Russian Rulers 1855-1964

Alexander II (1855-81)

A.K.A.:‘The Tsar Liberator’

Start: Took over as Russia was losing the Crimean War. Forced to make peace.

Main events:

Reform– emancipation of the serfs in 1861, improvements to local govt., military, legal system, education, economy. 

But increasing liberal freedom => increasing opposition

Reaction– following 1866 assassination attempt. Repression of opponents.

End: 1881 assassinatedby the terrorist group the ‘People’s Will’

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Alexander III (1881-94)

Start: Father assassinated

Main events:

1881 passed Statute of State Security – increased repression

Russification programme – including pogroms against Jews

1891 terrible famine

1892 appointed Sergei Witte finance minister to modernise economy

End: died prematurely of kidney disease (aged 49)

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Nicholas II (1894-1917)

Start: Coronation stampede for free gifts – 1,389 killed. Nicholas attended a ball that evening with German fiancée, Alexandra. 

Main Events:

Economic reform under Witte and PM Stolypin

1904-5 Russo-Japanese War

1905 Revolution – disaster averted with October Manifesto, Duma created

1906 Fundamental Laws restated primacy of Tsar

1914 – took Russia into WWI

1915 – took personal control of army, leaving Alexandra in charge of domestic affairs

End: 1917 – Abdicated on the advice of his Duma during the February revolution 

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The Provisional Government (March – Oct 1917)

Start: Intended to be temporary until elections for a Constituent Assembly

Main events:

Ended censorship and freed political prisoners

Postponed elections until war won

In April, opposition to war forced PG to form a coalition with Petrograd Soviet

June – major war offensive failed

July – Kerensky made PM.  

August– defeated Kornilov’s March using support of Petrograd Soviet (right wing) defeated by a general strike

End: October – Bolsheviks seized power


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Lenin (Oct 1917-24)

Start: three big problems: WW1, internal opposition, how to deliver communism

Main events:

March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

Censorship introduced, Cheka established

1917-22 Civil War– Red Army finally won 

War Communism

1921 famineKronstadt rebellion

1921 New Economic Policy replaced War Communism

End: Incapacitated from 1922 after a series of strokes. Died 1924.


-Didn’t believein ‘factionalism’ 

-War Communism - NEP


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Stalin (1928-53)

Start: Defeated rivals in Politburo

Main Events:

Adopted Lenin’s legacy

Repression – the ‘Great Terror’: purges, NKVD (secret police), show trial, gulags

Industrialisation– Five Year Plans

Collectivisation of agriculture, dekulakisation

WW2 – invaded by Germany. Russia narrowly avoided defeat.

Postwar– reconstruction of Russia, entrenched Russian dominance of Eastern Europe and developed Cold War strategies including nuclear

End: Died at home. May have been murder or natural causes. Public displays of grief.

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Khrushchev (1956-64)

Start: Defeated rivals in a power struggle

Main Events:

Virgin Landcampaign

Destalinisation– beginning with 1956 ‘Secret Speech’ at 20th Party Congress

Some political prisoners released, Gulags used less

1956 crushed Hungarian Uprising

Central economic planning continued, though attempted to develop light and consumer industries

Cold War crises: Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear arms race, space race (Sputnik I 1957)

End: Forced to retire by Brezhnev. Lived comfortably on pension until death 1971, kept from public view

-Relaxation ofthe terrors of Stalin

-Relaxation results in uprising

-Wants to prove to the West that the Soviet that they are the most advanced 

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