What were the social, economic and political conditions in Russia before 1905?
Social conditions in Russia before 1905:
(i) In the nineteenth century, most of the European countries underwent important social and economic changes, but Russia was still lagging behind. The Czars ruled as absolute monarchs and the aristocracy was strictly feudal.
(ii) The condition of the Russian peasants was deplorable. On the other hand, the nobility and the high clergymen enjoyed special privileges and rights. Agriculture was dominated by a few rich landlords.
(iii) Although serfdom was abolished in Russia in 1861, the situation did not change. The methods and tools of farming did not improve. The farmers had to pay very high dues for small pieces of land, and most of them were under heavy debts.
Economic conditions in Russia before 1905:
(i) In the 1890s, industrialisation in Russia began and developed at a fairly fast rate. The foreign capitalists invested large sums of money in different industries to amass huge profits. The foreign investors were more interested in earning profits than improving the conditions of the workers.
(ii) Even the Russian industrialists exploited the workers and paid them extremely low wages. The workers had no political rights. The conditions of the workers in Russia were very miserable. They were forced to lead a wretched life. Hence, the workers were extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with the prevalent conditions.
Political conditions in Russia before 1905:
(i) Russia was under the autocratic rule of Romanov Czars, who believed in the Theory of Divine Right of the Kings. Czar Nicholas II was crowned in 1894. He was an inefficient and a conservative ruler. He was believed to be guided and influenced by a mystic, Rasputin.
(ii) The conditions of the workers and peasants were deplorable. Famines were very common throughout the whole country. Many people in Russia were influenced by the developments in Western Europe and consequently, they demanded constitutional democracy. However, their demands were turned down.
(iii) In 1904, there was a war between Russia and Japan. Russia suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a small Asian country like Japan. This defeat of the Russians had displeased and angered the people.
(iv) A revolution broke out in January 1905 after which the Czar announced his manifesto in October in the same year. He granted the freedom of speech, press and movement. He conferred the legislative powers to an elected body called Duma, but in no time, he re-established his own authority.
In what ways was the working population in Russia different from other countries in Europe, before 1917?
The working population in Russia was different from the working population of other European
countries in the following ways:
(i) The vast majority of the working population in Russia were agriculturalists. Around 85% of population was engaged in agricultural operations. This percentage was higher than other European countries. For example, only 40 to 50 per cent of the workforce was involved in agricultural functions in France and Germany.
(ii) In other European countries, the Industrial Revolution had occurred earlier. Also, most of the industries in those nations were in the hands of local people. However, in Russia, most of the industries were established with foreign investment. Foreign investors largely exploited the Russian labourers. The condition of the labourers was quite pitiable even in locally-owned industries. They gave minimum wages to their labourers to compete with foreign investors.
(iii) Women labourers in Russia were given less wages as compared to the other European countries. The working day was sometimes stretched to fifteen hours. However, this condition did not prevail in other European countries due to certain legislations.
(iv) The farms of the Russian farmers were quite small as compared to other European countries. Land was predominantly held by the aristocrats, and not the peasants.
(v) Russian farmers never respected their landlords as they were very oppressive. They hated them deeply and refused to pay their taxes. Some landlords were killed as well. In contrary to this, the French landlords were supported by the peasants because the former spoke for their issues.
Why did the Tsarist autocracy collapse in 1917?
The Tsarist autocracy collapsed in 1917 on account of the following reasons:
(i) Within Russia, the democratic groups had become more vigorous. The Czar, however, still regarded his sacred duty to preserve absolute authority.
(ii) The Russian people wanted that war should come to an end. The Czar had already mismanaged the war and he insisted on continuing to take part in it.
(iii) The peasants were extremely dissatisfied. They wanted that cultivable land should be given to the tillers, but the autocratic government did not pay any heed to their demands.
(iv) The working conditions of the workers were deplorable. There was a general demand that the industries should be controlled by the workers themselves. However, the Czar and the ruling classes favoured the industrialists and neglected the workers.
(v) There was widespread discontent against the autocratic rule of the Czar. The royal family did not enjoy people’s respect because of the influence of Rasputin. The Russian autocracy was bound to collapse as it had no support from the people.
Make two lists: one with the main events and the effects of the February Revolution and the other with the main events and effects of the October Revolution. Write a paragraph on who was involved in each, who were the leaders and what was the impact of each on the Soviet history?
The October Revolution of 1917 was the second phase of the Russian Revolution. The first
refers to the event of February 1917 when the Czar was compelled to abdicate. A provisional
government was set up, which could not solve the pressing problems of the people. It soon
people’s support. The result was another revolution in the second phase known as the October
Revolution. The Bolshevik party, under the leadership of Lenin, promised peace to the
to the workers, powers to the Soviets and equal rights to the non-Russian nationals.
The October Revolution had a great impact on Russia:
(i) It brought an end to autocratic rule in Russia.
(ii) The new government started the era of socialism.
(iii) Land, industries, factories, mines, banks and insurance companies, and all means of production were nationalised. New social systems were set up based upon the principles of communism.
(iv) The estates of the landlords, the church and the nobles were confiscated and transferred to peasants' groups.
What were the main changes brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately after the October Revolution?
(i) End of the autocratic rule: The Czars were autocratic rulers. Czar Nicholas II was an
and a despotic ruler who cared little for people’s welfare. After the October Revolution, he
his family members were put to death.
