Many things contributed to the Tsar’s survival after the 1905 revolution. The brilliance of his ministers (Witte and Pyotr Stolypin), his political back peddling and, perhaps most importantly, an astounding degree of luck all played a part in the perpetuation of his reign. For a short amount of time, the regime managed to strike a balance between repression and reform, and even managed to create a reasonable (although certainly not absolute) level of stability in Russia.

While it was clearly not a successful revolution, 1905 had a lasting effect on the political landscape in Russia. It is doubtful that the Tsar would have survived into 1906, let alone 1911, if he had not agreed to sign the October Manifesto. Clearly, the basic tenets of the manifesto would have been laughable to the Tsar under more normal circumstances, as the idea of a constitutional monarchy was the furthest thing from his mind. However, the concessions allowed meant that the Tsar had crucially appeased the liberals, as well as paying off the peasants by the cancellation of the land debts. This effectively ended the chance of a significant revolution, and allowed the Tsar to crush the working class with little opposition. And although the Tsar may have resented the implications that the Manifesto may have held for him, the beauty of its wording meant that he still retained just enough power to minimize, and eventually ignore it. While the Tsar would later be quoted as stating “Curse the Duma, this is Witte’s doing”. However, it is was Witte’s ingenuity that allowed the Tsar to cling to power for as long as he did.

So, it is clear then that the Tsar had to accept the creation of a Duma. But what is much more debatable is the extent to which this parliamentary body actually wrested power away from Nicholas. While the Duma was not powerless, it had to answer to an upper chamber (not dissimilar to the British House of Lords), and ultimately, the Tsar. This meant that a Duma opposed to the status quo would find it virtually impossible to introduce any form of effective reforms. This was compounded by the introduction of The Fundamental Laws of The Russian Empire, introduced in April 1906. The first Duma entered into a deadlock with the deeply flawed bureaucracy of the Russian political system, and was forced to disband after two months. This failure was a humiliation for the liberals that had fought so hard for the parliament's existence, and they were to be ultimately discredited. The second Duma, due to their decreased popularity, was filled with extremists of both the right and left. This Duma, however, met with a similar fate, and lasted only marginally longer. It was to be the last semblance of a democratically elected house of representatives in Russia until the 1990’s. At this point, perhaps we should pause to consider why the Tsar bothered to maintain such a facade of democracy? Firstly, historians suggest that it was diplomatically beneficial for him to project an image of Russia as a newly enlightened republican state. More importantly however, the Tsar feared an uprising similar (if not in fact more ferocious) to that of 1905. So, the Third Duma, was created in November, 1907. Due to an extensive doctoring of the electoral system, the Duma was far more in line politically to the ideologies of the Tsar. While it is the only Dumato serve its full time, this may be more due to its docile nature as opposed to its effectiveness as a political unit. In the Third Duma, the Tsarist regime had found the perfect compromise. It still acted and looked like an independent parliament, but was in fact almost entirely subservient to the Tsar (although there was occasionally dissent- it was not entirely ineffectual). This lip-service to the ideals of the October Manifesto meant that most of the moderate liberals stayed happy, but the Tsar still held the reigns of power in Russia.

Whatever semblance of democracy may have emerged, the Tsar would continue to act as he always had. His chief minister after Witte was Pyotr Stolypin. Although Stolypin was a gifted politician and economist, he has become infamous for the dreaded “Stolypin’s necktie”, which referred to the hangman’s noose. Stolypin headed the Tsar’s system of repression, and in the period from 1906 to 1911, over 2,500 political dissidents were hung. Of course, the regime could not possibly have gotten away with this had they not appeased the liberals and peasants only a year earlier, and they used to temporary popularity granted to them by the October Manifesto as a useful cover for removing the more difficult political elements from Russian society.

Of course, key to most political climates is the stability of the economy. Due to the massive general strikes of 1905, the backward and inefficient nature of Russian society and the antiquated production techniques used across the country, Russia had fallen behind nations a fraction of its size. Both Witte and Stolypin realised this, and both concocted schemes to encourage industrialisation. Witte’s main scheme was “starvation economics”, by which he took grain away from the peasants in order to import modern machinery. Stolypin’s was a much more interesting, if less barbaric proposition. Known as “the wager on the strong”, he essentially wished to introduce capitalism, in its western form. His plan was to create a class of independent, wealthy “kulak” peasants, who would have left the Mir and began supporting themselves. This would have been a boon to the Tsar; a class of loyal, content peasants who were doing well under his leadership would have been just the support he would have needed. Also, those that did not succeed, would have entered into the industrial working class, helping the economy further. For the system to be implemented fully, Stolypin claimed, he would need twenty years. Tragically, he never had the opportunity to see if his vision would come to fruition, as he was assassinated in 1911. The onset of war in 1914 finally put an end to the programme, and we can only speculate how far it would have gone in turning Russia into a modern, capitalist society.

In conclusion, it is clear that a number of factors contributed to the Tsar’s survival post 1905. Of course, whether he would have continued to survive had it not been for World War I is a very contentious issue, but nevertheless, through a mixture of reforms, clever politics and brute force the Tsar was safe for the time being. These successes however, would be far more appropriately attributed to Stolypin. We can only speculate the fate of Russian history had he not met his early end.

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