When Nicholas II became Tsar in 1894 he didn’t know how to run Russia. He was shy and weak and his wife was very overpowering. When Nicholas II became Tsar he was Russia’s autocrat and he had total power. Being the autocrat meant that he could make laws by himself and appoint his government often they would be close friends from his court circle. Being an autocracy is the opposite of what we live in, a democracy, where the autocrat made all laws without consultation with any form of parliament. Unlike, a democracy where a parliament has to take a vote on passing laws.
To carry out his orders Nicholas relied on the army where the officers where mainly nobles, the secret police, the Okhrana or Protective Section, who would jail anyone for speaking out against the Tsar or plotted to over through him, the aristocrats who owned vast estates, where lived the bulk of Russia’s population, the peasants. The Royal Family were weak. This is shown by how much they rely on Rasputin when he comes along. The Royal Family was very rich they owned eight different palaces and employed 15,000 servants.
When the Royal Family moved from one palace to another they had up to twenty railway carriages just to carry the luggage. Nicholas and Alexandra were happily married with five children during the first few years of marriage. The first four were all girls and the fifth was a boy called Alexis the heir to Russia’s throne. Alexis had haemophilia that meant a slight cut could kill him it is when the blood does not clot. Women only transmit the disease but it can only affect males. Alexandra carries the disease from her family that come from England and more famously Queen Victoria.
Both Nicholas and Alexandra were very religious. Alexandra had a chapel specially built in the grounds of the royal palace to pray, every day for hours that her son would recover from his potentially deadly illness. She made sure that her daughters never talked of Alexis’ illness and made everyone else that knew to swear an oath of secreacy never to tell anyone else. I will now go on to tell you how the peasants lived in Nicholas II’s reign. By 1900, six years into Nicholas’ reign, 82% of Russian citizens were peasants all over the Russian empire.
Up until 1861 the peasants had been serfs that means slaves of their landlords with no rights, no freedom and no land of their own. In 1861 Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas II’s grandfather, freed the peasants from serfdom and allowed them to own the land on which they grew their food. But they had clauses attached. First, the land on which the peasants grew their food was given to them as a village and not as individuals. Second, the peasants had to pay for the land given to the village in yearly instalments called redemption payments over the next forty-nine years.
Once all of this was paid the peasants would own the land. The peasants being freed did not improve their lives at all. Each year the land was divided up between the peasants in the village. The bigger the family the bigger land they would get. As years went on the population grew and so the land that was allocated got smaller and smaller. Between 1861 and 1900 the average plot size halved. This meant that peasants found it harder to support their families. As well as growing on the land to support their families they also had to keep on paying redemption payments for the land.
This hard life meant that nearly half of all new born children died before the age of five, while the average for those who did live past five was only fifty. Diseases and malnutrition were very common. The best thing that the peasants could hope for was a good harvest. Then they would have food to eat and some extra to sell at market so they could pay taxes and redemption payments each year. I shall know go on to tell you how the town workers lived. The town workers were mostly peasants who had moved to the town to try and improve their lives.
They would work in factories and mines until harvest when they would return home to the villages. The biggest city in Russia was the capital St Petersburg. Almost a million peasants had moved to the city in search of work and the number was always rising. Workers like those were unable to improve their conditions. Law did not allow trade unions and going on strike was illegal. Employers could easily replace troublesome workers who complained, as there was always a long unemployed line out side of every factory. The houses were overcrowded and unhealthy.
Most workers did overtime because they needed the money and this meant that many would die from tiredness. Life for the workers was very hard. In cotton factories many of them had coffin-like boxes between the machines, where they slept in filth. The slightest bit of carelessness would end in tragedy. You could lose a limb or even be killed. If you didn’t sleep in between the machines you would live in houses near by. It would often consist of several families in one room with curtain dividers. These rooms were often dirty and damp from the poor walls and ceiling.
The badly paid factory workers worked long hours and lived in foul conditions for very little in the way of money. This led to strikes, riots and hatred. They would often work for 15-16 hours. Rasputin had been travelling around Russia and in 1905 he arrived at court. Rasputin gained the trust of the Tsar and Tsarina through his apparent ability, possibly with the aid of hypnosis, to control the dangerous illness of the Tsar’s son, Alexis who had haemophilia. The Royal Family became very dependant on the advice of Rasputin or ‘Our Friend’ as they called him.
