Russian Empire 1881-1894
Russian Empire 1905-1914

Russian Domestic Policy, 1894-1905

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

B.) Russia 1894-1905 : Administration

Czar : Nicholas II. (1894-1917); Chairman of the Committee of Ministers : Nikolay Bunge 1887-1895, Ivan Durnovo 1895-1903, 1903-1905 Sergei Witte.

B.) Russia 1894-1905 : Foreign Policy

In 1891 a Russian delegation at Berlin, wishing to extend the German-Russian Reinsurance Treaty, was shown by the German government a similar alliance the latter (secretly) had with Austria-Hungary. This was taken by Russia as an affront; in 1892/94 a Franco-Russian Alliance was signed, which was to become the cornerstone for Russian foreign policy for the next 20 years. French capital invested in Russia, among others in the Transib.
In 1894/95 Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War; China had to cede Taiwan and accept Japanese occupation of South Manchuria - a development which deprived Russia of the opportunity to gain a harbour on the (close) Manchurian coast. France, Germany and Russia formed the East Asiatic Triple Alliance (1895), forcing Japan to give up her gain in South Manchuria. In 1897/1898 the triple alliance powers then established themselves in China - France at Kwangchowan, Germany at Kiautschou, Russia at Port Arthur - now finally having realized Peter the Great's dream of a port ice-free year round.

Britain long had eyed at Russian expansion with suspicion. In 1894/95 it had to realize that China was not the bulwark to stop further Russian expansion Britain had hoped it to be, an impression which was intensified during the chaotic Boxer Rebellion 1900-1901. In 1898 the British leased Weihaiwei in northern Shandong - a place with little economic value, but from where Russian fleet movements (Port Arthur) could be observed. In 1902 the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was formed, obviously directed against Russia. The British aided Japan in the construction of her fleet.
In the meantime a Japanese-instigated palace coup in Korea (1897) went wrong; the king and crown prince managed to seek refuge in the Russian embassy, where they were given protection, Russia thus becoming a political factor counterbalancing Japanese influence on the peninsula (drawn in by the Koreans, who were the active partner in this relationship). Thus Korea provided another bone of contention in Russo-Japanese relations.
In the expedition sent to suppress the Boxer rebellion in China, Russia contributed the second largest contingent, after Japan : 4,393 men.
In 1904, before the Transib was completed, the Japanese attacked the Russians without previously declaring war (the Russo-Japanese War). Russia suffered a humiliating defeat; South Manchuria, with Port Arthur, as well as the southern half of Sakhalin were ceded to Japan.

B.) Russia 1894-1905 : Domestic Policy

Russia's government was responsible solely to the Czar; Nicholas II. was determined to hold on to Autocracy and adamantly opposed to any attempt of democratization. The formation of political parties was forbidden; the Okhrana (secret police, est. 1881) made arbitrary arrests, and many a political critic found himself in jail or in a Siberian camp. Others went into exile.
In the past, an autocratic policy had worked because peasants' revolts, although frequent, were badly coordinated and could be treated one by one. The Orthodox church also helped to reconcile the population with the system; Konstantin Pobedonotsev, procurator of the Holy Synod 1880-1905, was regarded the 'ideologist of Russian reaction'. In the growing industrial centers, an Urban Proletariat emerged which was an even more dangerous potential herd of unrest than the peasants on the countryside; yet it had literate leaders and was less influenced by the church.
The policy to outlaw political parties did not prevent them to emerge as illegal organizations. In 1898 the Russian Social-Democratic Party was founded, the Socialist Revolutionary Party in 1900, shortly after the Union of Liberation (liberal). These political organizations, who had to operate in the underground, were largely confined to Russia proper, as the various non-Russian nationalities, alienated by decades of a Russification policy, founded parties of their own.
An economic depression 1900-1902 and the defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/1905 then created a situation, in which the Russian Empire erupted in revolution.

