Tsarist Russia, 1855-1917
TEST PAPER 40505/01
Why, and with what success, did Alexander II embark on a series of reforms?
Alexander II had many reasons for attempting to reform the Russia he inherited rule of.
In 1855 when Alexander took the title of Tsar, Russia was clearly falling behind other great European rivals such as Britain and France, particularly in regards to industry.
This fact was painfully and humiliatingly highlighted in the defeat of the Crimean war.
This military defeat made it clear that Russia’s internal social, economical and political failings were a threat to both its international empirical aspirations as well as its internal own stability.
Russian agriculture and industry were relatively backward compared with its rivals.
The agricultural output of the down trodden serfs was low as was general morale throughout all classes of the vast nation.
Realizing this in itself was a threat to Russian autocratic rule, Alexander decided reform, albeit deemed by many nobles as somewhat painful, somewhat radical, was essential in order to prevent a possible collapse of Tsarist rule.
Emancipation of the serfs was deemed necessary by Alexander, although this was obviously bitterly contested by other nobles, and land lords.
I believe Alexander hoped the creation of a new, larger wealthier class could help to boost economic activity throughout the nation, and that this in turn would help consolidate the rule and power of the Tsar.
... the Russian throne, Alexander tried to rule in an enlightened way. After the darkness into which Paul had plunged Russia, Alexander appeared to his ... to make his people happy, Alexander lacked the energy necessary to carry out the most urgent reform, the abolition of serfdom. The ...
This worked largely in practice, however the serfs, almost inevitably ended up with a worse deal than originally they anticipated. For many conditions were to actually deteriorate.
Zemstva, or local governments were formed, and given limited powers over their provincial subjects and matters, thus empowering ‘the people’ to some degree.
Zemstva were allowed to appoint Justices of the Peace, and the whole judicial system was overhauled, based loosely on more modern European models. Judicial reform was relatively successful and defendants now had the right to be tried in public, with records kept of proceedings.
This was deemed generally as a great improvement over the previous rule of state bureaucracy and was probably much more efficient both economically and in terms of delivering justice.
Due to the Crimean wars exposure of Russias faded military prestige, power and potential impotence, Alexander, along with Minister for WarMiluitin, embarked on a major overhaul of the military model.
National compulsory service was introduced.
For full time professional conscripts, minimum service terms were reduced from 25 years to 6 years.
These two reforms allowed for a slightly smaller, better equipped, better drilled infantry. This would prove to be more effective on the battlefield as well as to government coffers.
Nobles given automatic officer positions in the armed forces were reduced, and military schools established
Extensive rail networks were built. From under 1000 miles of track at the beginning of his reign to over 14,000 at the end, this could possibly be the greatest achievement of Alexanders rule. This provided much employment both in the rail building industry and the iron works supplying it. The rail network itself allowed expansion and acceleration of commerce and trade not only within Russia but also linking it with neighbouring import/export markets. This represented a great leap forward for the nation.
Overall Alexander II’s reforms brought Russia forward as a nation.
The majority of the population however remained discontented, yet the huge and daunting task of abolishing serfdom was completed, at least nominally, the military streamlined and fine tuned, the legal system modernized in line with contmperies and the education system improved. (more than twice as many commoners attended secondary school than a generation previously, and University’s, along with the press had much greater, though certainly not absolute, freedom).
Despite making a recovery after the 1998 market crash, Russia remains weighted with numerous holdovers from the Communist era that keep its economy from taking advantage of free-market reforms. In short, Russia has not prospered under capitalism because it has not yet discovered it. In order to do so, the Russian government must engage in extensive reform in several key areas: improving the rule ...
Transport infrastructure was put in place that would serve the nation for many generations to come, a true legacy of constructive rule.
In regards to consolidating the autocratic rule of Tsar, and freeing the serfs before a popular revolution took place, Alexander can be considered successful in his reforms.
Regarding modernising the countries industry and agriculture the reforms brought limited though significant results, and afforded Russia a relatively base to build upon, as opposed to the potential collapse of rule during his reign as Tsar.
Why were there two revolutions in 1917 and why was the Bolshevik seizure of power successful?
After many years of dissatisfaction from the exploited, downtrodden population, many, though not enough, ineffective reforms, military defeats, famines and economic hardship Russia was rife for revolution.
Economic stagnation, coupled with repression of media, education and freedom of speech, effectively created a time bomb which the moribund Tsarist regime in hindsight, could only delay, not defuse.
Although the 1905 revolution effectively failed to overhaul the Russian political system, it exposed its fragility and surely encouraged revolutionaries that their time was indeed coming.
The state sanctioned violence against the Jews and other scapegoated sections of society only added to the breakdown of law and order.
Reform failed after the 1905 revolution and the Tsarist regime was in effect living on borrowed time.
Coupled with the boom in population and failure to modernize agriculture sufficiently enough to stop living standards falling, discontent grew and revolutionary ideas gained a snowballing support. In effect Stolypins reforms were simply too little too late.
The victory in the Civil War was extremely pivotal for the Bolshevik consolidation of power as it brought control and power but more importantly it eliminated the possibility of Bolshevik collapse in Russia. The Civil war was the most essential and crucial aspect for the Bolshevik consolidation of power as it potentially provided major control over most of Russian territories in victory but also ...
The intolerable conditions of the workers made them prime to become the revolutionary class in the absence of large burgeoisie class that Marxist doctrine predicted would propagate revolution.
The large scale workers strikes before the outbreak of war with Japan and WW1 further destabilised the regimes grip on power.
In 1912 the RSDLP had split into the the Bolsheviks and Menshiviks and both had designs on power.
The Duma too made increasing demands for new powers and legislations, which eventually led to Nicholas’ decision to dissolve them in an attempt to keep his monopoly on power. This proved unpopular, and his taking personal control of the military machine proved ill advised.
War failures put added strain on the inadequate economy and industry, leading to increasing demands upon workers with ever deteriorating conditions.
Due to the combined effects of these factors all parties, the politicians, the military, the workers, the peasants, united once revolution began in February 1917.
Tsar Nicholas abdicated under pressure from the Duma, and a provincial government was formed. However it was weak and inheriting a nation in crisis. It failed, and was reformed but another revolution was inevitable.
The main revolutionary parties the Mensheviks, and Lennins Bolsheviks differed in their stance on Russias position in WW1.
The Mensheviks supporting the view that Germany was the enemy to defend against, whereas the Bolsheviks rejected the notion that Allied victory was to Russias ultimate benefit and insisted that the nobility and bourgeoisie were the true enemy of the proletariat and that a class war within Russia, and throughout Europe was the greater socialist goal.
Lennins policies benefited and gained the support of the workers, peasants and soldiers, and hence paved the way for the Bolshevik revolution to succeed with popular support.
At the beginning of the war, there was not a regular American army like we have today, just a militia made up of civilians, most of which were farmers. So naturally, they were not used to the long battles with the British Regulars. As a result thousands quit. What signaled the beginning of the American Revolution was the first battle on April 19, 1775 at Lexington. General Gage was in charge of ...
The May revolution and the September revolutions were both incubated by the same economic hardships, declining living standards, military difficulties and resistance to repression, yet the May revolution only changed the individual autocratic leader and altered the political system. This was not enough to quell the peoples desire for change, and coupled with war and economic meltdown paved the way for a more comprehensive revolution, as propagated by Lennins party.
Lennin had motivated and rallied his supporters with moral, economic and nationalistic justifications for revolution and tapped into the true needs of the people, via his popular Bolshevik movement.