History of Russia as described in Historic Encyclopedias

Meyer 1902

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 1902-1909, Article : Russisches Reich (excerpts)
Russia's Supremacy in Europe
The supremacy of Russia after the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars was confirmed by Alexander by the Holy Alliance (September 26th 1815), by which he tied Austria and Prussia to Russian policy. The legitimist principles which Alexander had made his own now became the guideline of European policy on the congresses at Aachen, Troppau, Laibach and Verona. But for June 1819 it was planned to give Russia a constitution. In Germany Alexander helped suppress the national and liberal movement. In his own country Alexander improved the customs system, the currency, road and canal construction, and colonized southern Russia. St. Petersburg was beautified by numerous edifices, Moscow and many other cities destroyed by the war, reconstructed fore stately than they had been. Education was generously supported by new institutions, namely the university in St. Petersburg, and by scientific expeditions and works. On a tour of the south, Alexander on December 1st 1825 died unexpectedly in Taganrog.
As Alexander left no sons, Grand Prince Micholas and the guards paid homage to his elder brother Constantine. But the latter already in 1822 had renounced his right of succession, and Alexander had approved this act, but had kept it secret. Only now it became known, and as Constantine insisted on his decision, and as supreme commander of the Polish army, proclaimed his younger brother Nicholas as Czar, the latter as Nicholas I. (1825-1855) ascended the throne. The temporary insecurity of the interregnum was used by a number of officers, who wanted to bring about a toppling of the system according to the model of the French Revolution (Decabrist Rebellion, see there). The latter, Major Pestel at the helm, mislead the guards, who were to swear loyalty to Czar Nicholas on December 26th 1825, into believing that Constantine would be the legitimate Czar and Nicholas a usurper, and influenced them not only to refuse the oath of loyalty, but even to shout hurras for Constantine and the constitution (which the soldiers misunderstood as the wife of Constantine). Nicholas immediately ordered them to be fired upon, and by his courageous action he suppressed the rebellion in its bud. The participants were hanged, such as Pestel, Ryleyev, Muravyev and other officers, many were exiled to Siberia, the regiments involved in the mutiny posted in the Caucasus.
Nicholas on August 22nd 1826 was ceremoniously crowned in Moscow. Filled by an excessive consciousness of his own rule and of the power of the Russian Empire, the new Czar saw in Western European culture only the cause of rebellion against throne and altar, he regarded absolute Czarist rule capable to lead the Russian Empire and people to the highest unfolding of its energies, and he regarded himself entitled to recklessly inforce Russian claims in all directions. In the war with Persia (1826-1828), which the son of the Shah, Abbas Mirza, had begun by an invasion of Caucasia, the latter was defeated on September 25th 1826 near Yelissavetpol, after which Paskevich in 1827 invaded Persia, and was victorious at Abbas Abad (July 17th) and Echmiadsin (August 29th) and in the Peace of Turkmanchai (February 22nd 1828) achieved the cession of a part of Armenia. Already beforehand the Czar had begun the 4th Russo-Turkish War (1827-1829), ostensibly because of noncompliance with the treaty concerning the Danubian principalities by Turkey; in reality in order to force the independence of the Greeks, the rebellion of whom had been supported by Russia. The war began with the combination of a Russian and an Anglo-French fleet in the port of Navarino, where the Turko-Egyptian fleet was annihilated on October 27th 1827. In May 1828 the Russians under Wittgenstein crossed the Danube and in October conquered Varna, while Paskevich conquered Kars (July 5th), Achalkalaki (July 23rd)), Achalzych (August 9th) in Turkish-Armenia, and with the latter the entire Pashalik Bayezid. In 1829 the Russians under Diebitsch defeated the Turks near Kulevchi (June 11th), took Silistria (June 20th) and then moved across the Balkans. They conquered Adrianople on August 20th and threatened Constantinople; in Armenia Paskevich had occupied Erzerum. Then the Porte accepted a Prussian mediation, and peace was signed on September 14th 1829 in Adrianople. Russia received the Danube delta and a part of Armenia as well as compensation of the war costs, of 10 million Ducats; in addition the Sultan recognized the independence of Greece and granted almost complete independence to the Danubian principalities.
The July Revolution of 1830, despite Poland hitherto having been treated mildly and benevolently by Russia, lead to the Polish Rebellion (November 29th 1830)ich Grand Prince Constantine, who held command in Warsaw, was surprised to such a degree that he evacuated all of Poland. The reconquest in 1831 (see Poland p.92) was made more difficult by the fact that the Cholera killed many soldiers, among them supreme commander Diebitsch, and it was only ended in September 1831 by Paskevich by the conquest of Warsaw. Poland now lost its autonomy, by an organic statute (in February 1832) was declared an inseparable part of the Russian Empire, the Polish Army integrated into the Russian Army. After these glorious successes Czar Nicholas regarded himself the protector of the existing order in Europe, and as such interfered in 1833 in Turkey, when the latter was threatened by Mehmed Ali of Egypt. A Russian fleet appeared in the Bosphorus, 5000 Russians took up position at Skutari, an army crossed the Pruth to come to the aid of the Turks. All this brought about the Peace of Kütahya between the Sultan and Mehmed Ali; in gratitude, in a secret article of the Treaty of Hunkyar Skelessi (July 8th 1833) Russia gained the concession that the Dardanelles should be open exclusively for Russian warships. Even more resolutely Nicholas appeared as the commander of Europe and the grailkeeper of legitimacy after the February Revolution; he was willing to interfere against the revolution in Prussia in 1848, an offer which was rejected; in 1849 he sent a Russian army under Paskevich to Hungary, in order to aid the Austrians against the insurrection there, and the Hungarian main army under Görgei and to surrender to his troops at Vilagos on August 13th. After he played the referee in the German question between Austria and Prussia, and forced the latter to give up its union plans (Olmütz Punctation, November 29th 1850).
