Questions and Anwers: Russia

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Questions and Anwers: Russia

1. What effect did the Decembrist Revolt had upon the character of Czarist rule?

The rising of the Decembrist Russia was due to a momentary confusion over the succession. In 1825, Alexander I died suddenly. Alexander's younger brother, Constantine, who was next in line, had no desire to assume the troublesome burden of ruling and unsettled and distrusted empire, so he renounced his right of succession in favour of his brother Nicholas. Nicholas, however, had been left unaware of the official details of the change and on learning of Alexander's death he proclaimed Constantine emperor at St. Petersburg, at the same time as Constantine in Warsaw was proclaiming Nicholas. For nearly three weeks in December 1825 the throne remained vacant.
Russian officers and troops had come into contact with currents of liberal thought, with new social conditions, and with new political institutions in western Europe during the struggle against Napoleon. Upon their return home they saw that the idea of the rights of man was regarded with contempt by their rulers, that their country by trodden under the heel of an autocracy which made all progress impossible. As they had no legitimate means making their desires known, they organised secret societies which agitated for reforms, including the establishment of a constitution. These societies, afterwards called the Decembrists, were planning a widespread uprising but, when Alexander suddenly died, resolved to take advantage of the uncertainty that existed regarding the succession to attempt a coup d'etat. But the plotters had no clear plan or organisation and had made no adequate preparations. They were crushed with great severity. Thus, the Decembrist Revolution came to an end and a regime of the darkest autocracy began.
Nicholas I, a narrow-minded man with strong conviction, never forgot the rebellion. It is reported that for the rest of his life he trembled at the "spectre of revolution". To forestall any further attempts to change the status quo he fought liberal ideas relentlessly, seeking to stamp them out by every means at his command. A ruthless suppression of all liberal views was organised by the police--- the "Third Section of the Chancellery". It was a higher police authority designed to prevent any resurgence of Decembrist activities. It operated partly through a force of military gendarmerie, divided into districts so as to cover the whole of Russia and commanded by upper-class officers. The secret societies, accordingly, were swept away, but not the need for them nor the ideals they had stood for. In addition, a large network of secret agent, including women and even school children, furnished reports on political and religious dissidents, foreigners living in Russia, and other categories of suspects. To prevent the spread of liberal ideas a strict censorship was imposed upon the press, and firm control was established over the bureaucracy and the army. Not only so, but Uvarov as minister of education made it his business to build "intellectual dams to hold up the flow of new ideas into Russia" and introduced a stricter regime in the universities themselves, placing the appointment of professors, the control of students behaviour and the scope of the curriculum like under ministerial supervision. Only - limited number of students were permitted to attend the universities because the government needed only a limited number of educated servants. Education for others was a "pernicious luxury" in the eyes of Nicholas. He particularly opposed the education of the poor because, as he put it, they "became accustomed to a way of life, the way of thinking, and to idea which are not compatible with their position." In March 1848, the Czar withdrew permission for teachers to travel abroad, and a subsequent remodeling of the universities gave an opportunity for banning the study of the constitutionally of European states.
The close and detailed inquiry made into the motives of the Decembrists, which produced a large-scale document of popular grievances for the Czar and his ministers, showed clearly how much was miss in Russian society. From then onward the government, however, slow it might be to implement them, remained were of the need for reforms. Secret committee set up to inquire about possible reforms. The investigations were thus conducted so as to avoid raising undue expectation the public mind, and ended usually in abroad generalities that bolstered up the status quo. A committee appointed to consider the condition of the serfs, who numbered 44 percent of the Russian population led to no result.
Because he set his face resolutely against the irresistible streams of humanity, he disregarded the horrible factory conditions in Russia which was more appalling then that in Britain before the Great Factory Legislation in 1833. He did pass the first Russian factory set but he did not enforce it. Therefore, the condition in factory remained as worse as even and discontent accumulated in the minds of Russian. This discontent had great influence upon the early rule of Alexander II.
The Decembrist Revolt had not only made Nicholas reactionary at home but in his outer dominions as well. Poland was under the rule of the Czar who ruled it with a separate constitution. However, the Poles were dissatisfied and rose in view of punishing the Poles, the old privileges were abolished. All the elections and the Polish Diet was abolished and the Czar ruled Poland as her land.
The revolution of 1848 produced a wave of repression in which Uvarov himself lost office because his treatment of the universities was deemed too soft. Thus relentlessly suppressing all revolutionary ideas and by mercilessly crushing all revolutionary movement Nicholas was able to prevent any widespread domestic uprisings. The maintenance of Orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationality was the underlining philosophy of the reign of Nicholas I.
