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Russia: Catherine Ii Essay, Research Paper
1. Catherine II (the Great). The successor of the sickly Peter III, Catherine II was his wife until his suspected murder and she took the throne in 1762. Although she made no great reforms in Russian society, she gathered many friends by her death in 1796.
Catherine had to keep the nobility pleased at all times because if she didn?t she could be dethroned easily. Because of this she carried out very few social reforms. Russia continued to follow an economic growth that Peter that Great had started. She tried to remove trade barriers, and assisted in expanding the middle class, which helped trade. Catherine II?s great addition to Russia was the land she gained, she was able to add more territory to Russia than had been in nearly a century before her.
While nothing very important was achieved during Catherine?s rule, she acquired valuable friends that proved to be useful in the future of Russia.
Alexander I. The successor of Paul I and the grandson of Catherine the Great, Alexander I spent the early part of his rule attempting to reform the administering body of the government. The reforms he initiated here brought about a much better trained group of officials.
After the Napoleonic Wars, Alexander I was in charge of the reconstruction of much of the land along the route to the French invasion, this caused a expansion in the textile business, which boosted the economy.
The major flaw of Alexander I was the way that he put down the attempt for freedom by society. After the wars, many of the people had become self-confident in their beliefs, and when peacetime came, they began to express them. Because of this, Alexander I placed even more restrictions on society?s freedom, and ended up sparking the creation of numerous secret societies, which were against the government.
Nicholas I. Nicholas I, the successor of Alexander I, came into power directly after an attempted insurrection of the government, and ruled as a reactive body.
His rule was a time of excellent Russian literary works from authors such as Dostoyevsky and Tolstoi, despite the policies of censorship and control that he put into place,.
During his reign many technical institutes were founded. By the end of his rule, there were a large number of trained professionals in Russia. His government also successfully completed the codification of laws, which led to better economic development, the stabilization of the currency, and the creation of protective tariffs.
The main flaw of Nicholas I?s rule was the timidness exhibited by him and his government. Fearing peasant revolts and the constantly distrusting nobility, the government never took any serious steps towards abolishing the serf system and reforming their backward agrarian economy.
Alexander II. The son of Nicholas I, Alexander I took the throne after his father?s death in 1855. Alexander I?s rule was during the time when the people expected much from their leader, and he responded by reforming the country. The main reform of his rule was that of the abolishment of serfdom. Because of this Russia was at last on its way towards joining the world in becoming a modern society. Alexander II also introduced elected institutions of local government, the zemstvos, they handled education, health, welfare, and made changes in the legal system that allowed for fairer trials by jury.
With the reforms he initiated a wake of revolution followed. Industrial and capitalist revolutions caused problems with urbanization, proletarianization, and an agrarian crisis. These issues continued to grow towards the end of his rule, and he was eventually assassinated by a terrorist group called the ?People?s Will?
2) The rules of Alexander III and Nicholas II were vastly different from those of their predecessors. The previous rulers had all realized that some kind of social reform was necessary for Russia to survive, these two rulers apparently did not believe that, and showed this in their leadership. Neither of them made any attempts for reform to better Russia, but rather they further divided society. In the case of their predecessors, who had the constant push of the nobility on their back that slowed down any reforms that they tried to create. But these new rulers had the apparent power to see more changes followed through upon, that could have bettered the nation, but they chose not to act on them.
3) There was much revolutionary activity against the tsar during the 19th century by Russian intellectuals. Intellects worked with the peasants to reach the common goal of having a good quality of life for all Russian citizens. After initial reforms by Alexander II failed to work students and other revolutionaries started what was called the Populism. Students went to live with the peasants in the country to show that they were working for them, trying to get them better lives. They were trying to change the government so that the peasants would be represented instead of a tsar controlling the country. But this plan did not work out and the confused peasants turned many of the students into the police.
Terrorism was the next move for the revolutionaries and they decided to attack the tsarist regime directly. Several government officials were assassinated at the hands of revolutionaries. The People?s Will, a terrorist organization was formed. They successfully assassinated the tsar after several failed attempts. Alexander II passed few meaningful reforms which further convinced Russians that their country would never be able to move forward without the abolishment of the tsarist government. During the rule of Alexander III freedom of the press was greatly restricted and the secret police were strengthened. This only further infuriated the intellectual revolutionaries who now saw that Russia would never be able to survive the upcoming 20th century with a tsar in control of the country
4) Narodnichesto means ?to the people?. Since most of the people in Russia are peasants it means going to the peasants. This idea was originated by Alexander Herzen in the 1840?s and 1850?s. Herzen was a critic of the tsarist regime. He lived in exile. When he was in London he published a newspaper called the The Bell, in which he set forth reformist positions.
