day 3) an elected parliament. Soldiers shot and killed hundreds at the palace gates.
  • LTC Poor living and working conditions in cities- life expectancy in the cities was just 30 years old due to unsafe factories and poor sanitation.
  • LTC Huge food shortages and famines- the RJ war helped contribute to the widespread famines on and off since 1891. Anger at lack of aid.
  • LTC High taxes and redemption payments- peasants paid 80% of government taxes
  • LTC Growth of political parties- radical parties were slowly educating and motivating the people
  • LTC Autocracy- reactionary autocracy had all but died out in Europe and the increase in communication with other countries led some to question it.
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The 1905 Revolution

  • A month after Bloody Sunday half a million workers went on strike in protest. By the end of 1905 this had risen to 2.7 million workers. The strikes were effective as they stopped food being delivered to towns and cities.
  • The peasants revolted in the countryside in 'jacqueries', seizing land from nobles illegally.
  • National minorities engaged in widespread protests.
  • In St Petersburg, a soviet was elected by factory workers called the St.Petersburg Soviet. It was dominated by Mensheviks including Leon Trotsky.
  • The Middle Classes became involved in May 1905 when Russia finally lost the Russo-Japanese War.
  • The Army engaged in small scale mutinies such as that of the Battleship Potemkin whose crew killed its officers and then sailed the ship to the port of Odessa.
  • However, the Revolution ultimately failed to overthrow the regime because of 1) the loyalty of the Armed forces and the police (uprisings could be easily suppressed), 2) the support of the aristocracy, 3) the belief that the War was not directly connected to the Tsar, 4) not enough coordination.
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Consequences/Events of the Revolution

  • August 1905- Nicholas II announced the formation of an elected Duma (Parliament) but it had no power to pass Laws, only to advise the Tsar and seeing as the Tsar had the power to dissolve the Duma, they were not very authoritative.
  • On the 17th October Nicholas II published the October Manifesto following advice from Witte. This promised freedom of speech, concience, meeting and association along with the sharing of power with the Duma.
  • The Manifesto worked and spontaneous demonstrations in favour of the Tsar took place in St. Petersburg.
  • The St. Peterburg Soviet was dissolved
  • The December Bolshevik uprising was easily crushed by the armed forces.
  • The manifesto split the opposition; SRs, Bolshes and Menshes were still hostile towards it, the Liberals split to form the Kadets (in favour of a full written constitution) and the Octobrists (felt the manifesto was 'final').
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The Dumas (1906-1914)

Parliament was made up of a lower house (Duma) and an upper house (Council of State). The Upper house was appointed by the Tsar and was full of Tsarist symapathizers.

  • The First Duma (April - June 1906):
  • Made up of Trudoviks, Octobrists, Progressives and Kadets. They demanded that all adult males should have the vote, political prisoners should be released, ministers should be answerable to the Duma and major land reforms.Nicholas refused their demands and dissolved it after just 72 days.
  • Second , Third and Fourth Dumas (1907- 1917):
  • While the second Duma contained some Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, the third and fourth were predominately right wing. The electorate was reduced which made deputies even more conservative. However, they did make some progress; Land Captains were replaced by justices of peace, primary education for all was planned within ten years, political parties were legalised and the Dumas offered a forum for negotiation and debate.
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Repression and reform- Stolypin

After the 1905 Revolution, uprisings were still going on in the countryside and there were increasing numbers of political assassinations SO Stolypin resorted to extremely ruthless measures, introducing a new court system where offenders were rapidly tried and sentenced to hard labour, exile or execution. 'Stolypin's neckties' became the nickname for these courts. By 1908 order was restored BUT he had made the regime very unpopular.

The Russian agricultural system was backward and inefficient. Yields were low compared with other European country, famines were widespread, most peasants survuved on subsistence only and the kulaks were a minority SO Stolypin increased the prosperity of peasants by giving them unconditional right to land without permission from the mir, increased agricultural education to increase yields and sold off vast areas of Crown land to the Peasant Land Bank. Redemption payments ended in1907.

Russia was overpopulated SO Stolypin encouraged emigration to Siberia, offering initiatives. 3 million peasants did so between 1908 and 1913.

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Stolypin's Reforms- How effective?

1) Few peasants could afford to separate from the mir so giving them right to land was not very effective- by 1914 only 25% of peasants had done so.

2) There were millions of hectares of land still owned by the Tsar and the nobility so selling crown land could have gone much further.

3) There was little change in farming techniques so the educational reforms needed to go further.

4) All the reforms did not see much increase in the farming output.


  • Stolypin knew that his reforms were not complete and that they must be developed and continued over many years but he was assassinated in 1911 and then WW1 broke out in 1914 so the long-term effects of the reforms were never felt.
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Early 1914- Germany and Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. Russia was seriously underprepared for war militarily, politically and socially. The War highlighted serious problems with the regime:

1) THE ARMED FORCES: Early enthusiasm was shattered by defeats at Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes in 1914. Conditions were poor; insufficient food supplies and weapons (sometimes 2 men to a rifle). Officers were chosen for their social status not their experience or intelligence. The army was badly disciplined- The Brusilov offensive over 50, 000 soldiers deserted.

2) TRANSPORT: The railways were overloaded by troops and military equipment and by 1916 the Trans Siberian had virtually collapsed. This meant that arms could not be delivered and food went rotten rather than being distributed. Famine.

3) THE ECONOMY: In 1914 the govt. abandoned the gold standard  which led to inflation from printing too many bank notes-peasants started hoarding grain and many of Russia's ports were blockaded making exportation impossible.

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Downfall of the Tsar

September 1915- Tsar appoints himself Commander in Chief of the Armed forces -away from Petrograd for long periods of time and associated with defeat.While he was away government was supervised by Alexandra who changed ministers frquently, causing instability.

Alexandra was German-born and therefore her loyalty was questioned by ministers and the people. Rumoured to pass military secrets to the enemy.

Alexandra was also strongly influenced by Gregory Rasputin, whom she believed could cure her son of haemophilia. She was accused of having an affair with him and the court aristocrats felt threatened by his power. Murdered December 1916.

Nicholas II was forced to recall the Duma after failures in WW1. This Duma repeated the demands of the first (a government answerable to the Duma). Nicholas rejected this so the parties united to form the Progressive Bloc- Zemgor was also set up in 1915 to help industry and provide food. Nicholas was suspicious and refused to work with it.

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Brilliant! You condensed a lot of info without missing out key parts

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