Nicholas died in 1855 and was succeeded by Alexander II. The rule of Alexander II was again effected by the Decembrist Revolt. The reactionary rule of his father had made him realise that Russia did need some reforms and reconciliation between the Czar and the people. Besides, he also noted that the aims of the Revolt were in itself deserving attention if he was going to serve Russia. Therefore, he first pardoned those who were still under going punishment for the Decembrist revolt and Polish Revolt. Next he issued in 1861 the edict of emancipation of serfdom. Hence serfs were freed and became peasant. In 1864, he granted local self-government to different provinces. Other reforms introduced in the years included trial by jury, the extension of education especially to woman, the abolition of military colonies and the replacement of the long term of military service by conscription. Thus the aims of the Decembrist revolt were fulfilled.
From about 1866 onward, Alexander II suddenly headed towards a policy of thorough repression. The reasons were many. Among them were the Polish Revolt of 1830 which was crushed by Nicholas under the influence of the memory of the Decembrist Revolt, had restricted too much and he had wanted too for.
However, it is clear that the Decembrist Revolt had a profound influence upon to character of Czarist rule - directly on Nicholas land indirectly on Alexander II. Nicholas I pursued a policy of repression while Alexander II with an aim to serve the Czarist regime attempted to reconcile the people of granting the same demand of rebels. The later part of the career of Alexander II was gain affected by the Revolt indirectly. Nicholas had planted great hatred in the minds of the failed to reconcile them. This non-welcoming attitude of the Russian diverted Alexander II to policy of oppression. And this policy of repression, was followed and gradually created enough hatred in the Russians to rise up in revolt in 1917. All there were the effects of the Decembrists Revolts in 1917.
2. Discuss the effects of the Decembrist Revolt of 1825 in Russia up to 1917.
The Decembrists, most of them nobles and young officers, imbued with the French liberal ideas of the revolutionary tradition of 1789, attempted in December 1825 to secure a constitutional government under the Duke of Constantine. Its failure resulted in an ever deepening process of social disintegration. Although the insurgents were but lightly punished. Nicholas I applied a series of repressive measures to prevent the spread of liberalism. A strict censorship was imposed upon the press in 1826. The darkest aspect of Nicholas reaction was cultural. Nicholas I was particularly opposed to education of the poor because, as he put it, they became accustomed to a way of thinking and ideas which were not compatible with their position. Uvarev, his minister of education, proposed in 1832 the triple formula of orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality. It meant all the subjects in Russia were to believe in one religion, to be faithful to the Czar and to be Russianized in their way of life.
The memory of the Decembrist incident weighed heavily on Nicholas' reign like a nightmare. The reactionary nature of his regime was made more pronounce in that he took the lead in an international policy of counter-revolution and this policy was followed by the three eastern powers in 1825-55.
Nicholas I, a severe and conscientious ruler, had learnt lessons from the Decembrist revolt. In the grip of fear for peasant uprisings, he carried reforms from the above. From 1833 onwards, the state peasants received better retreatment in tenure, taxation and local government and their free status was affirmed. Between 1840-48 edicts were issued to encourage emancipation of serfs with land, to foster emancipation of domestic serfs and to endow the peasants the right to buy lands when their master sold their estates. However, these concessions did not create a class of free peasants. Moreover, coupled with other changes in law and administration, Nicholas I's rule not only strengthened the conservative tradition of reforms from above, but tended to equip autocratic repression with modern efficiency.
The Decembrist Revolt of 1825 discredit the nobility in the eyes of the Czar. The army continued to be the chief field of advance of individual nobles, but more recruitments of officers were made from other ranks. Large numbers of nobles were now relieved of their former obligations of services and retired to St. Petersburg and provincial capitals letting out their holdings. Absenteeism ruled among the landlords. As a result, they lacked that sense of home and particularism which had helped to bind class to class.
The Decembrist Revolt was a flashing outbreak of French liberalism in Russia. When this took place, the revolutionary spirit passed on from nobility and officers to a new generation of intellectuals. Two schools of though emerged, the Westernizers and the Slavophiles. The Westernizers included Herzen, the brilliant publicist, Belinsky, the founder of Russian literary criticism, Turgenev, the novelist, Granovsky, the historian and Bakunin, the future anarchist. Whatever their other differences, there was a fundamental belief in the urgent necessity for closer contact with the West with rationalism, individual liberty for the regeneration of Russia. The Slavophiles saw in unprevented Russian history a youthful force with its own innate strength and virtue, rooted in the people and the Orthodox Church, destined to supersede the West and to become the universal civilization of the future. The opposition between the Westerniser and Slavophiles, however, must not be over-estimated. Both shared detestation of the existing regime, and both believed in the Russian future, whether as part of the West or as an independent force. Thus, we can say that the Revolt marked the beginning of the revolutionary movement against the autocracy with which much of the Russian history of the nineteenth century will be concerned. It was to serve as an inspiration and a model for the future intelligentsia educated class. It survived as a myth to inspire all future rebels against the regime - the intelligentsia of the 40's and the Nihilist of the 60's, the Populists and Anarchists of the 70's and the Marxists of the 80's. The punishment meted out to the Decembrists and the following reactionary regime deprived Russia of practically a whole generation of its most intelligent and cultured citizens, the intellectual movement thus entered into a desperate and more revolutionary phase.
