Russia During the Reign of Nicholas II Part 3

Russia During the Reign of Nicholas II Part 3

In the meantime, the attacks are starting to increase again in an impressive way; at least momentarily the unity of all the adversaries of the autocracy seems to be established; struggle and defense associations are formed among the workers; hundreds of intellectuals, enraptured by the ferment of such vast strata of the people, sign energetic manifestos of protest against the autocracy. Riots and unrest are occurring throughout Russia, while the Tsar is uncertain whether, and to what extent, concessions will need to be made. Because it is becoming increasingly clear that the timid reform projects, advanced at certain serious moments and then withdrawn halfway, can no longer be enough. Even among the more moderate and “legal” elements grouped around the zemstvothe request for a constitution is heard with increasing insistence, even if out of prudence this word, particularly disliked by the tsar, is often avoided.

According to Allcountrylist, the revolts of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors are becoming more and more serious during the year 1908: in the Black Sea the crew of the battleship Potemkin revolt ; the peasants in many regions seize the crops and temporarily the land, often burning the villas and castles of the landowners; formidable strikes follow one another and they often become political; Sovieti (councils) of workers and in some cases also of soldiers are formed; in Moscow there is a great workers’ uprising which is vigorously repressed, albeit with considerable difficulties and over a long period of time.

Witte tries to make the Tsar understand more and more clearly that if an integral reaction is no longer possible, it is therefore necessary to decide to grant as soon as possible and seriously guarantee civic freedoms that are not only apparent, as had been tried previously. On 17 (30) October the Tsar finally decided to launch a manifesto promising freedom of conscience, assembly and association, finally that no law could be valid in the future without the consent of the Duma. The Tsar’s manifesto met with the approval of very large strata. Only the integral reactionaries deplore it, while on the other hand the socialists are further advancing their own path which, while not reluctant to make use of constitutional advantages, no longer has “bourgeois” parliamentarism as its essential aim.

The tsar, despite his distaste for Witte, is obliged to appoint him prime minister. But at the same time the reactionary Trepov becomes more and more the trusted man of Nicholas II: in short, the Tsar follows his old habit of repenting shortly after the reforms he had to grant and tries to sabotage them, as soon as the moment of extreme necessity seems to have passed. Meanwhile, in the country, the great revolutionary wave, having failed to overthrow the autocracy, suffers the fate of all unsuccessful (or only partially successful) revolutions; strikes are becoming rarer and more tired; arrests, repressions, executions have decimated the revolutionaries; the police feel empowered; violent counter-revolutionary demonstrations take place in many cities, organized with the more or less veiled support of the Ministry of the Interior. In the struggle against the revolution the “Union of the Russian people” stands out and the so-called “black centuries” are particularly talked about as they carry out a terrorist activity against the revolutionaries and above all try to push the people against the Jews. Numerous and often very bloody are in this period ianti- Semitic pogroms. The far-right formations see the Jews as the main promoters of the revolution; “Arise, arise, Russian people” sounds a well-known hymn: despite the links that these formations have with the “official autocracy”, they rely more on their own strength; in fact, responsible circles sometimes try to prevent these organizations from taking over absolutely.

During the last months of 1905 and the first months of 1906 the government worked on the preparation of a disguised constitution: against the will of the more moderate liberals themselves, it was decided that the elections to the Duma would be held “by class”; It was obvious that the more conservative currents hoped above all on the peasant masses, willing, it is true, to indulge easily in riots and insurrections, but without a clear political conscience and largely under the influence of the Orthodox Church. In addition, the Tsar had the right to direct foreign policy, to take care of the defense of the state, to proclaim a state of war in certain regions; the ministers were only accountable to the tsar. It seemed to the progressive currents that even more moderate promises, flashed in moments of extreme danger, had been violated in full; the far right, on the other hand, while acknowledging that it was far from a European constitution, feared that the parliamentary machinery would be able to extort one concession after another over time.

Despite all these contrasts, the Duma was inaugurated on April 27 (May 10) 1906. The “progressive” currents, which had the overall majority, insisted from the very first sessions that the Council of State be abolished, that the death penalty be abolished, that the ministers were accountable to the Duma, that future elections no longer take place by class; on the other hand, the far right, now that the revolutionary agitation in the country seemed much lessened, was putting pressure on the tsar to revoke the concessions made. A middle ground was struck; in the summer of 1906 the first Duma was dissolved and the new elections were called for February 20 (March 5) 1907. The opposition parties considered the dissolution of the Duma illegal:

In the second Duma the extreme left was even strengthened. The tension with the government became even more serious. Having the majority of the Duma refused the authorization to arrest fifty-five socialist deputies accused of conspiracy, on 3 (16) June 1907 the second Duma was also dissolved. The elections to the third Duma took place under government pressure that hardly tried to hide. The result of having a more tame parliament was certainly obtained by the government, but meanwhile the gap between the reactionary bureaucracy on the one hand, public opinion of all shades on the other, was accentuated. National minorities (Poles, Finns, Jews, Baltic and Caucasian peoples), seeing their rights continuously threatened or seeing concessions suppressed shortly afterwards

The third Duma lasted from 1907 to 1912; if parliamentary life could now be considered almost normal, terrorist attacks in the country (especially by the Socialist Revolutionaries) increased. Among the victims must be counted the president of the ministers Stolypin himself, whose name is connected to an important agrarian reform, essentially aimed at creating a solid agricultural bourgeoisie, in which Stolypin saw a bulwark against further revolutionary assaults with considerable acumen.. But the attempt at reform came late and above all the state did not have sufficient means to help the vast majority of poor peasants who, from the crumbling of the old ob š è inathey saw if their situation ever got worse. The rise of a layer of the new rich only increased the tension in the countryside.

The Fourth Duma, elected in 1912, was suppressed by the 1917 revolution.

Russia During the Reign of Nicholas II 3