Why did Tsarist regime collapse in 1917?

The main features of Tsarist rule and Russian society before the First World War; The 1905 Revolution and its aftermath, Attempts at reform, The First World War and its impact on the Russian people.


Key Questions

  • How well did the Tsarist regime deal with the difficulties of ruling Russia up to 1914?
  • How did the Tsar survive the 1905 revolution?
  • How far was the Tsar weakened by the First World War?
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Problems with ruling Russia

Geography - Very Large, Multiple time zones, Different climates, borders many different countries including powerful China.

Population 124 million - Lots of different nationalities (varying loyalty), different cultures and different languages.

Resources - Great resources but "locked in" by the size of the country and extreme climate. Much land was unsuitable for farming. Not an even spread of industry - clustered, and bad transport.

Living Conditions - Life expectancy of peasants was 40. No rules and regulations in industry and the working classes were crowded, many people moved to city in hope of a better life. Led to strikes and demonstrations.

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Problems with ruling Russia

Peasants - 80% of Russians were peasants. !.5% were aristocracy but owned 25% of the land so were resented by peasants. "Freeing of the serfs" left the both the peasants and the aristocracy unsatisfied. Aristocracy soon spent the compensation money though peasants were left with huge mortgages and less land than they expected.

Education - Not basic education. 1914 only 30% of peasants were literate due to the Tsar's policy to keep them ignorant.

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The Tsar

Tsar Nicholas II

Strengths:Hard working, Attention to detail, strong police force, interested in the welfare of people, support from the church and therefore the peasants (who saw him as a fatherly figure), trusted the people who worked with as many were family and believe in himself (taught that he was appointed by god and that Tsardom was the ONLY way.

Weaknesses: Disliked change and avoided making important decisions, not forceful, not imaginative, spent too much time of small and unimportant details, disliked confrontation, paranoid (threatened by people more able than himself) and too committed to autocracy.

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What opposition did Tsar Nicholas face?

Cadets:Also called liberals. Middle classes who wanted more democracy. Noticed England had a king and a parliament.

Social Revolutionaries:Used violence to try and give more land to the peasants but carving up nobility's huge estates. Radical. Assassinated ad killed. Lots of support in towns and countryside.

Bolsheviks (Means Majority): Led by Lenin. Followed ideas of Karl Marx. To to create a revolution. Illegal underground group. Many prosecuted or exiled.

Mensheviks (Means Minority): Also followed ideas of Karl Marx but believed Russia wasn't ready for a revolutions - they should grow stronger first.

All wanted a system that catered for a wider majority.

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Russian Army Mobilised Aug 1914

Russian army suffered severe shell shortage 1915

Fought only successful offensive year under Brusilov 1916

March Revolution (destroyed morale) Mar 1917

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WW1 Effects on Russia

  • The start was effective. Mobilised much quicker than Germans expected weakening the German thrust into France.
  • Soon the army began to face shortages.Despite a slow growing economy compared to other allied countries, Russia put a huge army of 3 million troops on the front against Germany and Austria.
  • Government forced to spend more money than it took in taxes -> led to inflation (money worth less).
  • Nicholas joined the troops in 1915 which left the Tsarina in charge. This made people unhappy because a) She was greatly influenced by Rasputinb) She was a German and thought to be a spy.
  • Transport broke down due to the strain of supplying the war.
  • Workers went on strike because of the long hours they worked to supply the army. They also had fixed wages so price increases made them very poor.
  • Food was very short. Peasants refused to sell at low government prices. Eventually food was only available on the black market so it was very expensive.
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The Duma

  • Duma deputies hoped they could steer Russia on a new course.
  • Tsar was reluctant for them to become too powerful.
  • "Fundamental Laws" made duma weak from the start.
  • First two dumas were very critical of the Tsar, they lasted less than a year.
  • 1907 Tsar changed the voting system so his opponents would not be elected.
  • The 3rd duma lasted longer because it was less critical than the Tsar but ultimately it was pointless because it had little power. It did issue some minor reforms due to links with Stolypin.
  • The debates of the Duma were allowed to be published (beforehand there was political censorship) which increased revolutionary feelings.
  • (There was a 4th duma 1912-1917 but it volunteered to step back during the war. )
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1906 Tsar appoints tough new primeminitster. Used carrot and stick method to try and deal with Russia's problems.

(http://dclips.fundraw.com/thumbdir/johnny_automatic_carrot.jpg)Gave peasants the land they always wanted. Allowed Kulaks (rich peasants) to buy their own land and opt out of "mir" communes -> Kulaks prospered ad increased Russia production significantly. Unfortunately many people remained in communes which were badly run and had bad conditions.

(http://www.naturallygreen.co.uk/images/natural-toothbrush.jpg)Came down hard on strikers, protestors and revolutionaries. 20000+ exiled, 1000+ hanged. Noose was known as stolypin's necktie.

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There were less strikes while he was PM and impressive economic growth 1908-1911 however still behind other countries. He wanted to introduce basic education but stopped by Tsar. Fed up with too much change Tsar was about to sack him when he was assassinated.

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