How far were divisions among its opponents responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule in the years 1881 – 1905? Internal and external divisions amongst opposing political groups of the Tsar were important and somewhat responsible to the survival of Tsarist Russia. However, other factors such as religion and repression were also effective in keeping the Tsar in a state of power. On the one hand, one of the main reasons why divisions among its opponents were responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule was due to external divisions involving all opposing political parties.
This was because the parties did not work together as they were all divided in their aims and methods in order to achieve different targets. None realised that by working together they would have a greater impact on the current political standing of Russia.
The main external divisions involved the Constitutional Democrat (Kadets) and the Social Revolutionary (Socialist) parties. Both of these parties had their own separate beliefs on what Russia needed and how in which it should change, yet due to the differing opinions they refused to work together to solve this.
The Social Revolutionaries believed that the future of Russia was down to the peasants and the working class so they wanted to give the peasants their own land as well as improve living conditions for the working class. The assassination of Tsar Alexander II and acts of terrorism were among their tactics however, the Constitutional Democrats were against these acts of violence. They were the most moderate party and believed in votes and discussions as a way to express their views and opinions.
They wanted to abolish autocracy and have the power shared amongst a democratic government. The parties also had different support groups as the Social Revolutionaries were aimed at and were very popular with the peasants whereas the Constitutional Democrats were more focused at the middle class and mainly those with professions such as a lawyer, doctor or merchant. This was partly responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule as although there were some similarities in the aims and objectives of the parties, the major differences in methods and tactics meant that singularly each group didn’t have the strength to achieve their goals and even though some tactics they had in common, it wasn’t enough as they refused to work together to provide more force in their campaigns.
This meant that opposition against the Tsarists rule was weakened to quite a great extent and this would have benefited the Tsar significantly as the parties could not contribute together. A further reason why divisions among its opponents were responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule was due to internal factors within the parties themselves. The most prominent example of this would be the internal division within the Social Democrat party which caused them to split into the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks when discussing party membership. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin who won the debate, consisted of the majority of the party and Lenin suggested that only people dedicated to the revolution should be allowed within the party and that it should be limited.
Their main objective was to create a small revolutionary elite in order to combat the Tsar and so as not to be discovered by the secret police. The Mensheviks, led by Martov, argued that the party should be open to anyone who accepted the objectives of the party and was willing to follow instructions from the leaders. This disagreement was based on different beliefs regarding the role of the party. Lenin and his supporters believed that the party should be one prepared to seize power as soon as possible whereas for Martov and his supporters, they believed the main purpose was to spread propaganda and increase awareness about the working class or proletariat. He failed to believe that Russia was ready for a revolution any time soon. Over the following years the division become permanent and they eventually grew into separate political parties and, of them both, the secret police regarded the Mensheviks as the most threatening because they encouraged a working class discontent.
As the working class made up about 80-90% of the Russian population at this time, unhappiness among them would cause the greatest uprising and the most difficult to control. This was partly responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule because it meant that the parties themselves (especially the Social Democrats) would not be strong enough to have any significant impact on affecting the Tsar’s rule. If they couldn’t even function amongst themselves then they wouldn’t be able to communicate and work together enough to challenge the Tsar and his power. This meant that opposition against the Tsarists rule was again weakened to some extent and this would have benefited the Tsar greatly. On the other hand, key reasons responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule were due to other factors such as religion.
The Orthodox Church was very important to Russians and most extremely religious. By preaching blind obedience to God, it encouraged blind obedience to social superiors including the Tsars and as the Tsar was a monarch with complete autocratic control and was brought up into the Romanov dynasty, many believed that it was the Tsar’s ‘God-given birthright’ to rule, and by total authority. Due to this, it was seen to be going against God himself and His choices by opposing to the Tsar. However, having said this, many also believed that God had turned His back on the Tsars due to the Khodynka Tragedy. It was a human stampede that occurred on 30th May 1896 on Khodynka Field, Moscow where hundreds were killed in the festivities following the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, which led to the deaths of 1,389 people. This was partly responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule because Russian people would see it as going against God by going against the Tsar and for most it was seem an impossible thing to do.
This could be described as deference to the Tsar and although some may not agree to it, defying God would be to commit a crime much worse due to how important the Orthodox Church was in society. A further reason responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule was due to repression against many Russian people. This included factors such as the army and the Okhrana in order to keep any political opponents or general opponents down and without a chance of success. The Okhrana are known as the Department for Protecting the Public Security and Order and were the secret police for the Tsar. It was formed to combat political terrorism and revolutionary uprising or activity and did this through many ways, the most common being violence. This created fear amongst the peasants as well as the middle class as if caught opposing the Tsar, they could be shot or sent to a gulag which was a prison labour camp.
Due to this, it prevented many Russian people from acting against the Tsar or joining any political opposition groups and in this way it was partly responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule. However, having said this, many peasants at this time believed that had nothing to lose so for them this was an incentive to try make a difference while they could and stand up to the Tsar and what he stood for. This dramatically increased the number of supporters for the Social Revolutionary party. In conclusion, both internal and external division among political opponents were responsible for the survival of Tsarist rule in the years 1881 – 1905 more than other factors, and external division was slightly more important as it prevented the parties from working together to provide a united and unstoppable force against the Tsar. Much more could have been achieved from the collaboration of all political parties as they would have provided more strength to each other. This is eventually realised, which creates a significant impact to Russian politics after 1905.
Cite this Tsarist Rule in the Years 1881 – 1905
Tsarist Rule in the Years 1881 – 1905. (2016, Jun 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/tsarist-rule-in-the-years-1881-1905/