Many Russian intellectuals were rising up against the Tsar; they believed that the regime was oppressive and that European countries had more freedom and felt that many Russians lacked basic freedoms seen in other European nations. Even though the formation of political parties was illegal in Russia, these intellectuals started to form groups of people who shared a similar opinion. Some felt that change in Russia could only be achieved through revolution and the overthrowing of the Tsarist regime while others believed that changes needed to be made through reform and a gradual revolution. These opposition groups were known as the Liberals, the Populists and the Marxists. Firstly, the Liberals were made up of middle class Russians such as lawyers, doctors, and teachers and so on.
So many divisions and factions within the opponents all wanting different things for Russia shows responsibility for the survival of the Tsar as they were too busy against each other, than to unite against the Tsar. Divisions amongst the opposition further disagreed on the methods to overthrow the Tsar. The Liberals preferred reform rather than violence, and peaceful propaganda such as articles in newspapers, meetings and reform banquets. Mensheviks were in favour of alliance with all other revolutionary and bourgeois liberal parties, and supported trade unions in pursuing better wages and conditions for workers. Whereas the Bolsheviks rejected cooperation with other parties, and aimed to turn workers into revolutionaries as soon as possible.
Part of Alexander III’s problem was the legacy left by his father who had begun reforms which raised expectations of major change within Russia. Other problems he faced were that Russia was economically underdeveloped, he had to keep the large multi-ethnic empire together and also the country was still recovering from the death of Alexander II. As a result Alexander III pursued a policy of counter-reform. Counter-reform was partly a reaction to the murder of Alexander II, but Alexander III also believed that his father’s ‘Great Reforms’ had been a mistake, weakening Tsarism and leaving it insecure. His policy was to undo the reforms as far as possible and he did this through a number of social and political changes.
Under the tsar the Okrana was used defeat any political opposition, although Lenin used them the same way the name of the ‘Okrana’ was changed to the ‘Checka’ and their primary role was to imprison political opponent and send them to Labour Camps in the countryside of Russia. This was done in an attempt to make sure the Bolsheviks had complete power. I will also asses Control of the economy and how they differ between the two systems of rule. Under Tsarist rule Russia was seen as a backwards country. There were attempts such as ‘the great spurt’ spearheaded by Sergi Witte to gain Russia’s financial strength and modernise the country and it worked to some degree.
The top-down approach the rulers of Russia had in the period 1855-1964 were superficially different as the communists claimed to represent the people by giving power to the proletariat where as the Tsars were heavily elitist in their ideology. The communists’ efforts to represent the people is corroborated by the introduction of the soviet by the Provisional Government, which was organised as a grassroots effort to practice direct democracy. Although the presence of the Zemstva and Duma, introduced by Alexander II and Nicholas II respectively, presents some evidence the Tsars may have attempted to give Russia a sense of democracy, it was ran by the nobility so it was not representative of the people and thus heavily autocratic in their rule. Conversely, although the communists and the Tsars appear to have ruled differently in their top-down approach, they in fact did not because in practice the communists gave an extremely limited extent of power to the proletariat. The Provisional Government’s vacillating rule on the other hand, from heavily autocratic to democratic led to the governments demise.
Russia was severely behind the rest of Europe when it came to industrialisation, partly because the agricultural techniques used in the mid nineteenth century had not changed since the medieval period. The Russian social system being based on serfs did not assist the change that was needed to industrialise Russia because the serfs were effectively slaves and made up about 85% of the peasant population. Almost every other country in Europe had freed their serfs because they were hindering industrialisation; however Russia had not and could not hope to improve their industry if they continued to use the serfs. The Russians also believed that once the serfs were emancipated, they would create a pool of flexible labour and that they would be more willing to work if they were viewed as free people and were paid for their labour. Alexander had to emancipate the serfs in 1861 because he saw that they were delaying progress and change.
Nicholas’s decisions in things such as the war and internal affairs were at the best poor. One of the main factors in the downfall of Nicholas 2nd was his lack of reform. Throughout the course of his reign he had many opportunities to implement improvements in areas such as the government, social welfare for the peasants and the working class. His attempts to improve things but still hold onto as much power as possible, led to him deceiving his people through the nobles holding onto power and his self-elected and so called democratic dumas. This was made possible by him controlling the majority of the dumas funding meaning he could deny a new law by limiting their financial strength.
As once they split they had to create a new campaign and policies. However it did help in other ways, such as it gave Lenin the power to lead his own campaign. This involved not helping the workers so they would up rise against the Tsar.
However it created land ownership problems which with the redemption fee system created bitterness amongst peasants and became known as ‘the great disappointment’ . His other reforms such as changes to the legal system, military and education, also gave Russian’s a greater freedom, however he didn’t provide the extensive changes to autocracy and society that radicals hoped for. As the population got a taste of liberalisation opposition increased, threatening the tsarist regime, forcing Alexander II to use repression to maintain control. Some historians suggest this shift from reform to reaction was directly related to the first assassination attempt on his life. However, Jonathan Bromley argues that there was no conservative shift as just prior to his death he agreed in principal to a national assembly.
Russia was still an autocratic state (the Tsar held completed political power). The reformist groups wanted to amend this so the Tsar had less power. The reformist groups also known as the radical parties all had various different ideas as to how they were going to go about reforming the country. They grew in numbers from 1881 and gained a lot of support from various different social groups. The Socialist Revolutionary Party wanted to completely abolish the Tsar’s power and give the peasants power to advance Russia.