Before the revolution, 75% of Russians lived in villages… The people who lived in the villages were poor peasants. Until 1861 they had belonged to their masters, who could buy and sell them like cattle.
The peasants were freed in 1861 and given small amounts of land for which they had to pay back the government. They thereforehad small farms and heavy debts, with the result that they were very poor. Most of the peasants could not read or write, so they knew very little about how to improve the land. They still used the old farming methods, working by hand on their plots. They envied the nobles with their huge estates.
In Russia, a small number of upper-class people held most of the wealth and power. These werethe nobles, army officers and government officials. They had large town houses and country estates. The Russian Orthodox Church was also rich and powerful.
During the 1890s, industry began to develop in Russia. Huge iron foundries, textile factories and engineering works were set up. Many were run by the government. Most were in the big cities such as Moscow and StPetersburg. Peasants moved to the cities to get jobs in the factories. Some just came in the winter when it was impossible to work the land. Some came to stay. By 1900, 20% of the Russian people were workers living in cities.
Factories in Russia were very large, half of them employing more than 1,000 people. The factory workers soon had problems of their own.
The ruler ofRussia was called the Tsar. He made all decisions himself. He could ask for advice, but did not have to take it. There was a secret police force which spied on everyone. Anyone who spoke up against the government could be shot, or sent to Siberia. Books and newspapers were censored. Sometimes the Tsar's secret police stirred people up to blame all their troubles on Jews, who were thenattacked. The position of the Tsar was also supported by the Church. The priests in every town and village taught that he was the ‘Little Father’ of all the Russian people and must be obeyed.
Nicholas II became Tsar of Russia in 1895… Nicholas, in fact, was weak-willed and hated making decisions. He was, however, devoted to his wife and family. His son and heir had a terrible disease calledhaemophilia, which means that his blood would not clot. Any bump caused agonizing internal bleeding, and a bruise or cut could cause death. Alexandra was naturally always worried about her son, and Nicholas tried to comfort her. In this situation, how difficult do you think it would be for Nicholas to be a successful tsar?
The long-term causes of the Revolution were therefore:
1. Anundemocratic government which was neither fair nor very good.
2. The bad working and living conditions for the workers in towns.
3. The extreme poverty of the peasants and their need for more land.
Some people, of course, were against this system. They were split between the reformers and a smaller group of revolutionaries. The reformers, or Liberals, wanted tomodernize Russia gradually. They admired the parliamentary systems of Britain, France and the USA. They wanted free elections, more education for the people and no censorship. The revolutionaries, on the other hand, wanted to throw out the whole tsarist system and build a different one. One group of revolutionaries were Marxists - that is, they believed in the ideas of Karl Marx, anineteenth-century German writer who had once lived in London. Marx said:
1. All history is about struggles between different classes: for example, the middle class against the nobles, or the workers against the bosses.
2. The system in Europe is unfair because the factory owner (capitalist) makes a profit out of the workers (proletariat) who actually do the work.
3. In the end, there will be...