The Land, the People and Tsardom

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Russia's geography and people

  • In 1894 Imperial Russia stretched over 8,000,000 square miles (it was huge)
  • It covered a large part of two continents
  • Population betwee 1814 and 1914 quadrupled from 40 million to 165 million
  • Two capital cities (located in European Russia): Moscow and St.Petersburg
  • Its vast size gave the impression of strength; however, as the population contained a wide variety of peoples of different race, language, religion and culture, controlling this large variety had long been a major problem for Russian govs
  • Facts:
  • 55.6% spoke Russian as mother tongue
  • 22.4% spoke Ukranian as mother tongue
  • 22 major languages spoken in Russia in 1897

The Tsar

  • Russian Empire governed by one person - the Tsar
  • Romanov dynasty since 1613
  • Tsar was an absolute ruler:
    • No restrictions on his power
    • People owed him total obedience
  • His absolute rule had been clearly expressed in the 'Fundamental Laws of the Empire' by Nicholas I in 1832
  • His rule was exercised by three official bodies:
    • The Imperial Council - group of honorary advisers directly responsible to the Tsar
    • The Cabinet of Ministers - ran the various gov departments
    • The Senate - supervised the operation of the law
  • NB: These bodies had much less power than their titles suggested
    • They were appointed, they only advised and had no authority over the Tsar

Russia's political backwardness

  • By the beginning of the 20th Century, all major western-European countries had some form of democratic or representative government
    • Russia did not - the Tsar's absolute power showed how little it had developed politically
  • Reforming Tsars like Alexander II (1855-81) had tried to modernise the country:
    • Re-built Moscow and St.Petersburg, improved transport system, made army more efficient
    • Only achievements in practical areas - not the extension of political rights
  • 1881 in Russia: still an offence to oppose the tsar or his gov
  • No Parliament
  • Political parties were illegal
  • Never a free press
  • Gov censorship on published books and journals

Russia's political backwardness (cont.)

  • Liberal ideas had seeped into Russia but couldn't be openly expressed
  • Supporters of reform or change had to go underground
  • These groups were frequently infiltrated by Okhrana agents
    • Raids, arrests, imprisonments and general harassment were regular occurences
  • Denial of free speech drove many poltical activists towards extremism
    • E.g. Tsar Alexander II killed by bomb planted by 'The People's Will'
  • Russia had a society where state oppression was met with revolutionary terrorism
    • No moderate middle ground could develop for ordered poltical debate

Russian Orthodox Church

  • Branch of Christianity that had been entirely independent of any outside authority
  • Had an essentially Russian character
  • Supported the Tsar in his absolute rule
  • By late 19th century it had become deeply conservative
    • Opposed to political change
    • Determined to preserve the tsarist system in its reactionary form
  • It used its spiritual authority to teach…


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