Russia in Revolution 1881-1924



Main Topics

Rusia in Revolution; from autocracy to dictatorship 1881-1924

  • Challenges to the Tsarist State 1881-1906 : Nature of the regime, Economic & social changes, opposition parties, the 1905 revolution
  • Tsarisms Last Choice 1906-17: The Dumas, Stolypin,  impact of the war,  downfall of the Romanovs
  • February to October 1917: The Provisional Government & the Bolshevik coup
  • Holding onto and consolidating power 1918-24: Civil War, changing economic policies, creation of soviet state

Stalin's Russia 1924-1953

  • Struggle for power: making of the new vozd 1924-29, personalities & policies
  • Transforming the soviet union: collectivisation of agriculture & its social & economic impact, 5 year plans, changing social policies
  • Persecution and control: origins & course of purges, culture & the arts in the service of totalitarian regime
  • Making of a superpower: The Great Patriotic War, devastation, war production, victory


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Tsar Nicholas II

  • Nicholas II came to throne in 1894.
  • There were 100,000,000 peasants. Discontent in all classes of society with gov.
  • Autocrat - not elected ->Absolute power. Believed had a divine right to rule, chosen by God
  • Had a council of ministers who ran various gov departments but all reported to Tsar who made all important decisions.
  • Russia so large - 1000's of civil servants, getting things done was slow
  • Civil servants carried out orders passed down to them however wages so low - often bribery & corruption
  • No parliament to represnt views of people, newspapers/books censored, opposition not tolerated,
  • Okhrana (secret police) dealt with anyone critisiced the gov. Spies and agents everywhere.
  • If was strikes/protests/riots, soldiers paticularly the feared Cossacks restored order with great brutality.
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The Orthodox Church

The Orthodox church

  • Surrounded by mysticism & superstition
  • Holy men (Startsy) held in special regard.
  • Closely linked to Tsar & way of ruling. Taught that Tsar also head of the church, Gods chosen representative
  • -> Hence many peasants thought of Tsar as 'little father' special protector.
  • There was a big gap between poor parish priests and rich bishops & higher clergy.
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"Was the Tsar fit to rule Russia?"

  • Kind well meaning person, deep affection for family
  • Did want to bring happiness & prosperity to people
  • Very intelligent, unusual memory, spoke Fench and German
  • People disliked him greatly wanted reform but by revoking it worsened relations.
  • Devoted to wife alexandra and children. Would sooner spend time with family than deal with gov matters.
  • Could also be cruel and merciless.  Would not stand for opposition, always turned to violence. Anti-Jewish encouraged progroms(attacks) against Jewish settlements.
  • Knew very little about people. Did not visit villages/factories, recieved info from a small number of people who were happy to protect him from realities of life in Russia.
  • His wife Alexandra: Very different personality - shy but strong willed, obstinate. Very religous, believed Tsar appointed by God, her duty to support him. In evenings demanded he spend time with family, encouraged him to withdraw from public events to private family world.
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Konstantin Pobedonostsev

  • Was the Governments leading official on religious policy
  • Procurator of the synod - leads all orthodox churches.
  • Tutor to both Nicholas II and Alexander III when they were children. Had an anti-semitic influence, made them oppose democracy.
  • Leading thinker of Russian Conservatism, opponent of political change, supported autocracy
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Alexander II

  • 1855-1881
  • Given title Tsar 'Liberator' for his radical reform
  • Most important reform emancipation of Serfs 1861
  • Creation of elective local government - Zemstva 1864
  • Trial by Jury 1870
  • Creation of armed services
  • Before death was on his way to sign law that would have given Russia is first national assembly
  • Was unwilling to compensate on the principle of autocracy
  • Increasing degree of radical oppression
  • Population increased, famine of 1891 can be blamed on him as built over the years
  • Assasinated by terrorist group 'People's Will' opposed autocratic rule of Tsars.
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Alexander III

  • Had made it known that didnt approve of fathers modernising policies. Launched russia on return to conservatism.
  • Russofication - Wanted a Russian community, everyone to speak Russian, all other languages forbidden in schools
  • Poland and other baltic lands were affected by this.
  • Financial Repression - Increased taxes/tariffs
  • Tried to reach positive trade balance to encourage trade with foreign countries.
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Sergei Witte

