How Stable Was Russia on the Eve of Ww1?
The Liberals were the first group to be appeased as the tsar issued the October Manifesto, on Witte’s advice, in which he accepted the creation of the legislative Duma. The Liberals were excited by this as they would finally be granted civil rights, freedom of speech, assembly and worship and trade unions would be legalised. To an extent, the Liberals were satisfied. Stolypin also aimed to be supported by the peasants. He therefore introduced measures in 1906-7 which would help restore the peasants’ sense of security.
Stolypin’s main aim was to create a class of rich land owning peasants who would support the Tsar. Therefore, the Peasant Land Bank was set up in which All State and Crown lands were made available for purchase. Funds were introduced such as ‘Wager and the Strong’ which particularly appealed to the Kulaks (the richer peasants). Peasants were also allowed to withdraw from their commune and redemption payments were ended. Moreover, Stolypin stopped the redistribution of land to every member of the family and made all the land hereditary property of the head of the family. The peasants were temporarily content
The second argument which supports the idea that Russia was stable on the eve of World War 1 is the one which agrees that the Tsar continued to have the loyalty of the army. The event which came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ supports this. The marchers who were protesting outside the Winter Palace were shot down by the Tsar’s troops. This shows that they were prepared to guard the Tsar and that in effect the Tsar still had complete power and loyalty from his army. Although there were several military strikes, the army’s support of the Tsar was barely hindered, and they still looked up to him.
Therefore it is apparent that Russia was fairly stable at this time, seeing as the Tsar definitely depended on the support from his Army to have any complete power. Another very important factor which shows that the Tsar ultimately had complete power and that his autocracy was powerful was due to the fact that the powers of the Duma were actually very limited. Two points show that The Tsar was not going to let the people have much control and that he was planning on keeping his autocratic role. The Fundamental Laws were issued in 1906 and these suggested that in fact the autocracy was still in the ascendency.
The Laws stated that no laws could be enforced without the Tsar’s approval, so that in effect, the Tsar was making the decisions. The Duma had little power to initiate or enact legislation. The second thing which was announced was that there would be a Bi-cameral chamber in which there would be a State Council alongside the Duma. The legislations would be proposed by the Commons, would then have to pass the Nobles and finally be decided by the Tsar. It was very unlikely that anything the Commons proposed would get passed the Tsar. The new Duma was a concession on the face of it but actually meaningless.
The Tsar continued to have complete Power. This further agrees with the proposal that Russia was stable. This is because the Tsar had control over his people no laws were passed by the people themselves, everything was ultimately controlled by the autocrat himself. However, there is a counter argument which exists for this idea. There was significant antagonism on the part of the Kadets, The Constitutional Democrats. Alongside the Labourists, the Kadets drew up an ‘Appeal’ by refusing to pay taxes and disobeying conscription orders. Due to this, violence scattered.
Because of this of the protesting, they were crushed by the Okhrana as the Tsar retaliated and executions were carried out in all of Russia. This fiasco was named the Vyborg Fiasco. Despite the Kadets not succeeding with their upheaval, it was evident that there were pockets of antagonism among the people and not everyone was pleased with the Tsar’s ruling. Another possible argument suggesting that Russia was stable on the eve before World War 1 is that the economy had grown well by 1914. For example, between 1905 and 1913 savings accounts grew from 4,988,000 to 8,992,000.
Also, the National Debt which was money owed by the government to foreign banks had dropped from 9,014,000 to 8,835,000 roubles. Moreover, an annual growth rate between 1907 and 1914 was over 6%, which surpassed that of any Western country. Judging by these figures, Russia’s economy wasn’t too dreadful and seemed to be, if anything, improving. As well as this, agricultural production had been growing before 1914. For example, grain production grew by 2. 1 per cent annually between 1883 and 1914, or by 1. 1 million tons per year. This kept it ahead of the big 1. percent annual increase in population. Industry had also reformed during this period. Russia was ranked the 5th largest industrial power in the world, with a growth rate of 8% per annum. Heavy industry expanded and a consumer market developed. Imports and exports had increased from the year 1900. Imports had risen from 626. 3 roubles in 1900 to 1,084. 4 roubles in 1913 and exports had risen from 716. 2 roubles in 1900 to 1,520. 0 roubles in 1913. It is very clear from these statistics and examples that Russia had a fairly stable economy, and it wasn’t going downhill.
This may suggest that Russia was also a generally a stable country before World War 1, as the economy played a big part in its successfulness. Despite this positive economy, there is also a counter argument that must be addressed. There are various economic issues which indicate instability of the economy. Primarily, there were continued problems in industry. Poor working conditions still persisted and the workforces of St. Petersburg grew by 1/3. Also, Russia still produced 14 times less than Britain in industrial terms, meaning that it was extremely backward compared to Western countries.
It’s important to remember that there was a recession going on and inflation was 40% which had a negative impact on the cost of living as it increased, and the value of money in turn decreased. These points suggest that the economy was in fact not as stable as it may have been argued to be. The last argument which suggests that Russia was a stable country on the eve of World War 1 is that there was actually a lack of effective opposition and severe dealing with dissidents. One example is the Lena Goldfields Massacre in 1912. The military revived due to this incident.
Workers who were striking and protesting about degrading working conditions, low wages and a 14-hour working day, clashed with troops. Over 200 people were killed and many were injured. This shows that the military was ruthless and the Tsar still had the support of the Army. Another example that shows how severely dissidents were dealt with is the example of “Stolypin’s necktie”. Stolypin instituted a court system that made it easier for the arrest and conviction of political revolutionaries. In the years of 1906-1909 over 3,000 suspects were convicted and executed.
The hangman’s noose became known as “Stolypin’s necktie”. It is obvious from these severe dealings that the Tsar was still in complete control and revolutionaries were punished very harshly for their actions. The Vyborg incident concerning the uprising of the Kadets and Labourists also suggests that the Tsar was the almighty autocrat. In the years of 1906 and 1911 2,500 executions took place in Russia. The Tsar and his army were not letting anyone get away with their antagonism against his rulings and there were no serious threats to the autocracy as every threat was crushed.
On the other hand, the counter argument suggests that there was opposition to the Tsar. Firstly, Stolypin was assassinated in 1911 which shows that there was opposition towards him and that many groups must have been against the autocracy. Also, there were many strikes in 1914 which was in fact the opposition voicing itself. For example, at the time of the 1905 revolution there were 2,863,000 strikes which occurred which shows that there was a large number of people who weren’t satisfied with the Tsar’s rulings.
In 1911 there were 105,000 people who were striking and in 1914 a sum of 1,337,000 people were striking. The continuity of this striking shows that there was always opposition to the Tsar and it is evident that the workers were never bought off but were merely temporarily crushed. Another idea that supports the counter argument is one which concerns the Martial Law. The sheer fact that the law had to be introduced in the first place suggests exactly how unstable everything was. It indicates that there was rising opposition and a law had to be passed to stop this rising opposition.
This is a typical feature of an unstable government. To conclude, it is evident that Russia was reasonably stable on the eve of World War 1. There are many pieces of evidence, and incidents which point to the fact that Russia had a good economy, the Tsar had ultimate power, the army obeyed the Tsar, and that there was little threat of opposition. However, there were various resentments which were building up and there were many groups which opposed the rulings of the Tsar. Strikes were extremely popular amongst the public and the economy had many flaws.