Unit 2 Section A: Russia 1914-24

Russia: From Tsardom to Communism

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  • Created by: Phoebe
  • Created on: 05-05-12 15:02

Why was Russia so difficult to govern?

  • The empire was huge, and communications were poor
  • 150 million people, 172 ethnic groups to govern with different languages
  • People hated being ruled by Tsar, and called it "the prison of nations"
  • Old fashioned and "backwards" - in 1914 in still used the Roman calendar when most other nations used the Gregorian Calendar, so it was out of sync 
  • In most of Russia there was no modern transport system, and most roads were primitive mud tracks
  • Railway track did not come close to satisfying transport needs
  • MASSIVE gap between the rich and the poor. 4/5 of people were penniless peasants
  • Economy was technologically backwards and mainly based on subsistence farming and despite this the countryside was regularly swept by famine
  • After 1900 there were signs of industrialisation - but the early years were very problematic, as large numbers of peasants migrated into Russia's new towns only to find poverty, overcrowding, pollution and poor working conditions in factories
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Structure of Russian Society

Tsar - autocratic ruler

Nobility - governors


(persuaded people that the Tsar had been chosen by God)

Okhrana (army) 

kept control of people using violence

Middle Class


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The Government of Tsar Nicholas II


  • It was the belief that he had the divine right to rule - that he had been "chosen" by God
  • He and his wife were totally committed to Russia, loved the country and served it loyally
  • He was a kind, loving family man
  • He had a quick mind and learnt easily


  • Nicholas II was an autocrat - he made the rules, there was no government
  • His rule was enforced at a local level by councils called zemstvos
  • He used his Okrahna to keep the people under control
  • The Orthodox Church was closely linked to the Tsar and supported his way of ruling - many of the peasants and workers were taught to see the Tsar as their "little father"
  • As a ruler, he was quite weak, out of touch, foolish and indecisive - generally quite unsuited for the job as he didn't know enough about his country
  • Media was censored, as opposition to the Tsar was not tolerated
  • Nicholas was very anti semetic, and encouraged violence against Jews
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Opposition - Socialist Revolutionaries


  • Get rid of the Tsar and his government
  • Give all land to peasants for farming in communes and form thousands of peasant communities

Supported by: Peasants


  • Propaganda encouraging revolution
  • Violent terroist acts intended to collapse the government
  • Killed seven important governmet officials
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Opposition - Social Democrats (Mensheviks)


  • Overthrow the Tsar and create a Socialist State

Supported by: Workers in cities and large towns, and students

1903 - Party split over tactic they thought would bring about revolution.


  • Party should be mass organisation which everyone could join
  • Mass party would grow until it eventually took power
  • Would work with other groups like trade unions to improve wages and working conditions
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Opposition - Social Democrats (Bolsheviks)


  • Party should be a small, secret, tightly disciplined group of professional revolutionaries who would seize power when the time was right
  • Large parties could be infiltrated by spies - instead, revolutionary cells of 3-4 people organised strikes and demonstrations
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Opposition - Liberals


  • Free elections and a parliament to run the country
  • The Tsar to be a consitutional monarch like the one in England
  • Cvil rights - freedom of speech, worship and conscience

Supported by:

  • Middle and Educated classes (teachers, doctors, lawyers and some industrialists
  • Some members of the gentry

Tactics: Meetings, speeches, discussions, publishing articles and books calling for change

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Causes of the 1905 Revolution - Long Term

  • Economic Problems
  • Tsar would not share his power
  • Poor harvests, industrial slump
  • Poor working conditions - workers wanted higher wages and shorter hours
  • Poor living conditions - land was divided up
  • Russia too big to rule
  • Russia too divided to function
  • Disunited - too many different faiths and languages
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Causes of the 1905 Revolution - Short Term

  • Rising oppositions - Socialist Revolutionaries, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Liberals
  • 1905-05: Russia defeated in war with Japan
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Causes of the 1905 Revolution - The Trigger

  • 22nd January 1905
  • 200,000 people marched in St Petersburg
  • March was peaceful, and led by a priest
  • Marchers were spimply asking Tsar to improve working conditions
  • Children were also marching


  • Tsar ordered troops to shoot marchers, and around 1000 people were killed
  • This day came to be known as "Bloody Sunday"
  • Bloody Sunday triggered the 1905 Revolution
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1905 Revolution Timeline

  • January: Revolution triggered by Bloody Sunday
  • February: Strikes spread to other cities. Grand Duke Sergei assasinated
  • March-May: Tsar blamed for losing Japanese War. Demands made for better government. Sailors on battleships mutinied, which worried government - could other sections of army follow?
  • May-June: Other social groups demanded change - middle class liberals wanted an elected parliament, freedom of speech, the right to form political parties etc. National groups (Poles and Finns) demanded independence, and Jews wanted civil rights
  • June-July: Peasant riots became widespread. Land was seized and landowners houses were LOCKED AND BURNT
  • September: Peace Treaty with Japan signed. Soldiers now free to stop unrest, and as Tsar paid well and promised better conditions, they remained loyal to him
  • October: ALL opposing groups unite demanding change. 
  • 26th October: St Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies formed. Reps meet to coordinate strike action. Soviets formed in other cities = GREAT threat to Tsar's government
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The October Manifesto

30th October: Tsar had to choose whether to give in to rebels or use force. He gave in, and issued the October Manifesto, which promised:

  • a parliament (Duma elected by people)
  • civil rights (freedom of speech and conscience etc)
  • uncensored media and rights to form political parties

So the Liberals and Middle Class believed they had won democracy, stopped all protests and supported the government.

