• Political Change
    • The Tsar did set up the Duma (parliament) as he had promised in the manifesto, but he curtailed its power drastically. It could not pass laws or control finance, and ministers were still responsible to the Tsar and not to the Duma.
    • The electoral system was weighted in favor of the well-off and against the working classes and peasants. The revolutionary parties decided to boycott the Duma when they couldn’t get any changes made.
    • After a rocky beginning the Duma did do some useful work but it was clear that the Tsar wasn’t prepared to make the jump to constitutional government.
  • Economic and Social change
    • The Peasants
      • In the countryside, Stolypin, the chief minister, brought in land reforms to encourage higher production. He aimed to encourage the KULAKS to become efficient producers for the market. He allowed them to consolidate their land into one holding (previously the old strip system had been used) and to buy up the land of poorer, less efficient peasants.
      • To some extent this worked and production did increase, leading to record harvests by 1913, although some historians maintain this was more t odo with favorable weather conditions.
      • But the reforms hadn’t gone far enough by 1914 to judge whether they were a permanent solution to Russia’s agricultural problems, which were very complex. The reforms certainly had a serious downside: they produced a growing class of alienated poor peasants. Many drifted into the cities to work in the factories while others became disgruntled farm laborers.
    • The workers
      • Between 1906 and 1914 there was an industrial boom, with tremendous rates of growth in industries like coal, iron and oil. Huge modern factories grew up in the cities, employing large numbers of workers.
      • Entrepreneurs and business people were very prosperous. However workers didn’t, on the whole, benefit from the increasing prosperity (although in some areas they did quite well). Average wages didn’t raise much above their pitiful 1903 levels. Conditions at home and in the workplace were just as dreadful as they had always been. As a result, there were a growing number of strikes before the First World War. Workers remained disillusioned with their economic and political progress
  • The downfall of the Tsar
    • We can identify two broad lines of thought amongst historians. The first suggests that Russia was beginning to make the changes required, that agricultural and industry were making real progress, and that there was some political progress which suggested the Tsar would make some concessions to parliamentary government in the not-so-distant future.
    • It can also be suggested that progress had been made on the industrial front, but stress that the benefits hadn’t filtered down to the working class who remained discontented and strike-prone in 1914. They maintain that the case for the success of the agricultural reforms hasn’t been proven and point to the continued alienation and antagonism of the peasantry, who wanted more land.
    • They claim that little real progress had been made in political sphere and that the Tsar remained an entrenched autocrat, reluctant to give up any of his powers. Those who agree with this believe that the regime was unable to adapt to changing conditions and would have fallen even without the impact of the First World War. However, they agree that the war acted as a catalyst for the revolution and accelerated events.




Notes by Jorden Olton