Tsarist system of government
The Tsarist system of government underwent many changes throughout the years of 1881-1914. Both Alexander III and Nicholas II created several modifications, being both good and bad, to the government during these years. Alexander III created mostly negative changes, due to him being seen as a reactionary, whereas Nicholas II created mainly positive changes to the government as a result of the 1905 revolution. These changes can be categorised into political, economic and social modifications. Alexander III made a few political modifications to the Tsarist government. In 1851, he introduced Land Captains.
These meant that people, sometimes locals, could be appointed to have more power over the people within their towns or cities, meaning power was seemingly being more wide spread. However, these lands captains were chosen by the Tsar himself, meaning he could manipulate who had extra power based on what he wanted. Therefore, some could argue that this was a negative modification made to the government.
Only $13.90 / page
Alexander III also introduced the Manifesto of Unshakeable Autocracy in 1881. This showed the Tsars rejection of democracy and further reform, meaning he had further influence and power over everyone else.
He also introduced the Statue of State Security in 1881, which allowed for the Okhrana to have more powers. For example, the Okhrana was now able to break into people’s houses without reason or their consent, meaning the government had further control over the population of Russia. Although Alexander III’s political reforms were mostly bad, the introduction of the Land Captains meant that his power was in fact becoming more widespread amongst the population of Russia, and not all of Russia’s power was given to one person.
Therefore, the political reforms made by Alexander III showed a slight modification the government during his reign. Nicholas II also introduced several political reforms. These took place after the 1905 revolution. In 1905, Nicholas issued the October manifesto. This gave people a lot more freedom than they previously had. Freedom of speech, organisation and assembly was now made legal; allowing opposition groups to now be able to be more organised as they were allowed to meet in public. Nicholas also introduced the fundamental laws in 1906, which allowed for the government to become more democratic.
Under the fundamental laws, Article 87 was introduced, giving the Tsar the complete right to exercise any policy that he wished, without having to gain permission from the Dumas beforehand. The first State Duma was also introduced under Nicholas II in April 1906, which allowed for the population of Russia to have more of a say in the governments decisions. It was believed that the Duma was a step forwards towards a democracy for Russia; however, the Tsar could change and manipulate the Dumas in whatever way he wished through the use of Article 87, mean they were only put in place to make Russia seem more democratic when in reality it was not.
Nicholas II also introduced a pro-government terrorist group called the Black Hundreds in 1905, meaning the government had further control over Russia as they were willing to use violence to get what they wanted. All of these new policies introduced by Nicholas seemed like positive reforms, however Article 87 meant that the Tsar could still pass laws and policies without consulting the Dumas beforehand, so really the Tsar and his power still heavily remained in Russia.
The modifications made by Nicholas II throughout the years of his reign drastically changed the Tsarist government, showing the fact that Nicholas’ modifications greatly impacted the Tsarist government. Both of the Tsars between the years 1881-1914 also introduced a range of economic reforms. Under Alexander III were Witte, Bunge and Vysknegradsky. Witte made several economic reforms, including the building of the Trans-Siberian railway in 1891, the increase of foreign loans, the gold standard and industrialisation.
All of these meant that Russia was now becoming a much richer country, with more exports going to other countries. The production of coal, iron and oil was majorly increased, meaning the country had a lot more sources of income other than just agriculture. The building of the railway meant that trade was much easier, and therefore the countries income was increased as a result. Despite all of Witte’s efforts, Russia still lagged behind other great powers economically, and therefore the economic policies put in place did improve Russia but not as much as Witte intended.
Also, Alexander III introduced the Peasants Land Bank in 1862, which meant that peasants would now find it easier to rent land. However, they still had a difficult time paying this back and not many peasants owned land after this was put in place, the majority of land was still owned by the major, richer landowners. As a result, this shows a major change to the government during Alexander’s reign as a wide range of economic policies were introduced by Witte which dramatically improved the countries overall income and as a result Russia was much better off as a country.
Nicholas II also put various economic changes in place. These were under Stolypin, who changed a great deal for Russia and put a lot of policies in place. One economic policy which was put in place by Stolypin was the ending of redemption payments for peasants to pay to the Mir in 1907. This in turn meant that peasants had more money to put towards land and farms, meaning they could make more income and not lose any money due to having to make redemption payments. Stolypin also introduced loans for peasants which were easier for peasants to get hold of.
This meant that they could own more land and were encouraged to own a farm, and therefore would have an increased income as a result of this. Also, the peasants easily would have been able to pay off these loans due to having an increased income, so as a result peasants were no longer as poor as before. This however can be counter-argued by saying that in 1906-14, only 25% of peasants owned lots of land/farms, showing that this policy did not fully do what was originally intended. Also, the richest 10% of landowners still owned majority of the land, meaning not much of it actually belonged to the peasants.
Nicholas II therefore made several economic modifications to the government during his reign which attempted to benefit the peasants of Russia. However, although most of these changes were beneficial to Russia, some of them did not take the desired effect; for example Nicholas II tried to make peasants gain more land, but figures show that majority of the land was still owned by the richest land owners and not peasants. Finally, both Alexander and Nicholas introduced a range of social reforms. Alexander III introduced the policy of Russification in 1883. This meant
that the official language of Russia was Russian, and all schools and documents had to be written in Russian; any other language was not allowed. This meant that other cultures and other languages were repressed, as someone could not speak the language of their home country within Russia. This then would have created a further breeding ground for more opposition to the Tsarist rule, so Russification had negative effects on Russia and on the Tsarist government. Alexander III also emancipated the serfs in 188. This was a major social reform for the serfs as it now meant that they had a lot more freedom and were no longer enslaved by serfdom.
However, it can be argued that the serfs were no actually freed. The now ex-serfs were still tied to the land, meaning they still had to work on that land for the land owners and they therefore were not actually free. Also, ex-serfs had to pay redemption payments on the land they used to be tied to, so they are having to compensate the government. As a result of these modifications, the Tsarist government was modified in many ways based on Alexander’s social reforms, even if all of his reforms made were not as beneficial as originally thought.
Nicholas II also introduced many social reforms. Under Stolypin, Nicholas introduced the policy of every head of each household inheriting some land. As a result, each family would then therefore have some land ownership within the family, meaning they had some source of income if no other sources of income are obtainable. This was a positive reform made by Nicholas II as not as many people faced poverty and poor living conditions and therefore they overall had a better life. Another reform made by Stolypin under Nicholas II was the demolition of the Mir.
These meant that peasants had to live within a Mir and had a lot of restrictions based on where they could go and when they could leave. Stolypin got rid of Mir’s in 1908, which as a result gave peasants a lot more freedom than they previously had. The social reforms made by Nicholas II were overall positive as they greatly benefited the population of Russia; mainly the peasants. This then shows that the Tsarist government did face many modifications throughout the years 1881-1914 as Nicholas put in place many social reforms which greatly changed how Russian peasants lived.
Overall, it is clearly evident that several modifications were made to the Tsarist government in the years 1881-1914, which were made by both Alexander III and Nicholas II. These took form in political, economic and social changes, and some had positive effects whereas others had negative effects. However, not all of the reforms put in place fully did what they were originally intended to do, and therefore the modifications were drastically made but not to the extent in which they were intended to do so.