European Civilization
Spring 2005

Russia on the Eve of the Revolution

Nicholas II (1894-1917)
• Last Romanov tsar
• Married to a German princess, Alexandra
• Son, Alexei, suffered from hemophilia
• Wanted Russia to become an industrialized nation
• Appointed Sergei Witte to lead Russia into the industrial age
• Overall, out of touch with the changing Russia

Russia’s Social Structure

• Largest population of Russians
• Divided between free peasants and obligated peasants
• Rich peasant class emerged called kulaks

Middle Class

• A small group of people possessing education
• Business owners, lawyers, writers, etc.
• Intelligentsia that desire swift liberal reforms (constitution, Duma, political privilege)
• Many returned from Siberian exile during reign of Alexander III
• Many are converting to Marxism due to the pace of reform and the horrible conditions of the working class

Working Class

• Largest growing class in Russia
• Suffering economically due to rapid industrialization
• Vulnerable to the ideas of the Marxists
• Responsible for the growing population of the cities


• Clinging to power
• Resisting the changes occurring to Russia

Political Parties

Cadets (1903)
• Middle Class liberals desiring a political system like England’s—parliament (Duma), civil liberties
• Afraid of working class and revolution

Social Revolutionaries (1901)

• Radical intelligenstia opposed to the westernization and industrialization of Russia
• Felt the model for Russia was in the communal life of the peasant commune
• Violent and revolutionary
• Heavily influenced by the utopian socialists

Social Democrats (1898)

• Marxists influenced by the German Social Democrats
• Believed in the fundamentals of Marxist theory
• Felt the future of Russia was with the growing proletariat
• Leaders included Lenin, Trotsky, Gregory Plekhanov
• 1903 Lenin spit from the mainstream SDs and formed the Bolsheviks (majority). Those that remained were called Mensheviks (minority).


• Followed the theory of Lenin that only a small, educated, non-democratic group could stimulate the revolution
• Dismissed the fundamental Marxist notion that only the working class could stimulate the revolution
• Belief in violence, terror caused by a professional revolutionary group (Bolsheviks)


• True Marist who believed that the revolution was only valid if led by the class conscious proletariat
• Opposed the notion that a special educated group could lead the revolution


Heubeck, Rob. Russia on the Eve of the Revolution, (2003), Russian Revolution [core] Class Material