The strengths of the Tsar government were similar to those seen in any other autocratic regime. The church and the army were strong. Likewise there was a great love for the peasants. Along with this there was a repressive police force. The weakness of the government lies in its inability to govern, the enormous size of the country and poverty of Russia. Apart from that, the country had many other pressures from a modernising world, especially from the middle class which had previously compulsorily forced the Tsar to set up a parliament, known as Duma, in 1905. It had pressures from the extreme political groups to make even more fundamental changes.
- The main strength was that the peasants loved their Tsar like “their father” and respected him as a messenger sent by God. But this belief was crushed when the Cossacks attacked a peaceful demonstration in St. Petersburg in 1905. This is also called Bloody Sunday or Red Sunday where unarmed demonstrators led by Father Georgy Gapon were fired upon by the Imperial Guard soldiers when they were marching towards the Winter Palace to give a petition to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
- The Romanov Empire had ruled Russia since 1613 and its 300th year celebration made it much more popular. In the 1905 revolution, Nicholas was forced to accept a Duma which had no real control and the Tsar could terminate the Duma if the Tsar disagreed with it.
- The church which was influential supported the Romanov government and the government and the army controlled by the nobles supported the government.
- The government used the Cossacks to bring down the protest and that is called the Bloody Sunday of 1905. Cossacks for generations had served the Russian royalty and continued to do the same and their services.
- Post the attack the formation of the secret police and press censorship took place.
- There were two parties in the Duma which supported the Tsar, the Rights and Octobrists. The rights were called “the Black Hundreds” by Lenin. They supported the Tsar because they wanted to eliminate the Duma and reinstate autocracy. During the problems of 1905, Tsar along with his chief minister Witte published the October Manifesto and according to the manifesto it promised freedom of speech, no sentence to captivity without trial and also Duma to approve all laws. The Octobrists even though were supporters of the Tsar did not accept the autocratic rule but wanted the Tsar to follow the October manifesto.
- Russia was humiliated in its war against Japan in 1904. Japan’s attack was sudden and Russia was not prepared. At the same time the generals of the army had a lot of in fighting and one of the generals surrendered even when there were still in a position to win.
- Russia had many nationalities, religions and languages and only unison was in the Romanov dynasty.
- Russia was a massive expanse and it had around 125 million people spread across Asia and Europe. It was very difficult for the government to control the country because of its size, and because of poor communications, bad roads and poor railways network.
- Russia was mainly an agrarian community but it had an out-dated farming economy and farmers who survived in the country but under the control of the nobles.
- In 1904, Russia was starting to industrialise with the start of Trans-Siberian railway and even smaller towns were starting to emerge.
- Factories were becoming big but there were poor working conditions and they had deprived living circumstances. This formed a big workforce settled in Petrograd, the capital city.
- Rich middle class wanted to have a voice in the government.
- Tsar Nicholas was a dictator and he carried out all the business of the government alone in his own style. Nicholas was a weak Tsar and denied to compromise and in the disaster in 1917 he failed to act.
- The opposition to the government was from the Kadets, who were middle class and generous landlords who desired a parliament like England in Russia.
- The other opposition was from the Social Revolutionaries who wanted a peasant revolution and wanted the land to be given to the farmers.
- The others were the communists under Karl Marx and they were divided into Mensheviks who wanted communism without a revolution and extremists Bolsheviks who wanted a violent revolution.
- Post 1900, there were many assassinations and protest including the murder of Prime Minister Stolypin in 1911.
A brief Summary of Events from 1914 to 1941
From 1914-17, Russia were in ruins after entering the World War 1.
In March 1917 February Revolution took place and Nicholas resigned.
During Mar-November 1917 an interim government under Kerensky took charge.
In November 1917 the October Revolution by the Bolsheviks took place.
Between 1917-1924 Lenin took charge and there was a civil war and war communism, Kronstadt mutiny and the New Economic policy.
In 1924-1941 Stalin came to power and introduced the five year plan, collectivisation and Purges.