• Tsar's believed they were accountable only to God. Hence, there was no need for democratic elections.
  • Tsar's alos believed God had placed them on Earth to set moral standards. They had a paternalistic duty to ensure that the 'people' were protected from the more evil elements in society.
  • As the Russian Empire was so large and diversified, autocracy was seen as practical. 
  • Advisers to the gov. such as Pobedonostsev argued that liberal democracy would have led to too many people demanding too many things. Also, as most of Russia was illiterate, it was believed democracy would be in the hands of those who did not have 'ability to reason'
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Russia was goverened by a form of dictatorship following the October Revolution 1917.
Lenin based his ideology of gov. on the work of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The ideology of Marxism-Leninism, centered arond three key principles:

  • The 'superstructure' of institutions that formed the base for the old tsarist society had to be destroyed and replaced with bodies that would create and egalitarian society.
  • Marx's 'Labour Theory of Value' became a justification to over throw tsarist rule especially as the Tsars started to move toward capitalism. 
  • The struggle between the capitalists and workers would lead to the latter overthrowing the former. In short term, intellectuals such as Lenin would be needed to help the workers govern. Once the proletariat became more politically educated then a dictatorship of proletariat would occur. 
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From 1928 Stalin re-defined Marxism-Leninism and moved Russia towards a totalitarian state. There were 2 main stands to Stalin's ideology:

  • The implementation of command economy, based on centralised planning and collectivisation, so that the superstructure of society could be changed.
  • The personalisation of the 'superstructure' so that total control of the economy, society and politics was in the hands of one person, i.e Stalin through the use of Propaganda ( including the development of cult of personality), increased censorship and repression of opposition.
  • De Stalinization: By 1956 Khrushchev had devised a plan to move Russia away from Stalinism. In a speech in 1956 Khruschev denounced Stalin on the grounds that:
  • it was not Lenin's wish that Stalin become leader
  • Stalin had not prepared to Soviet Union adequately for WW2.
  • Stalin had committed crimes against the Russian people.
    Khrushchev and his supporters proceeded to destalinise Russia by:
  • Releasing political prisoners from Gulags
  • Relaxing censorship
  • attempting to remove the cult of personality
  • However this did not indicate a move away for Authoritarian rule. 
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Change and Continuity in Central Admission


  • All of the administrations under Russian leaders were hierarchal in nature. At the top was the Tsar or, under the Communists, the Politburo. The various organs of government where always accountable to leaders and not the people. The closest Russia came to democracy was under the Constituent Assembly.
  • Under all regimes there were numerous organs of government performing specific roles.
  • The Tsars used:
  • A council of ministers, which was the main law-making and administrative body and acted as the main link between other organs of governement and the Tsar.
  • the Imperial Council of State, which advised the Tsar on legal and financial matters.
  • a Committee of Ministers, although its responsibilities were divided in 1906)
  • the Senate, which was the Supreme Court with its main duty being to act as the final court of appeal on major legal matters.
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Change and Continuity in Central Admission


  • The October Manifesto - led to the abandonment of a Committee of Ministers with its duties being divided up between:
  • The State Council, which was to act as a check on activity of the Duma.
  • The Duma, which was meant to be an assembly of people elected from a range of different social groups. 
    Nicholas was wary that the Duma would not always support his policies so he resticted their power through the passing of Fundamental Laws in 1906. So what appeared on paper to be a move toward democracy was in reality 'supreme autocratic power' in disguise.
  • Stalin 1936 Constitution - implemented a change which appeared to give Russian people greater represenations. Through his 1936 consititution, new representative organs were introduced: the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities. 
  • The supreme soviet was the main law making body, the Soviet of the Union contained representatives of the whole USSR, and the soviet of Nationalities represented particular regional groups. 
  • None of this altered the fact that the Communist Party remained, as stated in Article 126 of Stalin's consitution ' the nucleus of all the public and state organisations of the working people'.
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Methods of Repression and Enforcement

The Secret Police:

  • Alexander II initiall used the Third Section to exile opponents. He replaced it with the Okhrana in 1880, a less openly aggressive body. The Okrhana was used to target specific indibiduals and small groups of dissidents. Even though many political opponents were imprisoned, the secret police was not as effective as it might have been as is witnessed by the numerous attempts on Alexander II's life and assasination in 1881. 
  • Alex II and Nicholas II alos used the Okhrana, especially against the SRs and SDs.
  • The Okhrana lasted until the Feb Revolution of 1917. 
  • Lenin established the Cheka in December 1917 to deal with those who opposed Bolshevik seizure of power. It became integral to the implementation of War Communism and the Red Terror during the Civil War.
  • Once the Cheka had served its purpose it was replaced by the less brutal United State Polic Administratin (OGPU) in 1924. When Stalin perceived an increase in dissidence towards his personalised form of rule he introduced the People's Commisariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) in 1934. This marked the return of the days of the Cheka; the NKVD was relentless on clamping down on opposition through show trials and purges.
  • Khruscheve introducted a clearer structure for policing that resulted in the MVD being responsible for 'ordinary' criinal acts and civil disorder and the KGB being used for internal and external security matters.
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Methods of Repression and Enforcement

The Army 

  • The Tsars used the army mainly to quell rebellion and strikes. Alexander III used troops to enforce Russification and Nicholas II consistently used the army to control workers' protests.
  • The Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC) was encouraged by the Bolsheviks to become the vanguard of the Oct. Revolution. The MRC merged with the Red Guard to form the core of Trotsky's Red Army. The Red Army was essential to the winning of the Civil War for the Bolsheviks. 
  • Stalin continued to use the Red Army; it was utilised, as was the Cheka, to requistion grain and administer purges.


