Year 12 RUSSIA


Alexander II

Alexander II               1855 - 1881 

  • 1856 Crimean war ends 
  • 1860 State bank created 
  • 1861 Emancipation of the serfs 
  • 1862 - 74 military reforms
  • 1864 Zemstva established/ judiciary and educational reforms 
  • 1865 censorship reforms
  • 1866 - assasination attempt
  • 1867-69 church reforms
  • 1870 Dumas introduced 
  • 1876-79 Land and Liberty
  • 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war
  • 1879 People's Will established 
  • 1881 Assasination 
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Alexander III

Alexander III   1881 - 1894

  • 1881-82 Pogroms and May Laws
  • 1881-82 Censorship counter-forms  
  • 1883 Peasant Land Bank created 
  • 1883 Emancipation of Labour by Plekhanov 
  • 1884 Counter-reforms in education and the Church 
  • 1885 Nobles Land Bank and abolition of poll tax
  • 1885-1900 Russification in borderlands
  • 1886 Revival of The People's Will by St Petersburg students
  • 1887-92 Vyshnegradsky is Minister of Finance
  • 1889 Land Captains established
  • 1890 Zemstvo counter-reforms 
  • 1892-1903 Sergei Witte is Minister of Finance
  • Death of Alexander III
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Nicholas II

Nicholas 1894 - 1917

  • 1898 Russian Social Democratic Workers Party founded
  • 1899 Social Revolutionary Party established
  • 1902-1907 Years of the red cockerel - peasant disorder and agrarian/industrial unrest
  • 1903 Social Democrats split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks
  • 1903 Labour strikes and anti-semitic pogroms
  • 1904 Plehve assasinated by Socialist Revolutionaries
  • 1904 War between Russia and Japan
  • 1905 Bloody Sunday and October Manifesto
  • 1906 First State Duma and Stolypin's agrarian reforms begin
  • 1907 Second Duma meets but is dissolved
  • 1907-1912 Third State Duma
  • 1911 Stolypin assinated
  • 1912 Fourth State Duma and Lena Goldfields massacre. More industrial unrest
  • 1915 Progressive bloc formed
  • 1916 Brusilov offensive and Rasputin murdered
  • 1917 Civil unrest and strikes in Petrograd, Women's Day march into a workers demonstration, troops join revolutionary movement, Petrograd Soviet formed and abdication of Tsar
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Russian autocracy in 1855

  • Tsar had control over Orthodox Church and issued edicts to govern absolutely. Police state.
  • Army consisted of 1.5 million conscipted serfs
  • Cossacks were the elite bodyguard for the Tsar.
  • Serf-based economy meaning a lack of skilled workers and no middle class, only serfs, urban artisans and the landowning elite. 
  • The mir hindered progression to Western farming techniques (like crop rotation) and the climate was inhospitable so agricultural industry could not uphold Russia.
  • The Crimean War of 1953-1956 demonstrated poor transport and inadequate leadership. Peasant uprisings were exacerbated and intelligentsia discontent grew.
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Emancipation of the Serfs

  • Emancipation Edict of 1861 - product of liberal thinking from Milyutin brothers/ Party of St Petersburg Progress? 
  • OR, serfs needed to be mobilised + educated in order to progress industrially and strengthen Russia's 'Great Power' status. 
  • Consequences: division between government and landed gentry.
  • Limitations of emancipation - initially only privately owned serfs were freed, 'redemption payments' and remain with backward mir. Some serfs remained 'temporarily obligated' until 1881.
  • Volosts (peasant communities of several mirs with own courts under government control) established.
  • Kulaks were prosperous, entrepreneurial peasants.
  • There was lots of backlash against the edict with unrest from both peasants and nobles with 647 incidents following it. 
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Alexander II Reforms

  • Military - consciption compulsory for all classes but length of service reduced by 10 years. Punishments made less severe, military colonies abandoned, and modern weaponry introduced.
  • Local government - zemstva established. Chosen through electoral colleges but nobility still dominated. Improved public services, provided a platform for political debate and looked hopeful to intelligentsia who wanted a National Assembly. Powers limited though, and decisions could still be overturned. 
  • Judiciary - Equality before the law (though volost courts dealt with peasant cases). Lawyer could be employed in defence, jury selected from landowners, Justices of the Peace elected by zemstva, proceedings could be freely reported. Ecclesiastical and military courts excluded.
  • Education - responsiblity for schooling transfered from church to zemstva. Schools declared open to all regardless of class or gender, education extended. Increased radical thinkers and were extremely successful.
  • Censorship - relaxation of press censorship and comment on government policy was allowed. Books and media publications increased but critical writing meant a reassertion of government control.
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Repairing autocracy

After assassination attempt in 1866 the Tsar reversed his thinking and adopted a more repressive policy designed to increase Tsarist control.

