The collapse of autocracy 1894-1917 AQA 1H


Nicholas II as a ruler

-Nicholas II was determined to rule as 'his father had done', yet he proved incapable of making firm decisions or providing any sense of direction.

-The new Tsar relied on the army and Okhrana to deal with challenges to his authority.

-There was increasingly widespread unrest in both towns and the countryside as the Tsarist government appeared to offer no prospect of change.

-In 1903, the Tsar, who was easily influenced, dismissed his most competent adviser, Sergei Witte, leaving himself surrounded by reactionary ministers. While peasants suffering from land hunger destroyed nobles' barns, industrial workers formed illegal trade unions and became involved in strikes.

-In St Petersburg in 1904, an official union, was formed by Father Gapon, and supported by the government, in order to prevent workers joining the radical socialists.

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Russo-Japanese war 1905

-In January 1904, the Japanese attacked the Russian naval base at Port Arthur in the Far East.
-Plehve called for a short, victorious war which would distract attention from political unrest at home.
-In March 1904, Russian forces were defeated at Mukden, with 90,000 Russians killed.
-In May 1904, 24 out of 27 ships of the Russian fleet were sunk in the Battle of Tsushima.
-In December 1904, Russia surrendered the naval base at Port Arthur.
-These defeats turned initial anti-Japanese patriotism into discontent and opposition to the government.

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Bloody sunday/1905 revolution

-3rd January: Outbreak of a strike at the Putilov works in St Petersburg, which soon involved 150,000 workers.
-9th January: Father Gapon led a peaceful march of about 20,000 workers to the Winter Palace, with a petition demanding improved working conditions and political reform. Troops fired on the marchers, leading to over a hundred deaths. Nicholas II later told the workers' representatives that they had been misguided and should return to work.
-4th February: Grand Duke of Russia and uncle of Nicholas was assassinated.
-March: An union of railway workers was formed and soviets of elected factory workers were formed to co-ordinate strikes.

-June: Naval mutiny on the naval ship Potemkin. In Odessa, the authorities tried to disperse sympathetic crowds, killing more than 2,000.
-August: Peasants union formed after riots.
-6th August: Nicholas promised a restricted State Duma, which revolutionaries regarded as too weak.

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October manifesto

-Issued by the tsar in 1905, it attempted to quiet strikes and local revolts.

-It promised freedom of speech and assembly and called the Dums into session

-Most liberals (eg. the Kadets, Progressives and the Octobrists) accepted it

-The Socialist revolutionaires (SR's) and Social democratics (SD's) rejected it

-Workers were unconvinced by the Tsar and continued to support the SR's and SD's

-Peasant uprisings continued, especially with the hopes of land redistribution

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First Duma

May-June 1906

-Was dominated by kadets and radicals

-Demanded constitutional change 

-Passed a vote of no confidence and was dissolved

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Second Duma

February-June 1907

-Stolypin (the new PM) engineered elections to increase the number of Octobrists

-It opposed most Tsarist proposals, including agricultual reform

-It was dissolved and the leading radicals were exiled

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Third Duma

November 1907- June 1912

-Stolypin introduced a new emergency law to reduce the representation of peasants and workers

- Consequently, Octobrists and Conservatives dominated, and the Duma was more compliant

-However, there were still some dispues with the Tsar and it was twice suspended

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Fourth Duma

November 1912-1917

-The right and left wing deputies could not co-operate and the fourth duma was increasingly ignored

-It voted for war credits in 1914 but was suspended in 1915 for after demanding more power

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Liberal opposition

-Industrial and educational expansion produced a middle class that was seeking liberal change

-Main support came from lawyers, doctors, teachers and other professional groups

-They were joined politically by more liberal members of the nobility 

-Liberal priorites were civil rights and a State Duma which would initiate and pass laws

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Zemstva opposition

-The liberals were strongly represented in the Zemstva. Many of them were professionals (often experts in education, health or law) who were highly critical of autocracy.

-Alexander IIl's introduction of Land Captains in 1889 to remove complaining Zemstva members and overrule Zemstva decisions only increased their opposition.

-The government's inability to co-ordinate famine relief (1891-92), which the Zemstva were left to provide, exemplified Tsarist incompetence.

-However, when the Zemstvo of Tver petitioned Nicholas II for a national Duma in 1895, this was dismissed as a 'senseless dream'. An attempted 'All-Zemstva Organisation' (1896) was also banned

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Liberal ideas and ideology

-The liberal opposition had limited political influence before 1905 but were mostly won over by the October Manifesto and the establishment of a Duma.

-They were largely represented by the Kadets who favoured a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary government, full civil rights, the compulsory redistribution of the nobles' estates and the legal settlement of industrial disputes.

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The Tsar and the liberals

-The liberals tried to co-operate, through the Duma, with the Tsarist government but were frustrated by the increasing intransigence of the Tsar and his advisers.

-A number of Kadet leaders were arrested after the dissolution of the first Duma in 1906.

-After dissolving the second Duma in 1907, the Tsarist government altered the franchise so that the electorate was reduced in size.