  • Nicholas II used potraits, pampheleteering, photographs and events to increase his popularity, especially after 1905.
  • The communists were the masters of propaganda. They introduced slogans, developed the cult of personality, published party newspapers and promoted 'movements' to bolster support for their rule.
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Methods of Repression and Enforcement


  • The Tsars and Communists controlled the number of publications in print aswell as what was written. Control became very rigid under the Communists with the establishment of Agitprop the Association of Proletarian Writers, and 'offical' newspapers.
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Extent of Reform

  • Alexander II was notable for promoting railway construction; as was Witte during the 'Great Spurt'. But it was the Communists who showed how economic reforms could be used to centralise control over the lives of the people: nationalisations throught the Supreme Economic Council, War Communis, the NEC and the Five-Year Plans were all ways of getting Russians to toe the party line.
  • There were also widespread changes in agriculture. The Tsars carried out some land reforms starting with the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 and ending with the changes made by Stolypin as PM of Russia from 1906-1911. In between, Alexander III introduced Land Captains in 1889 to monitor peasant activity. The Communists made more radical changes, espeially through Collectivisation.
  • Social Reforms: Most attempted to expand educational provision at all levels as it was increasingly evident that more educated workforce meant greater prosperity. Less concern, though, was shown over health provision and housing. By 1955 most citizens were living in accomodation considered to be substandard compared to that in the West. 
  • Political Reforms: The 1861 Emancipation Edict necessitated changes to local gov, hence the introduction of Dumas and Zemstva. Prompted by the impact of the Russo-Japanese war and Bloody Sunday, Nicholas II bought in the National Duma. The PG planned for a Consitituent Assembly. Dramatic political changes then occurred when the Bolsheviks seized power and created a one-party state.
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Impact of Reform

  • Peasants were generally abused and/or neglected throughout the period although frm 1861 onwards they were no longer serfs. Peasants were always those hardest hit by the numerous famines that occured.
  • Workers were also exploited by all rulers but in theory were highly valued by the Bolsheviks. From the end of 1917 there was improvement with respect to a shortening of working hours, the introduction of a workers' insurance system and bonus schemes but, overall, the impression is that the proletariat were treated in a similar way to peasants.
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The Extent and Effectiveness of Opposition before

Extent of Opposition

  • Before 1917 some very important parties emerged, most notably the Populists, Land and Liberty, the People's Will, the Social Democrats, the Socialist Revolutionaires, the Kadets and the Octoborists. 
  • Some influential oppositions leaders also took stage including, Plekhanov (SD), Lenin (SD/Bolsheviks), Struve (Liberal) and Milyukov (Kadet).
  • Significant peasant protests, in the forms of riots, occured in the early 1860s, 90s and particularly 1906 and 1907. 
  • As an urban proletariat grew and became more 'politically concious', so did their propensity to go on strike and attend protest meetings. Eg. There was a wave of sympathy strikes after Bloody Sunday (1905) and a strike at the Lena goldfields in 1912. The most famous strike was probably at the Putilov works in St Petersberg in Febuary 1917; this is commonly seen as marking the start of the February Revolution. 
  • The aim of a nuber of national minority groups was to break away from centralised rule. There were strong nationalist movements in Poland, Finland and parts of the Caucasus region. In other areas, most notably the Baltic provinces , minorities proved to be more compliant. The most passive were Jews, mainly because they had no homeland' within the Empire.
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The Extent and Effectiveness of Opposition before

Effectiveness of Opposition 

  • More radical opponents of the Tsars wanted to see an end to the Romanov dynasty and the implementation of a republic. In this respect, the People's Will was partly successful as it managed to assassinate Alexander II in 1881. Due to radical opposition in the form of the Bolsheviks, the dynasty finally came to an end with the abdication and then murder of Nicholas II in 1918.
  • Peasant activity before 1917 wanted greater freedoms, rights to the land and protection against famines. The Emancipation Edict of 1861, the setting up of the Zemstva and Stolypin's 'wager on the strong' appeared favourable to peasants. But such gains have to be compared with losses in the form of redemption payments, continued restrictions imposed by the mir, poor distribution of land and control over peasants affairs by Land Captain. Famine also continued to be problematic as witnessed by the devastating food shortages of 1891. Lenin later tried to win over peasant support by offering 'Peace, Land and Bread'.
  • Workers' protests achieved little before 1914. Strikes were put down with considerable force; for example, over 200 workers were killed by the army during the Lena goldfields strike of 1912. Also, there was no factory inspectorate until 1881 to check on working conditions and a ten-hour day was not the norm until the start of the First World War.
  • Some national minorities were successful in gaining greater degrees of independence and representation. Finland was actually granted full autonomy in 1905 and Polish Democratic Party members gained seats in the first and second Dumas.
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The Extent and Effectiveness of Opposition after 1