Later, during the First World War, Rasputin even gave advice on who the Tsar should appoint to his government or the Tsarina after 1915. Rasputin was a colourful character. He had sympathy for the ordinary Russians and was intelligent enough to predict disaster if Russia got involved in another world war. Rasputin was well known for his orgies and wild living at court although the Tsar and Tsarina didn’t get involved it was there friendship that bought their reputation down. Rasputin had opinions about aristocrats he said they couldn’t get used to a humble peasant at an Imperial Palace.
He also added ‘They are consumed with envy and fury’ Rasputin was a peasant who was born in Siberia. He claimed to a starets or ‘holy man’. Rasputin apparently had a gift to stop the bleeding of the Tsar son and heir to the throne Alexis. When the First World War broke out the Tsar went to the front line to be a commander. This left the country in the hands off Alexandra and more importantly Rasputin who was very close to the Tsarina and he would be able to have complete control over her and the empire. This enraged the Russian people and the Russian nobles. Many of the Russian noble felt that Rasputin was a German spy.
They also believed it about the Tsarina as she was half German and this meant that they had to do something. There were many rumours about the relationship about the Tsarina and Rasputin. Many thought that they were having an affair and this really dragged down the reputation of the royal family down to gutter level with the peasants as it was thought a peasant like thing to have affairs. On 30th December 1916 Prince Yusupov murdered Rasputin, first he fed him poison in cakes and wine. That did not work so he shot him and finally while he was just still living he threw him into the river Neva.
Rasputin was so disasterous for Russia because before he died he had already angered a lot of Russians and because he was seen as one with the Royal Family although the Royal Family hadn’t done anything wrong his actions had offended many. Only three months after the death of Rasputin the whole of Russia went into disarray and the Tsar was forced to abdicate I think that Rasputin was the only things that was keeping him in power in the first place and after he died there was no one that he could trust to help him. In August 1914 war broke out in Europe.
Russia and her allies Britain and France faced Germany and Austria-Hungary. All over Russia most people were in favour of the war ‘For Faith, Tsar and Country’. Love of Russia matched their fear and hatred of the Germans. The whole of Russia was on fire with war but on the other hand they were very nervous. They were wondering what would happen to them if the Germans did take over. A few Russians feared that the war might signify the end of the Tsar’s rule over Russia. One of these few was Rasputin who sent the Tsar a telegram in 1914 that said that if war broke out he would fall from power.
The Tsar’s reaction to this telegram was to tear it up. Rasputin was right though within three years of the telegram having been sent in March 1917 Tsar Nicholas II fell from power. There are some main reasons why the Tsar fell from power and they all contributed to the downfall of the Tsar. I shall example all eight reasons one by one and then give a concluding paragraph of which one I think had the most influence. The first factor is that the Tsar went away to be commander of the army. This would mean that any failure that the army would suffer would be pinned on to him and so this could make his decision fatal.
In January 1917 one general talked to the Duma about feelings among the army’s general he said, “The feeling in the army is such that all will greet with joy the news of a coup d’etat (an uprising to remove the Tsar). ” The generals of the army felt unless the Tsar was removed from his post they would not be victorious. This meant that the army would not be totally confident with the decisions made by the Tsar and therefore they would not go into them whole hearted. While Nicholas was at the front line commanding the army his wife Alexandra was in charge of the government.
The Russian people hated her because of the fact she was half German and they were the enemy. They also didn’t like the fact that Rasputin had such a great amount of control over her and her decisions. A key piece of information to go towards a theory that Alexandra was on Germanys side is one day Alexis the Tsars son is seen crying. A general of the army went to the boy and asked him what was is wrong he replied, ” When the Russians are beaten papa cries. When the Germans are beaten, mama cries. When am I to cry? ” This could possibly support a theory that Alexandra was a German spy and that the Russian people were right to judge her.
