The government of Tsar Nicholas II
Autocracy – Believed that God had made him Tsar & therefore he had absolute authority to rule.
Support- Supported by aristocracy (landowners), church & the army
Okhrana – ruled harshly, opposition crushed, secret police tracked down any one who was critical of his rule.
Family – Alexandra ( German princess), 5 children: 4 daughters and 1 son (Alexis – haemophilia)
Weak – Nicholas was weak & slow in making decisions but determined to maintain his autocracy.
Russian society in 1914
Huge country – Population of nearly 150 million; spread across parts of Europe & Asia
Poor/ old fashioned – Communications poor, behind modern industrial powers such as Britain, Germany & USA.
Peasants – More than 80% of population were peasants living in countryside. Worked on estates of wealthy landlords. Most unable to read & write. Out dated farming methods. Produced barley enough to live on.
Loyalty – Most peasants were loyal to the Tsar even though they were poor; obeyed priests who taught them the Tsar was appointed by God.
Other nationalities – Russian empire included different nationalities – films, Estonians, Poles Laotians – hated Russia rule and wanted independence.
Cities- numbers in industry was growing, population of Moscow doubled between 1880 & 1900. But working & living conditions in cities poor, food shortages, poor wages & terrible living conditions.
Emergence of opposition groups
Social Revolutionaries (SRs) – largest & most violent group, supported by many peasants wanted to carve up huge estates owned by nobles and hand them over to peasants.
Social democracy party- small party; followed ideas of Karl Marx & communism; believed revolution would be achieved by the workers; in the 1930s split into 2: Bolsheviks led by Lenin – believed job of the part to created a revolution; Mensheviks – believed Russia was not ready for revolution.
Kadets – More moderate – did not want revolution; mostly lawyers teachers doctors and civil servants, believed in working within the constitution or laws of Russia to bring about change.
The impact of WW1 on Russia
Initial Patriotism – war started August 1914, a lot of patriotism; Russians fighting to defend their country; Priests prayed for success.
Military defeats – defeats increased unpopularity of Tsar; soldiers poorly equipped –shortages of weapons and ammunition; series of defeats e.g. Tannesburg August 1914; 1915 Tsar took personal command of army- mistake because he then directly blamed for any defeats
Effects on cities – Greater overcrowding- low wages & rapidly rising prices; shortages of food & fuel; people near starvation; winter 1916-17 extremely severe
Transport dislocation – transport system could not cope; priority given to getting war materials of food to troops; many skilled engineers gone to fight – many had been killed- so trains not repaired; food intended for cities left rotting in railway sidings.
The growing unpopularity of the Romanovs
Nicholas as commander-in-chief: 1905 took personal control of the army; defeats and losses of life – Nicholas becomes more unpopular.
Alexandra in charge: Nicholas away from Petrogard on frontline; wife Alexandra left in charge; German princess – treated with suspicion – many thought she was a spy
Rasputin: mad monk; seemed to ‘heal’ Alexis, therefore very popular with tsarina; very unpopular with others because of womanising & drinking; influenced Alexandra into making decisions; several capable ministers were dismissed & replaced with friends of Rasputin.
Assassinated in December 1916 by group of nobles
February 1917 Revolution: major unrest; strike by 40000 workers at Putilov armaments factory in Petrogard; discontented strikes in cities continued; queues for food turned into bread riots; Tsar away fighting; troops ordered to put down the riots – but soldiers refused; workers began to form councils (soviets)
March 1917 abdication: Tsar returned to Petrogard; train stopped