  • Conservative ministers replaced liberal ones (Tolstoy as Minister for Education, Shuvalov as head of Third Section)
  • Shuvalov increased persecution of minority groups and clear examples made of political agitators. Third Section activities increased and 'show trials' introduced (these failed, as Trial of the 50 demonstrated). Political cases transfered to secret courts.
  • Education counter-reforms were intended to eradicate Western ideas and any criticism of the Tsarist regime. Zemstvas powers reduced, subjects that encouraged critical thought were abandoned.
  • Later, the Lorid-Melikov Constitution attempted to combat unrest with democracy by lifting restrictions on zemstva and abolishing Third Section.
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Alexander III's changes

His reign began with 'Manifesto of Unshakable Autocracy' 1881 and a Law on Exceptional Measures. Loris-Melikov proposals abandoned. 

  • Local government - Land Captains in 1889 (with power to override zemstvo elections and reduce peasant vote). Encouraged particularism and discouraged political concerns. 
  • Policing - Okhrana. 1882 Statute on Police Surveillance gave police powers to search and arrest anyone (and they had no right to legal representation). 
  • Judicial system - after 1887 closed court sessions could be held. Volost courts put under Land Captains. 
  • Education - filtering education staff furthered control and channeled only information sanctioned by government. Education given back to Church. Abolished universities for women.
  • Censorship - 'temporary regulations' closed newspapers down, banned publishers and extended censorship to all art forms.
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Russification and Anti-Semitism

  • Nationalist ideology & chauvanism increased. Groups within Empire (i.e. Poles and Ukrainians) tried to establish their identites. 
  • 200,000 Poles created underground national government and waged guerilla warfare. Government enforced teaching in Russian.
  • In Ukraine the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius group provoked Russian government to close all theatres in 1884 and push for Russian language.
  • Pobedonostsev's creed was 'Autocracy, Orthodoxy, Nationality.' 
  • There were forced mass baptisms (100,000) and staunch adherence to the Orthodox Church. 
  • Anti-Semitism was prevalent with confinement of Jews to the Pale of Settlement. 
  • They were persecuted with Pogroms during 1881-84.
  • There was extensive anti-semitic legislation that restricted their rights; notably in 1892 they were forbidden from participation in local elections.
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  • Moderates characterised as Westernisers or Slavophiles.
  • Radical organisations: Young Russia (student group advocating for revolution) and The Tchaikovsky Circle (literary society organising revolutionary publications, also seeking revolution. Translated Das Kapital by Marx). 
  • There was also Land and Liberty who committed political assassinations (like General Mezemtsev). In 1879 they split into Black Repartition (organised by Plekhanov, a peaceful movement that collapsed after arrests) and the People's Will (advocated for violence and assassinated Alexander II).
  • Populist movement was successful in spreading radical ideas from subterranean organisations to provincial areas + raising awareness for socialist issues. Failed after suspicious peasants rejected them and arrests followed. 
  • These groups were widely unsuccessful but held great long-term significance for the socialist movement. 
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Economic Developments

  • Von Reutern's reforms: regulated joint-stock companies to promote safe investment, encouraged railways, state bank 1860, abolished tax-farming
  • Despite growth of other industries like cotton and oil, the economy remained weak.
  • Vyshnegradsky took over as Finance Minister 1887. Failed harvest and his policy of exporting grain led to the Great Famine of 1891-92
  • Witte succeeded him, pushing for economic modernisation to curb revolutionary activity. Foreign investment increased & railway network expanded.
  • Emancipation had not changed agricultural practices. High taxes, grain requisitions, redemption payments + traditionalist mir hindered agricultural change.
  • Land Banks were ineffective; most peasants had too little land to be prosperous. 
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Social change and the Church

  • Tsar, Landed Elite, Middle Class, Urban working class, Kulaks, Peasants.
  • Landed elite retained wealth and status even after emancipation.
  • Industrialisation meant increase in education and teacher/doctor positions so middle class expanded.
  • Working class still only 2% of population. Conditions were poor. 1882-90 reforms regarding child labour, work hours, 'payment in kind' and inspectors but quality of life was bad.
  • Average peasant life only late twenties whilst in UK it was 45. 
  • Domination of Orthodox church over peasantry was an effective tool of control
  • Priests worked for the State
  • 1862 saw Ecclesiastical Commission set up by Valuev to investigate church. 
  • Russification promoted orthodoxy and nearly 100,000 forced conversions took place. 
  • Workers were more attracted by modern, socialist teachings than the church.
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Unrest under Nicholas II

Nicholas II continued support for Russification and 'Black Hundreds' organisations. 