Extent of Opposition

  • As opponents to the Tsar, the PG and other political parties, the Bolsheviks were obviously successful in becoming the sole rulers of Russia by 1918. They were also triumphant in taking Russia out of the First World War and defeating their enemies during the Civil War.
  • 'Moderate' opponents to the Civil War and War Communism in particular emerged within the Bolsheviks. Lenin maintained party unity by appeasing moderates through the introduction of the NEP.
  • During the period of rule by Stalin opposition was largely unsuccessful. Purges show trials and the creation of the Great Terror put paid to any opposition from dissident Communists, peasants, workers and national minorities.
  • Khrushchev introduced destalinisation, which resulted in greater tolerance of opposition. By 1959 there were only around 11,000 counter-revolutionaries in Gulags compared with 5.5 million in 1953. Nevertheless it remained difficult for those who disagreed with Khrushchev's policies to do so effectivley. 
  • National minorities had mixed fortunes in achieving their aims after 1917. Poland and Finland gained full independence after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk although Poland reverted to becoming a satellite state after the end of the Second World War. Georgia gained temporary independence in 1920 and the Ukranians made, in theory, important gains under the 1936 constitution. Jews had been kept in an artifical place of settlement since the time of Alex II.
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The Extent and Effectiveness of Opposition after 1

Effectiveness of Opposition 

  • The strongest party in existence after 1917 was the Bolshevik Party which transformed into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The one-party state was reinforced by the Ban on Factions of 1921. 
  • The Civil War saw the greatest opposition to the Communists in the shape of the Whites and Greens. The Poles also successfully challenged the Red Army during this period.
  • Despite the Ban on Factions, in-fighting continued. It came to a head after Lenin's death in the form of a power struggle. Stalin successfully dealt with the United Oppostion. This marked the beginning of purges of 'inside' opposition that lasted until the Second World War. 
  • Peasants opposed War Communism and collectivisation but peasant revolts were ruthlessly put down by the Communists. Wealthier peasants, or Kulaks, became a particular target. 
  • Workers were generally less prone to oppose the Communists although, as shown, by the Novocherkassk protests of 1962 they would still rebel if they felt they were unjustly treated.
  • There was less opposition from national minorities after 1918. This was mainly a result of the 1918, 1924 and 1936 constitution but also due to increased repression. 
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Changes to Urban Living Conditions

Urban housing

  • By the end of the nineteenth century about 15 per cent of the Russian population lived in towns and cities compared with 80 per cent in Britain and 40 per cent in the USA. Only 19 cities had more than 100,000 inhabitants. St. Petersburg (1.25 million) and Moscow (1 million) were the largest cities. 
  • By 1914 there were over 1000 towns containing about 2 millions buildings. Over 50 per cent of housing was made from wood and therefore prone to fire damage. Most houses and streets were lit by keresen lamps; only 74 towns had access to electricity and 35 to gas. Around 200 towns had piped water and 38 a sewerage system.
  • Disease associated with urbanisation spread rapidly. In 1910, for example, there were over 100,000 deaths from cholera in St Petersberg.
  • Special workers' housing was built near to industrial cities. These 'barracks' were hastily built  and were invariably overcrowded and insanitary. 
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Changes to Rural Living Conditions

Rural Housing

  • The standard peasant house was the izba, a single-room wooden hut. Conditions were cramped, cold, damp and grubby. 
  • Under Stalin there was some change in the way peasants were housed. 'Special' housing blocks were constructed on the periphery of the new collective farms. However, Kulaks were often allocated the worst housing in barracks or forced into tented shelter in fields.
  • Khruschev ordered the construction of self-contrained 'agro-towns' for peasants but again they were built cheaply and quickly and subsequently were of a poor standard. 
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Changes to Urban Working Conditions

Under the Tsars
Key Changes:

  • 1882: Employment in factories of children under the age of twelve was banned.
  • 1896: An eleven-hour working day was fixed by law. Workers were not obliged to work on Sundays.
  • 1903: A workers' insurance scheme was introduced.
  • 1914: Statutory holidays had been introduced by this time and most employers were operating to a nine- to ten hour working day.
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Changes to Urban Working Conditions

Problems in measuring success of the Five-Year Plans. 

The available statistics on the Five-Year Plans need to be treated with some caution. They are based partly on 'offical records' but also on adjustments made by historians to compensate for inaccuracy. Under the first two plans, managers quite obviously submitted false claims about production levels as they feared the possible consequences of not achieving the targets that they were set. This backfired on the managers when Stalin became so impressed with achievement that he revised the target upwards. However, it is understandable why they did this given the climate of fear. 

The Stakhanovite movement (1933 onwards)

This was based on the extraordinary efforts of the Donbas miner, Alexei Stakhanov, who produced way above the normal quantity of coal per shift. Propaganda was used to turn him into a 'model' worker for others to aspire to. Those who joined the Stakhanovite movement were given special rewards such as red carpets and holidays in Moscow. 

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Changes to Rural Working Conditions

Under the Tsars
Key Changes:

  • Emancipation Edict of 1861 was pivotal as in theory it freed serfs to work as they wished on their own land. Redemption payments and the allocation of land of variable quality had a negative impact on the way peasants worked. Also of significance were the restrictions imposed by the mir on the way in which agricultural work was to be organised, such as the insistence on the principles of subsistence farming. This meant that peasants had little incentive to improve their plots and to produce a surplus. The mir as an institution lasted until 1930. 
  • Stolypin's 'wager on the strong' gave many peasants the right to consolidate their land into smallholdings. In turn this gave them the chance to produce what they wanted using whatever techniques they thought appropriate. From this emerged a new class of small independent surplus-producing peasants who stood out as being better off than others.


