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To what extent was the constitution in 1905 a fig leaf over the autocracy of Russia?

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Luciana Machado 23.01.05 IB History - HL To what extent was the constitution in 1905 a fig leaf over the autocracy of Russia? In response to the demands of the liberals and radicals, the Tsar conceded to reforming a new constitution and an elected assembly. The reforms of the Tsar in 1905, however, were merely used as means of preventing the 1905 revolution from escalating, but the Tsar failed to take advantage of the opportunity before him and simply created a constitution which attempted to hide the complete and absolute rule still maintained by him. To fully understand how the Tsar used the constitution of 1905 as a fig lead over autocracy, one must realize that none of its accomplishments succeeded in stabilising Russia or decentralizing the power of the Tsar. The first part of the Tsar's concessions was the October Manifesto, which during the 1905 crisis left the Tsar with two choices. To either instigate a form of martial law, or attempt to satisfy the Russian masses. Some upper-class and propertied activists called for compromise with opposition groups to avoid further disorders. In late 1905, Witte pressured Nicholas to issue the so-called October Manifesto, which gave Russia a constitution and proclaimed basic civil liberties for all citizens. ...read more.


The left-wings remained far from satisfied and as a result boycotted the first elections, and so the Duma remained largely unrepresentative of the Russian people being dominated by conservatives and supporters of the Social Revolutionaries. Not in any of the four times the Duma met there were every party represented. The method of election was also essentially titled in the favor of the Tsar. The government had the ability to, in essence; 'rig' the vote by adjusting the voting power of the electoral colleges. The Dumas doomed from the start as they never did really work. The task before them was nearly impossible, in the words of G Fishers, it was the "dilemma of attaining complex specifically western objectives in an illiberal, underdeveloped society". Both the Tsar and the liberals should have made concessions but neither of them did. Many historians see the Tsar as the main source of the failure of the Dumas, however more and more scholars, most notably G Fisher and R Charques, note that the liberal majority in the early Dumas were rigid and persistent on idealistic and impossible demands. The fact that Dumas could not pass any law without it first being passed primarily by the Tsarist-elected Higher Council, and the again by the Tsar, meant that few had any faith in the Duma or any motive to co-operate within the Duma. ...read more.


Many of the same demands and rights that were brought forth in the 1905 revolution were still ignored. Shootings and violent outbreaks between workers and the Okhrana became a frequent and serious problem in Russia. The Duma even stated in one report, "It [the Duma] considers pointless to express any new wishes in regard to internal policy. The Ministry's activities arouse dissatisfaction among the broad masses who have hitherto been peaceful. Such a situation threatens Russia with untold danger." Many Soviet historians dubbed the Duma as puppets of the Tsar and simply rubber stamps of government policy, on the other hand, modern scholars agree that the Duma did have a voice of its own and very much protested against the weaknesses of the government but unfortunately was unable to do anything to change the power of the Tsar. Ultimately, the concessions of the Tsar, in 1905, and the policies that followed there, after only seemed to worsen the situation. The Tsar merely frustrated the liberals and failed to make any real changes to improve Russian situation. The Dumas, though often genuine in what they wished to achieve themselves, were unable to make many of their decisions policy because of the still obstinate and autocratic rule of the Tsar. In conclusion, the Tsar, indeed, attempted to use the 1905 Constitution as a fig leaf to hide the true autocratic state of Russia from the people; however, it ultimately drastically worsened the state of the nation. 1 ...read more.

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