In domestic affairs Nicholas altered little in regard to state institutions. Ministries of the Imperial house (1826) and of state domains (1837) were established. Under the guidance of Speransky, all ukases since Czar Alexey Mikhailovich's "Uloshenie" (1649) were collected, viewed, the ones still in force edited as a new law codex. Many military schools and cadet corps were established to improve the army. Magnificent palaces, edifices and pieces of art were created. The bureaucracy, submissive to the court, was violent to the people, dishonest and corrupt. Despite increasing revenues of the tax on alcoholic spirits, the finances were in a bad condition, so that pressing taxes, such as the head tax, could not be abolished. Little was done for agriculture, industry and trade. Communication with foreign countries was limited in order to prevent the revolutionary ideas of the west enter the country. Journeys abroad were only permitted for payment of a high passport tax, books and journals supervised by a strict, often arbitrary censorship. The universities (Warsaw and Vilna were closed, Kiev opened in their place) were subject to the strictest supervision; the number of students was limited. Nothing was done to raise the state of the neglected clergy. On the Synod of Polock (1839) the union of the United Greeks, since 1596 united with the Roman-Catholic Church in the Polish provinces, with the Russian state church was decided, and despite the protests of the pope, its implementation was begun. In the Baltic Provinces, numerous Estonian and Latvian peasants, by wrong descriptions, were induced to convert to the Greek Church; the return to Lutheran faith was forbidden by severe punishment.
Nicholas regarded himself the protector of the entire Greek Church of the Orient, and this provided the cause of the outbreak of the 5th Russo-Turkish War (1853-1856), the so-called Crimean War (see there). The Crimean War caused the end of the Russian supremacy. It turned out, that Russia had few friends in Europe, except for a number of strictly conservative circles, and that its army, which consumed so much money, was inferior. Despite the genius of a Totleben, the Russian Army was incapable to expel the Allies from the Crimea. The provisioning, reinforcement and strengthening of the army on the Crimea were made more difficult by insufficient infrastructure, the food reserves because of large-scale embezzlement rendered useless. The enemy fleets, by their blockades, damaged Russian trade, to which only the land borders to Prussia and Austria had remained open, and shattered Russia's wealth, as it only produced raw materials, which during the war it could not exchange for industrial products. Finally the costs of the war ruined the finances.

The Government of Alexander II.
When in the spring of 1855 the fights on the Crimea began with an unfortunate skirmish for the Russians, Nicholas suddenly died on March 2nd 1855. He was succeeded by his oldest son, Alexander II. (1855-1881), who for the time being continued the war. But after Sevastopol had fallen on September 8th 1855, and by the conquest of Kars on November 27th enough had been done for the honour of Russian arms, on March 30th 1856 on the Paris Congress peace was concluded. Russia ceded the Danube Delta and a part of Bessarabia and returned Kars, promised neither to establish arsenals on the Black Sea, nor to maintain more warships on the Black Sea than did Turkey, and renounced the protectorate over the Oriental Christians and the Danube Principalities, which were placed under a common protectorate of the great powers. Foreign policy, which after Nesselrode's resignation had been lead by Prince Gorchakov, was careful and moderate. With Prussia, even with France Russia tried establish closer relations. Only viv-a-vis Austria, the oriental policy of which during the Crimean War the Russians regarded as an extreme case of ingratitude, Russian policy remained cool, but carefully avoided any complications. Already three weeks after the Paris Peace Alexander, who had been ceremoniously crowned on September 7th 1856, decreed a reductionj of the standing army, by which about 200,000 soldiers returned to civil life. All Russia was freed of recruitment for 4 years, 24 million Roubles of unpaid taxes cancelled, those sentenced in 1825 amnestied. While hitherto Russia had only one railroad connecting Moscow and Saint Petersburg, now foreign capital was gained for the construction of large lines, in 1862 the connection with Germany completed. A new customs tariff prepared the transition to a system of protective tariffs. Censorship was mildened, a Russian press emerged. Regulations for elementary schooling were made.
The most important reform was the abolition of serfdom on March 5th (17th) 1861. The liberation of the serfs, the number of which was 23 million, already had been planned by Alexander I. and Nicholas II. Now for the formulation of principles a Head Committee, and for the drafting of the law a Commission under the presidency of Rostovtsov, then of Grand Prince Constantine, was appointed. It was supported by commissions in the provinces. Because of the growing fermentation in the population the work [of the commissions] was excessively accelerated, also the Imperial Council was given only a few weeks for its deliberation, the demands of the nobility, which was not generally against the reform, given little consideration. On the Imperial domains the peasants already in 1858 were given freedom and land property without the crown being compensated. The private peasants, according to the law of March 7th 1861, were to be declared free after two years, but were to compensate the estate owner for the acquisition of land by payment or service. For the supervision of this operation, "peace guardians" were appointed. In many areas communal property made difficult the separation of individual property. To this was added that the peasants regarded the compensation as unjust and violently resisted, until in many cases the compensation was paid by the government, and then, within a certain time, collected from the peasants. Such serfs who lived in the cities as merchants or craftsmen and paid a sum (obrok) to their owners, were set free without the allocation of land, against the payment of a fee. Peasant courts with limited authority were elected in the community (Mir), but supervised by the authorities. Communal matters were dealt with in the cimmunal assembly.
This was followed by a judicial reform introducing peace courts and trial by jury in public session and oral deliberation (1864), the establisment of district and provincial assemblies (Semstvo), formed from delegates of the district semstvos, from the estate owners, the peasants and the burghers. In 1862 the Imperial budget was published for the first time. But the Emperor's reform activity was interrupted by the Polish Rebellion (January 1863). At the advice of Wielopolski, Alexander had conceded the Poles greater national autonomy, and had appointed his brother, Grand Prince Constantine, to stadholder, in the hope to reconcile the Poles by this approach. But the clergy, a part of the nobility, and especially the urban population of Warsaw, by this willingness to make concessions, in its hope to fully break away from Russia was only strengthened. When forced recruitment was ordered for January 14th 1863, in order to neutralize Warsaw's youth, an insurrection broke out, which was guided by a secret central committee, and which was kept up by reckless terrorism. Although the rebels only could put up larger bands, and although the intervention of the western powers in favour of Poland was rejected by Russia, the suppression of the insurrection required considerable effort. During this crisis the Old Russian Party was formed, the leaders of which were Cherkaski, Milyutin, Samarin, Katkov, Aksakov and others; instead of liberal goals, now the national ones took center stage : cultivation of Old Russianness, the union of all Orthodox Slavs under Russian lead )Pan-Slavism) from now on were regarded the tasks of Russian policy. In their dislike of western culture and of their supporters (Zapadniki, Westler) the leaders of the nation also rejected a constitution and furthergoing reforms; the reform of finances stuttered. The increase in secondary schools, especially of the gymnasia, resulted in increased numbers of students at university, but also the creation of an intellectual proletariat.
