Nicholas II

  • Created by: Louise
  • Created on: 20-04-13 20:26

Nicholas II

  • His inaugral speech of 1894 offered little hope to the LIBERALS. "Uphold the principle of autocracy"
  • Nicholas II was no tyrant although he had been brought up (pobedonovstev) to take his duties as a ruler seriously
  • Alexander III thought of him as "girlie" and weak
  • Nicholas had excellent manners and a good memory, but was not a pratical man and politics bored him
  • He supposedly wasn't prepared to become tsar. However he did accept his inheritence as god given
  • He set out to rule in the "Romanov way" asserting himself against the demands of the growing reform movement 
1 of 27

Opposition Groups : Populists

Who? - Upperclass, middleclass and Russian intelligentsia

Ideas - Believed that the future of Russia lay in peasantry. Need to otherthrow Tsar. Attempt to educate peasantry in the 1870's, was a failed campaign. Populists wre divided over methods, terrorism or politics?

Impact, threat? - Revolution based on peasants unrealistic. Populists divided and discredited after Alex II assassination.(People's will) Repressed. Movement declined after 1881. But they established revolutionary tradition in Russia and methods influential.

2 of 27

Opposition Groups: Social Revolutionaries

Who? - Party established in 1901 (Chernov) Grew out of populist movement. Grew out of social and political changes of the "great spurt. 

Ideas - Accepted marxist ideas and combined with populist ideas. Based on populism but appeal broadened to include emerging working class. They put forward the view that the interests of peasants and workers were identical "labouring poor". Focus on autocracy and land redistribution. Peasantry and working class were a revolutionary force. Divded over methods, moderate and terrorist wing

Impact / Threat? - Terrorist wing dominated before 1905 revolution, series of assassinations. Didn't have desired effect as they were infiltrated by the secret police. But SR attratced revolutionary youth. Most popular of revolutionary groups

3 of 27

Opposition Groups: Social Democrats

Who?  - Marxists. Workers organisation, illegal trade unions. Emancipation of labour formed in 1883. 1902 - Lenin developed party futher with Martov. 

Ideas - Commited to Marxism. Reliant on growing working class (proliteriat) to otherthrow Tsar. Excited by the changes brought about by industrialisation. SD's split into Bolsheviks - tight knit, professional revolutionaries. Mensheviks - a broad organisation with a mass working class membership. Open to all revolutionaries.

Impact/ Threat? - Social Democrats influential due to capitalist phase emerging in Russia in 1890s. But the progress of Marxism was slwo. Continued argument and rivalry about nature organisation and timing of revolution. Small groups operated in St Petersburg, no real threat. Played little role in 1905 revolution, caught by suprise.

4 of 27

Opposition Groups: Liberals

Who? - No single liberal party - 1903 Union of liberation under Struve. Progressive middle class created by Alex II reforms. National minorities.

Ideas - Wanted reform (peaceful evolution). NOT revolution. Wanted political and social reforms of Tsarisr systm. Wanted modernisation of Russia.National minorities wanted increased independance.

Impact/ Threat? - Lacked unity and rirection. Little achieved before autocracy put under pressure by events of 1905. But popular with progressive middle classes and "modernises"

5 of 27

How much of a threat were opposition by 1905?

  • Most dangerous left group were SOCIAL REVOLUTIONARIES
  • They modified populist ideas to reach beyond agrarian concerns and to build up a broader membership.
  • They were responsible for assassinations of senior ministers.
  • They seemed a "party of action" as opposd to the Marxists who semed to maintain a party of theory and factiom.
  • The ideas of Karl Marx made relatively slow progress. 
  • They only advanced due to the efforts of Plekhanov and the Emancipation of Labour
  • Russian censors helped it to develop as they allowed the publication of Das Kapital
  • Small cells operated in Moscow, St Petserburg, and Kiev - can only be given importance with hindsight
  • They rejected the use of terrorism (at this stage) and concentrated instead on industrial agitation and propaganda
6 of 27

Why was there a Revolution in 1905?

