Russian History

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Why did opposition to the tsarist regime in Russia increase between 1881 and 1904?

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To the extent there was a marked increase in opposition to the czarist regime governing Russia between 1881 and 1904, it was largely a product of the transition from the rule of Alexander III to that of Nicholas II, and the continued imposition of harsh domestic rule that many Russians had hoped would be phased out following the former’s death.  The political stagnation that Nicholas II’s period of rule represented, including a failure to address the status of the hundreds of thousands of serfs who continued to labor under harsh conditions, combined with growing popular disenchantment with the continued absence of any form of popular representation – a grievance that would be addressed at least nominally following the 1905 rebellion – fed into the growing movement for dramatic change that saw its earliest manifestation with the Decembrist revolt of 1825. 

An important development during the period in question, though, also played a major role in the apparent increase in anti-czarist sentiments.  This was the industrialization of Russia’s economy and the creation of a new kind of disgruntled worker: the factory worker.  Whereas the backward agrarian society that had characterized Russia until this point in time was the only life Russia’s poor knew, the creation of a workforce to operate factories under equally harsh conditions was accompanied by an increased awareness on the part of these workers of political alternatives to czarist rule.  Thus was born the Russian revolutionary labor advocate and organizer – a breed familiar with the arguments, if not always the writings, of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and eager to put the duo’s theories of economic evolution into practice. 

Finally, the creation of political parties founded in revolutionary ideals, especially the Socialist Revolutionary party, established in 1896, and the Social and Democratic Labor Party, established two years later, provided an organizational structure in which one could advocate for change while conspiring to impose autocratic political structures themselves.  The latter party, in particular, would prove instrumental in advancing the cause of revolutionary change, and would provide the basis for the growth of the Bolshevik Party that would ultimately reign supreme.  As with the political activists who turned worker anger into a politically-motivated movement, many of these party members were followers of the economic theories of Marx, and were imbued with a sense of revolutionary fervor that saw the industrialization process as laying the groundwork for the realization of Marx’s theory of economic evolution. 

These, then, were the main reasons for growing opposition to czarist rule between 1881 and 1904.

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