Was Russia on the brink of Revolution in 1914
If it hadn’t been for the World War II, revolution might have been avoided. Russia was moving politically forward. Introduction of parliament was a huge step forward. In countries with autocratic leaders in Western Europe changed in industrial system were followed by revolutions. However, in Great Britain, where the monarch hadn’t been the autocratic power, things went much smoother . Once the parliament was established things were on track to change. Incrementally, people could have been given more rights and privileges and Russia could have moved forward without revolution.
At the outbreak of The Great War there were strong patriotic feelings, people joined the army and wanted to fight for their country.Tsar was treated as people’s ‘little father’. He was a part of Russia, as was the whole Tsarist system. It has been in Russia for over 3 hundred years, it wasn’t easy to break up with tradition. Besides, The Orthodox Church supported him by saying that his power derived from God and that to oppose him is like to oppose God himself. In those times the role of Church in ordinary people’s lives was crucial. The Orthodox Church had huge interest in preventing revolution as, had the revolution begun, it would have lost all of its numerous privileges.
Another sign of development was the growth of Russian major cities. The population of the two biggest cities more than doubled since 1881 (St Petersburg’s from 928 thousand to 2.217 million and Moscow’s from 753 thousand to 1.762 million between 1881 to 1914).
Along with the growth in population, there was an increase in production output (between 1890 and 1913 the production of coal increased six times, the one of pig iron 4 times, the one of oil more than doubled as did the one of grain in European Russia.
Apart from the political reforms, there were agricultural ones introduced as well. The stolypin’s ”wager on the strong” encouraged entrepreneurial peasants to take their life in their hands, to borrow money, buy more land and, eventually employ other peasants. This was to create another social class – ‘kulaks’.
The third and fourth Dumas were much more promising than the previous ones. The tsar finally managed to pass the agricultural reform. What’s more, the deputies exercised their right to question ministers and discuss state finance.
On the other hand, the most significant things remained the same. Political system was still autocratic. The tsar was in control of everything, which could have angered people. Although there was a parliament, the tsar had the right of veto which enabled him to reject any proposition he didn’t like. He could also manipulate the franchise The conflict in all of the Dumas was intense so few laws were passed. Although the tsar promised civil rights and parliament during the October Manifesto he also had the Fundamental Laws read, which were saying that he was the autocratic leader and the actual power belonged to him.
We can see there that the whole october Manifesto was rather an attempt to appease people than move Russia towards democracy. Stolypin’s agricultural reform wasn’t very successful either. In fact, only few peasants managed to become kulaks. Most of the ordinary people were distrustful towards reforms and therefore, didn’t gain much on it. Their land might have been taken from them and they might have been forced to work for others, more successful peasants.
The thing that remained entirely the same and was presumably preventing Russia from further political changes was repression. People could still go to prisons or into exile without trials, just for belonging to a political group. Although much was to be done, Russia was moving forward and, in my opinion, if it hadn’t been for the outbreak of The Great War, the revolution would have been prevented. Introduction of parliament and civil rights was a huge step forward. Russia was still lagging behind the rest of Europe but she was on her way to democracy.