strengths of the Tsar's government were those usually found in
an autocratic regime - Church, army, a repressive secret
police and the unthinking love of the peasantry.
weaknesses of the
government lay in its incompetence, in the huge size and
economic poverty of Russia, and in the pressures coming from a modernising world - i.e., from a middle class which had already
in 1905 forced the Tsar to set up a parliament (the Duma), and
from extreme political groups which wanted even more radical
of Russia c.1900
Brett on Russian autocracy
The 'social pyramid'
-an anti-government cartoon
Explanation of political parties in Russia by Louise Bryant, an American journalist
Russia is ruined by entering World War I.
February Revolution; Nicholas abdicates.
Provisional Government (Kerensky)
October Revolution (Bolsheviks)
Lenin in power
Civil War and War Communism
Kronstadt mutiny and the New Economic Policy
Stalin comes to power
Five Year Plans, Collectivisation and
coronation of Nicholas, 1896.
It was a bad omen when the Cross of St Andrew fell from his
Peasants loved the Tsar as ‘their father’, and revered him
as empowered from God – though this was shattered in St Petersburg in
1905, when the Cossacks
attacked a peaceful demonstration
2. The Romanov dynasty had ruled since 1613 – the
celebrations saw a wave of popularity for the Tsar.
In 1905, there had been a revolution and
Nicholas was forced to accept a Duma
(parliament), but it had no power and the Tsar dismissed it
if it disagreed with him.
3. The church was powerful and supported
the Romanov government.
4. Government and the army were controlled by the nobles and supported
the government, which used the Cossacks to put down protests (eg Bloody
The secret police (Okhrana) and press censorship.
6. There were two parties in the Duma which supported
the 'Rights' (called by
Lenin 'the Black Hundreds') - deputies who so supported the Tsar that they
wanted to abolish the Duma and restore autocracy.
- during the troubles of 1905, the Tsar and his chief minister Witte had
published the October Manifesto, which promised freedom of speech, no
imprisonment without trial, and a Duma to approve all laws.
The Octobrists were supporters of the Tsar who did not want to go so far
as to restore autocracy, but wanted him to keep to the October manifesto.
1. Russia had been humiliated in a
Japan, 1904 (why?).
2. There were many nationalities, languages and religions (the only
unity was the Romanov dynasty).
3. Russia was vast – 125 million people spread across Europe and
government difficult, especially because of poor communications – bad
roads and few railways.
4. An out-of-date farming economy.
Most of the population were peasants who lived in the country and
are under the control of the nobles.
5. Russia was beginning to industrialise
factories were starting to grow up.
But there was worker poverty and poor living conditions – which
created a large workforce, disaffected and concentrated in Petrograd, the
Also a small
wealthier middle class were beginning to want a say in the government.
Nicholas was an autocrat –
carried out all the business of government alone, without even a
secretary, an impossible load
was a weak Tsar.
first he refused to compromise then, in the crisis of 1917, failed to act.
7. There was opposition to the government from:
- middle classes and liberal landowners who
wanted Russia to have a Parliament like England.
(wanted a peasant revolution, and to take all the land from the nobles).
Communists (followers of Karl Marx), who were divided into the
(wanted Communism without a revolution)
and the extremist
(wanted a violent proletarian revolution).
1900, there were many assassinations and protests (eg Bloody Sunday,
1905 and the murder of Prime Minister
Stolypin in 1911).
The workers have nothing to lose but their
chains. Workers of
the world, unite!
Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Marx was the founder of Communism.
The Russian monarchy before the First World
War was out-of-date. It ruled a huge area which - even with
all our modern technology and communications -
we would find virtually ungovernable even today.
Its Tsar was weak and indecisive. But it was underpinned by
the massive authority of the Church and of the nobles, and by 300 years
of unquestioning obedience by the Russian peasants.
were weakening as Russia moved into the modern world, but the proof that
they were still potent in 1913 is simply this: the Tsar was still
unchallenged on his throne.
Written by the modern historian John
D Clare (2005)
John D Clare is a teacher in a
secondary school in England.
[In 1905] Russia got a new constitution... A new, elected
parliament, the Duma, was established, and political
parties (such as the Octobrists) and trade unions
were legalized. Although the government was still not
responsible to the Duma, this reform seemed only a
matter of time, and the foundation seemed to have been
laid for a responsible and liberal opposition. Industry was booming, and the
government of Petr Stolypin (prime minister 1906-11)
made some reforms to remove the causes
of peasant discontent.
1. Find out
the war with Japan, 1904
Bloody Sunday 1905
c. the 1905 revolution
What do you think was the greatest
and what the greatest
of the Russian monarchy before 1914?