key events


1825 Alexander I dies; succession crisis prompts Decembrist Revolt 1861 Alexander II abolishes serfdom 1881 Alexander II assassinated; Alexander III cracks down on dissenters 1894 Nicholas II becomes tsar 1905 Troops fire on Russian civilians during demonstration in St. Petersburg Russia loses Russo-Japanese War Nicholas II concedes to creation of Russian constitution and Duma 1914 Russia enters World War I

Key People

Alexander I -  Tsar whose 1825 death prompted the Decembrist Revolt Nicholas I -  Brother of Alexander I; took power upon Alexander’s death Alexander II -  Son of Nicholas I; abolished feudalism in 1861; assassinated in 1881 Alexander III -  Son of Alexander II; cracked down harshly on dissenters Nicholas II -  Son of Alexander III; was tsar in power during the 1917revolutions Petr Stolypin -  Nicholas II’s prime minister; had many suspected terrorists tried and executed Grigory Rasputin -  Peasant and mystic who influenced Tsarina Alexandra; was killed by Nicholas II’s supporters in 1916

The Decembrist Revolt

The first signs of widespread political dissent in Russia surfaced nearly a century before the Russian Revolution, following the death of Tsar Alexander I in December 1825. Ever since the War of 1812 , many Russians, especially military personnel who had served abroad, were inspired by growing democratic movements in Europe. Some even began to call for a formal Russian constitution with guarantees of basic rights. Alexander actually considered the idea of a constitution, and indeed granted one to Poland, but never made up his mind about creating one for Russia.

The tsar’s death in 1825 created a fleeting appearance of weakness in the Russian leadership. Alexander had no legitimate children, and there was confusion over which of his two brothers would succeed him. The eldest brother, Constantine, was technically next in line but had earlier given up his right to be tsar when he married a woman outside of his class. Therefore, the crown passed to the youngest brother, Nicholas I, resulting in a small public scandal. Seeing opportunity in the momentary chaos, 3,000Russian soldiers marched into the center of St. Petersburg, demanding that Constantine take the throne and also calling for a constitution. The uprising was quickly suppressed, and the surviving demonstrators, who called themselves Decembrists, were arrested and exiled to Siberia. In the coming years, they came to be seen as heroes among Russian revolutionaries.

Early Revolutionary Movements in Russia

In 1861, Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas I’s eldest son and successor, formally abolished serfdom, freeing Russia’s serfs from indenture to landowners. Though a positive development in some ways, it also created a number of new problems, including a severe economic crisis and significant resentment from landowners. The event also inspired more open discussion of other political reforms, once more raising public awareness of the fact that Russia lacked a constitution.

Throughout the 1860s and 1870s, a host of organizations formed to promote the introduction of a constitution, a…


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