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Changes to Rural Working Conditions

Under the Communists
Key Changes:

  • Under War Communism kulaks were accused of grain hoarding. The Cheka was employed to requisition and imprison kulaks who were deemed to be against the revolution. 
  • With the NEP the attitude towards kulak changed. They were seen as the more 'cultured and educated' peasants. They seemed to grow in number and were identified, according to a stipulation made in 1925, as those who owned at least three cows. However, they were still persecuted to an extent; they paid higher taxes than other peasants, were disenfranchised and their children were prevented from attending state schools.
  • Under Stalin's collectivisation policy the fortunes of peasants changed once more. Kulaks were viewed as incompatible with collectivisation and a policy of dekulakisation was implemented. It is estimated that from the start of 1928 to the end of 1930, 1-3 million kulak families were deported to work camps in places in such as Siberia.
  • Dekulakisation disappeared under Khrushchev but his Virgin Land Scheme once again put sections of the peasantry under pressure to increase their productivity. 
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Limitations on Personal and Political Freedom


  •  As no representative assembly was established in Russia for any length of time there was never a move towards a universal franchise. However there were times when some groups could vote for bodies that had a brief to represent the views of the people in a rather limited way. 
  • In 1864 Zemstva were set up to express views of rural people at a local level. Members were elected by property qualification and therefore included landowners, some urban dwellers and wealthier peasants only.
  • Similarly there were elections to the national Duma after 1905 but again the franchise was limited.
  • Elections to various bodies did exist under the Communists but were highly controlled by the elite in Russian Government. 
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Limitations on Personal and Political Freedom (3)

Expression of Views through the Media

  • The Tsars and Communists used censorship to control the freedom of expression.
  • Successive governmentstended to retain the right to withdraw publications thought to include 'dangerous orientation'. 
  • Government departments under the Tsars used their own newspapers to publish offical news. 
  • There was some relaxation of control under Nicholas II and, as a result, newspapers aimed at the proletariat appeared, most notably the Kopek. 
  • The Communists were heavily into censorship.
  • Under Stalin writers of all kinds were 'guided' to produce material to show 'socialist realism'. 
  • Khruschev eased censorship but the most popular newspapers were still those of an offical variety.
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Limitations on Religious Freedom

Religous freedom under the Tsars

  • Orthodox religion under the Tsars emanated from the Russian Orthodox Church. The people we re encouraged to attend church as the Tsars believed that they would be instilled with moral values that would help them remain law-abiding members of the Empire.
  • Non-Orthodox religious groups were also tolerated. Nevertheless, some leaders encouraged members of such groups to convert the Russian Orthodox Church. If members did not convert they restricted their practice, for example a law of 1883 banned Old Believers from publically promoting their beliefs.
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Extent of Social Change

Population Growth: 

  • The population of Russia grew substantially during the period due to a 'natural rate of growth'. 
  • In 1858 there were 74 mill. inhabitants of the Russian Empire. By 1960 the population of the USSR was 212 million. 
  • These figures obviously need to be viewed in light of the fact that the composition of the Empire and Soviet Union changed significantly over the period. 
    Social Structure:
  • By the end of the 19th century Russian society was still very rural based. 
  • About 80% of the population was reliant on agriculture. However, large numbers of peasant families had started to move to towns and cities in search of industrial employment.
  • Another significant dev. was the rise of the middle class. By 1914 there were about 2 mill. 
  • The nobility were in decline by 1914 as a result of having to sell land to pay off debts. In the 1870s the gentry owned about 200 mill. acres of land but this had fallen to 140 mill. acres by 1914. 
  • The social structure underwent a dramatic change when the Communists came into power. The majority of society was officially made up of workers. But Communist gov. were dominated by a hierarchal bureaucracy led by an elite. 
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The Crimean War, 1853-156.

Between Russia and the Ottoman Turks with the latter supported by Britain and France.

  • Alexander II associated lack of success in the war with the fact that, compared to Britain and France, Russia's economic and social infrastructure was outdated. In particular, serfdom was geared towards an economy based on agricultural production, tightly controlled by the aristocratic classes. The emphasis on control by the nobility went hand-in-hand with the desire to preserve autocracy and the Romanov dynasty; this is something that the Tsar would not let go of.
  • However, the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 allowed for greater entrepreneurialism in agriculture, the movement of some rural labour to industry, modernisation of the military, and social reforms without the nobility and Tsar losing their authority.
  • Modernisation of the military occured as emancipation meant that peasants had less of an obligation to serve as conscripts in the army.  Thus, the Tsar was able to change how the army was recruited, trained and organised.
  • Most importantly emancipation forced changes to be made to the way localities were governed. By default the management of local affairs was left in the hands of local police constables appointed by the Interior Ministry. Alex II bridged this gap by introducing the institution of Zemstvos.
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The Crimean War (1853-1856)

The Zemstva: appeared to bring an element of democracy to Russian government but their importance must not be overstated. 


  • Members were elected by a mixture of landowners, urban dwellers and peasants based on property qualification.
  • The Zemstva could feedback regional issues to central government and, to an extent, challenge the policies of the Tsar.


  • The councils tended to be dominated by the nobility and professional classes.
  • The Zemstva were located only in areas considered to be part of Great Russia; they were not to be found in Poland, the Baltic Region and the Caucasus.
  • For various reasons not all of the provinces eligible for representation were covered by Zemstva; by 1917 there were still 37 without one.
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The Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878)

Russia had a long standing interest in the Eastern question ( the issues that arose over the decline of the Turkish Ottoman Empire). Under pressure from the Russian public to defend fellow Slav people, Alexander II declared war on Turkey in April 1877. 


