10 Days That Shook The World

This unit is perhaps the most important of the units that you study about Russia. The subtitle of this unit comes from the classic novel by the American journalist, John Reed, who was an eyewitness to Russia's Communist Revolution. The October 1917 Revolution was perhaps the single most significant event of the 20th century; the shock waves of which still reverberate today. Reed's body is buried in the Kremlin Wall and he is considered, by Communists, to be a martyr to the cause.

Nicholas II

The last Tsar of the Romanov Dynasty,Nicholas II is remembered as a rather tragic victim of history. His reign was marked with a series of disasters and ended with revolutions, which resulted in his death and that of his family.
Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.jpg

The Modernisation and Industrialisation of Russia

To be a great power of the 20th century, Russia had to modernise. This required industrialisation, if Russia had any hope of catching up to countries like America, Germany, Britain and France. Russia also required modernisation to raise the living standards for ordinary Russians. It was, at the end of the 19th century, still a poor, backward country. One man was given the task of changing the face of Russia- Sergei Witte.

Introduction to Marxism

The ideas of Karl Marx will have a profound effect on the evolution of politics and society. From this work, 'The Communist Manifesto' and 'Das Kapital', society will emerge from a bourgeoise, capitalist dominated system to one where the proletariat would unite and a system of socialism would prevail. Other political opponents of the Tsar would also have plans to modernize Russia, with or without the Tsar!

1905 Revolution

As a result of losing the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, the people of Russia began to challenge the authority of the state over their miserable existence. Here is a movie recreation of how the Russians lost the war to the Japanese:

The first real test for Tsar Nicholas II will be the 1905 Revolution, where the people of St. Petersburg appealed to their tsar for benevolence, given the working and living conditions in the city. Unfortunately, for the peaceful protestors, and the Tsar, they will be fired upon by the tsar's troops, setting off other protests throughout Russia. Here is a 1971 film version of 'Bloody Sunday' 1905 Russian Revolution

The First Four Dumas

As an outcome of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the Tsar, using the advise of Sergei Witte, agreed to accept a new Russian Duma or parliament, as promised under the October Manifesto. This caused great hope for reformers in Russia. However, Nicholas II was determined to restrict its powers. He issued the Fundamental Law of the Empire that stated,
"The Emperor of All Russia has supreme autocratic power." The powers of the new Duma were restricted, with many powers reserved for the Tsar. In June, 1906, Nicholas II appointed Peter Stolypin as his new Prime Minister. Stolypin was ruthless against the enemies of the Tsar. There were over 2,500 executions and the hangman's noose became known as the 'Stolypin necktie'. A further 60,000 people were imprisoned or exiled. However, Stolypin realised that repression alone was not going to stop the desire for change amongst the Russian population. His main device for resisting revolution was the introduction of land reform. He also brought in measures to modernise local government, improve the courts and police systems, protect civil liberties and allow for further freedom of the press. However, he had many enemies and was ultimately assassinated by a police agent in Kiev in 1911. As Figes notes, "according to some historians the Tsarist regime's last home was wiped out by the assassin's bullet."

Essay Questions In class essay on Thursday, April 9th, 2015

1. 'The only policy Nicholas II's government genuinely followed between 1894 and 1904 was one of repression.' How far do you agree with this statement?
2. To what extent did Witte succeed in his plans to reform Russian industry from 1892 to 1903?
3. How accurate is it to say that Russia's revolutionary parties, by 1905, had failed to make any real advances toward their goal of undermining tsarism?
4. To what extent was the 1905 Revolution in Russia the result of mistakes made by the tsarist regime?

Russia and World War One

When the First World War started, the Tsar was more popular than ever before. The Russian people were united in their support for him: problems at home could be set aside as they united against a common enemy. St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd (less German sounding). One positive result was that the Tsar started to work more closely with the Duma and more able advisors were appointed. Enthusiasm for the war, however, does not last for long. After some initial success against the Austrians, the Russians are badly defeated by the Germans at the Battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes.

This video documents Russia's contributions to World War I, where millions of Russians soldiers died


One of the more colourful characters of history, Rasputin has fascinated millions and his role in the downfall of the Tsar and his family is still hotly debated. As an advisor, primarily to the Tsarina, Rasputin would hold almost complete control over the government, ultimately leading to his assassination.
Rasputin Rasputin- Dark Servant of Destiny

Class Notes on the Provisional Government, the Petrograd Soviet and the Bolsheviks

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

Peace, Land and Bread

After seizing power in 1917, the Bolshevik government was to face massive problems before Lenin's death in 1924. Initially, it had to restore order from the chaos that had brought them to power and bring a swift end to the unpopular war on terms lenient enough to prevent a split in the party. Only by surviving the ensuing civil war could it then hope to start rebuilding the economy.

Notes on Russia:
Essay Questions- In Class, Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Choose from one of the following topics:
1. To what extent was the Russian Revolution of February/March 1917, in Russia, due to the nature of Tsarism and the policies of Nicholas II (1894-1917)?
2. Compare and contrast the nature and results of the two 1917 Russian revolutions.
3. Assess the part played by Lenin in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of the new Soviet state.
4. "Without Lenin, there would have been no Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917". Discuss.

Russian Civil War 1918-1922
The Communists will need to fight against their opposition, both national and international, in order to consolidate their control over Russia. This opposition will consist of other political parties, those who supported the Tsar's regime and governments invested in keeping Russia from becoming the world's first communist state.
The war will be long and bloody, and as is usually the case, the people will suffer tremendous hardship, as a consequence of this conflict. Read the handout and then complete the chart with regard to the participants in the civil war:

Lenin's Legacy: Lenin would die in January, 1924, after a series of strokes. He was a controversial figure during his life time, and this controversy would continue upon his death. His lasting legacy would be the creation of the world's first Communist state. This would revolve around the theme of absolutism, which in a sense, was not very much removed from the world of the tsars in Russia. This involves the following:
One Party State
Bureaucratic State
Police State
Purges and Show Trials
Concentration Camps
Prohibition of Public Worship
Stalin, as a disciple of Lenin, would simply take Lenin's legacy to the extreme.