To what extent was Tsar Nicholas II responsible for his own downfall?
In 1917 Tsar Nicholas II abdicated power. This was due to a number of long and short-term factors. When Nicholas came to power he was faced by a number of problems such as a poor industry, a large diverse population and repression of the peasantry. Nicholas believed in the autocracy, but had very few leadership qualities; also increasing western ideology gave a growing left wing opposition hope and right wing opposition due to the failures of war made Nicholas abdicate.
Nicholas was a very poor Tsar as he lacked leadership and strength in his rule; this meant that many problems were not dealt with efficiently.
* Did not trust ministers
* Suspicious of change
* Continued repressive policies- growing, organised opposition
* Russification- alienated minority groups
Nicholas’s traditional values and poor leadership meant there was little social change to Russia and growing western ideology in Russia meant that left wing opposition was starting to form against the Tsar, however Russification meant that the majority of peasants still supported the Tsar.
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The autocratic system in Russia meant that the Tsar had complete power and could not be challenged as long as the Tsar had his army to enforce his actions.
* Tsar had final say, no distribution of power
* Terror, repression
* His duty, sent by god- Russification
The autocratic system meant that as long as Nicholas was in power there would be no real democracy, which meant that ideas from all parts of the political spectrum especially the left would have to be forced upon the Tsar by revolution.
Count Witte became finance minister for Russia in 1992; at this time the Russian economy was very poor, with large-scale unemployment and poor transport.
* Built railways and Tran Siberian railway- links with west- trade, more investment, brought democracy- western ideology.
* More foreign investment- loans from Paris, due to gold standard, more stability.
* Production of raw materials increased
* Creation of middle class- factories, however working and living conditions of the poor were appalling- lead to strikes in future
* Command, not demand economy- smaller businesses could not grow.
Count Witte helped Russia become more economically stable, however traditional values were questioned as new ideas from the west and the intelligentsia in the middle class meant revolutionary groups were forming fuelled by the poor working conditions and unequal distribution of power.
The Duma was set up after the 1905 revolution as a voice for the peasantry and was meant to be the first sign of democracy in Russia, however due to the Tsar’s views democracy would never be possible.
* October manifesto
* Fundamental laws
* First Dumas failed
The Dumas were a failure as due to the fundamental laws the left wing parties had very little say. This created a lot of anger in the revolutionary groups and showed them that force was the only action necessary.
Stolypin was prime minister from 1906-1911, he believed that if the peasant’s problems were solved there would be no revolution; he introduced many reforms to solve these problems.
* Gave peasants the opportunity to become kulaks- have a small holding- kulaks were generally loyal to the Tsar
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* Led to improvements in agriculture in the west, not enough time in other regions due to technology
* Educational reform
* The Tsars attitude to reform did not change even after the 1905 revolution- suspicious
* Disliked by far left and right, shows had Russia’s best interest at heart
The Tsars suspicion of Stolypin resulted in Stolypin death, if Stolypin had been given more time then there would have been greater political stability in Russia, however the Tsars traditional views meant that reform was impossible.
There were a growing number of strikes in Russia due to the organisation of opposition and the legalisation of trade unions demanding better working conditions, Stolypin used repression to stop these strikes however after his death strikes began to grow again.
* October manifesto- short-term fix
* The Lena goldfield incident
* Political not economic
* Workers lose their political voice- if they lose trade unions
The Tsar did not manage to meet the needs of the working class, which lead to an increasing number of strikes when Stolypin repression ended. The tactics that were used to combat the strikes were only short-term and as left-wing party organisation grew, so did strikes.
Russia entered the First World War in 1914 at first this enhanced the Tsars position but after military failure and the strain of total war on Russia support began to disappear.
* Not enough food supplies to army or peasants
* Disruption of transport
* Poor leadership of the army
* Poor leadership and military failure by the Tsar
The Tsar did not solve the problems that faced Russia in total war and when he took control of the military every failure was blamed on him, which led to a decrease in morale and a questioning of his leadership.
In conclusion the Tsar was responsible for his own downfall, as he did not meet the demands of the revolutionaries, which was key when the support from the peasantry towards the Tsar faltered. The Tsars failure to reform based on his traditional, autocratic views meant that the little change there was never had his full support and therefore was changed to suit his needs. Also the failures of war resulted in loss of support from his ministers, which held most of the power under the Tsar.
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