  • The Russian army suffered thousands of casualties in the early stages of the war but was generally successful in advancing. Although the military weaknesses noted during the Crimean war had not been fully eradicated by the Milyutin reforms, the Russo-Turkish war indicated there had been progress. To an extent this strengthened the position of the Tsar.
  • The war gave indication of Alex II's econominc policies to develop industry were paying dividends. Eg. the Russian navy had been successful in deploying steam-powered vessels to destroy the Turkish fleet.
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The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

Russia and Japan quarelled for many years over Manchuria and Korea. Russia increased its threat to Japan with the Chinese Eastern Railway and occupation of Manchuria. Russia agreed to withdraw troops in 1903 but didn't. In Feb 1904, the Japanese retaliated by attacking the Port-Arthur; sparked the war. 
Russia was defeated. Treaty of Portsmouth 1905 humiliated Russia. Was made to withdraw from Manchuria and Port Arthur and acknowledge Japanese sovreignty over Korea.


  • The Tsar and his government were blamed for losing the war to a country considered inferior. Discontent in Russia mounted in 04 and 05. Plehve, Minister of Interior, was assassinated in July 1904.
  • Restrictions had been imposed on Zemstva activity by Alexander III as a result of members voicing too many too many complaints about how the Tsar was ruling. They were lifted by Nicholas in an attempt to gain support from the Zemstva, this only led to more open critiscm of the tsar and demand for reform.
  • In October 1905 Nicholas published the Oct. Manifestio which outlined his plan for the introduction of a more representative form of gov. in the form of the Duma. These measures were largely to appease the increasing number of opponents to the regime.
  • Duma appeared to be revolutionary at first but Fundamental laws.
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Changes to Urban Living Conditions (2)

  • The Decree on Land made by the Bolsheviks in 1917 partly focused on what the party intended to do about housing. Dwellings in towns and cities were to be taken from private owners and handed over to the proletariat under the guidance of the soviets.
  • Improvements to housing made by Lenin were reversed by Stalin. The Stalinist policy was to allocate space rather than rooms to individuals and families, especially within the new high rise tenements. Overcrowding once more became the norm. WW2 led to 25 million homeless people in Russia. The problem was not really addressed until after Stalins death (1953). The housing stock doubled and the principles of communal living were abandoned.
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Changes to rural living conditions (2)

Food and Famine
Major Famines:

  • 1891: Adverse weather coupled with the panic selling of grain surpluses to counter the impact of a new consumer goods tax resulted in food shortages. Peasnts sold the surpluses to gain extra income to pay for increases in the tax. Over 350,000 people died.
  • 1914-1918: Disruption to trade and transport during the First World War led to food shortages. The crisis was made worse by the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which meant valuable grain producing areas in the Ukraine were lost.
  • 1921: Terrible winters, severe droughts and destruction of transport infrastructures due to the Civil War combined to create a famine in which over 5 million people died. The problem was made worse by Lenin's slowness in responding to the crisis and reluctance to accept aid from the American Relief Agency.
  • 1932-1934: The famine that occured at this time was similar to that in 1921 in terms of morality levels, but suffering was made worse by the repression that was being heaped on the people by Stalin.
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Limitations on Personal and Political Freedom (2)

Political parties and pressure groups:

  • Although political parties were monitored and controlled to some extent under the Tsars they were allowed to exist. Thus, from 1855 to 1917 a number of parties and groups emerged. Under the communists only on political party existed: from March 1918 onwards the Russian Communist Party dominated political life.
  • Before 1905 trade unions were banned. From 1905 to 1917 they were allowed to exist but with very limited powers. Under the Communists trade unions were valued but were always subordinate to the needs of government rather than the needs of the proletariat.
  • From 1905 onwards soviets appeared and were tolerated. The PG actually formed a 'Dual Authority' with the Petrograd Soviet. Soviets were integral to the Bolsheviks seizure of power and were integrated into the Communist political system after the Oct. Revolution of 1917.
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Limitations on religious freedom (2)

Under the Communists

  • After the revolution the Bolsheviks placed severe restrictions on the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church. They issued the 'Decree on the Seperation of the Church from the State and the School from the Church', which involved the withdrawal of state subsidies and prevented religous groups from possessing property. 
  •  During the Civil War churches were closed and their property was confiscated.
  • Anti-Religious pressure groups designed to promote atheism were formed, most notably the League of the Militant Godless.
  • Stalin continued to close churches and senior clergymen were purged during the Great Terror. The number of clergy was reduced by 60 per cent.
  • Minority religious groups were targeted during the Second World War. They were often associated with collaborating with the enemy. After the war, Non-Orthodox believers suffered a similar fate. In 1958 an offical anti-religous campaign was launched which meant that religous activity of any kind would be scrutinised unless it was conducted in an offical place.
  • Khruschev also disregarded religion. In 1961 the 22nd Party Congress published a new 'moral code' which was meant to replace the bible.
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The Russo-Turkish War (2)

