Politic 1850-1914

The Nihilists engaged in terrorists activities and in 1881 a group of anarchists assassinated Tsar Alexander II.

His son Alexander III then rose to the throne in 1881,  he was not interested in catering to demands for reform.

He instilled an autocratic system of leadership and attempted to bar all Western influences from Russia. Reject freedom of speech and to abhor democracy, constitutions and the parliamentary system.

Alexander III tried to stamp out revolutionary and enforce “Russification”–or the assimilation of non-Russian regions into Russian culture–throughout the empire.

The Industrial Revolution began to show significant influence in Russia. The liberal elements among industrial capitalists and nobility believed in peaceful social reform and a constitutional monarchy, forming the Constitutional Democrats, or Kadets. The Socialist-Revolutionaries (SRs) incorporated the Narodnik tradition and advocated the distribution of land among those who actually worked it (the peasants). Another radical group was the Social Democrats, exponents of Marxism in Russia. The Social Democrats differed from the SRs in that they believed a revolution must rely on urban workers, not the peasantry.

In 1903 in London (at the Social Democrat party’s 2nd congress) the party split into two wings – the gradualist Mensheviks, and the more radical Bolsheviks. The Mensheviks believed that the Russian working class was insufficiently developed and that socialism could be achieved only after a period of bourgeois democratic rule. They thus tended to ally themselves with the forces of bourgeois liberalism. The Bolsheviks, under Vladimir Lenin, supported the idea of forming a small elite of professional revolutionists, subject to strong party discipline, to act as the vanguard of the proletariat in order to seize power by force.

Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) was a major blow to the Tsarist regime and further increased the potential for unrest. In January 1905, an incident known as “Bloody Sunday” occurred when Father Gapon led an enormous crowd to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to present a petition to the Tsar. When the procession reached the palace, Cossacks opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. The Russian masses were so furious over the massacre that a general strike was declared demanding a democratic republic. This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1905. Soviets (councils of workers) appeared in most cities to direct revolutionary activity. Russia was paralyzed, and the government was desperate.

In October 1905, Nicholas reluctantly issued the famous October Manifesto, which conceded the creation of a national Duma (legislature) to be called without delay. The right to vote was extended and no law was to become final without confirmation by the Duma. The moderate groups were satisfied. But the socialists rejected the concessions as insufficient and tried to organize new strikes.

Tsar Nicholas II and his subjects entered World War I with enthusiasm and patriotism, with the defense of Russia’s fellow Orthodox Slavs, the Serbs, as the main battle cry. In August 1914, the Russian army invaded Germany’s province of East Prussia and occupied a significant portion of Austrian-controlled Galicia in support of the Serbs and their allies – the French and British. Military reversals and shortages among the civilian population, however, soon soured much of the population. German control of the Baltic Sea and German-Ottoman control of the Black Sea severed Russia from most of its foreign supplies and potential markets.

By the middle of 1915 the impact of the war was demoralizing. Food and fuel were in short supply, casualties were increasing, and inflation was mounting. Strikes increased among low-paid factory workers, and there were reports that peasants, who wanted reforms of land ownership, were restless. Nicholas II directed the war effort personally, leaving the Tsarina, Alexandra, to act as regent at home. Alexandra was influenced by a semiliterate mystic, Grigory Rasputin. Rasputin’s assassination in late 1916 by a clique of nobles ended the scandal but did not restore the autocracy’s lost prestige.

On 3 March 1917, a strike was organized on a factory in the capital Saint Petersburg; within a week nearly all the workers in the city were idle, and street fighting broke out.

The strikers held mass meetings in defiance of the regime, and the army openly sided with the workers. A few days later a provisional goverment headed by Georgy Lvov was named by the Duma. Meanwhile, the socialists in Saint Petersburg had formed a Soviet (council) of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, forming an uneasy alliance with the Provisional Government. With his authority destroyed, Nicholas abdicated on 2 March 1917. He and his family were subsequently put to death by Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War.

http://www.fsmitha.com/h3/h47-ru.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Empire

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