Russian Empire

Russian Empire

Russian Empire, 1881-1894

Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Culture

A.) Russia 1894-1905 : Administration

Czar : Alexander III. (1881-1894); Chairman of the Committee of Ministers : Mikhail Reutern 1881-1887, Nikolay Bunge 1887-1895.

B.) Russia 1894-1905 : Foreign Policy

Alliances . The Three Emperors' League was renewed in 1881. In 1887 Germany and Russia signed a secret Reinsuerance Treaty, on mutual defense in case of one of them being attacked (the Russians expecting such an attack from Austria or/and Britain). Russia was unaware that Germany had a similar treaty with Austria-Hungary. When the Russians in 1891 wanted to renew the Reinsurance Treaty, Bismarck's successor declared Germany could not do so because of her alliance with Austria-Hungary. Russia proceded to conclude an alliance with France (1891/1892) which was to last into World War I.
The Caucasus, Central Asia and the Far East . In 1884 the Russians established themselves in MERV, in 1885 in the Pamir Region - acts of military conquests. Resistance, as in form of the Bukharan Rebellion 1870, was quickly suppressed. Bukhara and Khiva retained their status as Emirate resp. Khanate until 1920.
In 1881 the Russians gave up the Ili Territtory (they had held since 1871); it reverted to Chinese rule.
Britain was very concerned about Russian territorial expansion in Central Asia, as it regarded it a threat to British India. Russia and Britain vied for influence in the remaining independent regions separating them - Persia, Afghanistan, China (The Great Game).
In 1885 a rumour spread of the Korean king having granted the Russians Port Lazareff - allegedly a port on Korea's east coast. The British proceeded to occupy Komundo (which they called Port Hamilton), a natural island harbour off Korea's southern coast. With the rumour proven wrong and under international pressure, the British witthdrew in 1887.

C.) Russia 1894-1905 : Domestic Policy

Alexander II. was assassinated by a Nihilist terrorist in 1881, and succeeded by his son Alexander III. (1881-1894). Alexander III. pursued a policy that aimed at silencing critics. The press regulations were restricted to such extent, according to the university reform of 1884 professors were to be appointed by the minister of the interior; Russian was to be the sole language of education in schools throughout the empire; schools, many of which hitherto were run by religious organizations, came under the administration of the MOE. Even the sermons of Orthodox priests regarded unreliable were subject to censorship. The Okhrana (secret police, est. 1881 in reaction to frequent assassination attempts) could make arbitrary arrests, and many dissidents were sent to internal exile (usually Siberia).
The many non-Russian nationalities within the Russian Empire were exposed to a policy of Russification (Alexander's Pan-Slav stand did not protect Slavic ethnies such as the Poles and Ukrainians from exposure to such a policy); the non-Orthodox religious communities came under pressure, the state supported the Russian Orthodox Church. Military draft was imposed on all religious communities, inducing some (the Dukhobors) to emigrate. Alexander III. was an Anti-Semite; the large Jewish group experienced even stronger pressure than the other ethnic groups. Regulations restricted Jews from buying farmland, limited the political representation of Jews in local councils, barred them from government office etc. Worse, after Alexander II. had been assassinated, Pogroms - the mob ransacking Jewish communities, mostly in the Ukraine - took place, not only tolerated by state officials (police etc.), but often even instigated by them. Many Jews emigrated.

D.) Russia 1894-1905 : Economy

While the population of the Russian Empire grew considerably, the farmland was limited. Most of it was communal farmland, redistributed annually, with the shares per peasant reducing over time as the population grew. Most peasants were very poor, hardly able to pay taxation. As grain prices fell in the 1880es (an effect of growing US exports), the situation only turned worse; famines such as the one of 1891 lead, in combination with epidemics, to large numbers of dead. The government, by abolishing some of the numerous fees/taxes the peasant had to pay, tried to alleviate the burden; not sufficient to improve the situation. Another policy was to encourage the migration into Siberia.
In 1891 high tariffs were introduced to protect the emerging domestic industry from foreign imports.
Anti-Semitism prevalent in Russia made it all the more difficult for the government respectively Russia's industry to obtain loans from western banks.

Russian Government Revenue and Expenditure, 1881-1894
Source : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988, pp. 798, 814
figures in Russian Silver Roubles







F.) Russia 1894-1905 : Demography

Emigration figures from the Russian Empire rose from 58,000 in the 1870es over 288,000 in the 1880es to 481,000 in the 1890es.

Article Nihilism, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Biography of Alexander III., from Alexander Palace
Reform and Reaction under Alexander II. and III., by G. Rempel
Russian Monetary System. Historical Overview : Alexander III. (1881-1894), by Andrey D. Ukhrov
Great Power Politics, by G. Rempel
Article Turkestan, from Catholic Encyclopedia 1912 edition
Wikipedia Articles : Alexander III., Nikolay Bunge, Three Emperors' League, Franco-Russian Alliance, Great Game
DOCUMENTS List of Russia's Chief Ministers etc., from World Rulers by Ben Cahoon
Historical maps featuring the Russian Empire, from FEEFHS
The Jewish Chronicle (London) 1881, Outrages in Russia, on the Kishinov Pogrom of 1881
Portrait of Alexander III. (1897), from Helsinki University Museum
Modern Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia by Maxime Kovalevsky 1891, from Avalon Project
Excerpts of the 1892 Foster Commission Report, from The Levanda Index
Russian banknotes, issued 1889-1898, from Wad Nensberg's Collection of Russian Banknotes
Russian silver coins issued under Alexander II. and III., from S. Sekine's Collection
The Reinsurance Treaty of June 18th 1887, from BYU
The Three Emperors' League, June 18th 1881, from BYU and from the Avalon Project
On Russian concerns of a Chinese military buildup in Manchuria, from New York Times Jan. 31st 1890
REFERENCE The Age of Counterreforms : Alexander III., pp.297-308, in : Melvin C. Wren, The Course of Russian History, Prospect Heights 1994
John Channon and Robert Hudson, European Russia, 1801-1881, and Economic Development, in : The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia, London : Penguin 1995, pp.68-71
Article : Russia, in : Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events 1886 pp.790-792, 1894 pp.706-708 [G]

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First posted in 2000, last revised on March 23rd 2008

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