  • The Treaty of San Stefano (1879) attempted to end the war but was opposed by Austria-Hungary and Britain who thought Russia had gained too much from the Treaty. As a result Russia accepted an offer from the German Chancellor Bismarck to broker an agreement favourable to all parties concerned. At the Congress of Berlin, Russia made many gains which improved its international standing and wealth. Turkey was forced to pay a war indemnity to Russia. Russia was also given territory in the region of the Caucasus.
  • However, Russian nationalists were unhappy at concessions made to Austria-Hungary and Britain at the C.O.B. They viewed the concessions as a loss of world status. Alex struggled to quell the unrest that developed from this. May of led to assasination attempts.
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1905 Revolution

Key Events: 

  • 3 January: Strike at Putilov works - In early January 1905, after four assembly members were sacked from their jobs at the huge Putilov plant in St Petersberg, Georgi Gapon called his workers out on strike. The strike spread and culminated with a march on Winter Palace and the delivery of the petition. 
  • 9 January: Bloody Sunday -On Sunday, 22 January 1905, (9 January Old Style) the workers of St Petersburg organised a peaceful demonstration to demand political and constitutional reform. 150,000 demonstrators, including whole families, led by an Orthodox priest, Father Georgi Gapon, marched through the city streets armed with a petition to be presented to the tsar, Nicholas II.Near the Winter Palace the marchers found their way barred by thousands of armed troops The troops fired a few warning shots, then fired directly into the dense crowd. Estimates vary, but nearly 200 people were killed, including children, and many more wounded
  • March: Defeat of Russian army at Mukden ( Russo-Japanese war)
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1905 Revolution (2)

  • June: All-Russian Union of Peasants established ( First nationwide peasants organisations) 
  • September: Mutinies in the army
  • 8 October: Strike by railway workers
  • 13 October: St Petersberg Soviet established
  • 17 October: Nicholas II published the October Manifesto
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The First World War, 1914-1918

  • Russia's in WW1 was partly as a result of a failure to solve the Eastern Question satisfactorily but also due to the deterioration in relations with Austria-Hungary. The famous Russian mobilisation order which got the Russian military ready for war resulted from the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia in July 1914. Russia, of course, had an obligation to support fellow slavs. 
  • WW1 went badly for Russia. Russian causalities for the whole war were about 8 mill. Nicholas II's incompetency as wartime leader was partly responsible for his abdication in Feb 1917. The war eventually ended for Russia in 1917 when peace talks were concluded at Brest-Litovsk. 
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February Revolution

  • February 22 1917 Nicholas II leaves Petrograd to visit troops 
  • February 23 International Women’s Day demonstration in Petrograd
  • February 24 Massive strikes and demonstrations occur throughout the capital
  • February 25 Unrest continues; Mensheviks meet and set up a “Workers’ Soviet” Nicholas II orders military to stop riots
  • February 26 Troops fire on demonstrating crowds Mass mutiny begins in local army regiments Firefights break out between troops and police 
  • February 27 More than 80,000 troops mutiny and engage in widespread looting
  • February 28 Duma and Workers’ Soviet gather separately and begin making decisions about restoring order and establishing a new state
  • March 2 Nicholas II abdicates the throne; provisional government formed Events:
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February Revolution (2)

International Women’s Day 1917

On February 231917, a large gathering of working-class women convened in the center of Petrograd to mark International Women’s Day. The gathering took the form of a protest demonstration calling for “bread and peace.” While the demonstration began peacefully, the next morning it turned violent as the women were joined by hundreds of thousands of male workers who went on strike and flooded the streets, openly calling for an end to the war and even to the monarchy. Feeding on their outrage with each passing day, the demonstrations became larger and rowdier, and the outnumbered police were unable to control the crowds.

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February Revolution (3)

Violence and Army Mutiny

With news of the unrest, Tsar Nicholas II, who was away visiting his troops on the front, sent a telegram to Petrograd’s military commander ordering him to bring an end to the riots by the next day. In their efforts to carry out the tsar’s order, several troops of  fired upon the crowds on February 26. The regiment fell into chaos, as many soldiers felt more empathy for the crowds than for the tsar. The next day, more than 80,000troops mutinied and joined with the crowds, in many cases directly fighting the police.

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February Revolution (3)

 Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviets
Although the provisional government was quickly recognized by countries around the world as the legitimate governing body of Russia, the Petrograd Soviet held at least as much power and had significantly greater connections with regional authorities in other parts of the country. The P.S was in essence a metropolitan labor union made up of soldiers and factory workers. By the time of Nicholas's abdication, it had  3,000 members. Dominated by Mensheviks, favored far more radical changes than the PG.
Though often at odds, the provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet found themselves cooperating out of necessity. With every major decision, the two groups coordinated with each other. One man, named Alexander Kerensky, ended up a member of both groups and acted as a liaison between them. In time he would become the Russian minister of justice, minister of war, and then prime minister of the PG.