-The Tsar increasingly ignored or overruled the Dumas, resorting to emergency powers to pass the laws he wanted.

-There was little semblance of constitutional monarchy by 1914.

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Radical opposition/Socialist ideal in the countrys

-By 1894, after the repression under Alexander III, the populist ideal of a peasant based Russia seemed far off

-However, the famine in 1891-92 led to a revivial in the idea of rural socialism

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SR party in opposition

-The SR (socialist revolutionary party) was established in 1901

-It combined Marxism with the belief in land redistribuion

-CHernov edited the party journal, 'Revolutionary Russia', and called on both peasants and urban workers to challenge autocracy

-The SR's carried out 2000 political assassinations from 1901-05 and in 1911, they assassinated Stolypin

-Over 2000 SR's were executed

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SD party in opposition

-Marxist ideas gained more support as industrialisaion increased and the urban WC grew in size

-In 1883, Plekhanov established the first Russian Marxist association, the emancipation of Labour, in Geneva

-It smuggled marxist literature into Russia and encouraged urban workers to collaborate with the bourgeoisie to overthrow Tsardom/the Romanov dynasty

-Plekhanov believed attempts to rouse the peasantry were futile, as marxism attracted an educated following, incl Vladimir Ulyanov- LENIN, from 1901

-Lenin had been attracted to Marxism when he was a student in St Petersburg. He met Plekhanov in 1895 but was arrested and exiled to Siberia until 1900

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Political impact of WWI

-The Zemstva resented their loss of authority when they were doing more for medical relief than the government

-Local and national industries assumed responsibility for supplies in the absence of Tsarist action. This encouraged political ambitions.

-The Zemstva and Duma accused the government of incompetence, pointing for example to the futility of the alcohol ban as peasants brewed their own

-In August 1915, Kadets, Octobrists and Progressives in the Duma formed the 'Progressive bloc', demanding a change of ministers and constitutional reform. They effectively demanded a constitutional monarchy in which the Tsar would genuinely share power. The Tsar suspended the Duma.

-On 23 August 1915, the Tsar took over as commander-in-chief of the armed forces despite his lack of military experience. Although the government mobilised about 15 million men between 1914 and 1917, it was unable to provide sufficient clothing or suitable weapons for them.

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Political impact of WWI continued...

- Nicholas was held responsible for the failure of the Brusilov offensive June-August 1916).

-A lack of trained officers and Russia's underdeveloped railway network contributed to the defeat, which sapped morale and provoked desertions

-Tsarina Alexandra (a German and intenselyunpopular) and Rasputin assumed much influence over government and political appointments in Nicholas' absence

-Rumours spread that they were sabotaging the Russian war effort and confidence in the regime fell. The President of the fourth Duma, which reconvened in February 1916, warned Nicholas but he did not respond

-Rasputin was assassinated by Prince Yusupov in December 1916

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Economic and social impact of WWI

-(E)The war drained Russia. Costs rose from 1,500 million roubles in 1914 to 14,500 million by 1918, while production slumped as workers and peasants were conscripted to fight

-(E)Industrial capacity was lost as Poland and western Russia were overrun by the Germans and naval blockades ended Russia's Baltic and Black Sea trade.

-(E)There were vital distribution inefficiencies, partly due to the inadequate railway system, which was disrupted by fuel shortages, but also because railways were prioritised for soldiers and military supplies, leaving food for civilians to rot in railway sidings

-(S)Peasants made the situation worse by hoarding grain because there was nothing to buy, while workers suffered unemployment as non-military factories were forced to close due to lack of raw materials.

-(S)Petrograd in particular, where there was a 300 per cent rise in the cost of living, saw an escalation of strikes.

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February revolution 1917

-Began on March 8th 1917, when riots and strikes over the scarcity of erupt in Petrograd

-One week later, centuries of tsarist rule in Russia ended with the abdication of Nicholas II (15th March 1917) and Russia took a dramatic step closer toward communist revolution

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Russia and the Provisional government

-After the Tsar's abdication, Russia was left with the provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet.

-The Soviet agreed to accept the demonstrated in Petrograd provisional Government's authority until a constituent assembly could be elected to draw up a new constitution, this arrangement was known as the dual authority or dual power.

-Prince Lvov became prime minister with a government comprising mainly liberal Octobrists and Kadets.

-Kerensky, who sat on the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet, was the only socialist in the new government.

-The Petrograd Soviet mainly comprised radicals by striking workers and
especially SRs and Mensheviks, and acted as a "guardian' of the rights of workers and soldiers

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Declining support for the Provisional government

The Provisional Government promised and the Soviet accept:

-civil liberties, an amnesty for political prisoners, the abolition of capital punishment and exile and the appointment of independent judges

-However, the Provisional Government and the Sovet disagreed on many issues. E.g. the conduct of war; peasants right to take over land and the formation of soldiers

-The Provisional Government continued to fight the war, which led to mass public demonstrations and resignations. Meanwhile in the countryside, peasants took the law into their own hands and seized land.

-In the cities, prices rose, real wages fell and food supplies were chaotic

-By the summer of 1917, the provisional government had very little support left

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