Another good reasons for the collapse of the Tsar is the role that Rasputin had to play in their way of living. Rasputin had great control over Alexandra because of the fact that he could halt her son’s potentially fatal illness. For this gift she could not thank him enough and so she would always be his debt and so she would give him anything that he wants. Rasputin was given the label of chief adviser and therefore had more say over who should be members of parliament. Rasputin was also thought to be a German spy and therefore he was murdered. This was the main reason for his murder.
The fact that Rasputin led a very outrageous life rubbed off on the royal family even though they were innocent. The fourth factor of the fall of the Tsar was the collapse of Government. This happened in 1915. The cabinet of ministers told the Tsar that they could not back his plan to take over as commander of the army and leave the Empress to run the government. So from 1915 until 1917 Russia had four prime ministers four ministers of the interior, four ministers of agriculture and three ministers of war. Bribery and corruption were out of control.
The government was in a form of turmoil. Food, guns, ammunitions and clothing failed to reach the army. Food was short in the towns. In Petrograd there was no food at all it was 35 degrees below zero. Then everyone revolted and everything in the town was looted and smashed. Then when the government sent in the soldiers there was mutiny and they refused to fire on demonstrators. Russia’s economy was very poor compared to Britain or Germany. For every 1 mile of Russian railway Germany had 10 miles and for every 1 Russian factory Britain had 150 factories.
At one point the state of the railway in Russia was so bad that not enough food could be moved into the towns from the country villages where it was grown. Things then got worse during the war and prices rose sharply. In January 1916 the price of grain was 155 and then in January 1917 the price was 300 and then in October 1917 the price was 755. The expansion of the army had caused damage to the economy. By 1916 strikes were widespread in the factories in Moscow and Petrograd. During the war the Russian economy grew very quickly. In 1916 it made enough guns and ammunition for the Russian army to be fully equipped.
A different cause to the defeat of the Tsar was the collapse of support for the war. The Russian army of 1914 had been mainly trained to fight using the charge- cavalry with sabers, infantry with bayonets. Facing them were German troops with machine guns and plenty of field and lots of heavy artillery. Each German division had twice as many field guns as a Russian division. German troops were full of supplies and guns and ammunition. The Russians were short of both. The Russians were in shallow trenches while the Germans had deep and solid defences.
On May 1915 the Germans attack on Poland destroyed the Russian army. Half of the army were killed, 1,400,000 fell in the battle wounded and 976,000 became prisoners. German field guns just smashed the Russians to bits. They said they just swept them a way with long lines of fire. The final reason for the collapse of the Tsar was the Duma and the Zemstvos. In 1914 the Duma had given his full backing to the Tsars government support, which the Tsar lost in 1917 refusing the advice of the Duma. The Duma warned the Tsar of the risks of him going to be commander of the army.
There was lots of hatred for the Empress and Rasputin as they would be left in charge and there was the corrupt government being surround by bribes and the shortage of food in St Petersburg. The president of the Duma Rodzianko had backed a plan for the government to use the local councils, the Zemstvos, to help with the war effort. He had very little support from the Tsar. By March 1917 the Tsar had lost all of the support of the Russian people who had backed him and the war in 1914. Rodzianko told the Tsar that he had pleaded with him not to take overall charge of the war and now that he had all the blame was falling on to him.
The Tsar was in danger, for it seemed he might force his subjects to choose between you and the good of the country. In March a food riot began in St Petersburg. This led quickly to the fall of the Tsar. The Tsar did not want to abdicate he wanted to return to the capital and take control but the rail was blocked and at last he accepted that he had little choice but to abdicate. I believe that the most important reason for the downfall of the Tsar was that he went to take control of the army and therefore put himself in the fire if it all went wrong.
I think that leaving Alexandra and Rasputin in charge meant that he lost the respect and love of the people. He really didn’t know what he was doing as commander and should have left it to the professionals. He also rejected the advice of Rasputin and of the Duma not to go and they predicted what would happen and he was aware of this as they told in letters from Rasputin and The Duma but he still refused to take any notice of them and just went of on his own. This was the key reason why Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and ended the 300-year-old Tsarist dynasty of the Romanovs.