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October Revolution (1917)

Aug 31 Bolsheviks achieve majority in the Petrograd Soviet
September 5 Bolsheviks achieve majority in the Moscow Soviet
Oct 10 Lenin and the Bolshevik Central Committee decide to proceed with revolution
Oct 23 PG acts to shut down all Bolshevik newspapers
Oct 24 PG deploys junkers Bolshevik troops begin to take over government buildings in the city
Oct 25 Kerensky escapes Petrograd. Bolsheviks struggle all day long to capture Winter Palace Second Congress of Soviets convenes
Oct 26 PG is arrested. Lenin issues Decree on Peace and Decree on Land Congress approves Soviet of the People’s Commissars, with all-Bolshevik membership, as new PG.
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October Revolution (2)

  • Lenin promised to introduce a dictatorship of the proletariat which would lead to stateless Communism- Communism Utopia. Instead it led to totalitarian regime much like Autocratic Tsars.
  • The Bolsheviks needed to gain support from other regions. They encouraged the formation of soviets in other Russian towns and cities but face opposition from the Old Guard.
  • The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets (Oct 1917) had given the Bolsheviks a mandate to rule on the basis that government would be truly soviet. On 27 Oct Congress was informed that the Bolsheviks had seized power from the PG. Most of the congress was relativley happy. However, the Srs and Mensheviks walked out in protest; they thought this signalled the start of a Bolshevik monopoly of power rather than shared authority through a coalition.
  • The Bolsheviks allowed elections to the Constiuent Assembly but came second to the SRs. Lenin shut the Assembly down after a single day claiming it was 'elected on the old register'. This caused uproar from non-Bolsheviks.
  • Jan 1918, the Third All Russian Congress of Sovits proclaimed that the establishment of Russian Soviet Federalist Republic. A new political structure was put into place ith the Sovnarkom at its centre. However, although members of the Sovnarkom were the product of chain of elections. the system was dominated by the Bolsh. Party and Russia soon resembled a Single-Party state.
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The Civil War, 1917-1918

Key Events:

  • Nov 1917: Kerensky's and General Krasnov's counter-offensive was brought to a halt.
  • Apr 1918: Having defeated General Kornilov's Volunteer Army, Lenin proclaimed that the war was about to end. Foreign intervention occured in this month when British marines were sent to support the Whites.
  • Dec 1918-end of 1920: White armies fought against the Reds. The Red Army, based mainly in moscow, initially soaked up attacks from the Whites from all directions and then counter-attacked to score notable victories. Certain regions such as the Ukraine also demanded to be freed from central control as they believed they should be allowed to develop a seperate identity. By February there were signs that the resistance from the nationalists was receding. 
  • April 1921: Polish armed forces attacked Russia and reached as far as Kiev in the east Russian forces counter-attacked and pushed the Poles back to Warsaw. Another counter-attack in August, this time by Poland, resulted in the Red Army retreating. The Russo-Polish conflict eventually came to a halt in October 1920 when the Treaty of Riga was signed.
  • Nov1921: Red forces drove out the last of the White troops from southern Russia.
  • Throughout 1921, groups of armed peasants formed to oppose the Bolsheviks. They were known as the Green armies. Their aim was to gain more freedoms from Bolshevik leaders.
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The effects of the Civil War

  • The strength of opposition forced Lenin to adopt a conciliatory foreign policy with other nations, although the Bolsheviks did not abandon the Comintern and the idea of 'world revolution'. Foreign intervention during the war had indicated to Lenin that he needed to try ressure Western powers such as Britain, France and the USA that Russia did not represent a threat. Particularly influential on foreign policy was Russia's defeat by an inferior army in the Polish campaign, and foreign intervention on behalf of the Whites.
  • The Civil War was won through strong discipline, administration and management. This ethos influenced subsequent government, since many of those who served in the post-war government had also served in the Red Army.
  • the introduction of War Communism included the nationalisation of large enterprises and a state monopoly of markets, as well as the partial militarisation of labour and the forced requisitioning of agricultural goods. This caused significant unrest and, after the Civil War, Lenin introduced the NEP, denationalising small-scale businesses and giving peasants greater freedm to sell surplus products. The short-term impact of the NEP was extremley beneficial, but by the mid-20's critics with in the party became more voiceferous.
  • Power was more centralised than before, revolving the Politburo and the Orgburo. These party sub-committees became the key organs of government
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The Second World War (1939-1945)

In June 1941 Nazi Germany implemented Operation Barbarossa, and began an invasion of the USSR. In the ensuing conflict over 27 million Russians were killed, two-thirds of whom were civilians. Although the war had significant social and economic effects, the political impact was more limited.


  • The structure of government remained relativley stable. Stalin assumed the role of Supreme Commander of the Military and became Chairman of the State Defence Committee which gave him absolute control of the military and those working in factories to supply the armed forces. However, Stalin listened to his advisers and relied on their judgement. Since the USSR, government was alreay very centralised and authoritarian, it would be difficult to argue that it became even more totalitarian, espeically as the circumstances of war forced other governments to adopt similar authoritarian measures.
  • The NKVD was active during the war, and this continued after 1945. However, whereas during the conflict minority groups suspected of collaborating with the Nazi's were targeted, such as Balkans, Chechens, Karachays and Crimean Tartars, after the conflict, the NKVD reverted to purging the party and other dissidents.
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The Second World War (1939-1945)

  • The war had a significant impact on Soviet foreign relations. The wartime conferences held at Tehran and Yalta confirmed Russian claims to the territorial frontiers established under the Nazi-Soviet Pact (1939). After the war, the victorious Western powers allowed Stalin to exert a sphere of influence over much of Eastern Europe. The USSR was now responsible for governing more people, and had greater influence over a number of other nations. 
  • As early as October 1944, Churchill agreed that Russia could maintain these areas as a 'sphere of influence' after the war. For Stalin, this was critical in helping maintain a physical barrier between the West and the western Russian borderland. Others in the West viewed the Russian territorial gains as the start of Soviety expansionism with the long-term intention of promoting Communism throughout the whole of Europe.  Some claim that when this term was first used it marked the start of the Cold War.
  • The issue of what should happen to Germay after the war ended up causing the Soviet leadership difficulties. Germany as a whole, but also Berlin , was divided into two zones which were to be occupied by the allies until a stable German government could be set up. Russia had juridisdiction over the eastern zones but there was mutual suspicion and tensions between the occupying forces right from the start. The Berlin Blockade of 1948 and the erection of the Berlin Wall worsened relations between Russia and the West. The result of this was that they key problem of unifying Germany was never resolved until Communism started to collapse throughout Europe over forty yrs later.
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The Cold War (1947-1991)


