Russian Rulers: Nikolai II 1894-1917

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1905 Revolution

Growing opposition from Octobrists, Populists, Kadets, Bolsheviks & Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. Father Gapon led peaceful march 22nd January, 200 killed, 'Bloody Sunday.'

Effects: Strikes, Plehve assassinated, workers formed Soviets - Army & Navy mutinies > Battleship Potemkin, went to Odessa to join strikers but Tsar killed thousands, ship sailed away to Romania & returned ship - an example of failure of 'revolution' - more a rebellion?

Tsar's Response: 1905 Witte re-employed > September, peace with Japan; October, October Manifesto: Freedom of Speech, trade unions, a legislative Duma; November, peasant mortgages reduced then abolished but city workers arrested, burnt & killed - repression.

April 1906 Fundamental Laws > Tsar had power to veto laws - Duma had no real power.

Witte forced to resign (too powerful?) - By 1906, autocracy no longer under threat.

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Russo-Japanese War 1904-5

A huge national embarrassment - worsened 1905 Revolution?

Causes: 1. A distraction from internal problems - Russia thought it would be an easy win. 2. Russian desire to expand - needed ice-free ports! 3. Disagreement over Korean influence - who's in charge?

Events: Land battle at Manchuria - 85,000 Russians killed, 41,000 Japanese killed. August - September 1905 Peace of Portsmouth, Russia had to compensate Japan, lost Port Arthur, lost rights & leases to territory including railways.

Effects: 1.Plehve became a national hate figure - assassinated. 2. National humiliation - given Russia's size in comparison to Japan, it should have been easy to win. 3. Worsened 1905 Revolution - another thing about which to be unhappy.

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World War 1

A really bad war for Russia. 

Events: Arms Race 1912-14, Russia tried (built ships & dreadnaughts etc.) but still behind West, Russian Army was backward despite 1908 reforms & industrialisation - tactically naive. August 1914 Battles at Tanenburg & Massurian Lakes, Germany won both, 230,000 Russian killed > an example of how backward the Russian army were! November 1914 Turkey joined war, blockaded Russia > 'shell shortage' - used 45,000 shells per day, produced only 13,000.

Duma reinstated July 1915 - Nikolai elsewhere & unable to run country >  'Progressive Block' formed, comprising Kadets & Octobrists - tried to advise Tsar (unsuccessfully).

Tsar's image worsened by his absence - left 'that German woman,' the Tsarina in charge > she had an unhealthy relationship with the influential Rasputin, who was killed by a large group of aristocrats - it didn't help that she was German, the people against whom the Russians fought.

February 1917 Russia out of Tsar's control. 25th February strike, soldiers rebuked > Tsar tried to dissolve Duma > 12 of the provisional govt. said no - represented Tsar's loss of power.

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4 Dumi:

1. April-June 1906, Lower Chamber elected via Universal Manhood Suffrage over age of 25, but not soldiers. Tsar appointed Upper Chamber, who had the power to veto any law. Tsar shut it down & because of Vyborg appeal - 200 SRs and Kadets opened Finnish govt.

2. February-June 1907, unsurprisingly less Kadets, more SRs & Sds, dissolved by Tsar.

3. November 1907-June 1912, significantly more right wing, peasants & workers denied right to vote, did create school for the poor.

4. November 1912, very right wing, dissolved itself at WW1's beginning.

Conclusion: Tsar clearly wasn't against the idea of a Duma - pursued on/off for 6 years BUT it had to be on his terms - 3rd Duma significantly more right wing than others & survived nearly 5 years, dissolved it at any threat to his autocracy - Vyborg appeal. BUT Nikolai was clearly secure within his autocracy - allowed Duma to meet, but was confident enough to dissolve it without revolution.

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Under influence of Pobedonostsev, continued policy of Russification.


  • 1890s became more open.
  • Baltic Germans, Poles, Fins, Armenians & Ukrainians were slightly harsher treated.


  • Coninuation & intensification.
  • 'Black Hundreds' emerged - a group of conservative nationalist, encouraged by Tsar to beat the Jews.
  • Formation of ghettoes & pogroms common.
  • Led to emigration & a growing Jewish Identity > Socialism (as identified by Hitler) > 1897 Jewish Bund formed.
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1906 Stolypin became President of the Council of Ministers: 'Suppression first; then, and only then, reform.' Very Conservative.

'The Rural Crisis:' Serfs unhappy, growing town populations, bad famines 1891 & 1897 > 1906 cancelled Serf mortgages to try and appease Serfs.

1906 Agricultural Refoms:

  • from strip farming > to larger, fence enclosed fields.
  • peasants needed money > created the Land Bank, to create prosperous farmers who could sell their goods (but this would be a lengthy process) - hampered by his assassination in 1911 & WW1 in 1914. 1913 only 10% modernised - a failure.
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Industry: Railways & Output


1893, 20,000 miles of track - 1913, 45,000 miles of track (more than doubled.)

Trans-Siberian Railway constructed between 1891 and 1902, 3,750 miles. Purpose to 'encourage migration across Russia' - failed; a symbol of Russian progress & industrialisation - so it wasn't really useful, particularly as there were large sections missing!


  • CPIO: Coal x5, Pig Iron x4, Oil x3
  • Grain x2
  • Twice UK's output, BUT started from a low base, and there was a 'worldwide boom.'
  • Problems? 4/5 Russians were still peasants, Light Industry & Agriculture seemingly ignored, Russia was dependent on foreign investment > recession 1900-1907 - no foreign investment, population explosion > 1890 100million people, 1913 150million people > overcrowding in cities, poor conditions.
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Industry: Sergei Witte

Minister of Finance 1892-1903 (briefly in 1905.)

1890's Witte's Great Spurt. Exploitation of Coal from Ukraine & Oil from Caucasus > rapid industrialisation of heavy industry.

State Capitalism (equation!) = govt. control + private enterprise + foreign investment.

In order to 'leapfrog' Western countries, Witte invited foreign experts from France, Belgium, Sweden & Britain for advice on heavy industry.

Raised taxes & increased tariffs on foreign goods to attract foreign investment. > 1897 Russia became part of the Gold Standard > Increased the value of the Rubel > Russian goods became more expensive.

While this was good for greater Russia, the people were no better off than they had been previously.

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1917 Revolution


  • Economics: 1914 came off Gold Standard, Alcohol ban for 2 years > tax revenues very steeply declined, 1916 cost of War - had risen fourfold, printed more money > inflation at 400%.
  • Population increase: Petrograd & Moscow increased by 25% 1913-1917 (result of industrialisation & freedom to travel? Exodus from countryside perhaps), those in countryside refused to sell as much grain > starvation (led to unhappiness!)
  • Politics: Nikolai thought he could be more autocratic, Rasputin seen as too influential, Duma recalled 1915 & had been visibly more involved with the People than the Tsar.
  • Protests: Led to a growth in support? February 22nd the cold weather ended, people went to streets to protest > Cossacks (had been super loyal) refused to fire on protesters > led to mutinies e.g. Kronstadt Mutiny


  • Nikolai forced to abdicate > left no govt.
  • Provisional govt. February - November in power.
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