How did the government restrict the Dumas and ensure that Nicholas remained in control?
‘To the Emperor of all Russians belongs the supreme autocratic power. Submission to his power is demanded by God himself’. This reaffirmation of the Tsar’s belief in autocracy contradicted the October Manifesto in many important ways. The Fundamental Laws stated that:
• the Tsar, not the Duma, would appoint his ministers
• the conduct of foreign affairs was the responsibility solely of the Tsar
• the Tsar retained the right to rule by decree [without the elected parliament]
• the Duma could not pass laws without the Tsar’s agreement.
Fundamental Laws – April 1906
Witte’s electoral system for the Duma was heavily biased towards the landowning classes and towards the peasantry who were seen as fundamentally conservative. It took 90,000 workers to elect a deputy. It took 30,000 peasants to elect one. In addition autocracy was virtually confirmed:
1. The State Council was to be half appointed by the Tsar, the rest were to be elected by wealthy and propertied classes.
2. The Tsar could choose and dismiss ministers to suit himself. He was in full control of the armed forces, the executive and foreign policy.
3. The Tsar could veto any legislation, and could govern by decree when the Duma was not in full session, although legislation required the endorsement of the Duma and State Council.
Changes to Electoral Laws
In 1907 Peter Stolypin introduced a new set of electoral laws which by-passed the 1906 constitution, assuring that the Tsar would get a right-wing majority in the Duma.
The most important person in the Russian government after 1906 was Peter Stolypin. Stolypin had a reputation for brutality and was so brutal that the hangman’s noose became known as ‘Stolypin’s necktie’. When he came to office his first task was to stamp out any remnants of revolutionary activity. Revolutionary leaders were hanged or exiled. Many fled overseas including Trotsky and Lenin. Although he was brutal in his treatment of revolutionaries Stolypin realised that reforms were essential if autocracy was to survive. His aim was to create a prosperous land owning class which would support the Tsar and would not be open to revolutionary ideas.
Stolypin’s Land Reforms
There was still serious discontent among Russian peasants. To deal with this Stolypin began his social reforms by introducing changes to land ownership which included:
• Peasants would now own their own land. The Mir would no longer own the land
• The whole family wouldn’t own the land. It was the property of the eldest member of the family
• Pasture and grazing land, owned by the commune, was divided up among peasants
• The system of strip farming ended and the land was enclosed into small farms
• The Peasant Bank was expanded allow those peasants who could afford it, to buy more land.
This last reform affected about two million families and created a more prosperous, successful group of peasants who, known as kulaks, who were supposed to act a buffer against revolution to protect their own interests. The reforms also led to an increase in agricultural production and a start to the modernisation of agricultural methods. As a result of the land reforms even more peasants left the land and went to the cities in search of work.
Worksheet Lesson Plan:
- Aimed at Students studying across UK Year 7,8 & 9 or equivalent
- Premium resource
- Use as you wish in the classroom or home environment
- Lesson plan on Russian Government Actions 1906-1914.
- Contains questions throughout the study worksheet.