  • When Khruschev came to power, he enacted a policy of destalinisation in an attempt to present a more favourable picture of Russia to the West.
  • The Cold War prompted an arms race which required high levels of investment in heavy industry. This prevented more investment in consumer products and caused interest which was ruthlessly dealt with, such as the Novocherkassk worker protests, 1962.
  • A number of situations such as the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly caused a war between the USSR and the USA. These incidents demonstrated that the Soviets were willing both to confront the Western countries, and also to compromise.
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Autocracy (2)

Repression and Reform

  • Alexander II - stuck closely to autocratic principles especially after 1866. Although he was willing to reform, his policies were still carried out with the need to preserve autocracy. Eg. he maintained respect for his authority by compensating serf owners after the 1861 Emancipation edict.
  • Alexander III - strongly believed that the slav people lack the intelligence to participate responsibly in a democratic political system.
  • Nicholas II - The October Manifesto of 1905 and the setting up of the reforms, though, was cushioned by the passing of the autocratic Fundamental Laws of 1906.
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Dictatorship (2)

Implementation of Marxism-Leninism:

  • Leading a Bolshevik revolution against the Provisional Government 
  • Engaging in a civil war from 1917 to 1921 against the opponents of the revolution.
  • Using War Communism to ensure that there was no drift from his close followers or those who he percieved should have supported Marxism-Leninism i.e proletariats and peasants. War communism was implemented with a degree of ruthlessness like that used by Alex III when he attempted Russification. Both used secret police to brutally enforce their policies.
  • Making concessions in the form of the NEP. This was to ensure the backing of moderate Bolsheviks.
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Change and Continuity in Central Admission


  • The Communists mainly used:
  • the All-Russian congress of soviets and the Central Executive Committee. This was broadly similar to the Council of Minisiters used under the Tsars. The CEC was divided into 3 political offices: the Politburo, the Orgburo and the Ogburo.
  • The Council of Peope's Commissars ( Sovnarkom). Commisars were gov. minister who were given specific roles to play. In theory, Sovnarkom was accountable only to the CEC.
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Changes to Urban Working Conditions

Under the Communists
Key Changes:

  • From 1932 Stalin demanded that workers operated to a ten - to twelve hour working day to fufil the requirements of his Five-Year Plans
  • As a result of the alleged success of the first Five-Year Plan the average working day went down to seven hours by 1939. Bonus schemes were organised and the Stakhanovite movements popularised.
  • From 1941 workes were under pressure to meet demands of the Russian War effort. The length of the working day increased and workers forced to forgo holidays
  • After 1958 the working day stabilised at seven hours. Conditions improved as Khruschev wanted Russia to move on from the oppressive years of rule by Stalin.
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The Crimean War (1853-1856)

Limits on reform:

  • The war did not lead to any major change in ideology and the structure of central Russian government.
  • Alex II's main aim was to preserve autocracy. The emancipation edict and the spin-offs from it (esp. the Zemstva) were reforms from 'above' designed to counter what might have been an attempt to reform from below. The Tsar was astute enough to realise that discontent of Russia's performance in the was may have led to a rebellion.
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Alexander II (1855-1881)

Main Domestic Policies:

  • 1861: Introduction of Great Emancipation Statute which freed the serfs. The Tsar claimed it was 'better to begin abolishing serfdom from above than wait for it to begin to abolish itself from below'. The positive effects of emancipation were negated by the stipulation that redemption payments had to be made, administered by the mir, and allocations of personal plots of land were inadequate.
  • 1862-1874: During this period Alex ordered the War Minister, Dmitri Milyutin, to carry out a series of military reforms. They included better training of officers, more human treatment of troops and a reduced period of service. As a result, the army became more professional.
  • 1862-1881: For most of his reign the Tsar attempted to modernise the Russian economy. Mikhail Reutern was appointed as Minister of Finance with the brief to attract foreign investments and technical expertise into Russia. Consequently the staple industries expanded rapidly, as did railway construction. From 1862 to 1878 there was a sevenfold increase in the amount of railway track.
  • 1863: The education system was reformed through the promotion of private schools, an overhaul of the curriculum and the setting up of an inspection system.
  • 1864: The Zemstva (regional-councils) were introduced to bring an element of democracy to local gov. Important changes to legal structures and processes were brought in such as a jury system and a hierarhy of courts to deal with diff types of legal cases.
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Alexander II (1855-1881)

  • 1865: New guidelines were issued for publishers and writers which provided greater freedom for individuals to express their views.
  • 1866: A first attempt to assassinate the Tsar resulted in slowing down of the reform programme.
  • 1877: In this year Alex II organised the 'Trial fo the 50', a trial of his key political opponents. This showed he was willing to carry on the tradition of Tsars ruling autocratically and with a firm hand.
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