1.1.01 Nature of Gov- Autocracy



  • Russia was an autocracy from 1855 to Mar 1917. 3 key aspects to autocracy:
  • Tsars only accountable to God, and not people = no need for democratic elections
  • Tsars divine right, had to set moral standards for the people, and had paternalistic duty for the people. 
  • Autocracy was practical necessity due to geographical size. Pobedonostev (tutor and Holy Synod 1880) said a liberal democracy would be disastrous for Russia. Democracy would lead to power being in the hands of those who did not have 'the ability to reason' aka Peasants
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Similarities under Tsars- (NI), A2, A3, N2

Nicholas I 1825-1855 slogan = 'Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality' (orthodox church, auto = complete obedience to the tsar and nationality- united under Rus traditions) and Fundamental Laws 1832 stating that tsar = unlimited and autocratic monarch

Alexander II 1855-1881 despite being the Tsar Liberator, stuck closely to autocratic principles, especially post-1866 assassination attempt. Still compensated land owners in 1861 EoS

Alexander III 1881-1894 blamed A2's liberalism for assassination in 1881. Manifesto of 1881 reaffirmed autocracy

Nicholas II 1894-1917 did concede October Manifesto 1905 + allow Dumas to exist, however the 1906 Fundamental Laws reaffirmed autocratic power - "The emperor possesses the supreme autocratic power"

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Change in Tsarist Ideology

  • A2 before 1866, did implement a string of reforms eg abolishing serfdom, one of the mainstays of autocratic power and ways of maintaining social control, reformed education system in 1863, formed the Zemstva in 1864, and changed the legal processes
  • A3, HOWEVER, much more repressive / reactionary form of autocracy. Made the Okhrana into a proper secret police in 1881 and started russification 
  • N2 followed same vein as A3 however, big constitutional change was introduced in 1905 with FIRST EVER DUMA which lasted until 1917, but powers reduced severely over the years. Was reluctantly made and 1906 Fundamental Laws reaffirmed autocratic rule. Stolypin (Pri Min 1906-1911) 's necktie = further clamping down on opposition


Tsars never made concessions with intention of reducing their power, although they did use their autocratic power differently according to their circumstances

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