  • Bloody Sunday 9th January 1905
  • Russo - Japanese War 1904-1905
  • Tsarist Repression
  • Worker and Peasant Resentment
7 of 27

Russo - Japanese War 1904-5

  • The Russians had very little idea of their enemy or the inadequacies of their own forces. A sries of defeats turned the inital patriotism into opposition to the government. 
  • There were renewed cries for a national assemblyand meetings of Zemstva representatives were allowed. But Nicholas was not prepared to agree to a representative form of government.
  • Dec 1904 - Port Arthur surrened to Japansese
  • War had only worsened the economic and social postion of the peasantry and industrial workers - created shortages and rised prices
  • 3rd Jan - Strike began at the putilov Ironworks in St Petersburg which son involved 150,000 workers. 
  • Father Gapon to whose union many of the workers beloged to organsied a peaceful march to present a petition to the Tsar.
  • Gapon was warned to call off the march but went ahead and planned it for Sunday 9th January
8 of 27

Bloody Sunday - 9th January 1905

  • Nicholas himself was away from the city. The authorities had drafted 12,000 troops as a precaution so the situation was very tense.
  • On Sunday morning around 15,000 unarmed workers marched towards the square outside the winterpalace. Charged by cavalry and were shot at. 
  • At Triotiskaya Square guards fired into crowds.
  • Government reported 76 dead, 233 wounded. Actual figures 100 dead, 800 wounded.
  • The event was a turning point in the downfall of the autocracy.
  • It sparked an outbreak of rebellion which spread through the peasantry and military. People of all groups and people began to express their frustrations
9 of 27

Tsarist Repression

  • Nicholas II carried on Alex III's reactionary policies and Russification of minorities. The period of 1894 onwards however was marked out as one of serious unrest fulled by repression and the results of the terrible famine in 1891. 
  • The countryside was volatile with peasant uprisings and brutal reprisals as its worst in Central Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland. Stolypin dalt ferociously with the unrest. Peasants were flogged arrested and exiled or executed in their thousands. Unrest also appeared in the cities amongst students.
  • It was not just the repressive nature of the regime which caused anger,it was also its incompetence. Its refusal to democratise and its poor handling of 1801 famine caused many to question the wisdom of the Tsar and his ministers. This famine was followed by others, caused by Russias drive to export grain. There seemed a clear link betweeen national disaster and government policy
10 of 27

Worker and Peasant Resentment

Unrest about the results of industrialisation. Working class hadn't experienced any benefits:

  • Working and living conditions in St Petersburg were horrendous.Discipline was rigidly enforced in the factories. 
  • Strikes became more frequent despite banning trade unions. 90,000 strikes in 1904. Cioties became hotbeads of revolutionary activity.

In the Countryside things were worse:

  • Less than 1/3 of peasants were literate and average life expectancy was under 40. Farming was primitiv and the Mir (commune) had power over the villagers. Discipline was also enforced by Land Captains. There was a shortage of land as well as food
  • Riots and arson were commonplace. Houses of nobility became a target for peasants.
11 of 27

Revolution and Counter-Revolution

  • By October 1905, Russian Empire was on the brink of collapse. There were Stikes, Peasant Uprsings and demands from national minorities.
  • Nicholas II associated with the Union of Russian people which organised groups (Black Hundreds) to beat up protestors and Jews. He however didn't gt involved and assumed the government would be able to reassert control soon.
  • Strikes becam more organised and militant. A St Petersburg soviet was set up (mensheviks) to direct a General Strike
  • October 17th - Tsar signed a decree promising Constitutional reform after being waned the country was on the verge of revolution. Constitutional reform included granting Freedom of speech, Formation of a Duma (elected parliment) that had a large say in legislation.
  • There were celebrations, talk of the birth of a "New Russia", General Strike called off
  • However "real radicals" (Trotsky and Lenin) were far from convinced and attempted to get workers to fight on.
  • Nicholas II had no intention of becoming a constitutional monarch, no real commitment to his promises. 
  • Unrest and violence continued and counter revolution set in. Troops were sent to force strikers back to work and Jews suffered in terrible pogroms.
12 of 27