Since the Polish Rebellion Russian policy, under the applause of the Pan-Slavists, resumed the earlier policy of conquest. Poland (see there p.93) was to be subjected to complete Russification. Already prior to the submission of the Caucasian mountain peoples and to the capture of Schamyl (August 25th 1859) and of the defeat of the Ubyches (March 21st 1864) the Amur Territory was acquired by treaty with China (1860). With Japan, southern Sakhalin was exchanged for the Kuril Islands (1875); on the other hand, Russian North America was sold to the U.S.A. for 7 million Dollars (1867). In Central Asia, Tashkent was taken from the Khan of Bukhara in 1867, Samarkand in 1868, and the surrounding territory was formed into Turkestan Gubernia. General Kauffmann in 1873 conquered the right bank of the Darya from the Khanate of Khiva, and turned the remainder into a Russian vassall state. In 1876 the former Khanat Kokand was annexed by the Russian Empire as Ferghana Province. In European policy Alexander II. at first kept the Pan-Slavist ambitions of the Old Russian Party, the organ of which was Katkov's "Moscow Gazette", under control and, because of amity with Prussia, which during the Polish Rebellion has stood at its side, neither interfered in the German-Danish War of 1866 nor in the Prusso-German War of 1866. Also in 1870-1871 Russia remained neutral and by doing so prevented Austria from allying with France. In gratitude Bismarck caused on the Pontus Conference in London (January to March 1871) that Paragraph 11 of the Paris Treaty of 1856 was lifted, which placed limitations on the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.
Prussia's successes and the formation of a strong German Empire caused envy in the Russian society sympathizing with France. The government, having become anxious because of signs of fermentation such as the assassination attempt against the Czar by Karakosov (April 10th 1866), daw itself pushed to give satisfaction to national pride. First, according to the German example minister of wear Milyutin introduced mandatory military service; the regiments and the number of soldiers in the case of war were significantly increased. Then the Pan-Slavist Party again brought up the Oriental question. A rebellion in the Herzegovina (1875), which in 1876 spread into Bulgaria, here was bloodily suppressed by the Turks, and the Serbs were defeated. The Russian government on November 13th mobilized six army corps, and on December 5th Grand Prince Nicholas, appointed supreme commander, established his headquarters in Kishinev. The conference of the powers in Constantinople in the winter of 1876-1877 ended without a result, as the Porte refused to give the desired guarantees for its Christian subjects, and as it recognized the protocol accepted by the powers on March 31st 1877. Now Russia declared war on Turkey on April 24th 1877.
The 6th Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) was undertaken in order to solve the Oriental question in the Russian interest by the liberation of the Slavic "brethren". As Russia could be sure of the benevolent neutrality of Germany and Austria in January 1877 by a separate treaty, which had granted it the right to occupy Bosnia and the Herzegovina, had obliged itself to non-interference, the entire Russian armed force in two armies simultaneously crossed on April 24th in Asia the Armenian border, and in Europe across the Romanian border; Romania, in return for the recognition of its independence, joined Russia. The Caucasian army under Grand Prince Michael on May 17th stormed Ardahan and surrounded Kars, but the siege was broken by the victory of Mukhtar Pasha over Loris-Melikov at Sevin (June 25th. At the end of July the Russians had to retreat. Because of the high water level of the Danube, the Russians could cross only on June 27th near Simnitza, but then they proceeded quickly, and reached Tirnova on July 7th. General Gurko crossed the Balkans on July 13th and took control of the Schipka Pass. But when General Schilder-Schuldner on July 20th attacked Plevna, he was repelled by Osman Pasha, and Lowatz was taken from the Russians on July 27th. The attack undertaken with larger forces by Krüdener and Shakhovkoy on the position at Plevna, which quickly had been fortified by Osman Pasha and held with 50,000 men, on July 30th also was without success. Also considerable Turkish forces stood east of the Jantra. Gurko had to withdraw from Rumelia in the direction of the Schipka Pass. But Osman Pasha in Plevna and Mehmed Ali on the Lom remained inactive, and Suleiman Pasha annihilated his excellent army by hopeless, bloody attacks on the Russians at the Schipka Pass (in August). In the meantime, the Russians brought in reinforcements from Russia and Romania. After several days of bombardment on September 11th an attempt to take Plevna by storm was undertaken, and on the wings Skobelev and the Romanians took a number of positions (loss 16,000 men). But on September 12th the Turks retook almost all of the lost positions. Now Totleben, hitherto governor general of Vilna, was called to lead a proper siege, and the communication of Osman Pasha with Sofia was cut by Gurko. On December 10th Osman Pasha attempted to break through to Vidin, which was easily repelled by the Russians who had been informed of the attack beforehand. After, the Turks surrendered, after a struggle lasting 143 days, still 40,000 men strong.
