The Revolution itself took place in 1917 and some historians believe that it was years of oppression and poor conditions for the lower classes that finally drove them to vent their frustration through violence. The Revolution can be traced back to Alexander II (1858-1881) and much evidence suggests that Alexander’s reforms were a major contributing factor to the 1905 revolution,” by inevitable increasing the numbers of educated and potentially Critical” (Kemp). Alexander II theory for the reformation of Russia was good but his actions at the end of his reign as Tsar showed how he feared that he had made too any changes.
Alexander II gave the Russian people a glimpse of freedom, in reforms such as the emancipation, zemstvo, judicial reforms, military, censorship and potentially the most critical educational reforms. It was in Alexander’s reign that the sign of an opposition started to appear, the terrorist group land of liberty were very much against the limitations to the reforms, wanting complete autonomy; as Mc manners suggests, ” By dabbling in freedom the autocracy had demonstrated its own obsolescence without being able to adapt itself to the new age.
However much evidence suggests, it was the combination of liberation under Alexander II (1858-1881), followed by repression and conservation under Alexander III (1881-1894) that pre-empted a Revolution. The reign of Alexander III is looked upon by most historians’ as a time of repression that saw the undoing of many reforms by his father, as Cranks haw suggests “he was determined to stop anything that smelt of liberalism dead in its tacks, and did so with minimum fuss.
His legacy is one of economic reform and political repression, which as ‘Crankshaw’ describes is like; “marching his country towrads catastrophe”, as industrialization united Russian citizens and their brewing anger towards their autonomy being stripped away. Alexander III sought to strengthen and centralize the imperial administration and bring it under his control. All the internal reforms which he initiated were intended to correct what he considered as the too liberal tendencies of the previous reign. In his opinion Russia was to be saved from revolutionary agitation by autocracy and Russification.
However the implications of this policy were so profound that a large standing army was needed to secure it from possible enemies within. This anger was created by Alexander’s political ideal of a nation containing only one nationality, one language, one religion and one form of administration; and he imposed the realization of this ideal by forcing the Russian language and Russian schools on his German, Polish and other non-Russian subjects by fostering Eastern Orthodoxy at the expense of other confessions, by persecuting the Jews and by destroying the trace of German, Polish and Swedish institutions.
These policies were implemented by “May laws” which were extremely limiting to the Jews restricting them in many areas of Russian society such as voting in the Zemstva, entry to education and residency. However Russification was not on its own responsible for the rising tide of opposition in Russia. Many other reforms that were Alexander II legacy, moreover the Russians hope for freedom, were also eliminated or suppressed . This in turn created a strong opposition which many historians argued, fuelled the revolution in 1917.
In the provinces Alexander III sought to counteract what he considered the excessive liberalism of his father’s reign. For this purpose he removed what little power had by zemstvo, and placed this autonomous administration of the peasant communes under the control of landed proprietors appointed by the government. These came to be known as land captains, who were much feared and resented amongst the peasant communities throughout Russia.
However although the undoing of the autonomy of the zemstva only really directly affected the peasants it angered the middles class, who were increasingly become involved and concerned with the issue of inequality. The restrictions among the judicial system, with judges security of tenure and the elected “justices of peace” being abolished; only emphasized the inequality and more importantly resentment towards it.
This anger amongst the middle class escalated as more Russian institutions were repressed. Censorship was tightened into a rigid system, with “harmful” publications being eliminated and all papers being censored the day before publication. Educational restrictions were also enforced, with universities losing the ability to rule their own affairs and there becoming a great emphasis on religion and preventing the working class from exceeding the social environment in which they belong.
Overall these repressions appeared to work by bringing stability, but opposing groups were starting to rise against authority which was not a secure basis for Tsarists long term survival. However many historians suggest that this rising tide of opposition was not created solely through hostility by the repressions, but it was Alexander economic reforms coupled with the repression that fuelled the opposing social forces.
Under Alexander III the economy developed dramatically with an average growth rate of 8 per cent per annum at the end of the century and railways grew which connected Russia to the Far East. However this industrial revolution brought about profound social changes with much of the rural poor moving to towns and cities to face poor living conditions and low wages, however the also much higher literacy rate among the urban poor, left workers open to many revolutionary influences developing at this time.
Industrialization and modernization brought with it two direct opposing forces an educated free thinking middle class able to travel and read the works of the western authors was one force and another was an industrial work force concentrated in urban squalid conditions. It is therefore easy to argue that Alexander IIII bequeathed Nicholas II a revolution, through his legacy of economic reformation and political repression, as ‘Crankshaw’ argues, “He was to march his country steadily towards catastrophe.
Many historians accept the view that Nichols II succeeded to a difficult reign, with the support of liberalism escalating- with Russians, of all classes, wanting a centralized approach within Russia, and participation by the people in government. However much evidence suggests that, Nicholas II played a part in instigating the revolution. Nicholas II did not possess the essential qualities needed to rule one-sixth of the earth’s land surface; . This is evident through his own words – “What is going to happen to me, to all Russia? I am not ready to be the Tsar.
I never wanted to become one… ” which he expressed the day after his father died in October of 1894. Many Russians believed that peaceful changes would be made under Nicholas II. However this did not happen, he believed in autocracy, which he saw as essential for general welfare. He rejected the idea of popular representation and united government; even though he forced to make concessions for representative government in 1904 under the threat of revolution, he subsequently cancelled this when he believed the danger to have passed, causing outraged, disuniting the country.
It was his failure to keep his promises that contributed to the Russia Revolution. Nichols II gained much resentment due to his domestic policy, but much evidence suggests that it was also the contribution of his foreign affairs that resulted in the revolution. In an attempt to unite Russia, Nicholas II went to war with Japan in 1904, however war proved very unpopular with the Russian people and demonstrations took place in border areas.
Further Failure to defeat the Japanese also reduced the prestige of the Tsar and his government. Moreover, the outbreak of World War One in 1914 temporarily strengthened the monarchy; however Nicholas made the disastrous decision to take direct command of the Russian armies. From then on, every military failure was directly associated with him. Russia suffered heavy losses in the war; there was high inflation and severe food shortages at home, making Russia un-united and on the brim of a revolution.
Overall much evidence suggests that Nicholas II held, the greatest responsibility for the collapse of the Romanov Empire in 1917, but not entirely. His main offence was himself, the fact that he was not suited for the position of tsar. However, many occurrences, such as Bloody Sunday, the damaging influence of Rasputin, his absence during the war and his ignorance of the current peasant situation at the time, could have been avoided, hence preventing the inevitable decline of the Romanov Empire.
However, although the fate of the Romanov Dynasty did slip through the hands of Nicholas II, the modernizing reforms set by Alexander II, which were later removed by Alexander III, set up difficulties for Nicholas II, which also contributed to the fall of the Romanov Empire. Further the social forces developing through Alexander II and Alexander III reigns, reached an all time high during Nicholas II reign with revolutionaries presenting Leninism as a the way forward to the new liberalised urban poor, which ultimately was the most detrimental factor in instigating the 1917 revolution.
Moreover, although these revolutionary groups had been brewing during Alexander III reign, he managed to suppress them effectively; it was under Nicholas II that their ideas strengthened due to their frustration towards the Tsars regime. Ultimately, Alexander III did create major problems for but Nicholas II but it was Nicholas II that concluded the tsar dynasty.