1905 Revolution - Events

Jan 1905  - 9th, Bloody Sunday

Feb 1905 - 4th, Tsars unkle assisnated by SD's

April 1905 - Russian union of railway workers established

May 1905 - Union of unions set up

July 1905 - Spread of peasant unrest

Sep 1905 - Wave of strikes

Oct 1905 - General strike St Petersburg, 17th - Oct Manifesto pledging constiution

Nov 1905 - Trotsky takes over St Petersburg Soviet

Dec 1905 - 11th New electoral passed indirect male sufferage, 19th - last remnants of moscow revolt crushed

13 of 27

How was the regime able to survive 1905?

Weaknessed of the opposition

  • No united opposition, Each group had its own aims liberal m/c had little in common with working class and peasants (SDs and SRs)
  • peasants had little co-ordination resorted to traditional riot tactics
  • the army stayed loyal to regime. Allowed Tsar to reassert authority

Consessions by the regime

  • October 1905 - Tsar turned from repression and issued Oct Manifesto promising civil rights and the formation of a duma, but there were critics (Trotsky) were claimed a constitution didn't limit autocracy and was a liberal facade.
  • Redemptive fees for peasants were cancelled

Repression by the authorities

  • Arrest of leaders of St Petersburg Soviet, Rebellion in Moscow brutally crushed
  • Black Hundreds used against reformists
  • Counter revolution a long term policy under stolypin
  • Sucessfully cut violence against the regime
14 of 27

The new constitution

Lower Chamber - (State Duma) members elected under a system of indirect voting. Heavily in favour of nobility and pesantry (allies) . Deputies elected for a five year term.

Upper Chamber - (State Council) half elected by Zemstva half appointed by Tsar. Noble representatives. 

The Two Chambers had equal legislative power, all legislation had to recieve approval of the Tsar. Any of the three bodies could veto legislation. 

Goverment - (Council of Ministers) Appointed exculsively by the Tsar.

Fundamental laws - Tsar Nicholas II issued: Tsar has supreme autocratic power that is ordained by God. No legislation without Tsar approval. Tsar may rule by emergency decree, Tsar may dissolve the Duma.

Claims of Tsar - He was the sole power to declare war and control foreign relations. Control over Orthodox Church. Complete control over military expenditure. Control to command overland and overseas forces.

15 of 27

Era of the Dumas

First Duma - (Duma of National Hopes) May-July 1906

  • No extremist revolutionary groups. dominated by radical liberals as well as peasantry representatives (due to indirect voting) 
  • Hostile towards the Tsar and his government which was reciprocated due to Conservative PM - Goremykin. 
  • Immediately passed an Address to the throne which called for political amnesty, land reform, increased Duma power and universal male suffrage. Rejected by Tsar. 
  • Tsar dissolved Duma (lasted only 73 days) conservative PM replaced by Stolypin

Second Duma - (Duma of National Anger) February-June 1907

  • A transfer of influence from centre to the extremes. 
  • Even more opposed to the government than the first Duma and resulted in three months of continuous uproar. Neither left or right wanted Duma to suceed let to it being crippled as a political force
  • Blocked Stolypins agrarian reforms so he had to resort to emergency powers. 
  • It only served to anger the government which in 1907 made a new electoral law, the weight of peasant and workers was lessened and nobility given more say.
16 of 27

Era of the Dumas

The Third Duma - (Duma of Lords and Lackeys) November 1907 - June 1912

  • Dominated by political government, socialist seats reduced considerably.
  • Was much more submissive, yes men,  passes 2,200 of 2,500 government proposals
  • Generally compliant to the government but proved confrontation on occasion. By 1911, the government had to force through measures by emergency powers. 
  • Some achievments - passed compulsary health insurance for industrial workers and helped improve primary education

The Fourth Duma  - November 1912-1917

  • Ignored, almost no parliment due to lack of impact, they were irrelevant
  • Similar composition to Third Duma although more divide between Right and Left. 
  • Docile, too divided to be a real threat to the government. 
  • Very little action or achievment, largely ignored by government so its influence declined, too divided to put up any real opposition. 
17 of 27

Did the Dumas represent a real political advance?