On the whole, the period of Russia following the Decembrist revolt could be regarded as a deviation from the course of liberal development. The Russian society was split into two: centralised government at one extreme and village collectivism at the other, with no educated middle class to hold together the two extremes. The intellectual fermentation was resulted from the schools of extremism and western concept of liberals. Such were the effects of the Decembrist Revolt which later germinated the Menshevik Revolution of 1917 and Bolshevik Revolution.
3. Analyze the effects of Alexander II's reforms of the early 1860's on the lot of the Russian peasantry.
Czar Alexander II did carry out a series of reforms in Russia. These reforms affected the lives of Russian peasants a lot. Generally speaking all these reforms furnished a negative effect for the peasants which laid down the foundation for the late Russian Revolution.
Measured by the number of persons affected, the emancipation of the serf in Russia was the outstanding social reform of the nineteenth century. It was a revolution from the throne.
The Act of Emancipation of March 1861 show many compromises. Its First Article is clear in stating that "the right of bondage over the peasants settled upon the landlords' estates and over the courtyard people in forever abolished". This denotes that the peasantry were transferred from chattel properties to human beings. From then on, landlords could no longer sell or otherwise dispose of the persons of their peasants. But the landlords still kept their rights of punishment and of maintaining order until special courts were set up. The peasants had still to pay certain obligations to landlords, both obrok and barschina during the transitional period. The Act was to ensure that the liberated serfs should at least meet their obligations to the State, and also to make them pay for their liberty as early as possible to the landlords.
For the ex-serfs, the provisions of the emancipation settlements were most unsatisfactory. They were to conclude agreements with their masters whereby they received allotments of land varying in size from area to area. These were generally smaller than the plots which they had cultivated for their own use under bondage. The average size was less than three dessaythins (2.7 acres), and still lower in the overcrowded central blacksoil provinces. These allotments had to be redeemed at grossly inflated prices, based upon the rent previously paid, which bore no relation either to the market value of the land or its potential yield. Redemption payments were made in installments through the mir, which was to hold the land corporately until the debt had been paid. Many hesitated to conclude agreements on such burdensome terms, and as late as 1881, 15% of the former privately owned peasants were still serfs in all but name.
The mir was retained partly as a convenient fiscal and administrative organization and partly in the belief that it would prevent the formation of a depressed landless proletariat; but its advocates failed to appreciate sufficiently that, whatever its possible social merits, it was economically retrogressive. It perpetuated ancient three-field system of farming, whereby each household possessed scattered strips in several fields, which were periodically redistributed for one reason or another. The more enterprising members thus had no incentive to improve land which they might lose diverted into unhealthy speculative channels. The mirs punished severely those who defaulted on their taxes or dues or otherwise infringed the low. The mirs also issued passports.
Without which beyond the village was forbidden. A myriad obstacles prevented peasants selling their allotments and withdrawing from their communities. Above the mirs stood the cantonal authorities which were conceived as organs of peasant self-government but which in practice degenerated into obedient instruments of the large army of officials. Though no longer serfs, they had not become citizens.
The onerous terms on which the peasantry were freed in ensified the crisis which was developing from the rapid increase of the rural population without any corresponding increase either in agricultural productivity or in opportunities for alternative employment of industry by restricting the domestic market; lack of industry prevent the absorption of surplus agricultural population. The most serious aspect of the financial situation was the constant uncertainly about revenue. The taxation system remained basically unreformed, the heaviest burdens continuing to fall upon those least able to bear them. The archaic poll tax, to which peasants alone were liable, was still the principle source of direct taxation. In the famine of 1867 and 1870-73 the government failed to give relief. The peasants felt instinctively that they could best improve their lot by seizing the landowners' estates and paralleling them out among the needy. Most of them at that time still thought of their Czar as their common benefactor, they only thought that the emancipation edicts had been tampered with by the nobility. There were hundreds of peasants rebellions in all parts of the empire, especially during the first year which followed the act.
Nevertheless, the Emancipation of 1861 had already produced an effect of accelerating the change-over from a barter or natural economy to a money economy with a consequent growth of capitalistic forces. Since the average land allotments were equivalent to only a half of the earning capacity of the ex-serfs, they tended to rent more lands to cultivate for subsistence purpose. These serfs emancipated without land gravitated towards factories in the towns. And the building areas of Southern Russia and ports at the Baltic and Black Sea, stimulated the rapid increasing grain exports. In the 1870s there were the signs of the emergency of a rich middle-class of peasant proprietors on the one hand and a village proletariat on the other.