The philosophy Herzen presents is a very contradictory “blend,” of and radical thought. The radical strain of his writing can be seen very clearly in his attack on the middle classes, which he thought were overly orthodox in their views. Herzen approved of Russian communal organization, yet contested . He thought that in a communist state the power of the mass majority would be overwhelming and something to be feared; in addition, the willingness of revolutionaries to destroy freedom raised Herzen’s ideas towards them. He opposed any such ideology calling for absolute sacrifice in the name of an abstract principle, utopian concept, or historical destiny. Men were essentially free within certain limits, and life was generally open. In the case of morality, Herzen believed in the free will of men to make decisions as to what moral law was to be followed. In the least, men who are involved in some supposed “higher cause” should not make such judgments. He was also skeptical of idealism, believing that there could be some dangers in that as well. To Herzen, civilized values and individual liberties were of great significance.
The main tenants of Narodnichesto are one, the existing order is doomed and must be overthrown by a socialist revolution, two, the historical development of Russia is different from other countries. This makes it possible to have a direct transition to socialism without the intermediate state of capitalism. Three, communal land tenure and the associations of workingmen and craftsmen are compatibe with socialism, and four, the peasants are communist by instinct and tradition. This makes them the real force behind the revolution. One radical Russian activist who made a contribution to the development of Russian populism, the Narodnichesto, in the 1870?s. As a contemporary of Marx he played an almost independent role in the early development of European Marxism. Being one of the founders of the First International in 1864, he also helped to break it up since he was in direct disagreement with Marx?s ideas. The international expelled him in the year 1872. Before that he had been a proponent of the Slavic federation, revealing some hidden Slavophil tendencies. He was mainly known for being the father of revolutionary anarchism, an idea based on Proudhon?s negation of the state combined with Marxist ideas about collective ownership of property.
Bakunin rejects the value of the centralized state and organized religion, calling them false and referring to them as products of myth and superstition. Bakunin also advocated communal autonomy, or freedom of action independent of government at the local community level. Believing that power was rightfully exercised from the bottom up rather than in a hierarchical and centralized manner as was traditionally done. Bakunin stated that “labor must be the sole base of human right and the economic organization of the state.” It was because of the current government’s entrenched position and reluctance to give up power that social revolution could not be accomplished peacefully, for such a government required a violent and sudden end to be eliminated. He believed that amidst the ruins of the old government would form a new society in which anarchy would reign peacefully, which he implied in the famous anarchist saying: “The urge to destroy is a also a creative urge.”
Alexander Kerensky was a moderate socialist. Kerensky announced two goals, one, offensive against the Central Powers and two, a democratic reorganization of the military command. His ?Declaration of Soldiers Rights? included the appointment of commissars in the army to handle soldiers? councils, but the councils issued orders contradicting the commanders and thus undermined the officer corps. Literature was distributed on a massive scale by radical socialists and Bolshevik agents and fraternization with the enemy hit the military ranks hard.
5) The attempted revolutions in 1905 began for many reasons. Russia had just lost a war with the Japan after the Japanese captured Port Arthur. The government was going through a crisis, the war was started to unite Russia but it only served to further divide them.
In January several hundred workers went to the tsar with a petition to improve industrial conditions. But as they came to the palace the guards opened fire on them, almost 100 innocent protesters were killed in cold blood. Over the next year many other disturbances plagued Russia including: peasant revolts, mutinies, assassinations, and strikes.
In late 1905 Russia was promised a constitutional government by the October Manifesto which was issued by Nicholas II. In this ?new? government Nicholas II was in charge of ministerial appointment, financial polocy, foreign affairs, and military matters. This revolution did not exactly change the people in power but just changed their titles. The Duma was to represent the people of Russia and was formed in 1905 after the revolution. It was a representative body that was elected into power. But the elections in April put many radicals into power and the tsar disbanded that Duma. He then disbanded the one after that too, in turn he formed a much more conservative Duma that was mostly under his control. He had regained all of the power that he had lost due to the revolution of 1905.
