IB/Group 3/History/Route 2/Aspects of History of Europe and the Middle East
Topic 12: Imperial Russia, Revolution and the Establishment of the Soviet Union (1855-1924)[edit | edit source]
This section deals with modernization and conservatism in tsarist Russia and the eventual collapse of the tsarist autocracy, as well as the revolutions of 1917, the Civil War and the rule of Lenin. There is a focus on the concepts of change and continuity, with examination and consideration fo the social, economic and political factors that brought about change.
• Alexander II (1855-1881): the extent of reform • Policies of Alexander III (1881-1894) and Nicholas (1894-1917):economic modernization, tsarist repression and the growth of opposition • Causes of the 1905 Revolution (including social and economic conditions and the significance of the Russo-Japanese War); consequences of the 1905 Revolution (including Stolypin and Dumas) • The impact of the First World War and the final crisis of autocracy in February/March 1917 • 1917 Revolution: February/March Revolution; provisional government and dual power (Soviets); October/November revolution; Bolshevik Revolution; Lenin and Trotsky • Lenin’s Russia/ Soviet Union; consolidation of new Soviet state; Civil war; War Communism; New Economic Policy (NEP); terror and coercion; foreign relations
Alexander II (1855-1881): the extent of reform[edit | edit source]
1855-1881 Tsar Liberator
Alexander II inherited a tough job - Progress in Russia, because it was so immense geographically, was very difficult to do. He is best known for emancipating the serfs and introducing reforms to many aspects of Russian life. These included military, education, local government, media, and the church. His reforms, at first, made the country much more liberal, however, this prompted revolutionary ideas. Following this, Alexander II made Russia much more conservative again. He was assassinated by Populists after several attempts.
Crimean War - Russia fought the Crimean war - They were defeated by Britain, France, Turkey and Piedmont - Russia fought and was defeated on their own soil - embarrassment - Caused a debt burden of 1 billion roubles - They lost because: ○ Industry - Only 4% of Russians had long-range weapons, as opposed to 20% of British, no railways ○ Military capability - Russian soldiers served for 20 years so many were old ○ Communications - only 60,000 of Russia's 1 million troops made it to battle Overall showed Alexander II that reforms and modernisation were needed in Russia.
Issues with Serfdom - 80% of Russians were serfs in the 1816 census - Morality of serfdom as a concept - Prevented movement of labour and enterprise - despite it being allowed, most Serfs didn't trade as their landowners would raise their rent, taking their profits - Serfs were unable to pay taxes, and by 1855 owed about 54 million roubles to the state - Serfs served in the military for 25 years, and if survived were then freed, so they would likely be free in a few generations - Serfs that had undergone military training couldn't go back to their communes because they may start rebellions - Nicolas I called Serfdom "an evil, palpable and obvious to all" - Alexander II said to nobles: “it is better to abolish Serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below.” - Wants to maintain autocracy
Barriers to Emancipation - Hostility of the gentry and nobility - feared change, particularly loss of status and wealth. - Slavophilism - the idea that Russia could get on just fine without the Western route of modernisation - The government is poor and can't take responsibility for financially supporting the serfs or compensating former owners for the loss of their land - Serf's owner was his policeman, attorney, judge and jury. All of these functions would need to be transferred to new institutions - However Alexander II wanted it, and so because of his autocratic power, he got it.