  • Created a forum for political debate within Russia (previously non-existent)
  • Political groups were allowed (Previously banned)
  • Dumas helped give way to some political relaxation. Aswell as political discussion, criticism of government was allowed in the press.
  • Dumas had helped to pass through some reform in Russia. (Health Insurance and Education Reforms)


  • Duma had very little real power and could be dissolved by the Tsar (This happened frequently when they proved hostile to the government). 
  • Dumas were manipulated by the government (Indirect Voting System)
  • Many of the reforms passed had been the ideas of Stolypin and the government so cannot be credited to the Duma
  • Duma was resented by the Tsar and his ministers. It was a lost opputunity for the government to move towards western democracy. By 1914 the population was becoming increasingly restless.
18 of 27

How succesful were the Dumas in restoring Stabilit


  • The government successful in making the Dumas docile (3rd and 4th) It became a rubber stamp and allowed Stolypin to pass a series of reform to help save the regime. 
  • The Tsar kept a limit on the Dumas power to work for the regime rather than against. Tsar did not have to give much power away in order to allow himself the oppurtunity to stabalise the regime, he was quick to crush the Duma when it showed opposition. 
  • The Duma showed to the population that Russia was on the right lines to progressing towards a western democracy. The regime now allowed political groups and debate. The 1906 constitution and the Duma gave the regime an oppurtunity to evolve
  • Duma allowed the regime to stablise and pass influence away from the lower classes to the traditional ruling class (1907 electorate law, indirect voting that favoured nobility)


  • Both the 1906 constitution and the Duma were seen as a liberal facade by extremists
  • Docile nature of the Duma and its lack of power made more enemies for the regime - increasing violent action, strikes.
  • The Dumas gave the regime an opportunity to evolve but it wasn't taken. Autocracy remained as seen by the dissolution of the Dumas and the manipulation of electoral laws. Government relied on emergency powers to pass legislation. 
19 of 27

Why did Stolypin Embark on Land Reform


  • Stolypin recognised industrialisation itself was not enough to solve the dilemma of how to feed a fast growing population.
  • The peasantry had become impoverished after 1861 emancipation. They were still tied to the ineffiecient mir and had to pay high redemptive payments to the government.
  • A much improved agricultural system would help create surplus goods. |hese could then be exported and the profits used to stimulate industry.
  • There had been a series of bad harvests in Russian agriculture including the infamous famines during 1891 and 1897 Evidence of the poor state of agriculture
  • He hoped that his reforms would create a new class fo rich peasant - The Kulak who would help drive agricultural production forward


  • Stolypin hoped land reform would help win back the Peasants as a traditional ally of the government.
  • Stoylpin hoped that a rural upper class would be created - the Kulaks. This new class would thank the regime for their newly found wealth by supporting the Tsar and help stablilize the coutryside.
  • The increase of food production would help decrease resentment (and revolutionary aims) among the industtial working class.
20 of 27

Stolypins land reforms

Stoylpin introduced a series of reforms in the countryside betweeen 1906-1910:

  • 1906 - The amount of state land available for peasants to buy was increased
  • Peasants were granted ewual rights in their local administratioj
  • Crucially peasants were allowed to leave the Mir and its authority was reduced. Inefficient communes were dissolved
  • Those that left the communes were allowed to consolidate their land together and so abandon the antiquate ***** system that had been used for centries.
  • Peasants were given hereditary rights to their land rather than collective ownership
  • A special Peasants land bank was created ti help enterprising peasants fund their ownership of land
  • In 1907 the government agreed to end redemptive payments
  • Finally in 1910 the government increased subsidies to peasants who migrated to siberia, hoping to encourage farming in that area.
21 of 27

How succesful were the land reforms (Economic)



