Russia 1881-1953

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Autocracy to Dictatorship in Russia - 1881 to 1953


Imperial Russia in 1881

o   126 million population.

o   1.6% of population are based in cities.

o   Semi-feudal system.

o   77% of the population is peasantry – “dark masses”.

o   0.5% of population are merchants.

o   90% of land is not farmed.

o   Over 100 languages spoken.

o   Oppressive army – people sentenced to long service.



Dates in charge

Alexander II

“Tsar Liberator”. Emancipated serfdom – 1861.


Alexander III

Reactionary, against reform. Stopped the push for constitutional reform that Alexander II wanted.

May Laws (1881) – halted reform, Okrhanna used more, progroms, censorship tightened.


Nicholas II

Reaction and revolution. Brought in constitutional reform in 1905 – in the form of the Dumas. Fundamental Laws of 1906 undermined them and created the ideology of “preserve Tsardom at all costs.



Role of Tsardom

o        Autocratic.

o        Romanov dynasty had run for 300 years.

o        “Divinely appointed” by God.

o        Church declared a curse, twice a year, on those who said the Tsar wasn’t divinely appointed.

o        Tsar had absolute power over the church.

Tsar as Head of State:

o        “Autocratic and unlimited monarchy”.

o        50 provinces each separated into 20 districts.

o        The zemstvas ran in the country, council role for the nobility.

o        1905 - Dumas came to the cities.

o        Local Government Act (1890/92) changed election procedure to give lower classes less influence in the Zemstva and Dumas.

Russian Economy 1881-1917


o        Sergei Witte.

o        Great Spurt: 1893 – 1900.

o        Focus on heavy industry.

o        Figures, 1890 to 1900 (million tonnes):

o        Coal up 200% (5.9 to 16.1).

o        Pig Iron up 200% (0.9 to 2.7).

o        Oil up 150% (4 to 11).

o        Grain up 60% (36 to 56).

o        The economy by 1914:

o        Industry grew 7% a year from 1907 to 1914.

o        2nd highest in the world for oil.

o        4th highest in the world for everything else.

o        Investment in agricultural machinery.


o        Trans-Siberian railway.

o        Amount of railway track: 19,500 miles in 1891. 44,000 miles in 1913.

Major Influences on the Tsarist regime

Sergei Witte:

o        Adopted the Gold Standard – this encouraged foreign investment and stabilised the value of the ruble.

o        Took on foreign loans, to be paid back with interest.

o        Increased direct and indirect taxation.

o        High tariffs on foreign goods.

o        Wages kept low.

o        Attempted to create capitalist culture.

o        Neglected light industry.

o        Invested in education, railways and alcohol capitalism.

Konstantin Pobedonostev:

o        Advisor to the 3 Tsars.

o        Head supervisor of the Russian Orthodox Church.

o        Enemy of progress.

o        Complete conservative.

o        Anti-Semitic, ideas behind the Jewish progroms (1881 onwards).


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