“War is the locomotive of History”. How far do you agree with this judgement in relation to Russia in the years 1855-1918

During Alexander II reign (1855-1881) war was not actually a factor in the changes to Russia purely because there were no wars during the time. This meant that other factors had a greater impact on the way Russia was governed.Before Alexander II became on the throne there was already opposition and unrest from the peasants and the poorer sides of the country. For example the Decembrist revolt in 1825, during Alexander I reign, caused much disrupt in the way Russia was run. So Alexander II had to make massive changes to the Russian government and laws. He did this by creating many reforms. Emancipation of the serfs was one, this was an attempt to get the peasants on his ‘wavelength’ by setting them free from their noble bosses and selling them their own land. Unfortunately for the Tsar this did not work as it just caused more unrest as the peasants went into huge amounts of debt in order to pay for their newly acquired land.Another reform that had to be passed by Alexander II was also due to opposition, only this time it was from the military. General Miliutin, under the Tsars’ orders, introduced a series of radical reforms which were aimed at improving the efficiency and fairness of the Russian military system. This is another example where the Tsar was pressured into changing his governing tactics in order to keep his people from revolting again.However due to the Tsars emancipating the serfs the country’s economy collapsed on a great scale. This became a second important factor in the change of Russia’s ruling tactics. So another reform was created in 1862 to try and improve the government’s financial situation. This also failed and it was not until Alexander III became ruler that it really began to improve.So during 1855-1881 war was not a big factor in the change of Russia what so ever but it was due to the government’s opposition and lack of economy. In fact the program of Alexander II reforms introduced by him, in the long term, achieved exactly the opposite to its desired effect.After the assassination of his father, Alexander III (1881-1894) took a much harsher approach to the way Russia was to be run. So, unlike opposition and unrest causing change in Alexander II reign, I was Alexander III who in fact created the opposition and unrest. For example he got rid of many reforms that his father had passed such as increasing legislation against Jews and increasing university and school fees. He did all of this in spite of his father’s assassination but it eventually turned against him.During this time period it was individuals that had the greatest impact on Russia’s changing ideologies. Konstantin Pobedonostev was one of these indivisuals. He carried very extreme conservative and repressive policies and also had an immense hatred of all forms of liberalism and democracy. He was known as ‘The Great Inquisitor’ as he was the personal tutor to Alexander II and Alexander III. It was due to Pobedonostev that the Tsar created ‘the Reaction’ of increasing repression and terror tactics.Another individual who was also greatly linked with the economy factor was the Russian minister of finance, Count Sergei Witte. His aims where modernise Russia and maintain her position as a great power. Sergei had great influence over Alexander III decision making and was a big factor in the country’s mass industrialization.Once again during this time period of 13 years war did not have any say in Russia’s history. It was the two individuals that had the greatest influence upon the extreme ‘right’ ideologies of Russia’s government, not to mention the assassination of Alexander III father which created much hatred within his policies. Comparing Alexander III reign to his fathers it is obvious that opposition and unrest had an opposite effect as it was due to Alexander III harsh and repressive rule that opposition became rife.Nicholas II (1894-1917) was very different to his two predesecers as when he got on to the throne he admitted that he was not prepared for the task of being Tsar. Despite this he still shared the views of his father on autocracy and tried to continue with a ruling of repression.Finally, war became a big factor in the change of Russia. Firstly the war with Japan in 1905 that was thought to have been a definite win by the Tsar. Instead Russia suffered a humiliating defeat that created much hatred from the starving peasants that backed the war. This was a huge factor for the change in the Tsar’s tactics as it was like the ‘last straw’ for his policies and he eventually had to give in.Another factor around the same time was the huge increase of opposition and unrest from the people. Partly due to the famine that struck Russia in 1904 but mainly due to the defeat against Japan. Students began to go on strike, peasants rioted across the countryside destroying noble’s crops and eventually ‘Bloody Sunday’ occurred. This was the ‘mini’ revolution of 1905 when revolutionaries marched outside the Winter Palace. After a certain amount of time the Tsar ordered his army to shoot the protesters as to stop the revolt. This as you can imagine caused huge disrupt amongst the people and the Tsar had to turn to one of the individuals mentioned earlier: Sergei Witte. His advice was that in order to prevent more revolutions and possibly civil war the Tsar would have to give in to demands for shared power and a more democratic government. This is seen today as a turning point in the way Russia was to be run. So, it was not just one factor that caused the Tsar to change his mind but many, combining to create a change. The change was the ‘October Manifesto’. This basically made the government more democratic then before, so the people grew happier for the time being.The next war that was a large factor to the changes in Russia was that of World War I in 1914. This war broke out towards the end of Nicholas II reign over Russia. At first the war initially enhanced his position as it was a sign of Russia’s pride and resistance. Unfortunatly for the Tsar the war did not go to plan as despite his army’s immense size it was crippled by a lack of equipment due to poor administration. This meant that his popularity soon fell and opposition such as the Socialist: Bolsheviks, SRs and the Mensheviks began to plan the 1917 revolution. So once again war became a very important factor in the way Russia was run because for a second time it had caused unrest amongst the people except this time it signaled the end to the Romanov legacy. So, on the 26th February 1917, Nicholas II agreed to abdicate on his own and stepped down from power leaving Russia a republic after 304 years of Romanov rule.During Nicholas’ rule it was a mixture of all the different factors that causes the Tsar to step down but it could be said that War was the creator of the other factors. For example the opposition would have been crushed if Russia defeated Japan in 1904, and had Russia kept out of WWI then Nicholas may have reigned till his death. All this is just speculation as it was due to the Wars that the Romanov destiny sunk like the Russian navy in the Japanese war.

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