Michael Schanbacher World Cultures Honors Period 8 Czarist Greed Research Report From 1861 to 1917 opposition to the

czar increased dramatically within Russian. This opposition, due to the greediness of the Czars, led to two of the rulers being murdered during this period, and inevitably caused the revolution of 1917. Laws fluctuated between reform and conservativeness from czar to czar and many reforms did not actually benefit the people. These changes gave the people a taste of freedom, and left them wanting more. Also, the czars believed that they were “divine right kings”, which meant that they answered to no one but god. They thought that their individual needs and those of their families came before the needs of Russia, which led to Gregory Rasputin’s influence in the government. Another major problem for the czars was that their attempt to bring in money from heavy industry created a middle class. This new group of people had the intelligence and motivation to lead a revolution (a situation that had never existed simultaneously in the past.) Finally, even though the Russian Army was being destroyed in World War I, Nicholas refused to surrender in an attempt to save his reputation. The overthrowing of the Czar was avoidable, but unfortunatly for the autocracy, there was a consecutive live of leaders that just were too self-centered for their own good and the good of Russia. In 1861, Czar Alexander II liberated the serfs (52 million in total). This was an attempt to modernize Russia so that more money would enter the economy, which in turn would be unequally distributed between the upper and lower class. He thought that there he could a revolution by the serfs who greatly outnumbered the upper class. Alexander II

2 made this decision despite major opposition from officials and the court; neither did he think through the full effect that it could have, or how devastating it could be for Russians. In fact, many of the liberated serfs were left worse-off. The peasants were supposed to be given half of the landlord’s land, yet they were charged for the plots and often could not afford them. If they could afford the land, then they had only half the amount of the property that they used to live off of. Also, in actuality, they were given 18% less of the land that they were supposed to be given. (World History, Alexander II) They were forced into communities and were not allowed to work for the benefit of themselves as individuals, but rather as a group. The new situation caused considerable anger among the struggling peasants, and many of these peasants yearned more and more for a revolution. (Moorehead, The Divine Right Kings.) Alexander II made other reforms during his reign besides the freeing of the serfs. These reforms included the creation of zemstvos (local governments), and the writing of a constitution. On March 13, 1881, Alexander was killed by revolutionaries. (Moorehead, The Divine Right Kings.) Alexander II was followed by his son Alexander III. Alexander III had a completely different view as to the priority of civilian happiness. He believed that his father’s death was due to his liberalism and did not want to suffer the same fate. To prevent his own murder, he dramatically increased police activity and even threw out the idea of a constitution. This sudden reversal of progress was not taken well by the lower class because they had already begun to see some freedoms. Though civilian happiness was waning, the economy was growing and a lot more factories and mines were being esatblished. As a result, many peasants moved to cities

3 and became factory workers and miners. Reforms under Alexander II allowed a limited number of these people to attend university, to contribute to the modernization of Russia. What the czar did not intend was the resulting creation of a middle class. This middle class had the reason for overthrowing the czar, which the autocracy never had, and the knowledge that it is possible and how it can be done, which the peasants never possessed. When Alexander III began removing reforms, this newly forged middle class was directly, negatively affected, and understood why. This middle class, created by the czar’s wanting more money poured into the autocracy, would no doubt be the leaders of the revolution. Alexander III’s life was almost taken numerous times by revolutionaries, but he managed to escape all of them and died of kidney disease. (World History, Alexander III.) (World History, Nicholas II.) After Alexander III’s death in 1894, 26 year old Nicholas II inherited the throne, and with it came the existing opposition to the czar and even more potential opposition. The middle class was already well established as were revolutionary groups. Nothing could be done by the new Czar to forcefully remove the middle class, considering that the entire economy relied on them, yet there was still some hope that the opposition could be peacefully extinguished. They demanded a say in the government, but the Czar wanted complete control over the country and everything in it, and why wouldn’t he? He believed himself to be God. He opposed any democratic reform and publicly insulted the power of zemstvos. Unfortunately for Nicholas II, he paid little attention to the growing disapproval. Nicholas spent much of his time attending to his family life instead of actually running the country. (Moorehead, The Devine Right Kings.)

4 A major obstacle in Nicholas II’s family was his son, Alexis’s, hemophilia. Nicholas’s wife, Alexandra believed that only one man could save the life of her son, and this one man was Gregory Rasputin. Rasputin was a crazed monk who had earned the reputation of a healer throughout Russia. He did not actually have mystical powers, yet it is believed that he did lessen Alexis’s suffering by hypnotizing him. (World History, Grigori Rasputin.) This reputation gave him immense power over the royal family, because Alexandra believed Rasputin was her son’s only chance for survival. Nicholas himself did not believe this but he did not want his wife to blame him had Alexis coincidentally died if Rasputin were sent away. Nicholas II was even willing to watch his country suffer so that this would not happen. Nicholas would take advice from Rasputin about enacting laws, and entering wars. Rasputin even had the power to hire and fire government officials. (Goldston, The Prison of Nations.) Eventually, due to public pressure, Rasputin was asked to leave Russia. Though returning many times, none were as significant as his stay during World War I. Rasputin convinced Alexandra, who was speaking to him illegally, to beg her husband to replace ministers with friends of Rasputin. Nicholas II accepted in order to make his wife happy. (World History, Grigori Rasputin.) When World War I began in 1914, Russia was not ready for battle. They did not have enough officers or ammunition, and had inadequate transportation for food. To be sure that he still had complete control over Russia, Nicholas II put himself in command of the Russian army. He refused to take advice and refused to care to the needs of Russian citizens. The war was not going in Russia’s favor, and there was great anger and unrest throughout Russia. Even though almost everyone in Russia was against the war,

5 Nicholas continued on. On March 8, 1917 violence erupted in St. Petersburg, and Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the thrown. (World History, Nicholas II) No matter what one may think contributed to the Russian Revolution of 1917, every answer eventually leads back to the greediness of the czar. Alexander II, Alexander III, and Nicholas II were all egomaniacs who refused to listen to legitimate advice because of their belief that they should listen only to god. The suffering of the people during their reign was incredibly devastating while vast amounts of money were being spent on un-winnable wars and the pampering of the czar and his family. The czars wanted everything and this eventually led to their loosing everything, including the throne and their lives.

Bibliography “Alexander II” World History: The Modern Era. 2007 ABC-CLIO. 19 Apr. 2007 <https://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>. “Alexander III” World History: The Modern Era. 2007 ABC-CLIO. 19 Apr. 2007 <https://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>. Goldston, Robert. The Fall of the Winter Palace. New York: Franklin Watts inc., 1971. “Grigori Rasputin.” World History: The Modern Era. 2007 ABC-CLIO. 19 Apr. 2007 <https://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>. Moorehead, Alan. The Russian Revolution. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1958. “Nicholas II.” World History: The Modern Era. 2007 ABC-CLIO. 19 Apr. 2007 <https://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com>. “Russian Revolution of 1917.” World Book Online Reference Center. 2007. 16 Apr. 2007. <https://www.worldbookonline.com/wb/Article?id=ar48536>

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