What problems did Nicholas II face in 1894?

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  • Created by: Lottie
  • Created on: 28-05-12 13:39

What problems did Nicholas II face in 1894?



Russia’s geography and peoples

  • In 1894 Imperial Russia covered a large part of two continents – it covered over 8 million square miles (an equivalent to 2½ times the size of the USA today)
  • Between 1815 and 1914 its population quadrupled from 40 million to 165 million – this was concentrated in European Russia
  • Do not be misled that Russia’s sheer size meant that she had great strength
  • The population contained a wide variety of peoples of different race, language, religion and culture – it was very difficult to control such a varied population over such a vast territory


The tsar

  • The peoples of the Russian Empire were governed by one person – the tsar (emperor)
  • The tsar was an absolute ruler – meaning there was no restrictions to his power – this was clearly expressed by the ‘Fundamental Laws of the Empire’ issued by Nicholas I in 1832
  • The tsar’s absolute rule was exercised through 3 official bodies:

1.    The Imperial Council – a group of honorary advisers directly responsible to the tsar

2.    The Cabinet of Ministers – ran the various government departments

3.    The Senate – supervised the operation of the law


  • These bodies were much less powerful than their titles suggested – they were appointed, not elected, and they did not govern; their role was merely to give advice
  • The tsar had the final word in all governmental and legal matters


Russia’s political backwardness

  • By the beginning of the C20th had not much advancement compared to other European nations – they still had no form of democratic or representative government
  • Although previous tsars, such as Peter I, had tried to modernise the country (e.g. by re-building Moscow and St Petersburg) their achievements had not extended to political rights
  • In Russia in 1881 it was still a criminal offence to oppose the tsar and his government
  • There had never been free press in Imperial Russia – government controlled books and journals through censorship



  • Such restrictions had not prevented liberal ideas seeping into Russia – however they could not be easily expressed and supporters of change / reform had to go underground
  • There were a number of secret societies dedicated to reform or revolution
  • These groups were frequently infiltrated by agents of the Okhrama (secret police) – raids, arrests, imprisonments and general harassment were common



  • The denial of free speech tended to drive political activists towards extremism
  • Example of this – in 1881 when Tsar Alexander II was blown to bits by a bomb thrown by a terrorist group ‘The People’s Will’


The Russian Orthodox Church

  • The Orthodox Church supported the tsars in their claims for absolute authority
  • Since the C15th the Orthodox Church had been independent – outsider the authority of others e.g. the papacy
  • However, by the late C19th it


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