Russia 1917-1939

The collapse of the Tsarist regime 1917

• The nature of Tsarist rule.

• The impact of the First World War.

• The fall of the Tsar and the establishment of the Provisional Government


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Why was the Tsar so Unpopular?

Autocrat - Nicholas II was an autocratic ruler meaning that the Tsar was above the law and alone made the decisions for Russia.

Fear and Intimidation - They used this to remove any opposition to autocracy e.g. exile or prison (Perker and Paul Fortress). They did this through the Secret Police - Okhrana.

Most of the country's weath and land was owned by a small nobel class. The church taught the Tsar must be obeyed.

Peasant villages were controlled by the 'mir' - a local council who interfered in everyone's buisness and had the power to decide whether a peasnant was allowed to own or rent land.

The growth of industry meant there was a large working population in the towns - but conditions in the towns were cramped and the workers badly paid.

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In 1905 Russia was defeated in a war with Japan.

This led to strikes and demonstrations - on 'Bloody Sunday' troops fired into a crowd oof peaceful demonstrators in St. Petersburg. There was nearly a popular revolution.

Orthodoxy - Nicholas II supported and upheld autocracy by teaching the God given position of Tsar.

Church and state joined

Nationality - 3rd pillar of Tsarist rule. Tsars role in the protection of the Russian Empire.

The Russian Empire owned 1/6 of all land by 1914.

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Problems in Russia 1917


  • Tsar not allowing Duma to run properly due to desire to maintain auocracy (1906 Fundamental Laws passed to re-assert some autocracy)
  • Duma not allowed to function e.g. Duma is dissolved in 1904-1914
  • Increase in political tention and an increase of opposition from Duma because Duma not  allowed to furfill role in government
  • New ideas forming to question autocracy and increase political opposition which isn't legal - terrorist activities
  • No active desire for change or recognition of tentions by Tsar.


  • Russia economically backwards. Too dependant on agricaulture and peasantry. Small proportion of industrialised towns
  • Large progress in transport and
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Social - Peasants

  • Peasant unrest - discontent over land ownership of elites. Believe 'He who works the land owns the land.' Peasants are begining to seize the land of the elites by force by 1914.
  • Beginning of questioning the Tsar/ministers.
  • Peasants felt bitter towards the nobles or aristocracy and their generally extravigant lifestyle.
  • Peasants lived in very poor conditions and if harvests were poor there were many cases of starvation and disease.
  • A population growth of 50% between 1860 and 1897 brought greater competition for land and even smaller peasant plots
  • The peasants unhappiness was a threat towars the Tsar because of their oerwhelming numbers.
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Social - Industrial Workers (Proletriat)

Wittle began industrialisation in Russia. by 1914 rapid pace of industrialisation  -however, still backward. Creation of industrial class living in cities (will be open to new ideas)

Problems with rapid industrialisation:

  • Overcrowding, poor living and working conditions
  • Low wages and long hours
  • Poor hygine = increase in disease
  • Decrease in food supply
  • Alcoholism
  • Discipline - harsh in factories. Working class going against factory owners
  • Creates unrest and strikes e.g. 1917 Lena Goldsfield. State reation to strikes are to crush them and support factory owners (villafes martial rule
  • Decrease in trust, law and order
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Politial groups that oposed the Tsar

The Social Democratic Party

  • founded in 1901
  • followed teachings of Karl Marx
  • believed that the workers would one day stage a revolution and remove the Tsar and that the revolution would lead to the setting up of a Communist State
  • 1903, the party splits into two - Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
  • Mensheviks (led by Julius martov and Leon Trotsky) believed party should have mass memebership and were prepared for slow change
  • Bolsheviks (led by Valadimir Lenin) believed that a smally party elite should organise the revolution.
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The Socialist Revolutionsaries (SRs)

  • founded in 1901
  • believed in a revolution of the peasants and aimed to get rid of the Tsar
  • wanted to share all land among the peasant, so that it could be farmed in small peasant communities,
  • Mixture of beliefs in party: some wanted to use terror to achieve thei aimes and others were prepared to use consitiutional methods.
  • Terrosrist activity by SR members led to the deaths of thousands of government officials in the years before 1817.
  • Alexander Kerensky eventually led the SRs
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The consitiutional Democratic Party (Cadets)

  • founded in 1905
  • Democratic styled
  • The cadets wanted to have a constitutional monarch and an elected parliment - as in Britain - though some were prepared to set up a republic.
  • Led by  Paul Milyukov

The Octobrists

  • founded in October 1905
  • Set up after Tsar issued his October Manifesto
  • followers believed the Tsar would carry out his manifesto promises of limited reform
  • main area of support came from the middle classes
  • led by Alexander Guchkov
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Growing Opposition to the Tsar 1917

Opposition from masses

--> popular

Peasants: feel cheated by Tsar over land ownership Weathly still own a high percentage of land). Decrease in food and increase in disease. Rioting and siezing land. 4 out of 5 people were peasants

Industrial Workers: overcrowding, slums bad hygine, increase in disease. Long hours, little pay. Harsh discipline. (1905 petition of Father Gapon) Stikes (1912-Lena Godfiels) by 1917 regular strike action.

Response: Force - army and secret police - to crush opposition. Stolypin necktie (post 1905)

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Political Opposition

Duma: Want more power and involvement but Tsar keep dissolving them. Appetite whetted -1905 --> increase frustration. IMpact FWW - FWW increased opposition from Duma because Nicholas II away at front line ans Tsarina and Rasputin (dies 1916) influence over ministerial appointment --> Duma view the ministers as corrupt and incompetent.