Emancipation of the Serfs - 1861 - Mir set up (local peasant council made of heads of families) with control over land distribution and the lives of the serfs - Granted personal freedom to serfs after two years - Serfs were given ownership of the land they now lived on, however most lost around 20% of the land they had formerly worked, and it was usually less than was needed to feed a family - Peasants had to make redemption payments to the government for 49 years - Alexander's compromise with the nobility - State serfs had the same deal but with a 5 year transition period - Household serfs got freedom but no land or money - Issues: ○ Peasants were worse off economically ○ Increase in population meant people had tiny plots of land, distributed in strips because the Mir was petty ○ Favoured the nobility and landowners who oversaw the local land redistribution ○ 647 incidents of peasants rising, notably in Bezdna where a peasant encouraged former serfs to seize land for themselves. The riots led to the deaths of 102 people) ○ Lack of administration capability to oversee land redistribution - Russia is v big - Successes: ○ 40 million Russians were liberated, and 85% of them would go on to be landowners in the next 20 years or so ○ Was a pretty solid compromise in the end ○ Despite initial unrest, there were less riots in the long term ○ Some serfs could move into the cities if they wanted to
- Historian David Christian argues that "emancipation was a success in achieving its immediate objectives," specifically peasant disturbances and the lack of an immediate rebellion - Short-to-medium term, emancipation was bad for the serfs, however in the long term did help them, and was achieved with relatively little violence
Other Reforms Government censorship relaxed
- Legal reforms ○ Juries, judges and courts that were open to the public. Juries and judges were well-paid to avoid bribery. Alex II described it as "equal for all our subjects" ○ Offered for the first time the chance of a fair trial ○ New career opportunity for smart peasants - development of intelligensia ○ Political cases were not dealt with in these courts and secret police could still arrest people ○ Trial proceedings were reported in a government newspaper, the Russian Courier
- Local Government Reforms ○ Former landowners were appeased by the zemstva in 1864, local bodies which dealt with admin like roads, schools, health, etc. ○ Government and police still ultimately had control ○ More to appease the peasants and hand over the administrative work ○ In 1870, the duma were set up as an extension of this ○ Limited control over radical changes ○ Local knowledge ensured sound administrative capabilities
- Army Reforms ○ Carried out by Milyutin, the new minister of war, who modelled his system off Prussia ○ Recruitment, organisation and education ○ Military service reduced to 15 years and conscription was open to all classes - Better educated people served shorter terms, encouraging people to send their children to school ○ General education was the first objective of training, rather than just combat ○ Army divided into 10 regions ○ Reforms however not enough ○ Took effect form 1875
- Education Reforms ○ More liberal educational policies ○ More autonomy for universities ○ Free university tuition for poor people - in 1859, 2/3 of Moscow uni students were attending for free. ○ Zemstva set up more primary schools, and between 1856 and 1878, the number of kids in primary school doubled, from 450,000 to over 1 million ○ According to David Saunders, the liberalisation of the universities turned them into a "powder keg" which "appeared to be serving the promotion of political instability ○ Village schools no longer controlled by the church
- Economic Reforms ○ Railways - developed from 1,600km in 1861 to over 27,000km in 1896. This improved internal communications, internal trade (particularly reducing the price of grain in key cities in the north). Government invested 53 million roubles in railway over this time ○ More oil and coal, but dependent on foreign investment ○ Population growth led to a growing consumer market in the countryside- but fragile and dependent on good harvest ○ Poll tax rose by 80% ○ Rate of development still rather slow and uneven ○ Lowest GDP per capita in all of Europe
Response to Reforms - Led to greater political opposition - Upset traditionalists with the changes - Upset liberals who wanted him to go further - a national assembly. In creating this, he would undermine autocracy - David Saunders: "Crisis of rising expectations" - More radical opposition, particularly from students
- Nihilists ○ Started fires on university campuses - Populists ○ Branched off from the Nihilists - Poland ○ Had always wanted independence ○ Demonstrations led to the Tsar appointing a Polish moderate as prime minister. ○ However he was seen as a Russian collaborator, and a guerrilla campaign was launched against the Russians in 1863. It took a year to quell. ○ Showed Alex II that he needed to compromise if he was to maintain stability.
- People's Will established as intelligentsia
Shift to Conservatism: Reform to reactionary? - Following an assassination attempt in 1866 by a student radical, he appointed reactionary Tolstoy, who restricted universities and lessened freedom of speech and press - Secret Police (Third Section) clamped down on radicals, and by 1870, the prisons were full and an estimated 150,000 opponents were exiled to Siberia. - Liberal ministers replaced with conservative ones
- Yet, there were still liberal changes happening: - Loris-Melikov abolished the Third Section and persuaded him to stand by the idea of a national assembly (zemstvo) to ensure the long term concessions to Poland and the opposition groups
- Johnathan Bromley argues that Alex's reign was a consistent attempt to enact a programme of "controlled reform." When things got out of hand, he backed down with reforms and then tried again. The lowing down was not a shift from reform to reaction. Instead, the essentials of the reforms has been achieved and "it was time for the state to exert some discipline to keep the process under control."