  • Minister of Finance 1892-1903
  • Industry grew so quickly known as the 'great spurt'.
  • Gold standard introduced, gave the Rouble a fixed gold content, gave strength when exchanged with other currencies.
  • Believed the modernisation of the economy depended on developing an effective railway system. 
  • Enthusiastic, extraordinary development, can be known as transport revolution.
  • Created trans-siberian railway stretched between Moscow and Vladivostok. Connected remote regions of central & eastern russia to industrial west.
  • Was never fully trusted by Tsarist system - made enemies easily
  • Problem of minority nationalities remained same
  • Russia became too dependent on foreign loans and investments
  • Peasant community known as 'dark masses' were threat and kept in place with severe repression. Witte made no attempt to improve situation
  • Tariffts he introduced resulted in making goods scarcer more expensive
  • Gave priority to heavy industry, neglected vital light engineering areas e.g. machine tool production that would have helped modernise manufacturing.
  • Trans-siberian railway proved to be more of a symbol of Russian enterprise than of any real economic worth. Sections still unfinished
  • Peasants who left the land to work in industrial areas got higer wages but grim conditions
  • The 'great spurt' was down to private enterprise not the gov.
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The Liberal Constitutional Democratic Party, led by Pavel Miliukov

Largest of the liberal parties, most outspoken critics of Tsarist system

Policies - Basic rights of citizens

  • All citizens equal before law, all class distinctions & limitations of personal and property rights should be revoked
  • Every citizien guaranteed freedom of religion
  • Freedom of the press
  • Right to organise unions or societies without permission

Main supporters:

  • Educated professionals, low level white collar workers, petty traders, artisans, shop clerks & some workers and peasants.
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  • Looked to peasants as political basis of future society.
  • Wanted to replace autocraacy with a gov system based on independent peasant communities, very local democracy, make strong central gov fade away
  • Peter Lavrov and Nikolai Chaikovsy were Uni students who wanted undergrads to go out in Russian countryside & gain peasant support - failed as peasants still believed that Tsar had best interests at heart.
  • Some populists arrested / imprisoned
  • in 1879 more radical populists took more extreme tactics. Formed the 'People's Will' aimed to assassinate members of Tsar. - Most nobel victim was Alexander II in 1881
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Social Revolutionaries

Appealed mainly to peasants, because of 'land socialisation' - the transfer of land from private to public ownership.

Opposed the Tsarist regime, wanted to bring all parts of society together. This was because the Tsars believed that the lower classes deserved to be repressed after what happened to Alexander II. However social revolutionaries believed everyone deserved equal opportunities.

The party was made up of different parts, the democratic socialists and the agrarian socialists. Agrarian = agricultural, and democratic meaning people having a right to say how the country is run.

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  • Form one half of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Bolshevik meaning majority because gained a higher amount of votes when party split in two (compared to Mensheviks).
  • Lenin called for a small tightly knit force who would lead revolution on behalf of people.
  • Peaceful, do not resort to violence
  • Follow belief that communism best way forward.
  • Bolsheviks idea = overthrow Tsar, gain power over Russia and its people.
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  • Formed minority of Social Democrat party.
  • Wanted to make their movement less elitist than Bolsheviks in belief it would attract workers & peasants.
  • Less disciplined approach to the revolution than Lenin had proposed. However approach was more open and initially got them more support than Bolsheviks.
  • Slogan used by Mensheviks to attract supports: "Eight hours work, eights hours pay, eights hours sleep and eight bob pay"
  • Skilled philosophers but failed to carry things out even at a basic level.
  • Often disagreements within the party.
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Causes of the 1905 Revolution

Long term

  • Minorities wanted autonomy, end to Russofication
  • Peasants/workers grievances
  • Repressive government
  • Alienated intelligence - middle class liberals wanted to participate in gov, some form of elected national assembly

Mid term

  • War -> food & fuel shortages, unemployment
  • Nicolas II weak opposed to reform
  • Poor harvests 1900 & 1902 -> starvation and violence in countryside
  • Wittes industrialisation policy -> uban workers and peasants high undirect taxes and low wages.

Short term

  • Sunday 22 Jan 1905 Bloody sunday, Tsars troops open fire on peaceful demonstrators led by Father Gapon
  • Russo-Japanse war -> humiliation, had expected easy victory, were defeated. Highlighted weaknesses in leadership.
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Why the Tsar survived the 1905 revolution

  • Different classes did not unite to fight Tsar. so could be dealt with one group at a time.
  • Army remained loyal to tsar, were promised better pay and conditions.
  • Tsar issued October Manifesto promising a parliamet and civil rights, gave many people what they wanted so stopped demonstrating, split groups, made easier for Tsar to regain control
  • Russo-Japanese war ended in Sep 1905 - allowed Tsar to bring troops back to European Russia and use them to put down riots
  • Tsar used brutal force to bring Russia back under control, sent out troops to crush workers peasants and nationalities who still opposed him.
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Did life get better for Russian people after 1905?

Order and control

  • Mof the trouble in the cities had stopped by the end of 1905, but violent disturbances continued in countryside well into 1906
  • Tsar appointed Peter Stolypin as Prime Minister to deal with this - reputation for being tough, set up military courts, could sentence and hang a person on the spot. 1000's executed , hangmans noose became 'stolypins necktie'
  • Okhrana had 1000's informers, everybody had to carry internal passports. Freedom of press guaranteed in 1905 but newspapers often fined for articles offending gov, often newspapers had white gaps where censored.