6) The March Revolution: Food riots broke out in Petrograd, and when the Czar ordered the Duma to dissolve and they did not obey. Soldiers were not able to stop rioting in the cities. Workers and soldiers in Petrograd organized radical legislative bodies called Soviets. The rebellion spread throughout the country and to the troops, who deserted by tens of thousands.
On March 14, the Petrograd Soviet and the Duma formed a provisional government under Prince Lvov with Alexander Kerensky. On March 17, Russia was proclaimed a Republic after the tsar left on March 15. Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders returned from exile to Petrograd in April. They had a few demands to the provincial government which were that Russia withdraw from the war and land be redistributed to the peasants and factories be controlled by the Soviets.
After a coup that failed in July, Lenin and the rest fled to Finland. Prince Lvov turned over the government to Kerensky.
The October Revolution: Kerensky’s government failed to win the support of the people because of continued shortages, and Russia stayed in the war against the Central Powers. Lenin returned to Petrograd with the cry of “Peace, land, bread.” On October 6 and 7 the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace, headquarters of Kerensky’s government, and seized other key centers in Petrograd. Kerensky’s provisional government fled. The congress of Soviets, established a Council of People’s Commissars with Lenin as head, Trotsky as a foreign minister and Stalin as nationalities minister. Over the next months, the government abolished the freely elected legislative assembly and established a secret police organization, the Cheka.
7) The Bolsheviks and Lenin gained control of Russia after the Revolution of 1917, with the help of the Red Army under the command of Leon Trotsky.
When an election decreed for a Constituent Assembly by the provisional
government that had taken the place of the Tsar but was overthrown by
Lenin, took place, it gave the majority of the seats to the Socialist Revolutionaries, rather than the Bolsheviks. The next day, the Red Army dispersed the Assembly, and full control was given to the Bolsheviks. Radical changes were occurring in Russia. The government took control of banks, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed, which removed Russia from The War. Foreign debts accumulated during the time of the Tsar were annulled. Many Russians were disgruntled, the Bolshevik Party was domestically unpopular, it had only 650,000 members. The basis for its power was the alliance of the proletariat, which was falling apart.
When the Baltic fleet mutinied at Kronstadt, Lenin decided that it was time to make some concessions. The New Economic Policy was introduced, it allowed peasants to profit from their crop. This was allowing economic enterprise. This move stabilized the countryside, and industrial production rose to that which it was in 1913. It was this revolution, that occurred between 1918 and 1922, that helped Russia transform into what it was much of the 20th century
8) Russian leaders Stalin and Lenin had many differences and similarities. The major similarities and differences involved the role of party, use of terror, economic priorities, and nationalism.
V.I. Lenin was a Bolshevik leader, the Bolsheviks were the extremist wing of the
Russian Social Democratic party. The Bolsheviks came to power with Lenin as their leader after a coup. Lenin said that his party was imposing the dictatorship of the proletariat. His political and economic administration became highly centralized and major decisions involving Russia flowed from the top in a non-democratic manner. The government siezed and then operated the banks, and the transportation system. The state then captured grain from the peasants to feed the army and the workers in the cities. Lenin decided to implement a New Economic Policy, called NEP. Under NEP the government would tolerate private economic enterprise. Peasants could now farm for profit, they would still pay taxes but the could sell their surplus on the open market.
Joseph Stalin was general secretary of the party in 1922. His power lay with the party members and in the day-to-day management of party affairs. He was strongly opposed to Trotsky and favored the NEP. His economic policy was based on decentralized economic planning and the acceptance of modest free enterprise and small land holdings. He had not spend a long period of exile in Western Europe, because of this he was unable to recognize Russia as anentity with all of Europe. Stalin was very brutal, his handling of recalcitrant national groups within Russia after the revolution shocked even Lenin. He mastered the details of the party structure, which let him have the support of the lower levels of the party when he clashed with other leaders. He also supported Bukharin?s position on economic development. In 1924 he enunciated, in opposition to Trotsky, the doctrine of ?socialism in one country?, he urged that Socialism could be achieved in Russia alone. Stalin?s decisions to industrialize rapidly, to move against the peasants, and to reverse the Comintern policy aroused internal political opposition. These were all departures from the policies of Lenin.