In the Asian theatre of war the Russians, after having retreated after a renewed advance in August, on October 15th gained a decisive victory at Aladya Dagh, on November 4th near Dewe-Boyun, and on November 18th they stormed Kars. Only the winter prevented the complete conquest of Armenia. In Bulgaria Gurko at the end of December crossed the Etropol-Balkan, on January 3rd he occupied Sofia and penetrated into the valley of the Maritza, into which moved from the central and eastern Balkan the army of the center, after having taken prisoner the Turkish Schipka Army on January 9th, and the Lom Army. The Russian forces combined at Philippopel, and here on January 17th they annihilated the last Turkish army under Suleiman; on January 22nd they occupied Adrianople and on January 29th near Rodosto they reached Lake Marmara. The truce concluded in Adrianople on January 31st stopped further advance. But when the British fleet entered Lake Marmara, the Russians moved until just outside Constantinople and on March 3rd concluded the Peace of San Stefano, in which Turkey ceded a part of Armenia with Ardahan, Kars, Batum and Bayezid to Russia, the Dobrudja to Romania, other territories to Serbia and Montenegro, recognized these states as independent and accepted the formation of an autonomous principality of Bulgaria, which was to include, except for Bulgaria, the larger part of Rumelia until the Aegean Sea and the northern part of Macedonia. But this regulation, which divided the remainder of European Turkey in two parts, caused the objection of Britain, which concentrated Indian troops in Malta and threatened with war, if Russia would be unwilling to present this peace treaty to a congress which also was demanded by Austria. Russia agreed to the Berlin Congress. The latter determined on July 13th that the size of Bulgaria was to be limited and Bulgaria was to be divided in two parts, the tributary principality of Bulgaria and the autonomous province of Eastern Rumelia. Bayezid was restored to Turkey; Kars, Ardahan and Batum and the Romanian Bessarabia ceded by Russia in 1856, in exchange for the Dobrudja, were to fall to Russia. The amount of a war indemnity was to be determined by Russia and Turkey, on February 8th 1879 a definitive peace was concluded; Turkey, promised the payment of 300 million Roubles war costs, and the Russians evacuated Turkish territory.
The territorial acquisitions did not justify the immense sacrifices in human lives (on the European theatre of war alone 172,000 men) and in money (500 million Roubles). In the Russian military, namely in provisioning and threatment of the wounded, serious deficiencies had become apparent. And while Russia's military reputation had been restored and the liberated Bulgarians showed their gratitude, Greece, under British influence, had stayed neutral throughout the war, Serbia under Austrian influence had remained neutral until the last section of the war. Romania was embittered that for its support, without which the Russians in the summer of 1877 could not have held their position in Bulgaria, Bessarabia was taken away from her. But most of all, Russia was hurt by Austria, which in Berlin had been promised Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus gained the dominating position on the Balkan peninsula. The press and the Pan-Slavist party blamed Germany, which had shown itself ungrateful; even highly placed men, namely Gorchakov, took a more and more hostile position toward Germany and Austria. Consequentially, the German chancellor on October 7th 1879 concluded a defensive alliance with Austria.
Now the Nihilists (see there) wanted to force a change of the system of government by acts of terror, as they hoped to achieve the implementation of their socialist ideals by toppling anything existing. With considerable funds, favoured by the corruption of the bureaucrats and the disinterest of the intellectuals, they founded a revolutionary executive committee, covered the country with a network of local chapters, established secret printing shops, published manifestos and newspapers. Already in 1878 Vyera Sasulich undertook an attempt to kill General Trepov; her acquisition by a jury and the murder of the chief of gendarmerie, General Mesentsov, which was followed by the assassination of the Governor of Kharkov, Prince Kropotkin, on February 21st 1879, and the attempt to kill Mesentsov's successor, General Drenteln (March 25th 1879). Other bureaucrats were murdered in the province. Greater fear caused three attempts to kill the Czar : on April 14th 1879 Solovyev in St. Petersburg shot at Alexander II.; on December 1st on the railway station in Moscow a mine exploded, which was to blow up the Imperial train, and on February 17th 1880 the basement under the dining hall of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg was blown up. Now security measures were taken, the most able generals given extraordinary powers and placed in charge of the government general, finally General Loris-Melikov charged with kind of a dictatorship. Many members of the Nihilist conspiracy were sentenced to death, others to hard labour. At the advice of Loris-Melikov, who in August 1880 was appointed minister of the interior, Alexander II. wanted to crown his reform work by the convocation of an assembly of notables, which was to convene on his birthday, April 29th; then, on March 13th 1881 he fell victim to a new plot of the Nihilists, who threw dynamite bombs at him.

The Government of Alexander III.
Alexander's son and successor Alexander III. did not implement the plan of his father to give the country a constitution; instead in a manifesto of May 11th he announced to intend to confirm autocracy for the benefit of the people. Loris-Melikov was replaced by Ignatyev, the strictly orthodox Pobyedonostsev and the representative of the Old Russians, Katkov, influenced the Czar, who mostly lived reclusive in Gachina Palace. Ignatyev formed a number of commissions to consult reforms, of which only the abolition of the head tax gradually was introduced. He was unable to prevent the Nihilists commit new assassinations. As he got into a conflict with Katkov in 1882 because of initial support for the anti-Jewish agitation, he was diosmissed in June that year, and the strictly conservative Count Tolstoy was appointed minister of the interior. By energetic measures the revolutionary party was weakened to such an extent, that on May 27th 1883 the ceremonial coronation could be lavishly and undisturbedly celebrated in Moscow. The coronation manifesto announced only a partial abolition of the head tax, a very limited amnesty, milder treatment of the sectarians; only the absolute power of the Czar, in combination with the Orthodox Church, leaning on the Old Russian institutions, could maintain the empire. It was believed that the Nihilists could be kept under control by repressive measures; still, repeatedly bureaucrats or traitors to the Nihilist cause were assassinated, and an attempt on the life of the Emperor on March 13th 1887 was foiled merely by coincidence. When the Czar and his family returned on October 29th 1888 from Caucasia, the train was caused to derail near Borki, but the Czar and his family miraculouslu remained unharmed. The Czar blamed all misfortune on the intrusion of western culture. The Baltic Provinces were subjected to Russification, the Lutheran Church suppressed, the Jews persecuted, the spread of Orthodox faith promoted with trickery and violence. The Russian universities were placed under strict supervision, occasionally closed down, the number of students restricted.