  • Post-Great Famine society had politicised. Universities provided platforms for dissent, combatted by Okhrana. 
  • 'Years of Red Cockerel' in countryside
  • Stolypin dealt with disturbances aggressively, aggravating situation.
  • Industrial strikes escalated, as did illegal trade unions. 
  • Assembly of St Petersburg Factory Workers organised by Father Gapon in 1904. (Approved by Plehve + church).
  • Failure of Russo-Japanese War led to criticism of the government. 
  • Plehve assassinated 1904 and moderate Mirksy followed him. 
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Significant events of 1905

  • Bloody Sunday - strike began at Putilov iron works with 150,000 workers. Father Gapon led peaceful march to present petition. 12,000 troops used to quash it. 
  • Potemkin mutiny - sailors hoisted revoltuionary flag after killing officers. Townsfolk arrived to pay respects, soldiers killed 2000.
  • October Manifesto - strikes, peasant uprisings and minority groups. General strike began October 1905. Tsar's manifesto promised civic freedom and a State Duma. This was followed by counter-revolution: Jews suffered in pogroms, peasants flogged to order. 
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Fundamental Laws - before Duma met, Nicholas issued laws reasserting autocratic powers and undermining attempt at democracy. He could veto legislation, rule by decree and dissolve Duma.

  • 1st Duma (May - July 1906): boycotted by Union of Russian people + Bolsheviks. Radical-liberal. Strongly critical of Tsar but reforms were considered utterly inadmissable and Duma was dissolved. 
  • 2nd Duma (Feb - June 1907): Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and SRs participated so extremely left-wing. Stolypin fabricated an assassination plot to destroy Duma. 
  • 3rd Duma (Nov 1907 - June 1912): More submissive, with right-wing and Octobrists but stilll critical of government. Demonstrated unpopularity of Tsarist regime but not effective. 
  • 4th Duma (Nov 1912 - 17): Similar composition. Dumas were ignored and divided.
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More economic developments

  • Witte governed as Finance Minister 1992-1903 and extensively transformed Russian industry, strengthening currency with new Rouble, funding infrastructure and railways (Trans-Siberian Railway). 
  • By 1913 Russia had the second largest railway network in the world. 
  • Heavy industry: Putilov Iron Works.
  • By 1914 Russia was the fifth largest industrial power after massive developments. 
  • Stolypin's land reforms: intended peasants to own/manage own land + improved peasant welfare.
  • October 1906: peasants given equal rights in local administration.
  • 1907: redemption payments abolished
  • However, fewer than 1% achieved kulak status, 90% of land still in traditional strips. 
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The Social Landscape

  • Conditions were appalling and could not cope with demand of rapid worker growth in early 1900s. 
  • There were some reforms: expansion of education, legislation for child labour and reduction of work hours but they were inadequate.
  • Lena Goldfields massacre of 1912 where 500 were killed led to sympathetic strikes.
  • Illiteracy was still at 60% in 1914. 
  • There was no redistributive taxation for nobility so they remained strong and wealthy. 
  • Middle class grew, fuelled by opportunities offered by industrialisation. 
  • Some elements were progressive: First All-Russian Congress of Women (1908)
  • Literature was made available to masses, censorship relaxed for 'silver age' of culture with experimental art forms
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Opposition pre-1914

Spread of education and emergence of a middle class galvanised liberalism. Beseda Symposium set up 1899 where radical thinkers met in secret. 

  • 1901 Social Revolutionary Party founded - Chernov was significant. Suggested interests of peasants and workers were similar (populism). 50% supporters working class. Favoured violent protests - assassinated Bogolepov (Education Minister) in 1901 and 2000 others. Secret police foiled activites and executed 2000.
  • Social Democratic Workers Party - first congress held 1898. Produced manifesto detailing need for working class to begin uprising. Okhrana agents broke up meeting and arrested two of three. Second congress held 1903 with Martov (Menshevik) and Lenin (Bolshevik) where the two groups started to emerge. 
  • Trade Unions - 497 shut down after the 1905 revolution, but continued strikes in St Petersburg demonstrated failure of October Manifesto to placate working classes. 
  • Moderates - Liberal nobles like Prince Lvov demanded an all-class zemstvo and National Assembly. Many were appeased by tsarist concessions. 

Secret Police were effective and with many leaders exiled, membership declined. However, need for socialism remained and Bolshevik newspaper Pravda (launched 1912) had high circulation. 

