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The Revolutionary Masses

By refusing to take the Duma seriously, the government alienated not merely the new upper classes of intellectuals and entrepreneurs, but also its more traditional supporters amongst the landed nobility. It had also deprived itself of their advice and expertise which were so crucial for mounting an effective war effort. From then on the regime had as little support amongst Russia’s upper classes as it had in 1905. 


Party's Name

Main Aims

Support Base

Russian Social-Democratic Labor party (1898) 

minimum: overthrow of autocracy
maximum: proletarian revolution

radically-minded intelligentsia

Socialist Revolutionary Party (1901) 

Socialization of all privately owned land

small owners: peasants, town-dwellers, artisans, small traders

Constitutional Democratic Party: Kadets (1905)

a new order on the Western constitutional model

liberal intelligentsia, part of liberal-minded landowners, medium and big bourgeoisie, the professions

Union of 17 October: Octobrists (1905) 

constitutional monarchy

big industrial and financial bourgeoisie, the new business class

Union of the Russian People (1905) 

preservation of the autocratic system

big landowners, merchants, shop-keepers, the police, the clergy, lower middle class in towns, wealthy peasants

A protest march of the "Union of the Russian People" 

Enthusiastic supporters of autocracy could be found only on the far Right of Russian politics, among anti-Semitic, proto-Fascist organizations such as the ‘Union of the Russian People’, first formed in 1905. The ‘Union’ blamed all Russia’s problems on socialists, democratically-minded intelligentsia and the Jews, calling on the population to combat the ‘enemies of the Tsar and Fatherland’. It waged open chauvinist propaganda in the press and from the church pulpit, whilst its activists, united in the so called Black Hundreds, helped the government disperse workers’ strikes and students’ rallies and staged mass pogroms of Jewish communities. 

The constitutional reform had failed to bridge the gap between the government and Russia’s rapidly changing educated elites. The new upper classes were politically disaffected, antagonized by Nicholas’ attempts to stifle the potentially democratic institution of the Duma and his refusal to introduce a Western-style government. Even the backing which the regime could expect from its traditional supporters, such as landed nobility, was hesitant and uncertain. Its power rested now on the bureaucracy and the army alone. The most dangerous aspect of the government’s position was the political blindness of the Tsar who still believed in the loyalty of the masses of the peasants, the army and the nobility. Nicholas simply was unable to see how isolated his government was and how narrow was the base of support for a government about to lead its country into a devastating international war. 

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Between Revolutions


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
The Revolutionary Movement
Appearance of Marxism
The Last Romanovs
The Birth of Bolshevism
The Revolution of 1905-7
Between Revolutions
The Revolutions of 1917
Interpretations of 1917
The End of an Empire
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