All Russian governments in this period faced strong opposition to their regime with the period as a whole punctuated by riots, disturbances and revolutions. Political change was expected in Russia during this period, particularly during the Tsarist regime where the growth of the revolutionary intelligentsia, ironically an effect of the Great Reforms, led many to question the need for a Tsar or a royal family at all. The first main success of political opposition is widely considered to be the assassination of Alexander II at the hands of the People’s Will in 1881. Although they assassinated their Tsar, it is very likely this did not actually lead to their desired outcome, it being greater political freedom/democracy. Many historians have said Alexander II was considering the formation of a parliament in Russia.
Known as the Czech Legion, they fought the Germans as a separate unit under the leadership of Masaryk until Brest-Litovsk ended that fighting. Trotsky gave them his agreement that they had his permission to travel through Russia to the Western Front so that they could continue their campaign against the Germans. The one provision was that the Czechs had to leave their weapons behind. As soon as the first units of the Czechs surrendered their weapons, the Red Guards shot them. This was to prove a costly error as it was obvious that the other men could not trust what Trotsky had promised.
These consist of firstly, his encouragement of the revolution in 1917 through his confidence in his theory and timing. He then, in January of 1918 supported Trotsky opposed to Lenin in the conscription of the Red Army rather than depending on volunteers and also dissolved his promised Constituent Assembly in his refusal to share power- crucial to succeed in their aim of dictatorship. In March of that year he, much to the rest of the country’s distaste due to the severe demands, insisted on the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk on the back of their withdrawal from WW! ; knowing that peace was essential for their survival. Lenin then ensured their victory in the Civil War with his establishment of War Communism and the use of terror.
When his rivals were expelled from the Politburo, they were removed because the majority of the members voted for this. Therefore, Stalin’s action in order to gain power were quiet legal. After he was invited into the main committee of the Bolsheviks, he then gained other beneficial minority posts such as being an executive of the committee and becoming head of their party newspaper “Pravda”. Stalin, did not take part in any major roles during the October rising. During the civil war, he was consistent in disobeying orders made from Lenin and Trotsky, as they were the main organisers.
The key defendants that were removed were Trotsky, Kamenev, Buhkarin, Yagoda and Zinoviev. This was significant in allowing Stalin to establish his personal dictatorship as they removed all of Stalin’s rivals from the 1920’s thus creating fear among the USSR showing that if you did anything that Stalin disliked, your life would be in danger, particularly because these people had been in positions of power therefore people obeyed all of Stalin’s orders. This lead to the wider terror among ordinary people. They were denounces, arrested and sent to Gulags by the NKVD. It is estimated that between 1934-8, 20 million Russians were sent to these gulags.
Lenin also suppressed democracy, closing down the constituent assembly in January 1918 after ‘one day of democracy’. Both the Tsars and the communist rulers also showed no hesitation in the use of secret police and mass terror. Each regime had its own secret police - the Third Section under Alexander II, the Okhrana under Alexander III and Nicholas II, the Cheka, the NKVD and the KGB under the communists. The suppression of opponents was also a common practice throughout the period. Under the term of Pyotr Stolypin as Prime Minister (1906-11), hundreds of opponents were hanged - earning the hangman’s noose the nickname - ‘the Stolypin necktie’.
A recurring theme throughout the period is the regime’s desire to maintain autocracy, which Lenin’s disregard for democracy in any area and opposition shows. This point is further emphasized by Alexander III’s belief that change was a risk and not necessary, as he argued by criticizing his father and also practically demonstrated by reducing the powers of the Zemstva. Repression was increased substantially to deal with opposition and apart from Nicholas II under whom it was briefly paused, this set the basis for Russian rule in the rest of the period. Despite Khrushchev’s easing of repression, the damage had been done under his predecessors Lenin and Stalin in removing any threat posed by opposition and ensuring that their rule remained untouched, in a further demonstration of their opposition to change.
Many government opponents would have been protesting about how unfair the Russian system was towards peasants and hence through trial by jury, they would have been sympathised with. For example, the case of Vera Zasulich, a radial extremist, fought back against the system and shot dead a hated police chief in St Petersburg and was acquitted. This was viewed as the wrong verdict by the government and the Tsar and so had to be changed to stop it from re-occurring. Furthermore, the Okhrana was established which physically repressed the majority of peasant rebellions. As well as restricting
This event led to labor unrest, peasant insurrections, student demonstrations, as well as army and navy mutinies. Although the shooting was not Nicholas II’s fault, he was given the nickname, “ The Bloody Murderer” and stated that he was not going to make any changes for the people. This was the last major event before the Revolution of 1905 officially broke out. New councils created by urban workers in order to better organize strikes were created called Soviets. During this time, Russian cities were dying because all the workers and peasants were focused on rebelling against the government and seizing the land of their landlords, instead of working in the factories and living the life of a peasant or urban worker.
The Czar was not present, so the neutralist protestants were shot down by the panicking soldiers. It was enough to evoke a wave of strikes, social dissatisfaction and political rearrangement. In any other epoch, they would have been frightened, and just relinquish it; however, they already had ideals in their minds, enough to commence the Russian Revolution. The October Manifesto was a document published by Czar Nicholas II, that was a precursor to the Fundamental Laws of 1906. Imperiled by the protests and violent marches, he announced that civil independence would be acknowledged to population and the creation of the Duma Parliament.