The Nature of Autocratic Rule

  • Created by: Tori
  • Created on: 17-02-20 20:04

Nicholas II and Autocracy

Nicholas II became the Tsar in 1984, an autocrat with sole rule.

He had total power within the Empire.

The Tsar was assisted by the Cabinet, the Senate and the State Council.

 -> However, these bodies had no power independant of the Tsar and were only advisory.

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The Tsar and the Law

The Tsar's power was not constrained by any constitutional checks.

Hence, he was not limited by the laws.

 -> The Russian people had no right to free speech or a fair trial as these would limit the Tsar's power.

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Consequeces of Autocracy

  • The Tsar was able to isolate himself from Russia's issues as he didn't have anyone to be accountable to and his advisors were unwilling to contradict him.

              -> Hence, Nicholas had little understanding of the poverty in Russia or the corruption within the government.

  • Corruption was widespread as government officials claimed to be representatives of the Tsar, thus acted as if they also had absolute power.
  • The Tsar's uninformed policies limited the growth of civil society.

              -> His government outlawed groups like Trade Unions and persecuted religious groups, who would have helped the growth of it.

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The agressive promotion of Russian culture and the forceful supression of other national cultures. (Used between 1894-1905 to try control the Empire).

A responce to the developement of nationalist feelings within various parts of the Empire, which Nicholas believed would ruin it's unity.

            -> In the late 19th century there had been large growth in nationalism in the Ukraine, Finland, Poland and Georgia.


  • The promotion of Russian culture through primary schools.
  • Supression of non-Russian cultures.
  • Establishing Russian language universities (Eg. Lur'ev in Estonia).
  • The imposition of Russia as the official language of government and the justice system of the Baltic states.
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Russification in Finland

Russification had a huge impact on Finland.

In 1899 the govener general in Finland abolished the Finnish legal system and replaced it with the Russian one, also abolishing the Finnish parliament and army.

In 1903 the 'temporary' regulations (introduced in Russia in 1881) were extended to Finland.

              -> Gave the Okhrana wide-ranging powers.

              -> Resulted in widespread unrest. Bobrikov was assasinated in 1904 and the Finns played an active part in the 1905 revolution.

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Consequences of Russification

Ended up being a very detremental set of policies for the Tsar.

Led to backlash among groups who had once  been loyal to the Empire:

  • Cultural prosecution turned the Finns, Armenians and the people of the Baltic against the Tsar.
  • Nationalism in Poland and the Baltic states became a powerful anti-government force, which would later feed into the 1905 revolution.
  • In Russia, nationalism led to anti-Polish, anti-Finnish and anti-Semetic feelings  ->  Led to violence against minority groups living in Russia.
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The Promotion of Orthodoxy

Podedonstev advised the Tsar to promote Orthodoxy as an important part of Russian identity. 

             -> Hence between 1881-1902  people converting to the Orthodox Church doubled.

               -> But, in urban areas there was a decrease in the amount of attending the Orthodox Church.

Between 1894-1902 Nicholas introduced the following measures:

  • There was a 10x increase in church schools, and the numbers of students they taught increased 15x.
  • The number of parish clergy increased by 60%.
  • Missonaries were sent out to the Baltic states where Protestantism was popular.

Promoting Orthodoxy led to the persecution of the other faiths:

  • No other Christian Churches were allowed to convert people.
  • Catholic, Protestant and Islamic schools were closed down and replaced with government-run schools.
  • The government confiscated the property of the Arminian Church.
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Agressive Russification and the promotion of the Orthodox Church led to an increase in anti-Semitism in Russia.

Education) Opportunities for Jewish students was limited by enforced quotas:

  • No more than 10% of university students could be Jewish within The Pale of Jewish Settlement.
  • In major cities these quotas became 3%.

Residency) Restrictions placed on where Jews could live - The May Laws (1882) banned Jews from living in the rural areas until it was finally repealed in 1905.

In some cities (eg. Moscow and Kiev), campaigns were organised to expel Jews from cities.

Violence) Under Nicholas Pogroms increased dramatically (an organised massacre). In 1903 and 1904 there were 49 Pogroms in Russia.

Emigration) Due to the growing violence against them many Jews left Russia, most going to the US or Latin America. The government saw this as a good solution to the 'Jewish problem'.

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The Okhrana

It's aim was to destory subversive organisations, having extensive powers to arrest and infiltrate opposition groups    ->     Had a reputation for being 'all powerful, all knowing and all capable'.

In reality, it was a relatively small organisation with 2,500 agents in 1900. However, it was still effective.    ->     Before 1905 it had infiltrated the leadership of the Social Democrats and the SR's.

Surveillance) They engaged in widespread surveillance and by 1900 they had records on 55,000 people, collections of 5,000 publications by revolutionary groups and 20,000 photographs of suspected radicals.

Unviersity Life) Involved in policing Russia's universities. The University Statue of 1884 included:

  • Banned clubs and societies on university campuses.
  • Emphasised that students should study traditional subjects.
  • Banned women from higher education.
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Okhrana 2 - Sergei Zubatov

Sergei Zubatov became the head of the Moscow Okhrana in 1896 and introduced 'Police Socialism', which included:

  • Investigating worker's complaints about abuses in factories.
  • Provided sick pay and unemployment benefits.
  • Attempted to take control of emerging unions.

Zubatov's pro-worker experiment spread to other Russian cities, however the government didn't like these reforms and they ended the policy and fired Zubatov in 1903.

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