(ii) Government of the proletariat: After the Revolution, a new government called the Soviet of the People’s Commissars was formed under the leadership of Lenin. The new government started the era of socialism in Russia. The Bolshevik Party was now renamed as the Russian Communist Party.
(iii) Abolition of social inequalities: A new social system was set up. All the old titles of the aristocrats were abolished and peasants could seize the lands from their owners. Land, industries, factories, mines, banks and insurance companies were nationalised.
(iv) New economic changes: The Bolshevik government introduced many changes in the economic sphere and aimed at building an advanced economy. Five Year Plans were introduced for development. The lands and estates were confiscated and distributed among the peasants. The management of the factories and the industries was handed over to workers' councils or Soviets. The foreign debts were repudiated and foreign investments were confiscated. The right to work became a constitutional right.
(v) Russia became a world power: Within a few years of the Revolution, Russia made tremendous progress in different sectors and emerged as a major power in the world.
Write a few lines to show what you know about:
(i) kulaks (ii) the Duma
(iii) women workers between 1900 and 1930 (iv) the Liberals
(v) Stalin’s collectivisation programme.
(i) Kulaks: The well-to-do peasants in Russia were known as kulaks. During the
programme initiated by Stalin, the lands and holdings of the kulaks were seized. Their
grains were forcibly taken away by the government.
(ii) The Duma: The Duma is the name of the Russian Parliament. After the brief revolution of 1905, the Czar constituted the Duma for consultative purposes. However, it did not have any real legislative powers and the Czar dissolved it according to his wishes.
(iii) Women workers between 1900 and 1930: After industrialisation expanded in Russia, women were employed in large numbers in most of the factories. In 1914, women composed 31 per cent of the labour force in Russia. However, they were not paid equally and the working conditions were poor. Women played an active role in the Revolution of 1917. Some of them staged demonstrations and led marches from the front. Under Soviet rule, women equally participated in economic progress and development.
(iv) The Liberals: The Liberals believed in the basic rights of every individual. They stood against the despotic rule of the monarchs and nobles. The Liberals wanted to establish an elected and parliamentary government with an independent judiciary. However, they did not support universal adult franchise.
(v) Stalin’s collectivisation programme: Stalin devised the economic policy of collectivisation by which small land holdings were made into large farms. These farms would be collectively owned by the peasants and profits would be shared among all. A large number of peasants opposed this move by the government.
Imagine that you are a middle-level wheat farmer in Russia after collectivisation. You have decided to write a letter to Stalin explaining your objections to collectivisation. What would you write about the conditions of your life? What do you think would be Stalin's response to such a farmer?
As an independent farmer, I would have felt wronged by the government's move to collectivise
My farming implements and animals would be taken away and I would have to abide by the
taken collectively. If I were writing a letter to Stalin, I would have pleaded to him to not
fields. It would be difficult to support my family if my resources were seized. My income
be sufficient if profits would be shared by all.
Stalin's response would have been very unfavourable against such a plea from a farmer. The government would have levied very high taxes on such independent farmers. Other harsh restrictions would have been imposed on cultivators who opposed the collectivisation of farms.
List any two differences between the capitalist and socialist ideas of private property.
The differences between the capitalist and socialist ideas of private property are as
(i) Under capitalism, property and resources would be owned by private individuals. On the contrary, socialism stands for public ownership of all means of production and resources. The government owns and manages all the resources within a country.
(ii) The motive of the private individuals is to make profits in a capitalist economy. The welfare of the people is the primary aim in a socialist economy.
Why were there revolutionary disturbances in Russia in 1905? What were the demands of revolutionaries?
There were revolutionary disturbances in Russia in 1905 because:
(i) Japan defeated Russia in the Sino-Japanese War in 1904–1905.
(ii) The prices of the essential goods rose quickly and the real wages had declined.
(iii) People were unhappy with the Czarist rule in Russia.
The revolutionaries demanded the following:
(i) The cultivators demanded the ownership of land holdings.
(ii) The working conditions should be improved.
(iii) The wages of the workers should be increased and the working hours should be reduced.
Read the extract and list five changes in the mood of the workers.
(i) The changes in the mood of the workers can be described as follows:
(a) The workers were now ready to go to any extent for the welfare of their colleagues.
(b) Women become an inspiring force for their male co-workers.
(c) Unity among women and men was a unique feature which strengthened the strikes.
(d) The workers were fearless now and they did not hesitate in agitating against the factory management.
(e) The workers came out openly in huge support for the movement.
Read the two views on the revolution in the countryside. Imagine yourself to be a witness to
the events. Write a short account from the standpoint of:
(i) an owner of an estate
(ii) a small peasant
(iii) a journalist
(i) As an owner of an estate, it would be devastating to lose all the land and assets. The
be looted and all the resources would be snatched. There was no one among the small farmers
to whom the owner could express his grievances.
(ii) This was a great opportunity for the small peasants to acquire land and other assets. All of a sudden, they became wealthy.
(iii) All the events were occurring so quickly, that it was difficult to fully cover and report each incident in detail. Lands were taken away forcibly from their owners and the general peasants were rejoicing in their victory.
Why did people in Central Asia respond to the Russian Revolution in different ways?
People in Central Asia responded positively with enthusiasm to the February Revolution of 1917, as they got rid of the oppressive Czarist regime. It strengthened their hopes for autonomy. The people responded with fear at the outbreak of the October Revolution in 1917. The people in Central Asia thought that the Bolsheviks would now impose dictatorial power on them.