The Revolution of 1905 had shown Tsar Nicholas II that his people were not going to put up with his oppressive ruling forever, and that a quantity of change had to happen. With “Bloody Sunday” sparking a series of nationalist and peasant revolts across Russia, and the war with Japan continuing to go badly, the Tsar was eventually prepared to accept some change. Between 1905 and 1914, Russia underwent several creations of a new Parliament, various reforms through Stolypin, the Tsar’s Minister of the Interior and later ‘chief minister’, and a wave of strikes throughout the latter years. However, this appearance of change was largely superficial and was not enough to prevent revolution in years to come.The Tsar’s Fundamental Law, which gave him the power to do whatever he liked and everyone was to obey his orders, was changed in 1905; a change that Tsar Nicholas II was not happy about. The New Fundamental Law had only one slight difference in it, the fact that the word ‘unlimited’ was omitted. In reality this small change made no difference to the Tsar’s autocratic powers, but he was deeply unhappy as he felt that it took away some of his power, and so he didn’t feel supreme anymore. The Tsar was forced to accept the new law but his discontent was made public, increasing the opposition to Tsarism.By mid-1905, the Tsar, having agreed to let some change happen, was persuaded by Witte, the new Chief Minister, to set up a Duma, a Russian Parliament and on October 17th the Tsar used the October Manifesto. It pledged to create and elected Duma among other things, and in early 1906 the First Duma was elected under a wider franchise. Dominated by peasants (82%), it met in St Petersburg in May and started to produce radical demands, mostly looking for more power for them. However, this new Parliament was a complete failure and did not last long. In July 1906, after only 3 months, the Tsar dissolved the Duma. This was because he felt threatened by its growing influence and he felt that they could possibly become powerful enough to become serious competition to him. He did, however, set up a second Duma the following year.The second Duma was set up to do the job of the first Duma, but without the Tsar feeling threatened by it. It met in February, 1907 but was just as challenging to the Tsar as the first. At this point, Tsar Nicholas II felt that he was strong enough to dictate events and dismissed the second Duma in July, 1907 – it lasted just 5 months. Both Dumas had no power and only lasted for a very short period of time, making them both ineffective and not changing Russia much at all. During this time, Petr Stolypin was the Tsar’s Minister of the Interior and was loyal to Tsarism and a member of the nobility.He wanted to give peasants land and money so that they would become subsistence farmers, thus strengthening Tsarism, and hoped that the Duma would introduce reforms dictating this. However, the Tsar was not in support of Stolypin’s aims, as he thought that they would weaken the nobility. In the time running up to the elections for the new Duma in 1907, Stolypin was very harsh towards peasant revolutionary groups, executing 683 people by April 1907. This shows no change to Russia, as Stolypin’s actions followed the continually repressive nature of the Tsarist regime. In spite of this, when Stolypin created a third Duma, reforms began to take place that were planned to change the traditional image of Russia.Stolypin’s overriding aim was to save Tsarism and strengthen it, and he realised that a Duma was needed but one that would work with him and the Tsarist regime. Following the abolishment of the second Duma in 1907, Stolypin violated the October Manifesto and restricted the franchise to produce a Duma that was much easier to manage. It was made up of 3 political groups – the Octoberists and Kadets who were moderate and conservative liberals, and Rightists who were radical and pro-monarchy, but no one party could command a majority. To enable him to pass his reforms, Stolypin offered the Liberals political rights, and the Rightists, further Russification measures.This way, all 3 parties agreed to support his land reforms, which involved making a large land-owning peasant class which would stabilise and eventually strengthen Russia’s economy. With the help of the third Duma, redemption payments were ended in November 1905, and in 1906 new laws allowing peasants to apply to own their land were passed. In June, 1910, a Peasant Land Bank was created by the Duma to provide low cost loans for peasants to buy land. Stolypin’s reforms were basically a state sponsored enclosure movement, but were only partially effective in changing Russia. As debated by RB McKean, by 1915, less than 100,000 households were privately owned and very few peasants had even tried to set up farms outside the Obschina. War caused the reforms to be ineffective, although had Stolypin had more time, as claimed by HT Willets, “it is very likely that revolution would have been averted.”The suppressive nature of Tsarist ruling in Russia was evident after the Lena Goldfields strike in 1912. It was crushed by the army after miners protested for better working conditions and higher wages, leaving over 200 miners dead. As a result of this, a wave of strikes happened in Russia between 1912 and 1914.Russification continued under Stolypin, now with particular emphasis on Poland and Ukraine. There was a large rise the number of anti-Jewish pogroms, and when the Zemstva was introduced in Poland, it was dominated by Russians. This demonstrates the lack of change that happened in Russia, and highlights the desire for domination of Russia’s sphere of influence.The third Duma can arguably be called successful in their aims to introduce change. By 1914, literacy levels had risen to 40% thanks to educational reforms, the Duma had taken control of 62% of Soviet expenditure by 1912, and large sums of money were spent on the modernisation of the army by the Duma. However, Stolypin’s reforms alienated the Rightists and disappointed the liberals. When he was assassinated in 1911 by peasant revolutionaries, he did not know that the Tsar had been planning to sack him anyway.Overall, the little change that did occur in Russia between 1905 and 1914 was only effective for a short while. The immediate failure of the first two Dumas proved the Tsar’s insecurity and Stolypin’s reforms made him many enemies. The violent reaction to the Lena Goldfields strike in particular illustrates the continuing repressive way of the Tsarist regime, and by 1914, violent revolution was inevitable.
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