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Russian Themes:2591. Question Plans. ‘ There was more change than continuity in the ways Russia was ruled in the period from 1855 to 1956.’ To what extent do you support this view?. Key Phrase is ‘More change than continuity’.

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question plans

Russian Themes:2591

Question Plans


‘There was more change thancontinuity in the ways Russia was ruled in the period from 1855 to 1956.’ To what extent do you support this view?

Key Phrase is ‘More change than continuity’

Good starting point would be 1917 and the overthrow of the Tsarist system

This would suggest a complete break with the past

Autocracy overthrown, landed gentry lost power, the Church reduced in status

Elections organised in 1917 which would give Russia a truly representative parliament for the first time

but how much change was there
But how much change was there?
  • Constitutional Assembly dissolved
  • Lenin instituted One Party state
  • Forbade criticism of the Party
  • Lenin re-created secret police – the CHEKA
  • Introduced centralised economic control
  • Under Stalin growth of elite class
  • Leadership cult and use of propaganda
  • The Great Purges
change or continuity under the tsars
Change or continuity under the Tsars?

Alexander II made fundamental changes to Russian society and made the first steps towards a more democratic/liberal society

It is important to question his motives

Some changes forced upon him as the result of Edict of Emancipation

Dismayed at reaction to the Edict Alexander II fell back on repression

Repression continued under Alexander III who aimed to undo previous reforms

Status of gentry re-established – Land Captains

change or continuity under the tsars1
Change or continuity under the Tsars?

Nicholas II introduced national Duma – first in Russian history

Technically Russia now no longer an autocracy

Harsh methods used against demonstrators/protesters eg Bloody Sunday 1905 and Lena Goldfields 1912

Policy of Russification forcing uniformity onto citizens in Empire

Persecution of specific groups eg Jews under all Tsars

change or continuity
Weak Duma

Secret Police

Autocrat supported by small elite


Persecution of minorities

Tsar worshipped

Dissolution of Constit Assembly


Stalin supported by small elite

Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Persecution of minorities

Cult of Lenin

Change or Continuity?
turning points in russian history 1855 1955
Turning points in Russian History 1855-1955
  • Assassination of Alexander II
  • The 1905 Revolution
  • The abdication of Nicholas II
  • The Bolshevik take-over in 1917
  • Stalin’s accession to power
1 death of alexander ii
Reign had given hope of new attitude towards reform

Emancipation marked greatest change for centuries

Death saw return to repression as tool of government

Aim was to strengthen the autocracy

Reforms were pragmatic

Reign showed more repression than reform

1. Death of Alexander II
2 1905 revolution
Duma established – autocracy ended

Stolypin’s reforms saw change in tack for peasants

Dumas's power very limited

Stolypin used force to regain control

Small percentage of peasants benefited

Consider reasons for reform

How much change had occurred?

2. 1905 Revolution
3 abdication of nicholas ii
Marked change in government – end of 300 years of Tsardom

Introduced liberal govt under PG

This led to Bolshevism – Dictatorship of the Proletariat

One form of autocracy replaced by another

Peasants still being exploited

Persecution of minority groups continued

Lack of freedom continued

Better life for some

3. Abdication of Nicholas II
4 bolshevik take over
Nicholas II’s abdication led to first truly democratic govt

Ended War for Russia

Lenin ended Constit Assembly

Decree on Land

Success in Civil War cemented control

DoP established

Little real change in the nature of Prov govt

DoP = new autocracy

Centralised control of economy

Peasant suffering continued in long term

4. Bolshevik take-over
5 stalin s accession to power
Accession saw imposition of personal control

Huge changes for peasants

Impact of 5 Year Plans

Change in Russia’s status

Link with Lenin

Stalin = ‘Red Tsar’

Exploitation of peasants not new

5 Year Plans = Witte’s ‘Great Spurt’

Party bureaucracy = gentry

5. Stalin’s accession to power
factors of change

Historical Themes

Factors of change

reasons why change occurred
Reasons why change occurred
  • Trotsky described war as the ‘locomotive of history’. How far can it be argued that change in Russia in the period 1855 to 1956 was caused only by involvement in wars?
  •  ‘Military needs were always the main reason for Russia’s economic development.’ To what extent do you agree with this judgement?
  •  ‘The need to modernise their backward economy was the most important why the rulers of Russia introduced reforms.’ How far do you agree with this assessment of the period from 1855 to 1956?
war as a factor of change 1
War as a Factor of Change(1)

War caused collapse of the economy and of the political system

Impact of

First World


Gave opportunity to enemies of the tsarist system

1914 Tsarist state still quite strong


Russia in 1914 on verge of collapse – still far behind western powers in economic/social/political development

war as a factor of change 2
War as a Factor of Change(2)

Impact of



Direct link with 1905 Revolution

Tsar forced to make concessions via the October Manifesto

Attempt at social engineering by Stolypin

BUT political changes limited – pragmatic? How likely without pressures of revolution?

Agrarian reforms were limited in scope – attempt to redress balance of industrial expansion?

war as a factor of change 3
War as a Factor of Change(3)

Civil War


Factories nationalised, small businesses seized, food supplies requisitioned = War Communism

War brought famine and suffering to millions

Kronstadt Revolt forced change of direction – introduction of the NEP

How significant was this?

war as a factor of change 4
War as a Factor of Change(4)

Huge social change

Edict of Emancip

Political changes

Eg local govt



Change to judicial


Serfdom had already been recognised as a weakness

Education and

Army reform

other factors of change
Other factors of change?
  • Military needs
  • Defeat in Crimean War triggered reform – Edict of Emancipation
  • Under Witte economic expansion to strengthen Russia as Great Power
  • Stalin’s ‘Socialism in One Country’ designed to defend new communist state
other factors of change 2
Other factors of change?(2)
  • Serfdom already identified as major problem – holding Russia back
  • Alexander II looking to strengthen autocracy
  • Industrial expansion under Alexander III & Nicholas II result of wanting to close gap with West- not as result of defeat
  • Stalin (as above) – expansion during time of peace – Lenin had left behind problem of NEP
2 economic considerations
2. Economic considerations
  • Crimean War demonstrated backwardness of Russian economy
  • Emancipation of Serfs pre-requisite of changing economic base
  • Local government, legal and Army reforms have no link with this
2 economic considerations 2
2. Economic considerations(2)

Witte’s ‘Great Spurt’

  • Argued that State must play major role in promoting industrial development in order to compete with other GPs
  • Only effected transport and the peasants –did not lead to political or social changes
2 economic considerations 3
2. Economic considerations(3)
  • Political changes introduced by Nicholas II NOT result of economic considerations
  • Changes in regime in 1917 political not economic
  • NEP introduced to save the regime?
  • Stalin’s reforms linked with need to strengthen the state (like Witte?)