Agriculture was so depressed that the question of property rights between estate owners and liberated peasants at many locations still had not been solved. The debts and expenses for its service since 1876 had risen extraordinarily; the budget could only seemingly be balanced, all the more as the interest guarantee for new railroads required considerable sums. Army and fleet were strengthened, which caused considerable expenses. Thus Russia restrained the expansion of its borders on Central Asia; Achal-Tekke (1881) was conquered, Merv occupied (1884), which was connected with the Caspian Sea by railroad, The construction of a railroad through Siberia was begun. The Russian position on the Pacific Ocean was strengthened, Korea split from China and caused to retake Port Hamilton in 1887, which the English had taken in 1885. In 1888 Russia concluded a favorable trade treaty with Japan. In 1882 Pan-Slavist agitation was reined in; after the dismissal of Gorchakov a peace-loving statesman, von Giers, appointed minister of foreign affairs. A turn set in, when in 1885 Prince Alexander of Bulgaria (see there, p.587f.) unilaterally annexed Eastern Rumelia into Bulgaria and began a victorious war against Serbia. That neither the toppling of Alexander nor the interference of Russian agents could cause the Bulgarians to submit instilled the Czar with an uneradicable mistrust toward the Triple Alliance, namely toward Germany and Austria. Large troop contingents, especially cavalry, were concentrated on the western and southwestern border of the Empire, and placed under the command of the best generals, Gurko in Warsaw and Dragomirov in Kiev. The Czar personally took over guidance of foreign policy. He refused to grant any recognition of the new conditions in Bulgaria, and assassination attempts instigated there by Russian agents could result in fatal complications there at any moment. While Vyshnegradski as minister of finances reduced the rising deficit and, by high import tariffs, attempted to strengthen the industry, the value of the Rouble lost value at a concerning rate, until Witte (1893) removed the deficit and stabilized the course of the Rouble, so that the terrible misharvest and famine of 1891 soon was forgotten. The situation seemed to be of concern, when the Czar in 1891 gave in to the French request and received a French flotilla in the port of Kronstadt with honours accompanied by the jubilation of the people. In 1893 a Russian flotilla visited Toulon. But a formal alliance between both powers was not concluded; the conclusion of trade agreements with Austria and Germany reduced tension with these powers. One was convinced that the Czar honestly desired peace, and that he rather discouraged French desire for revenge, than did encourage it,

The Newest Time
Alexander III., who after long suffering died on November 1st 1894 age 50 in Livadia, was succeeded by his eldest son as Nicholas II. The latter continued the domestic policy of absolutism, but initially milder treatment was given to the non-Orthodox population of the Empire, Balts, Finns, Poles and Jews. The foreign policy, lead by Lobanov in 1895-1896, in Europe strove toward the maintenance of peace and a more amiable relation with the Triple Alliance. Special attention was given by the government to the development of affairs in East Asia, where during the war with China 1894-1895 Japan emerged as a new great power. After Nicholas II. ceremonially had been crowned in Moscow, in the fall he visited the Austrian Emperor in Vienna, the German in Breslau, after England and France; in Cherbourg, Paris and Chalons the Imperial couple was given an enthusiastic reception.
Since the death of Lobanov (1896), Count Mikhail Muravyev lead Russia's foreign policy; he further increased Russia's reputation. In the spring of 1897 the Czar received the visit of Emperor Franz Joseph, at the begin of August that of Emperor Wilhelm II., at the end of August that of President Faure. On the occasion of the latter, the Czar uttered the phrase "nationa alliees" long yearned for by the French, but he added that the goal of the alliance was the maintenance of peace. Desire for peace was also an agreement with Austria for the preservation of Turkey against attempts to establish a Great Bulgaria. At the outbreak of the rebellion on Crete at the beginning of 1897 and during the Graeco-Turkish War Russia remained neutral and acted in cooperation with the European powers. On the other hand, it strengthened its influence, as in Central Asia, namely in East Asia. The continuation of the Siberian railroad through Chinese Manchuria to an ice-free port on the Pacific Ocean was secured by treaties. Korea was brought under Russian influence; at the end of 1897 the Russians occupied the port of Port Arthur (see there 2). Simultaneously at the German and Austrian border two army corps were newly formed. On March 10th 1898 the Czar allocated 90 million Roubles to the construction of warships. The treaty with China on the lease of Port Arthur to Russia formally was concluded, the port fortified, troops and war provisions brought there. From Korea Russia achieved the cession of Deer Island in the port of Fusan, but simultaneously concluded a treaty with Japan on May 13th which guaranteed the independence of Korea. In Central Asia a Muslim rebellion in Ferghana quickly was suppressed in May 1898; railroads now penetrated to there as well.
In Europe Russia, in agreement with Austria, strove to maintain peace on the Balkan peninsula, and to establish orderly conditions on Crete (see there p.640). A circular of minister of foreign affairs Count Muravyev of August 24th 1898 regarding the convention of a conference of the powers to secure peace and limit armament (see peace conference) corresponded to these goals. While this conference held in Den Haag ["The Hague"] from May 18th to July 29th only produced a limited result (the most important being the extension of the Geneva Convention on war at sea), in Russia the introduction of new weapons in field artillery (rapid firing guns) and the strengthening of the fleet were industriously implemented. For the construction of the naval port of Vladivostok, 13 million Roubles were set aside. The understanding with Austria in the Balkan question was upheld. A brief turbation of relations between Bulgaria and Serbia was ironed out, the Bulgarian army even reorganized by an officer of the Russian general staff. Rel;ations with Germany were strengthened by a meeting of the Emperors in Potsdam on November 8th 1899. In the spring of 1899 the Armenian question caused Russia to issue demands to Turkey. On February 1st 1900 Russia was granted a concession for the construction of a railroad from Kars to Erzerum, and on April 1st the concession, in case the Turkish government would not construct the line, to grant the concession in the Vilayets bordering on Transcaucasia only to Russian capitalists. On the other hand, Russia did not receive a concession for the line from Jelissawetpol to Baghdad. In Persia Russia gained influence in part by concessions for artificial roads and railroads (of which not much was realised), in part by a loan to Persia of 22.5 million Roubles at the end of 1902, with which the English loan of 1892 was repaid, and thus the ports on the Persian Gulf could be freed from English influence. The Odessa Steam Navigation and Trade Society in June 1903 was given a subvention for a steamer line connecting with the Persian Gulf. Persia within 75 years (from 1902) may not obtain a loan from any other state but Russia; simultaneously a Persian Cossack brigade was established by Russian instructors; their commander since 1903 is a Russian general, Kossagovsky, who is placed under the grand vezir and the Russian ambassador. In Afghanistan, British influence still dominates, although the Russian Murgab railroad has reached Kuschk, 100 km from Herat.