B.) Russia 1894-1905 : Economy

In 1891 work on the Transiberian Railroad was begun, in 1895 on the Transcaspian Railroad. Historians have observed that with the accession of Czar Nicholas II. to the throne in 1894, the pace of Russia's industrialization picked up. Another factor was the French alliance; French banks invested considerably in Russia. In 1897 Russia adopted the Gold Standard, a measure which encouraged foreign investment and helped speed up the process of industrialization.
In 1892, the Russian Empire had a railroad network of a combined length of 31,202 km, in 1905 of 61,085 km (having surpassed Germany as Europe's country with the 'longest' railroad system in 1899).In 1892 Russia's output of pig-iron amounted to 1.1 million metric tons (less than 1/6 of the British), in 1905 it had risen to 2.7 million metric tons or more than 1/4 of the British output. In 1892, Russian coal mines produced 6.9 million tons of coal; in 1905 production reached 18.7 million tons.
While the figures indicating industrial growth were impressive - Russia's industry grew faster than those of Britain and Germany - Russia still lagged far behind the industrialized nations in terms of per-capita consumption.
In contrast to the industrialized nations of central and western Europe, Russia continued to significantly expand the farmland where grain, potatos etc. were cultivated, from 13.4 million hectares in 1895 to 20.0 million hectares in 1905 (figures for the European provinces of the Russian Empire without Poland); wheat production rose from 8.4 million metric tons in 1895 to 12.8 million in 1905, potato harvest from 21.1 million metric tons in 1895 to 27.6 million metric tons in 1905.

Russian Government Revenue and Expenditure, 1894-1905
Source : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988, pp. 798, 801, 814, 823
figures in Russian Silver Roubles







B.) Russia 1894-1905 : Demography

Russia's population also grew faster than that of western European nations; the population of the Russian Empire reached 125,000,000 in 1894, 146,000,000 in 1904. Rapid industrialization also meant rapid urbanization. The policy of Russification, pursued since 1881, especially policies discriminating against Russia's Jews and occasional pogroms, such as the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, drove many to emigration.
In 1899 a group of Doukhobors - a religious minority refusing to serve in the army and to swear oaths - emigrated to Canada.

Population of major Russian cities, 1890-1910
Source : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988, pp. 72ff


Ekaterinoslav (Dniepropetrovsk)

St. Petersburg




Russia in 1900, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Russian Monetary System. Historical Overview : Nicholas II. (1894-1917), by Andrey D. Ukhrov
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Russia Imperialism in Asia and the Russo-Japanese War
Student essay : Causes of the Franco-Prussian Alliance
Russia's involvement in the Boxer Rebellion, by Rurik
Articles from Wikipedia : Franco-Russian Alliance, Trans-Siberian Railway, Lüshunkou (Port Arthur), Vyacheslav von Plehve, Sergei Witte, Ivan Durnovo, Nikolay Bunge, Kishinev Pogrom, Doukhobor
DOCUMENTS List of Russia's Chief Ministers etc., from World Rulers by Ben Cahoon
Historical maps featuring the Russian Empire, from FEEFHS
Photographs Russian Empire 1895-1910, from California Museum of Photography
Sergey Witte on Russia's economic policy, 1900, from Russian History Homepage at Univ. of Durham (text in English)
K. Pobedonotzev, On Parliamentary Democracy, On Freedom of the Press, On the Nature of Power, On Education, excerpts (1898) from Documents in Russian History
Poultney Bigelow, The Cossack as Cowboy, Soldier and Citizen, in Harper's New Monthly Magazine Nov. 1894 pp.921-937, from Cornell Digital Library Collection
Portraits of Alexander III. (1897), of Nicholas II. (1896) from Helsinki University Museum
Brief van Marius Bauer uit Moskou (letter by Marius Bauer from Moscow), from De Kroniek, 31. 5. 1896, in Dutch, on the coronation of Nicholas II.
Russian banknotes, issued 1889-1898, from Wad Nensberg's Collection of Russian Banknotes
Coin : Tsar Nicholas II., 1899, from Coins from Famous People in History
News from Russia, in "The Great Round World and What is Going on in it", Vol.1 No.46, September 1897, posted by Gutenberg Library Online
German Diplomatic Documents : The Sino-Japanese War and the East Asiatic Triple Alliance 1895, from Mt. Holyoke
The Franco-Russian Alliance Military Convention - August 18, 1892, from Avalon Project, also from BYU, and from J. O'Brien
REFERENCE The Age of Counterreforms : Nicholas I., pp.311-328, in : Melvin C. Wren, The Course of Russian History, Prospect Heights 1994
Article : Russia, in : Statesman's Year Book 1895 pp.851-916, 1898 pp.851-917, 1901 pp.954-1019, 1905 pp.1046-1105 [G]
Article : Russia, in : International Year Book 1898 pp.678-685, 1899 pp.708-712, 1900 pp.800-805 [G]
Article : Russia, in : Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events 1902 pp.604-616 [G]
Algernon Bastard, The Gourmet's Guide to Europe (1903), posted by Gutenberg Library Online, chapter XIV pp.217-226 on Russia

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 23rd 2008

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