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Russia's Second Reform Cycle


Alexanders reforms launched the second great cycle of modernization, which lasted from the 1850s to the 1980s. This was Russias attempt to remain a great power in the industrial era. The renewed process of catching up with the West, begun by the imperial regime, was interrupted by the First World War and the 1917 revolution.  

The revolution of 1917, starting with the collapse of tsarism in February and culminating in the Bolshevik takeover in October, was itself, to a large extent, engendered by the pressures of modernization. It engaged various sections of the population, including the bourgeoisie and the middle and working classes.

Revolution's Wind. By V. Khodov

Each group had its own political program. Some adhered to the collectivist principles of Russias traditional society; others wished to emulate Western models of capitalism and democracy; still others advanced utopian Communist blueprints. Yet all felt the need to overcome the countrys backwardness and catch up with the group of leading industrialized nations in various spheres, including technological progress, labor productivity, general literacy of the population, and the development of democratic institutions.

Russias progressives belonging to all classes understood that the countrys antiquated political system and the vestiges of feudalism in the economy were the main obstacles to the countrys successful advance. Under the circumstances, it was Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks who had the upper hand.

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