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Impact of WW1

  • Political - military zones set up where civilians had no authority. 1915: All-Russian Union of Zemstva chaired by Lvov became just a platform for radical discussion. 'Progressive bloc' formed demanding tsarist change and Nicholas suspended Duma. Rasputin's connection to Tsar was very damaging. After his assassination Nicholas buried him on royal grounds. 
  • Economic - war spending reached 14.5m roubles. Absence of men meant production slumped and couldn't meet demand. Naval blockades hindered trade. Railways overtaken for military purposes. Unemployment sky-rocketed after closure of non-military factories, strikes crippled industry. Cost of living rose 300%. 
  • Military - defeats (Battle of Tannenburg) ended solidarity and patriotism. In 1915 Nicholas went to the front line as Commander-in-Chief making him more obviously responsible for war failings and distanced from domestic issues. Insufficient supplies and weaponry, experienced officers died. Morale plummeted with 1.5m desertions. 
  • Social - Town populations struggled bitterly. Pressure of war exacerbated pre-exisiting issues. Anniversary of Bloody Sunday (1917) saw demonstration of 150,000 Petrograd workers. 8m killed in war meant every family affected & faith in government obliterated.  
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February Events 1917

Many officers were intelligentsia and their soldiers working class backgrounds so sympathy lay with strikers. 

  • 14th - 100,000 workers strike in Petrograd. Police cannot keep order and are attacked.
  • 23rd - International Women's Day march led by Alexandra Kollontai joined by workers so 240,000 on streets. 
  • 24th - 200,000 workers on strike overturning tsarist statues and waving red flags.
  • 25th - Cossacks refuse to attack strikers when ordered to. 
  • 26th - Tsar ignores warnings that situation is serious.
  • 27th - 66,000 soldiers mutiny and join/arm protestors. Duma meets against commands of Tsar and plans a provisional government. Army's High Command changes mind and gives support to Duma.
  • 28th - Tsar offers concessions but Duma refuse. 
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Dual Power

Nicholas abdicated in March and a Provisional Government was formed. 

  • Provisional Government - cross section of elites/ socialists/ Kadets. Supported by old tsarist service, army and police. However, diversity of leadership led to disagreements and division, and the masses associated it with tsardom.
  • Petrograd Soviet - comprised of Mensheviks, SRs and some Bolsheviks. Viewed as more democratic by the masses but did not assert itself to assume direct control. 

Kerensky was a member of both and negotiated a cooperation of power. They loosened tsarist laws (freedom of religion/ press, abolition of death penalty in war, etc.) but disagreements were inevitable. 

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Bolshevik Seizure of Power

  • In April of 1917 Lenin returned and gave his April Theses espousing 'peace, bread, land' and 'all power to the soviets.' He only had 26,000 followers.
  • The 'July Days' was a period of anti-government demonstrations when property was attacked, key buildings seized and Marxist slogans used. Bolshevik leaders were arrested, Lenin fleed, Pravda shut down.
  • Failure of Kornilov's coup - he intended to march on Petrograd and create a military dictatorship. Kerensky released Bolsheviks from jail and armed the Red Guards to stop Kornilov. This made the Bolsheviks significantly more popular. 
  • Whilst Lenin pushed for a violent overthrow, those such as Kamanev and Zinoviev aimed for a peaceful cooperation of socialist parties. 
  • 10th October - Bolshevik Central Committee agrees to an armed uprising. 
  • 20th October - Military Revolutionary Committee meets for the first time.
  • 24th/25th October - Bolsheviks take key buildings in Petrograd.
  • 25th/27th October - remaining Provisional Government members arrested. Soviet government (called Council of People's Commissars) established with Lenin at head. 
  • December - Secret Police force created (i.e. Cheka). 
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Consolidating Control

  • Moderates walked out of second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in protest of Bolsheviks. Seats now extreme left-wing SRs and Bolsheviks. 
  • Council of People's Commissars established as the new government (with Lenin, Trotsky, Kollontai, Stalin).
  • October: Decree on Peace meant end to the war. Decree on Land abolished private ownership and legitimised peasant seizures.
  • November: sex discrimination outlawed, all made 'citizens', Nationality Decree, new legal system of elected people's court. 
  • December: church land + banks nationalised (reduced church control + private flow of capital.
  • Force - 10 days fighting in Moscow. Purge of civil service. Cheka. Right-wing SRs, Kadets and Mensheviks imprisoned. 
  • Diplomacy - Constituent Assembly (41.7m turnout) but SRs won most seats so Lenin dissolved it.
  • Propaganda - campaigns against class enemies (Burzhui) and closure of anti-Bolshevik newspapers
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