Russia IGCSE Notes

  • Created by: Lianne
  • Created on: 18-12-12 19:17



Russia before the First World War


·      Autocracy was the form of government in Russia. It meant that the Tsar had absolute power. He could make laws, appoint ministers and decide on all polices completely on his own. Even after the setting up of the Duma in 1906, Nicholas II was very reluctant to allow it any real power. This meant that it was impossible to bring about any changes in Russia without Nicholas agreeing to them.


·      Nicholas II was weak and easily influenced by others. Even when he took the right decision, e.g. after the 1905 Revolution, he changed his mind later on. He did not want to be Tsar and was not capable of acting sensibly. But he felt he had to keep going to pass the throne on to his son.


·      Nicholas's political naivety is best shown by his decision to appoint himself commander-in-chief of the Russian armies in 1915. He at once began to attract the blame for the terrible losses that the army was sustaining. His letters to Alexandra reveal his total inability to comprehend the situation in which he found himself.


·      Nicholas also failed to appreciate the deteriorating situation in Petrograd. He refused to believe Mikhail Rodzianko's warnings, referring to him as a 'fat idiot'. When Nicholas was finally convinced of the seriousness nature of the crisis, he spent two days trying to find a way of preserving Tsardom. When he eventually abdicated on 2 March, he tried to name his brother as Tsar. Mikhail, his brother quickly declined the offer,


·      Nicholas relied on repression to deal with opposition. His secret police, the Okhrana, were very efficient and street disturbances were broken up by the Cossacks. This had always worked in the past and he had no other alternatives. This meant that opposition groups also tended to be violent. Nicholas’s grandfather, Alexander II, was killed by a bomb in 1881.


·      In Russia there were extremes of wealth and poverty, far greater than in any other European country. These were made worse by big increases in the populations of the two main cities, St Petersburg and Moscow. The number of people living in these cities nearly doubled between 1880 and 1914. This led to overcrowding, shortages of food and unrest. The opposition groups in Russia took advantage of this situation. In 1917 events in Petrograd were all important.


·      Russia was a very backward country. Only 2% of the population worked in industry, 80% worked in agriculture, which was often very primitive, and there was 80% illiteracy. Many Russians distrusted Western ideas and preferred to use old-fashioned methods. This included the army commanders who thought the bayonet was the most important weapon.


·         In 1905 Nicholas was faced with a revolution. He was saved because the army remained loyal, but in desperation he issued the October


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