The Tsarist System of Government of Russia
I believe that throughout history, the Tsars felt threatened. They
then reformed in order to stay in power, and to stay in for power
alone. However, this mindset only had an effect when the Tsar's power
was threatened. Nevertheless, I believe that to find the factors that
had an effect on the Russian system of government, one must look for
the reason why felt threatened. Here war was an important factor,
however it was not the only factor. Otherwise reform would not have
occurred without war. I believe that if these other aforementioned
factors were important enough to cause political change, then they
must rank alongside war in terms of importance.
However it was not "the locomotive of history". i Together with
discontent in the populace, and its manifestations (strikes,
revolutionary activity, and assassinations), I believe War invariably
changed the Russian political system.
I believe war had an impact for several reasons. Throughout the period
described Russia took part in three wars, in which they were crushed.
Firstly, when a country fails in war, some would see it as being a
sign that the country is less advanced in general. Firstly, the
realisation that one's country was backward and prone to invasion
threatened the Tsar's power, which then induced political change. He
realised that if something was not done to improve and modernise that
external enemies could be more of a danger than internal ones.
I have chosen an example to illustrate this. After the 1854-6 Crimean
War, Alexander II initiated the emancipation of the Serfs, the
creation of the Zemstvos, the Dumas, and the independent judiciary. He
was even compelled to consider relinquishing a sizeable proportion of
his power to the populace, but died before being able to implement
these ideas. This was as a direct result of Alexander having the
Secondly, war has the inevitable effects on the populace. Unlike
Bismark, the Tsars did not have the political clout necessary to
ensure that a war was properly prepared for. Subsequently, the long
drawn out wars slowly demoralised the Russian people and resulted in
discontent. Aside from destroying any pride they had in the "system",
they were subjected to witnessing the death of their comrades and the
draining of their country.
However, war when carried out swiftly and with success can have
positive benefits for the popularity of a ruler. Bismarck's foreign
policy showed this. But the wars in which Russia was involved in only
served to weaken the resolve of the people, and the power of the Tsar.
The floundering war effort was a factor in the Bloody Sunday, the
October Manifesto and the first revolution of 1917.
Yet there were other factors in these political upheavals and others,
as I have said...