See G.B., Die kürzeste Eisenbahn aus Zentralrussland nach Mittelasien (Petersburg 1899); A. Stetkewitsch, Die Frage nach der Fortsetzung der mittelasiatischen Eisenbahntrace von Taschkent nach Tschimkent (Petersburg 1899, both in Russian); Krahmer, Russland in Asien, vol. 6: Die Beziehungen zu Persien (Leipzig 1903).
The successes of Russian policy in Central and East Asia against British interests in India and China partially were achieved by large-scale economic measures, mainly by the gigantic construction of the Chinese-Manchurian railroad, which today connects to the Siberian Railroad in a main line of 1440 werst, from the border of Transbaikalia to Port Arthur, and in a 980 werst long branch line crosses southern Manchuria. On December 13th 1899 the line from Port Arthur to Mukden was taken in operation, while the entire line was opened to traffic in the summer of 1902.
That relations between the two monarchs remained unperturbed despite of Germany's position of power in Asia, was proven namely in the appointment of General Fieldmarshall Count Waldersee to supreme commander of the European troops in China in 1900, supported by Nicholas II. Wilhelm II. visited the Czar on August 6th to 8th 1902 in Reval; the German crown prince spent January 16th to 24th in Petersburg, and on November 4th and 5th both Emperors met in Wiesbaden and Wolfsgarten near Darmstadt. Also relations with Austria-Hungary were strengthened by the visit of the Russian Emperor to Vienna and Mürzsteg from September 30th to October 3rd 1903. The respective ministers of foreign affairs agreed on the confirmation of the 1897 agreement in the Macedonian question. On October 5th both powers directed an identical note to the Sublime Porte requesting the energetic implementation of the promised reforms in Macedonia; simultaneously in Sofia serious protests were made against conspiracies in favour of the Christian population of Macedonia tolerated by Bulgaria. On October 22nd 1903 both powers presented a new program, which demanded the admission of a control of the measures of the Turkish government and an accelerated implementation of the reforms. On December 8th for such a control the Austrian consul general von Müller and Russian consul general Demetric were appointed (see Macedonia p.490).
East Asia. Already in 1900 Russia had participated in the international campaign to liberate the foreign diplomats under siege in Beijing, and to the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion (see China p.54). Russians were among the troops of British Admiral Seymour, who in June 1900 undertook a failed attempt to advance from Tianjin to Beijing, then among the marine soldiers of various states which conquered the Taku Forts (June 17th) and Tianjin (July 14th), and during the entry of the international army in Beijing on August 14th under the supreme command of Count Waldersee (since September 27th) the Russians under General Stössel distinguished themselves. Russia suggested to have the international troops withdrawn after the taking of Beijing, as it attempted to place the Chinese government under its influence in a peaceful manner. In November 1900 the Buryat Buddhist priest Datyev, a Russian who since 1897 was secretary of foreign affairs in Lhasa, brought those presents to the Czar, which in the past used to be given to the Emperor of China as tokens of the protectorate of the Emperor of China. Also the Russians during the suppression of the Boxers in North-East China occupied Manchuria. In October 1901 Russia negotiated a treaty with China, according to which Russia was willing to return Manchuria after the unrest there had been suppressed, if not the action of a third power would make such a withdrawal impossible. All indigenous troops were to be organised by Russians, concessions for railroads and mines to be given to Russians exclusively. For the protection of the railroad, for the time being, a Russian occupation force under Lyenevich was to stay behind. With a few changes, the treaty was confirmed on April 8th 1902. Still Russian troops remained in Manchuria; even to the stadholdership in East Asia established on August 12th 1903 expressedly the territory of the Chinese eastern railroad and the territories across the border adjacent to Russian territory were added, and in October a special committee for Far Eastern Affairs under the presidency of the Czar was formed, which was to consult measures to develop trade and industry in the Far East. The first stadholder was Adjutant General Alexeyev, who was charged with the implemenbtation of the decisions of the committee, with diplomatic correspondence with the adjacent states and with the command over all troops and the Pacific fleet. Secret relations between Petersburg and influential Chinese (grand chancellor Yung-lu, died in the summer of 1903) facilitated Russian measures.
Most affected by these measures were Japan's interests, as the Russians also gained more and more influence in Korea. On April 5th 1903 Russia declared to the Chinese government that it was ready to return the provinces Mukden and Kirin with Newchwang, if these territories were not to be granted to any other power; in the north, if foreigners were to be hired at all, it was to be Russian technicians only. The telegraph line between Port Arthur and Mukden was to remain under Russian administration. Against this Japan, Britain and North America protested; Russia declared that it would not plan anything threatening the integrity of Manchuria. On October 8th the Russians were to evacuate Manchuria; but on October 29th they occupied Mukden, after the trade port had been opened for non-Russian ships, with high tariffs charged, on the 24th. On December 9th Russian warships appeared off Chemulpo, on December 13th Japanese troops landed in Mokpho. On December 28th Japan took an extraordinary loan; but Russia did not believe in a Japanese attack.