Changes in Countryside

  • Stolypin introduced reforms to make agriculture more efficient - peasants allowed to buy strips of land from neighbours, set up peasants bank to provide loans for them to do it. Hoped would create new class prospering peasants - Kulaks, who would be loyal to gov
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The Dumas

  • At end of 1905 Tsar gave in to demands of parliament (Duma) elected by the people. But could not pass laws, appoint ministers and could not control finance in important areas eg. defence. Tsar could dissolve it whenever he wished. Elections favoured nobels.
  • However the first two Dumas were very radical, demanded more power and rights for ordinary people freedom to strike, free education, more land given to peasants. Tsar dissolved both dumas after a few weeks,
  • 3rd Duma 1907-1912 Stolypin changed way members were elected to favour gentry & urban rich more-> more conservative. Even so were still critical of gov, some good measures passed on matters to do with army navy and accident insurance for workers.
  • 4th Duma 1912-14 achieved little before war was declared,but atleast Tsar starting to work with it.
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  • Wanted to create a new class of capitalist peasants - Kulaks
  • Encourages them to both buy land and farm with modern methods
  •  Introduced low interest loans so peasants could buy land.
  • Stolypins necktie (noose) - Stolypin was vigilant against opposition, 1444 killed in 1907.

duma - new electoral vote - ended up full of octobrists, if they didnt fully agree with his policies he would rely on decrees.

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Why did Russia enter the first world war?

Short Term

  • Franco-Russian convention  signed 1892- to avoid isolation Russia turned to France. Agreed each partner promised to give military support to other should they go to war with Germany.
  • Assasination of arch-duke ferdinand - In 1914 heir to Austro-Hungarian throne assasinated by Serbian nationalists. Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia -> Russia forced to enter war to protect Serbia.
  • Triple Entente - In 1907 Britain joined alliance between Russia and France. Agreed to stand together if 1 threatened. Two major powers falling into 2 sides: Russia France Britain & Germany Austro-Hungary Turkey.

Long Term

  • United Germany - Under Wilhelm II, adopted more aggresive form of diplomacy. Looked to unite with Austro-Hungary to exert influence over Balkans. This frightened Russia into looking for allies in West.
  • Germanys mobiliation plans - Schlieffen Plan, the idea that in the event of Russian mobilisation Germany would launch a lightening strike on France to defeat them before Russia ready to fight -> avoid 2 front war. Meant once Russia mobilised war was inevitable.
  • Russia's mobiliation plans - Size of russia meant mobilisation huge undertaking - could partially/fully mobilise. Partial against Austria would leave Russia open to German aggression through Poland. Full seen as direct threat to Germany. Nicholas decided full was only option.
  • Austria-Hungary - Unified in 1897. Russia concerned about this new power in Europe. Worried Austria would try to expand in south east Europe.
  • Commercial concern in Balkans - 75% Russias grain export shipped through Straits of the Dardenelles. Therefore vital to ensure no hostile power capable of interrupting passage of Russian ships from Black sea to mediterranean took control of straits.
  • Serbia - Since decline of Ottoman empirem Austro-Hungary wanted to exert influence over Balkans paticularly serbia. Russia saw themselves as 'special defender' of Balkans because of their primarily Slavic population. Vowed to protect them from aggression from Germany & Austro-Hungary.
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Why did WW1 cause problems for the Tsar?

Nicholas II took direct control of army in 1915, wanted to rally nation around him as Tsar. -> Became personally responsible for fate of army.

Growth of railways could not cope with demands of war. Within 2 yrs of war system collapsed. -> Goods piled at stations, food rotted before could be distributed, military could not be resupplied. Moscow & Petrograd recieving under half the amount of grain they needed by 1917.

Despite a few key victories Russia began to lose war, appalling casualty rates -> Early enthusiasm & high morale replaced by pessimism. Ill equipped peasant soldiers began to desert in large numbers. Good news for Bolsheviks who had been weakened by their anti-war stance in 1914.

Russia achieved remarkable financial security by 1914, destroyed by WW1.Between 1914 & 1917 spending rose by 30 mill roubles. Gov borrowed from abroad and put more notes into circulation -> In short term wages paid kept people happy in long term money worthless, inflation. Between 191 & 1916 average earnings doubled food and fuel quadrupled.

Requisitioning of horses & fertilizer by military made difficult for peasants to sustain agricultural output. When inflation hit in 1916 began to keep food for themselves. -> Army first take on supplies, ordinary Russians in city faced hunger. Petrograd 1917 bread rationing 1/4 of what it was in 1914.

