- Russian Empire in 1914
- Economy and society
- Socialism in Russia
The fall of monarchy in February 1917 and the subsequent events of October are normally called the Russian Revolution.
Russian Empire in 1914
In 1914, Russia and its empire were ruled by Tsar Nicholas II. The Russian empire was huge in size, and included modern-day Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. It stretched to the Pacific and comprised modern day Central Asian states, as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Orthodox Christianity was the majority religion in Russia but Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists also lived in the Russian Empire. So, it can be said that Russian Empire was multi-religious and multiethnic in character.
Economy and Society
Farming and Industry: At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 85% of the Russian empire's population was dependent on agriculture. Industrialization had begun in Russia but industry was present in some pockets, like St. Petersburg and Moscow. Much of the production was done by craftsmen but large factories also existed. Most of the factories were set up in the 1890s. This was the period when Russia&apoos;s railway network was extended and foreign investment in industry increased.
Most of the industry was owned by private individuals. The government kept an eye on large factories to ensure minimum wages and limited working hours. But rules were broken with impunity. Workers sometimes had to work up to 15 hours. Accommodation for workers could be in rooms or dormitories, with deplorable condition of living.
Workers: The workers were divided into different social groups. Some of them had strong links with their ancestral villages. Some others had permanently settled in the cities. Workers were divided by skill and metalworkers were on top of this hierarchy. This diversity was apparent even by their dress and manner.
In spite of divisions, the workers often united to strike work whenever there was some issue related to dismissals or work conditions. Such strikes frequently took place in the textiles industry during 1896-1897, and in the metal industry during 1902.
Peasants: In villages, the peasants cultivated most of the land, but large properties were owned by the nobility, the crown and the Orthodox Church. Barring a few exceptions, the peasants had no respect for the nobility. Nobles enjoyed their power and position because of their services to the Tsar. The peasants of Russia wanted the land of the nobles to be given to them. They often refused to pay rent and even murdered landlords. Such incidents occurred on a large scale in south Russia in 1902. And in 1905, such incidents happened all over Russia.
Mir: Russian peasants pooled their land together periodically. Their commune (mir) divided the land according to the needs of individual families. Thus, they had a long tradition of working in close association.
Socialism in Russia
Some Russian socialists felt that the Russian peasants' tradition of sharing the land according to commune (mir) made them natural socialists. They felt that peasants, rather than workers, would be the main force behind the revolution. They felt that Russia could become socialist more quickly than other countries.
Socialists were active in the countryside through the late nineteenth century. The Socialist Revolutionary Party was formed in 1900. This party demanded that land of the nobles should be transferred to peasants.
Social Democrats did not agree with Socialist Revolutionaries about peasants' rights. Lenin (leader of Social Democrats) thought that peasants were not one united group and hence they could not all be part of a socialist movement. Lenin thought that the party should be disciplined and should control the number and quality of its members. Others (Mensheviks) thought that the party should be open to all, as in Germany.