In domestic administration, fortunate beginnings showed. The All-Russian Craft and Industry Exhibition in Moscow in the summer of 1896 showed material upswing. This was mainly caused, except by many foreign, mostly German engineers, by the protective customs tariff policy of ministers of finances Vyshnegradsky (1887-1892) and Witte (1893-1903). The customs tariff on gold, which was introduced in 1897, lastingly consolidated the course of the Rouble. Witte in 1899 travelled the southern Russian coal mining areas, restricted the rights of Jewish merchants and established a Russian Chamber of Commerce in Paris. A congress of craftsmen described the needs of the crafts. After the worker unrests in Riga and Warsaw the administration of factories and mines was reorganized. In August 1900 the customs tariffs were raised. Large-scale loans brought gold into the country. Because of increasing usury, credit banks were created, especially for the rural population. The fleet and her provisions were to be produced by domestic factories. In 1901 construction material for naval vessels was freed of import tariffs, and the volunteer fleet was supported, which established communication with the Persian Gulf and with Vladivostok. The Kilia mouth was made navigable; the cotton and naphta industries cultivated. The monopoly on alcoholic spirits (see tax on spirits p.329f) in 1895 introduced in some gubernias, until 1901 in all of European Russia; it brought in high revenue, but failed to reduce the consumption of alcohol. Further Witte began to purchase private railroads. On November 1901 the construction of the East Siberian railroad from Baikal to Port Arthur and Vladivostok (2400 werst) was concluded.
But the protection policy also had negative consequences. The factory population was affected by Nihilist and Social Democratic movements. Since 1899 in the factory areas cases of worker unrest increased in number. The new factory inspectors had to supervise way to large districts. Hatred of the Jews, who had been restricted to specific residential areas and in their rights of property, repeatedly burst out in violent action. On April 19th and 20th 1903 in Kishinev hundreds of Jewish shops and houses were destroyed, about 400 persons murdered or wounded. Agriculture suffered from the artificial stimulation of grain export. Famine and peasant revolts soon were daily events, also in the black soil gubernias. The nobles quickly spent the money gained from the liberation of the serfs and frequently moved into the cities, as did the peasants. The 1899 law on majorates changed little. The import tariff on agricultural machinery was lowered, a law to protect the forest passed, the purchase of seeds was organized by the state. Finally the settlement of peasants in Siberia was promoted; in 1898 200,000, in 1899 270,000 persons were given land in Siberia with the right to sublet it, for 10 years, with favorable purchase conditions, but already in 1900 the number of settlers declined, and then declined sharply, as the economic and social conditions were unfavorable. In the year 1902 800,000 Roubles were paid to estate owners in Southern Russia who had been harmed by unrest. The impoverished peasants, in installments, were given 6,663,000 Roubles. On March 10th 1903 the community was freed of their obligation to cover for the individual tax-payer; the peasants were granted a tax relief of 111 million Roubles, rural police from now on financed by the crown (about 20 million). The peasants were permitted to work on the many holidays. Since February 6th 1902 a commission of experts consulted how the state of agriculture could be raised.
At the universities there frequently was student unrest, and temporarily lectures were closed. A university statute of July 5th 1899 limited the number of students to those who had graduated from high school in the same educational district. Many changes of the curriculum of middle schools cut back on classical studies. On February 27th 1901 the minister of public instruction, Bogolyepov, was mortally wounded by a relegated student. The commission established on July 6th unsuccessfully consulted on the revolutionary spirit of the youth. Simultaneously the Semstvo's were deprived of charity, and the supervision of the schools only increased the hatred of the bureaucracy. The Russification of Finland (see there) spread the misconditions of Inner Russia also to that country. On June 7th 1903 religious instruction in Polish language was permitted for 1904 in the entire Vistula area. An Imperial manifesto of May 11th 1903 hinted at religious tolerance, extension of autonomy, alleviation of the situation of the peasants. Thus the claims of the opposition were increased. The Social Democratic movement spread. The confiscation of Armenian-Gregorian church property in the Caucasus on July 24th 1903 caused indignation. On October 27th the governor of the Caucasus, Prince Golitsyn, was wounded; in November a Revolutionary Armenian Committee formed. On August 29th Witte was appointed president of the committee of ministers; as minister of finances he was succeeded by Pleske. The minister of the interior, von Plehwe, represented the absolutist and bureaucratic position against the masses' strife for freedom. Also this strengthened the opposition.

The War Year 1904-1905
While the revolution prepared ever more clearly, Russia was surprised by a war with Japan (on the causes and course of the war see the separate article "Russo-Japanese War" with map "Countries on the Yellow Sea"). Because of the decisive defeat near Tsushima (May 28th 1905) Admiral General Grand Prince Alexey Alexandrovich was retired, soon after also the head of the ministry of the navy, Admiral Avellan. Admiral Birileff, since the fall of 1904 commander of the Baltic Fleet, on July 12th 1905 was appointed minister of the navy. Simultaneously a council for national defense under the presidency of Grand Prince Nikolay Nikolaevich was installed. On August 8th peace negotiations at Portsmouth in New Hampshire (North America) began; on September 5th peace was signed (on the conditions see also the article "Russo-Japanese War", p.330). This mild treaty for the defeated in part was brought about by the diplomatic skills of the Russian negotiators Witte and Baron Rosen, in part by the pressure North America has exercised on Japan. Since the peace Japan was recognized as great power. Britain on August 25th concluded a closer alliance with the Mikado, than the one agreed upon on January 30th 1902.
Russia now could have introduced domestic reforms, if these would not have been prevented by parties hostile to the government. In Finland Governor General Bobrikov was murdered by senate official Schaumann (July 16th 1904), in the Caucasus Vice Governor Andreyev of Jelissawetpol on July 18th, in Petersburg minister von Plehwe by an anarchist on July 28th. Little impression was made by the birth of heir to the throne Alexey on August 12th 1904 and the issuance of a manifesto on August 24th concerning the abolition of corporal punishment and significant tax reductions, as well as a charity for the children of wounded or fallen soldiers on August 27th. New demonstrations against absolutism began, so on August 29th in Riga. Jews participated much in this movement, the right of residence of whom had been extended by a decree of September 4th. Accomodation of Liberal demands was shown in the appointment of Prince Svyatopolk-Mirski to minister of the interior (September 8th). Still unrest intensified on the occasion of drafting reservists for the war. Student demonstrations demanding free institutions were suppressed by Cossacks. In December assemblies of various occupations requested a constitution; the Semstvo of Kaluga joined in this demand. While the minister of the interior rejected these demands still on December 15th, an Imperial decree of December 26th proclaimed measures to extend the rights of the peasants, of the autonomous bodies, for a state-run insurance of the workers, of religious toleration. On December 28th the Petersburg intelligentsia demanded a constitution and protested against the Japanese War.