December: With all the troops back in Russia, the Tsar decided to take back control. He used force to close down the St Peterburg Soviet and crush an armed uprising in Moscow. He sent out troops to take revenge on workers and peasants who had rioted and bring them back under control.

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1905-1914: Did life improve?


  • Economy improved and increased in output
  • Peasants bank set up to provide loans for farmland
  • Production of grain increased
  • Industrialisation improved


  • Stolypin was appointed to deal with violence. Thousands were hung
  • Dumas were dissolved after a few weeks for being too "radical"
  • Vast majority of country still poor 
  • Working and living conditions still poor
  • Okhrana still active
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  • Came from remote village
  • Claimed to have "healing powers", and allegedly cured the Tsar's son, Alexis, of haemophilia. 
  • Apparently a sex maniac who was ALWAYS drunk
  • Had a lot of influence over the Tsarina, who had influence over the Tsar
  • Rasputin was not popular with the public, and all this gossip had a negative effect on the already unstable Royal Family.
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Steps to Revolution 1914-1917

1. Effects of the War on soldiers:

  • 8 million wounded, injured or taken prisoner by March 1914
  • Around 25% of army deserted
  • Lack of basic equipment, transportation and food etc
  • Loss of morale :- loss of faith in Tsar
  • Bad leadership by officers, who were unfeeling and ineffective
  • Spectacular defeats

2. Effects of the War on Russians at home:

  • Male peasants had been drafted into army :- food shortages
  • Coal and industrial materials were short :- factories closed :- unemployment
  • Shortages meant that people were cold AND hungry 
  • Prices rose BUT wages didn't, even though hours were made longer
  • MORE war casualties - more morale loss
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Steps to Revolution 1914-1917

3. Turning point - a terrible mistake

  • September 1915: Tsar took over running of war and went to "the front-line" himself
  • This meant he was blamed for war defeats
  • Tsarina Alexandria left in charge - she was mistrusted due to her German background
  • Tsarina had a close relationship with Rasputin, which lead to further collapse of her reputation
  • Tsarina didn't work with the Duma, and replaced able ministers with friends of Rasputin's who did what they were told
  • Incompetent ministers were changed so frequently nobody organised food, fuel and other supplies for the city
  • Railway system fell to chaos and train loads of food were left rotting in the sidings
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Steps to Revolution 1914-1917

4. Losing support

  • The middle and upper class of society and even the aristocracy began to lose faith in the monarchy
  • They disliked the Tsarina, hated Rasputin and blamed the Tsar for their problems
  • 1916 was a bad winter
  • Railway lines iced up
  • Hardly any food or fuel reached Petrograd
  • Prices rocketed
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Steps to Revolution 1914-1917

5. The Revolution Begins

  • The workers wanted political changes as well as food and fuel
  • 7th March: 40,00 workers from the Putilov engineering works went on strike for higher wages
  • 8th March: International Women's Day - thousands of women joined strikers in demonstrations all over the city
  • In the two days that followed, thousands of people joined in demanding food, fuel, better conditions and a new government
  • The Tsar ordered the demonstrations to be put down by force
  • Rodzianko (Duma leader) sent telegram saying situation was at breaking point
  • Tsar ignored this message, and didn't take any notice
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Steps to Revolution 1914-1917

6. The army takes sides:

12th March:

  • Soldiers in Petrograd refused to fire on crowds
  • Some regiments shot their officers and joined demonstrations
  • They had had enough of the war and the way they were treated
  • This made the 1917 demonstrations different to any that had previously occurred
  • Army and people marched to the Duma to demand that it take control of the government
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Steps to Revolution 1914-1917


  • Nicholas II tried to get back to Petrograd, but it was too late
  • Railway workers refused to let his train into the city
  • 15th, on this train, the Tsar decided to abdicate in favour of his brother, Michael
  • But the people had had enough of the royal family once and for all
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Why was the Tsar forced to abdicate in March 1917

Long term causes:

  • Russia large and difficult to govern
  • Poor communications
  • Lots of different languages and nationalities
  • Rubbish Tsar
  • Class division
  • Wealth division
  • Economic backwardness
  • Bad industry
  • Political opposition
  • Russo-Japanese war FAILED
  • 1905 revolution
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Why was the Tsar forced to abdicate in March 1917

Short term causes:

  • Anger over Rasputin
  • Bad winter of 1916
  • Morale low, people hungry
  • Inflation and lack of food and fuel
  • Royal family lose support among wealthy and influential
  • Tsarina left in charge: Rasputin changed ministers, nothing got done, so no food etc
  • Failure to deliver promises in October Manifesto
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Why was the Tsar forced to abdicate in March 1917


  • Soldiers abandon Tsar and join protestors
  • Loss of support of the Duma
  • Protests in March 1917
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Miss E

Very useful set of revision cards dealing with Russia from the background of Tsar Nicholas II up to the revolution in 1917. Easy to read and use.


thank yo for this very easy to read revision cards! Very interesting to read as it is colourful

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