  • land transfers and helped the development of larger farns, Poor peasants were encouraged to sell their land to richer ones.
  • Peasant ownership of land grew and by 1915 was 50% of all land.
  • Peasants were encouraged to leave the Mir, (20% did)
  • Government resettlement programme in Siberia proved very sucessful, this helped it become a more agricultural region
  • There was a little progress in farming methods(only 10% moved beyond ***** system) - more modern machinery and fertilisers were used 


  • Economic - improvements were slow -peasants were conservative. Only 10% had moved to more modern farming as peasats were unsure of new methods. Majority of peasants chose to stay in collective security of the Mir, rather than risk independant farming. 
22 of 27

How successful were the land reforms (Political)

Politically the land reforms were largely a failure


  • The reforms weakened the regimes support in the countryside. 
  • Stoylpin by placing his hopes on the emergence of a Kulak class actually made peasants poorer
  • Only 1% achieved Kulak status, hardship in the countryside increased turning the peasantry against the regime
  • Many peasants began to migrate to the citis to work
  • Living standards varied but a large proprtion of peasants were still turned down for military service
  • Mortality rates were higher and he average life expectancy was lower (30 in Russia, 41 in Britain)
23 of 27

Stolypins other reforms

He concentrated on agriculture but other reforms were carried out by Stolypin, either with the help of the Dumas or without them with mergency measures

  • In 1908 a series of education reforms were carried out which increased the number of schools
  • Zemstva doubled its expenditure on halth, poor relief and agricultural advice
  • Compulsary health insurance was granted for all industrial workers.

Stolypin was prevented from futher reform by the Tsar and his more reactionary ministers. His attempted to braing about religious toleration for the Jews were blocked as were increased rights for non-Russian minorities. Thus his effectiveness was limited.

Stolypin was assassinatd by a member of the SRs in Oct 1911 giving the Tsar the oppurtunity to give the post of Prime minister to a more obediant and less reformist man. 

24 of 27


Industrialisation had begun under Alex III. 2 key ministers of finance:

  • Vshnegradsky (1887-1892) Sacked due to impact of Great Famine (1891 - 350,000 dead) - Implied link to government policy of exporting grain
  • Witte (1892-1903) Aim of Economic Mondernisation, to secure Russia a "Great Power" Status, to create competion for jobs, raise living standards and avert revolution. "Wittes Gamble"(Method) State Capitalism (From above because no m/c)

How Industrialise?

  • W Railways - To open up for trade and exploitation of raw materials (oil, grain, coal)
  •  I Investment - Foreign Investment in oil, banking and mining. France was the major investor due to the Franco-Russian pact, France had lended Russia investment money
  • The New Rouble - New currency, backed by gold in 1897, gives confidence to foreign investors. 
  • T Taxes - Indirect, VAT
  • E  Economic Protectionism - Tariffs on foreign imports, to protect Russian industry from foreign competition. 
25 of 27


(How succesful were the Russian governments in promoting economic change and modernisation between 1891 and 1914?)


  •  Massive expansions 
  • Key to underpin mondernisation  - opened up Russian raw materials for industrialisation and trade
  • Driven by Witte - By 1905 State owned 66% of railways
  • Impressive Growth 0 1905 60,000 km of railway
  • 2nd only to USA
  • Transiberian Railways


  • Growth rate slowed down 1908-1913
  • Russia although 2nd still significantly behind USA
26 of 27

Wittes drive for industrialisation

(How succesful were the Russian governments in promoting economic change and modernisation between 1891 and 1914?)



  • Development of industry - e.g St Petersburg, Putilov Iron works - 87% of all coal
  • Heavy industry stimulated railways
  • Russia - highest growth rate of all countries
  • Massiv increase in exports
  • 1879 - Russia 4th largest industrial power


  • Bulk of export trade was still grain
  • Reliance on foreign investment
  • Social cost - Rapid and unplanned growth led to terrible living standards and disease
  • Neglect of agriculture, when still 88% of population
27 of 27





Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Russia - 19th and 20th century resources »