Lenin established the basic ideas of Soviet communism and Stalin put them into more brutal and controlling terms. Lenin ruled for a shorter time than Stalin did. Lenin set Russia up for modernization and reform and Stalin tore it down to create one of the world?s worst totalitarian regimes. The main similarities between the two are in their usurpation of power to gain their ends, their use of dictatorship, and their methods of suppressing dissent.
9) Mikhail Gorbachev was responsible for the fall of Communism
and the Soviet Union. If he had not taken such radical steps towards a future that had never been considered in Russia, the Soviet Union and Communism may have still existed in Russia today. A Russian leader never before held tenets similar to Gorbachev’s after the Bolshevik Revolution. When Gorbachev came into power in 1985, Russia was in a going through hard times, technologically, economically, and agriculturally. He decided that the only way to save Russia was to stray from Bolshevik ideals. In essence, he attempted to create another United States out of the Soviet Union, which turned out to be a horrible mistake.
“Perestroika” is a term that means “restructuring,” which was the goal
of Gorbachev economically and politically. This economic restructuring leaned towards free market, it involved: allowing private enterprise, private ownership of property. This was something that had not been allowed in Russia and should not have happened very rapidly.
Economic restructuring, especially considering the delicate conditions that existed during that time, should be gradual. Because this happened so rapidly it caused many problems in Russia. Gorbachev turned next t political reform, he tried to make Russian Politics like America?s. A new Constitution was written which allowed free elections. This was acompletely new idea to Russia, and like his economic policies, was too rapid,
Gorbachev?s next step was called ?Glasnot? and it meant to make Russia socially like America. It encouraged criticism of the Communist Party policy, freedom of the press,free speech, political dissidents were released from prison, it encouraged the voicing of nationalist opinions. It created nationalist sentiment among a number of people ethnically different from the Russians. The plan turned out to be too much for Gorbachev and was dumped, but the damage had already been done. Glasnot had already built sentiment for later nationalist revolutions that eventually lead to the break up of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine, which allowed Russian involvement in other Communist countries. This encouraged the nationalist sentiment to overthrow communist governments, because once the local governments did not have the support of Russia, thousands of people in Communist countries began to call for democracy. Gorbachev not only contributed to the break up of the Soviet Union, but also other Communist countries.
10) The fall of the Soviet Union had economic, political, and military repercussions on the state of Russia. When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in December 1991, revolutions broke out all throughout the former communist countries, these revolutions became more prevalent especially when Gorbachev renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine, saying that Russia would not come to the aid of troubled communist countries. These revolutions created great instability in these newly democratized nations, economically, politically, and militarily.
The economic problems that existed prior to the fall of the USSR, that to a great extent caused its fall, were still existent. The economies of the nations are still in a slump, with little signs of letting up. The absence of consumer products further deprives the economies. The leaders of these new nations seem to be full of revolutionary and democratic zeal, but lack the leadership qualities required of them as leaders of economically and politically unstable nations.
The political instability of the new nations has caused leaders to rise and fall quickly, giving little time for one leader to advance in the direction of stability. Another interesting fact is that the leaders of these ?democratic? republics are mainly former communists, simply contending for political power in a new framework.
The fall of the Soviet Social Republic has also presented harsh military realities. When USSR was a united state, it had but one army, this created major problems following its break-up. Each newly independent nation wishes for its own slice of the military pie. The nations wish to divide the arms of the Soviet army to suit themselves, as well as to divide up the soldiers so that they owe sole allegiance to their soil.
The instability and crises caused by the Soviet break-up has drastically effected Russian relations with the United States. Whereas before, Russia and USA were considered to be eastern and western versions of each other, respectively, in a economic sense, nowadays the situation is much different. Russia is in ruins and as a result cannot maintain the rivalrous attitude it once maintained towards the US. Russia, once considered a world superpower, now asks the US and the IMF for monetary aid. In a sense, the fall of Russia can be looked at as an efficient end to the Cold War, and the beginning of camaraderie between the United States and Russia. If USSR had not fallen, it is not wrong to say that the Cold War may have gone on to this day, and who knowns, there may have even been a nuclear war. But that is a possibility that will never be known, and for now, Russia and its economy, military, and political structure are highly unstable.
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