Russia 1917-1939 Unit 4 GCSE History-Weakness of government

revision cards


The economy

  • Russia was rich in natural resources, but made less from these resources than much smaller countries.
  • Farming was the main help to the economy. However, old fashioned farming methods and bad weather never made enough money for new machinery, etc.
  • Natural resources and cheap labour encouraged foreigners to set up new industries and businesses in the Russian Empire-foreigners took profits, and Russia had to borrow lots of money from richer countries such as France.
  • There was an extremly uneven distribution of wealth-from wageless peasants to nobles.
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Distance and Communication

  • Roads were often impassable and even by the new Trans-Siberian railway (2400km from St Petersburg to Urals), it still took weeks to cross the country.
  • It was a huge country; its empire took up 1/6 of the world. It was twice the size of the USA.
  • It stretched from West Europe to East Asia, and from the North artic ocean to Afghanistan in the south.
  • Languages, varieties of landscape, vegetation and climate made communication ven more difficult.
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A 'backward' society

  • It was as if it was medieval; over 80% of the population were peasants.
  • Most agricultural land was in poor quality and the peasants had a hard time feeding the growing population.
  • There were many food shortages and lots of starvation; millions died in the winter of 1891-2.
  • Social classes:
    • Ruling-royals and the government-0.5%
    • Upper class-nobles, church leaders and top civil servants and military officers-12%
    • Commercial- bankers, etc-1.5%
    • Working- 4%
    • Peasants-farmers-82%
    • Only 11% of adults could write, and 2% went to school in 1881, the lowest of most European countries.
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Variety of peoples

  • The population of the empire was 125,000,000, and less than half were Russian, they were outnumbered by lots of Ukrainians and Poles-over 100 different nationalities.
  • Russians were also vastly outnumbered by people speaking different languages, wearing different clothes and having differently coloured skin.
  • Russia did not feel like one nation.
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The threat of revolution

  • 1891-92: Famine in Volga region-Lenin, who lived there at the time, refused to do anything to help victims, trying to force more peasants to leave the countryside and move to places like St. Petersburg and Moscow, where the terrible conditions would turn them against the Tsar.
  • In St. Petersburg, he and other revolutionaries like Nadezhola Krupskaga, ran classes to teach former peasants how to read and write, to spread revolutionary ideas.
  • Lenin was arrested in 1895 for trying to send workers into strike, and after a year, was sent into exile in Siberia from 1897-1900.
  • The Liberals-most moderate, wanted a democracy.
  • Social Revolutionary Party-wanted land to be shared by oeasants who farmed it, not landowners.
  • Social Democratic Part-Communist-1903, split into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
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