Russias army suffered from chronic lack of equipment despite no shortage of resources in Russia -> Due to poor administration between gov departments rsponsible for supplies. Army unable to fight at time b/c of lack of ammunition & poor equipment. Russia given away massive advantage in size & man power over Germany.     

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Petrograd, & Tsar Abdicates

  • Petrograd changed from German name St Petersburg
  • Crowded with war refugees and workers who had migrated to work in war industries
  • Petrograd police dept reporting food shortages might cause a popular uprising.
  • March 8th feminists paraded for freedom and equality, joined by striking male workers began marching & protesting yelling 'give us bread'.
  • Size of demonstration on March 8th inspired larger demonstration march 9th
  • 30% city's workers marched
  • March 10th most of city joined demonstration, red banners 'down with the war'
  • Nicholas recieved news of demonstration believed didnt matter, sent order forbidding any more demonstrations and assemblies. Early sunday morning march 11 posters plastered announcing demonstrations would be dispersed & all those not back at jobs by monday would be conscripted into military sent to front.
  • Crowds tore down warnings. In afternoon military unit The Pavlovski Guard fired into group of demonstrators. killing 40/50 wounding others.
  • Soldiers in Petrograd were in 30's and 40's, draftees or reservists uhapp about indignities suffering in military.
  • Monday morning soldiers who opposed shooting civilians begain shooting officers instead, officers fled.
  • City-wide citizens council formed, the Russian word for council = soviet
  • Deputies chosen from city's factory and military units
  • Petrodgrad soviet of workers and soldiers deputies
  • Nicholas II began to travel to Petrograd to fix things but train halted by hostile soldiers telling him no one would support him in army
  • Railway men refusing to operate trains to carry military units to capital. Gave up and abdicated claiming this was to prevent civil war. Spoke of passing monarchy to son but changed his mind claiming did not want his frail son exposed to dangers of political turmoil.
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July Days

Originated from the failed 'June Offensive' a failed offensive against Germany & Austro-Hungary. Lead to many desertions from army, starting point of collapse for Russian Army.

Significant for Lenin - he was in fierce opposition of war, could take advantage of humiliation & weakened PG by planning to take power.

3rd July disillusioned workers from Petrograg factories took to street protesting about PG.

Clear these protests were orchestrated and stimulated by Bolsheviks (Lenin) however workers were only disillusioned not outraged enough to cause real revolution.

Because Bolsheviks were in a minority in the Soviet, many other political parties appealed with success to stop protesting. Did stop temporarily

4th July Bolsheviks rounded up support in new Petrograd factories, got 50,000 people rioting outside Tauride palace. Lack of communication -> no order to invade palace, crowd dispersed.

5th July PG restored order by sending soldiers from front into Petrograd.

6th July heavily armed greatly equipped soldiers surrounded Bolshevik HQ arrested 500 members, highly wanted Lenin had already fled to Finland in disguise.

Outcome: July days almost finished the Bolsheviks because of the failed attempted replica of February revolution. United the gov & Soviet, Lenin accused of being a spy & treason.

Impacted the PG to extent that it caused mutiny similarly to Feb rev, undermined their position. Only the Bolsheviks organisational failure allowed them to be overthrown.

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Land Question

Who should own the land? It was debated whether land should belong to aristocratic landlords or peasant who worked on it.

Problems that existed regarding the land:

  • Much debate & violence due to indecision. Aristocratic landlords becameincredibly wealthy b/c of Alexander II abolishing Serfdom. -> Land debate more heated, peasants had to pay for freedom and to work on land. -> Narodniki terrorist group gained great support from peasants, destroyed aristrocrat homes & businesses & assassinated Tsar.

What the Gov did:

  • 1901 Socialist Revolution Party founded, called for agrarian socialism. Were the largest party throughout 1917,  before and after October Rev. But the PG lacked ability to impose authority outside towns and cities. Most of Russian countryside had no effective gov at all.

Bolsheviks took advantage:

  • Lenin realised to gain peasant support had to resolve land issues. First Bolshevik decrees, made the day after the Oct rev, calling for an end to WW1 & gave land to peasant soviets.
  • However after gaining support from peasants Lenin introduced new policy War Communism stated that: grain surpluses seized from peasants, anyone caught withholding grain liable to be shot, terror,slave labour and seize of both goods and grains by state permitted, steep decline in use of money, replaced by state organised rationing.
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really useful, thanks :)

Shwan Agha


this is brilliant!



very useful,, put they whole years worth of lessons into 23 slides :)



slide 14 - what are the short term causes? other than that very helpful thanks :)






Thanksssss :)

Eric Ifere


Thank you very much. It was very helpful



This was very helpful thank you. How do i scroll down on the slides please??

The Steffalo Grump


Really good, well done :)

Rehman Raza





top kek

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