In the year 1905 the opposition grew into a revolution. Education and industry issued moderate, but very resolute demands. On June 6th the lord mayors and Semstvo members assembled in Moscow decided an address, which the Czar received on June 20th from the hands of the Moscow professor Prince Trubetskoy, who was accused of trying to topple the government. On July 19th in Moscow a congress of the representatives of the Semstvos of the various gubernias convened; it deliberated until the begin of December and established general principles, to which the popular representation had to follow in regard to the debate and adoption of a new constitution. When on August 19th an Imperial decree drafted by minister of the interior Bulygin anounced the prospect of a purely consultative popular representation, the congress demanded a legislative assembly with the right to make decisions, and general elections.
During these demonstrations also the workers began to take action. On January 17th 1905 the striking workers still made only economic demands; also Priest Gapon, who took the lead of the strikers, wrote to the Czar on January 20th that the people did not intend to attack the Czar. Over 100,000 workers joined in a petition for human rights and the abolition of bureaucratic arbitrary action. When on January 22nd thousands of workers, joined by students, unarmed appeared in front of the Winter Palais, the Czar did not accept the petition. As the masses, called upon to evacuate the place, did not respond, a bloody struggle ensued. In consequence Gapon, in a letter to the military, freed the subjects from the obligation of obedience to the Czar, whom he declared as no longer existing. The government appointed the energetic former police commander of Moscow, General Trepov, governor general of Petersburg, with wide authority. Now rebellions began everywhere in the Empire : on January 24th in Kovno, in Moscow, on the 26th in Riga, Libau and Dorpat, where bloody encounters with the military took place, as did on January 30th in Warsaw. On February 1st and 3rd the Emperor received deputations of the workers, on whom he called to be patient. On February 9th street fights in Sosnowize, Lodz, Skardysko took place. The railway workers joined the strike, first on the Southwestern Railroad, on February 24th also in Moscow and Kazan. On March 4th Gapon called for the revolution; in Livonia the rural workers forced higher pay. On May 1st many were killed in new street fights, so in Warsaw, on June 2nd in Petersburg, on June 18th and 26th in Lodz, on June 29th in Odessa, on July 24th in Nizhniy Novgorod, on August 2nd in Novorossisk, in August in several Polish cities, on August 24th in Warsaw. In October the railroad workers in Moscow went on strike; on October 20th the traffic connecting Russia with foreign countries was completely shut down. On October 30th the telegraph workers striked. On January 19th 1905 during the festival of blessing the water, under salute salvoes, several shots "accidentally" hit the Winter Palais; on January 24th sailors destroyed the navy depot in Sevastopol, on June 27th the crew of Knyaz Potemkin and of a torpedo boat off Odessa mutinied. On June 29th 6 companies of marines in Libau with effort were overcome by army troops. On June 30th the sailors in Kronstadt mutinied, on July 15th the troops in Lodz, on November 10th in Kronstadt, on the 14th in Vladivostok. Only on November 30th were the mutineers in Sevastopol suppressed.
The Czar's proclamations of March 3rd 1905, in which he asked for the cooperation of all with good intentions to suppress the foreign and domestic enemies, and which hinted at the improvement of the organization of the state, and of October 30th (17th), in which a constitution, security of the person, freedom of the press, of speech and assembly were promised, and the prospect for universal suffrage was given, had little impact. The popular representation, the Imperial Duma, was given the character of a legislative assembly. Pobjedonoszev retired on November 1st (he died on March 23rd 1907). The supporters of absolutism hardly dared to appear in public. Much larger was the party of friends of reform in various grades. Even in the circle of clergymen liberal movements showed. On April 12th the Czar rejected the convocation of a synod (Ssobor), but on April 29th approved that desertion from the state church no longer was to be treated as a crime. In consequence thousands left the state church, especially in the Baltic provinces and in Poland.
Conditions in city and countryside deteriorated more and more. Almost all universities and schools were closed. Social Democrats and Anarchists stirred up the people. In the Baltic Provinces bands of criminals rose, who abused, killed and stole from the German priests and estate owners. Many fled abroad. On February 17th the Anarchist Katayev assassinated Great Prince Sergey Alexandrovich in front of the Kremlin with an explosive bomb.
On November 1st the previous cabinet was replaced by a council of ministers, in which the individual ministers have to accept the authority of a president, to whom all reports and measures of the portfolios have to be presented, before they are forwarded to the Czar. On November 6th Count Witte was appointed president of the council of ministers, and P.N. Durnovo minister of the interior. On December 26th an Imperial decree was issued, which made far-reaching concessions in regard to the right to vote for the future Duma. The elections scheduled for April 1906 produced such a Democratic result, that Witte was dismissed, although at the end of April he had signed a loan over a billion in Paris. On May 8th a new cabinet under the presidency of Goremykin was formed. On May 10th the first popular representation met in the Taurian Palace. The moderate democratic party of the "Cadets" (from C.D., constitutional- democratic) seemingly held the majority. On May 12th the reorganized Imperial Council was opened. The Duma directed an address to the Czar, the demands for an extension of the people's freedoms were formulated in such a radical manner, that he refused to accept them. The Party of People's Liberty, to the left wing of which the Social Democrats belonged, then demanded full amnesty, the distribution of all domains and of privately-owned land to the peasants. Finally the radical minority decided to issue a call to the people in which the position of the government was sharply criticized. Then the Czar on July 21st decided to dissolve the Duma and to appoint the minister of the interior, Stolypin, prrime minister. A part of the deputees went to Viborg, from where they were forced to return by the threat that martial law would be declared over the eastern part of Finland. The next Duma convened on March 5th 1907.

source in German, posted by Zeno


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 5th 2009

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