chapter 4 Russia and its empire, nationalities and satellite states

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nationalities: context and definitions

  • in the middle part of the 19th century the Russian empire consisted of Great Russia and the national minorities
  • the main national minority groups were from Poland, Finland, the Caucasus and Central Asia and the Baltic provinces
  • Russian Jews- geographical location was artificially created and crossed the boundaries of other groups
  • first Russian census 1897- minorities made up about 55% of the empire's population in the Ukraine
  • not all national minorities opposed the ruling elites
  • the Finns, Baltic Germans and Christian Armenians remained fairly loyal
  • the Poles, Ukrainians and Tatars did not
  • all treated roughly the same
  • all leaders aimed to Russify peoples of the empire in what proved to be a naive and unrealistic attempt to create internal stability
  • main objective of uncooperative national minorities- gain autonomy or break away from Russian rule and gain independence

russo-polish relations

  • by the time Alexander II took the throne, Poland was firmly under Russian control
  • located on the Western edge
  • had never obviously been part of the Russian Empire
  • Poles had a long history of attempting to break away from Tsarist rule
  • 1830- attempted coup against Russian rule resulting in independence
  • many Poles grew hopeful that Alexander II's reformist attitude would lead to an improvement in their position
  • was wary of the situation in Poland
  • measures to prevent insurgency that had been in place before the mid-1850s were retained
  • Russian artillery squads based in Poland were not directly issued with shells to prevent munitions getting into the wrong hands
  • if military conflict broke out the artillery would have to wait for the shells to be released from heavily guarded storage facilities, delaying mobilisation

the polish revolt 1863

  • the initial reforms made by Alexander II seemed to give renewed hope to the Poles that they would be granted certain freedoms
  • rise in Polish nationalism characterised by increasing demands for political autonomy, education reforms (reopening of Warsaw university) and debate over whether serfs in Poland should also be emancipated

independence and the role of Wielopolski

  • not all polish people agreed with the idea of full independence
  • there were those who wanted to break away from Russian control completely and reclaim territory in the east that had been lost by Poland to Russia in land partitions made in the 18th century
  • there were other individuals and groups that campaigned for partial independence
  • led by Marquis Aleksander Wielopolski
  • appointed Prime Minister of Poland in 1862
  • greeted with suspicion by staunch nationalists who viewed him as a tsarist lapdog
  • his push for reforms and the framing of a policy that gave Poland a national identity was done with Russian guidance and approval

the rise in polish nationalism

  • opposition from nationalists to the notion of compromise with Russia had started to mount from the middle of 1861
  • summer 1862- swelling of patriotic fervour; increased in mass meetings and demonstrations
  • protest extended to an attempted assassination of Wielopolski and his viceroy Grand Duke Konstantin
  • introduced the forced conscription of young male Poles into the Russian…

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