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Was life improving for most Russian people before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Assignment

The 1905 “revolution” was a massive wake up call for The Tsar and his government but he didn’t react quite the way some people wanted. Tsar Nicholas II could have gone two ways: He could think himself lucky to have survived the revolt and drastically reform government policies or regain total autocratic power. Unfortunately he chose the latter. In his first repressive step to reaffirming his absolute rule, The Tsar appointed Stolypin to replace Goremykin as Prime minister. Stolypin was notorious for being heavy handed but an excellent right wing leader, the Kaiser Wilhelm once asked the Tsar if he could lend him Stolypin for a few years!

In 1906 a lot of the violent disturbances a ceased in the cities but had carried on in the countryside but Stolypin soon changed that. He set up military courts that had the power to hang people on the spot without trial and thousands of people were killed by this method, which was known as ‘Stolypin’s necktie’. The people were not silenced though. In 1906 there were political assassinations, Peasant uprisings, protests and Stolypin’s house was even bombed injuring two of his children.

The Tsar created a reserve cabinet in case the present cabinet were all assassinated. The Tsar saw this widespread unrest and knew that if he didn’t gain full absolute and autocratic power he would face another revolution. The Duma’s were about as constitutional as the Tsar got and even then he ended up dissolving each one for different reasons. The 3rd Duma tampered with by the Tsar so that it would favour the gentry and urban landowners who were known to be very conservative but they still criticised the Tsar’s government and in time that Duma was dissolved too!

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Those who thought that the Duma’s would be a change from the autocratic government were very wrong. The Tsar’s stance on the Duma was very apparent in this quote “I created the Duma not to have it instruct me, but to have it advise me”. He said this because all 4 of the Duma’s questioned and criticised his government, which he did not agree with. The Tsar saw it as his god given duty to be an autocratic dictator. The first Duma met and was dissolved in the same year and in 1907 the second Duma met and was dissolved the same year.

The 1905 revolution changed things but not for the better. It only brought about more persecution and repressive policies. Stolypin’s Agrarian reforms were seen by many as the first step towards a changing empire. In the November of 1906 the prime minister introduced the Agrarian reform, which involved the abolition of redemption payments for allotment land and the setting up of the peasants bank which its main purpose was to provide loans to the peasants. This was one of the governments more progressive policies and it actually did work quite well.

Some peasants moved to urban areas leading the way forward for wealthier peasants to buy and farm more land, as a result of this there was a record harvest in 1913. However the poorer peasants were forced to leave their land and look for work elsewhere in the countryside or in the cities. So Stolypin’s land reform had mixed blessings, it helped the richer peasants but only persecuted the poorer even more. The main objectives of these reforms were to turn the land into a more productive asset and to divide more land out to the enterprising peasants and on the whole it worked.

The number of people leaving the land commune reached its peak in 1909 when 579,409 people left to find work elsewhere leaving more land to be shared out among remaining peasants. The Tsar’s anti-Semitic policies only grew with the emergence of the Pogrom which was a policy followed by the police that meant you could virtually do whatever you want to Jewish people for three days and then relative order would be restored and enforced the black hundreds and the police. The authorities would always turn a blind eye for three days after a pogrom is issued which meant that Jews could be raped burnt and viciously attacked.

The Tsar fully and wholly endorsed these actions. Between 1905 and 1914 total industrial production increased by 100 percent and Russia became the worlds fourth largest producer of Coal, Pig iron and steel. The economy was booming but working conditions were dire, protests were becoming increasingly bloody like the Lena Goldfields strike in 1912 which was brought about by awful working conditions and low wages, this was brutally suppressed to the same affect as bloody Sunday, 170 were killed and 373 people were injured.

This harsh defeat of the Lena Goldfields strike only opened the floodgates for even more workers protests. The aspect of the Empire that improved the most was the agricultural side of Russia which was vastly improved by Stolypin’s reforms however, the reforms meant that very poor peasants were forced to find work elsewhere. The Agrarian reform made life better for some people and if it weren’t for the 1914 war there would have been a more productive side to Russian agriculture.

The Duma’s were as near as the Tsar got to Democracy and they were in the Tsars words supposed to “advise” him and not give him orders. The workers wages were lower than the glum days of 1903. Anguish was at an all time high and the only people benefiting were a few of the successful farmers, the gentry and urban landowners. On the whole, life was better before the 1905 revolution because the up rise only pushed the tsar in to a corner and it made him realise that he needed to regain autocratic power so it wouldn’t happen again. Well he certainly regained his power!

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