The local government statute of 1863 provided in each province and district of Russia of a rural council, the zemstvos. This consisted of a permanent executive board appointed by an annual assembly of deputies; the deputies were elected by the landowners, towns people and peasants, meeting separately. The significance of the zemstvo was two-fold. Firstly, they provided a bridge across the great gulf dividing Russian society by giving former serfs and former serf-owners an opportunity to collaborate. Secondly, they initiated the scheme which were within the reach of local resources and man-owner. They improved irrigation, introduce new methods of cultivation, built roads and canals, erected hospitals, and attended to the relief of the poor. They concentrated upon the task of combating the almost total illiteracy that prevailed in the countryside. By 1881, they had brought into being some ten thousand elementary schools. Undoubtedly, the work done by the zemstvo brought about some betterment in the life of the peasants.
There were the judicial reforms in the early 1860's, but the peasants were classified as an inferior order and thus corporal punishment was retained for then despite the law of 1863 which abolished it otherwise. The peasant was still a separate class subject to discriminating legislation.
The last major at in the early sixties was the introduction of universal military service of 1864. Thus the peasants service which hitherto had been selective, was made compulsory. This added to the peasants' obligation to the autocratic Czardom.
The emancipation of the serfs had weakened considerably the hold of the nobility over the peasantry. This was, however, only to tighten the state's grip over them. The reform of landholding and of administration were essentially collective in nature and application. So was the freedom granted. The reforms from the throne continued and were strengthened by the old institutions of the household and the mir, which were both collective social units. These signified the victory of the Slavophiles rather than the Westernizers.
Yet, the routine of the peasant's lives changed by slowly and slightly and in many ways not at all. The peasantry got legal freedom from serfdom at once, but they lost economic security and remained the underdog. Had it not been for the beneficial scheme carried out by the zemstvo, the lot of the Russian peasantry could have been unbearable, and it would not have endured the long years of misery before rising in 1917 along with the industrial masses.
4. Discuss the causes, outcome and significance of the 1905 revolution in Russia.
The 1905 Revolution broke out in Russia from a combination of causes. The discontents of peasants and workers, and also those of liberals and intellectuals under repressive rules of successive Tsars Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II were amplified by the defeat of Russia by Japan in 1904 and Bloody Sunday of 1905. Revolution broke out and as a result, Nicholas II was forced to issue October Manifesto and summon Dumas. Though the Revolution ended, what had been achieved was far from expectation of the revolutionaries. So it is not surprising that Trotsky prophetically summed it up: "The revolution is dead. Long live the revolution!"
Discontent of peasants was laid down as early as during the reign of Alexander II who promulgated the end of serfdom in 1861. Despite the Emancipation, the position of the peasantry was not greatly improved. Peasants were not given land and freedom. Many of them were soon in debt as result of the need for heavy payments for purchasing land. Many actually had less land than before the Edict was passed as land was distributed according to the size of the family. They had to pay high taxation and were severely frustrated by frequent famines. Thus the incompleteness of the reform provided the leaven in the bread of political agitation against the autocracy of the Tsars.
To this unrest were added economic factors. Russia had remained a poor country for many years and she began her industrialization rather late when compared with European countries. But industrialization created a proletariat labour force, which, poorly paid, badly housed and fed, swelled the ranks of the discontented.
Another reform of Alexander II, the reorganization of local government also led to increased agitation of liberals. In 1864, new district and provincial assemblies (zemstvos) were created. People had the first taste of local representation though zemstvos had only limited power. This led to the demand of liberals for a national elected assembly. The fact that the Tsars were determined to maintain autocratic rule meant that the liberals and the government were bound to clash into conflicts.
Facing the growing discontent of peasants, workers and liberals, both Alexander III and Nicholas II strictly enforced repression policies. Rigorous censorship was imposed on the press and publications. Education was interfered with and there was a purge of the student body, removing the undesirable elements. The Russian people as a whole suffered from heavy political restrictions, but the Jews suffered most, economically as well as in religions matters. The government tolerated and even promoted anti-Jewish riots. Jewish students were discriminated as that many of them could not get higher education. There was religious persecution, not only of non-Christians but also of Christian sects in conflict with the Orthodox Church.
The Tsars hoped that repression could quiet down discontent of people but what turned out was that it did not prevent dissent from becoming more pronounced, more radical and more sophisticated. The more the repression, the greater was the radicalism since it virtually forced liberals to take up revolutionary positions. As a result, three parties were created: the Social Democratic Party, mainly concerned with workers, the Social Revolutionary Party concerned with peasants and the Constitutional Democratic Party concerned with the educated and members the Zemstvos. These parties were to provide leadership in the coming revolutions.

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