Resputin: increase popular and political questioning of Tsar - limits Tsar corruption and dispute. Seem to have control over government and appointment of ministers. Prince Yusopur killed Rasputin as concerned Royal circles damage Rasputin is doing to Tsar's image and power.

Revolutionary opposition = fundamental change = End of Tsarism  

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Bolshevik Party

 Ideas/ideology based on marxism. Marxism - economic change in Russia is inevitable. New ideas - repression/end of state. Bourgeosie (nobles and elites) exploit the proletariat (workers)

Lenin leader of Bolsheviks:  Believes in 2 in 1 revolution - Remove Tsar and overthrow Borgeoisie capitalists --> society ruled by people (equality)

Why in 1917 is this populated: Workers discontented and feeling exploited increases in 1917 and Bolsheviks represent your interests. Equality popular. Marx doctvine - inevitble it is going to happen. War increases problems.

Limitations: Only appeal to workers  - not majority (peasants). Lenin fringe of power and underground movement - State vs Bolsheviks

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Impact of First World War

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Problems by 1917


  • Rasputin is ruling while the Tsar is at the frontline but Rsaputin is unnefective.
  • Rasputin and his advisers are incompetant and the Tsarina dismisses capable ministers
  • Duma reassembles as discontent wih how the Tsarina and his ministers are ruling
  • The Tsar is informed of the Duma's wish but won't allow it. Duma discontented. Tsar has lost support of political parities.
  • Rasputin murdured due to angry, hostile and defiant opposition but not just from political parties but the elites too.
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Economic Problems:

  • 15 million men serving in army - ecomonic demands e.g. weapons.
  • Germany was Russia's main trading partner - decrease 40% in trade.
  • Inflation increases, wages decrease, taxation increases, food decreases and out put of consumer goods decrease by 215%.
  • Shortages of iron, coal and steel.

Social Problems

  • Shortages of weapons and armour for soldiers
  • 400,000 soldiers killed in 1st month
  • desertions - part of army unreliable
  • Workers wages decreases and food decreases. Harvest down 30%
  • Untrained facorty workers
  • Strikes
  • Woman 70% agricultural work
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Cloimate January 1917 Petrograd


  • Price rise
  • Lack of consumer goods
  • shortages
  • demanding change - STRIKES


  • Against conscription
  • Demanding change - refusing to co-operate with Tsar


  • Active opposition to Tsar
  • Demand new government
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February 1917 - Revolution

Why was there a revolution in Feb 1917?

  • Widespread popular and political discontent
  • Failure of Tsarr to limit his autocracy and his isolation on the front line
  • War failing and increase in discontent
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  • 23rd Feb 1917 - International Women's day - Strikes by women - 100,000 protest
  • 24th 200,000 protest
  • 25th 200,000 protest
  • 26th everyone strikes

Uncontrolable, threatening strikes. Tsar gets warmed but stays/remains ignorant -> no comprehension. People new formation of government

Petrograd Garrison (soldiers barrak) - mutiny. Significance: Tirn against Tsar who needs army to reassert order and keep fighting. 75,000 soldiers join in strikes

Abdication of Nicholas II - March 1917. Nicholas tried to return to Petrograd but couldn't so decided to abdicate

Grand Duke doesn't want dictatorship - end of Roman Dynasty

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Why Feb/March 1917?

1) Political unrest:

  • Duma - prgressive block
  • Lack of faith in ministers (corrupt)
  • Active opposition
  • Tsar at front and maintaining autocracy - not listening to Duma

2) Strikes and popular discontent

  • Food decreasing
  • Shortages
  • Strikes
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Key Features of the Government of Russia under Tsa

1) Autocracy - attempt to rule without parliment/sole ruler divine right

2) Duma (progessive block) and political opposition (revolutionaries, corruption ministers) - demand change ( BY 1917 the Duma and masses are questioning autocracy

3) Populating decreases and discontent increases (strikes) - conditions, shortages.

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The Provisional Goverment

Members: elitists - all wealthy, tradition, experience in political parties e.g. liberl/Cadet or local covernment (narrow range) (mostly from moderate parties - not extremists on either side)

Aims: The aim of the Provisional Government was to create a country of national unity. It had 8 aims:

  • Amnesy for Political prisoners. Democratic move to release political prisoners however all oppositions parties are frees e.g. Trotsky (Bolshecik). - increase in political meetings, increase in opposition/critical newspapers (500 different pamphlets- 27 million of each printed). Open critism to government however liberal
  • Freedom of speech. Liberal, realising sensorship of Tsarism. -> new opinions
  • Abolition of privileges. Removing privaleges from elites - aim for equality and to please the masses.


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  • Preparations for a Consitutional Assembly which would be elected on a wide franchise.  Provisional government is temporaty and has not been elected. Democratic process - creation of elected parliment wide franchise 'chose by the people. Attempt to involve masses in politics.
  • Abolition of police units. Abolistion of Secret POlice - against Tsarism.
  • Local elections with a wide franchise.  Representation, democracy and numbers of people who can vote increase.
  • All military units would keep their weapons and not have to go to the front.
  • Military discipline. Russia still fighting war against Germany and therefore need military discipline.
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this is amazing thank you very much :3


Negatives: Some spelling errors and some sentences hard to understand 

Positives: Really good, the perfect time for the test coming up (1917-1939) and key facts taken from the textbook

Thanks :)

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