Alexander II (1855-81)
A.K.A.:‘The Tsar Liberator’
Start: Took over as Russia was losing the Crimean War. Forced to make peace.
•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’
Alexander III (1881-94)
Start: Father assassinated
•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)
Nicholas II (1894-1917)
Start: Coronation stampede for free gifts – 1,389 killed. Nicholas attended a ball that evening with German fiancée, Alexandra.
•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
The Provisional Government (March – Oct 1917)
Start: Intended to be temporary until elections for a Constituent Assembly
•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
Lenin (Oct 1917-24)
Start: three big problems: WW1, internal opposition, how to deliver communism
•March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
•Censorship introduced, Cheka established
•1917-22 Civil War– Red Army finally won
•1921 famine, Kronstadt 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
Start: Defeated rivals in Politburo
•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.
Start: Defeated rivals in a power struggle
•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