Paper ru7: russia in revolution 1861-1917

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Members of the Imperial family in 1913

Claire Knight


course aims

The course is designed to provide you with a thorough grounding in and advanced understanding of Russia’s social, political and economic history in the period under review and to prepare you for the exam.

before the course starts

You’ll need some knowledge of European and Russian history so read the following before the course starts:
Anderson, P. Lineages of the Absolutist State (2nd ed., 1979).

Hobsbawm, E. J. The Age of Empire 1875-1914 (1988).

Stone, N. Europe Transformed 1878-1919 (1983)

Westwood, J. Endurance and Endeavour: Russian History 1812-1917 (4th ed., 1993)
Briefing meeting: There’ll be a meeting at 12.00 on the Wedenesday before the first teaching day of Michaelmas. Check with the departmental secretary for the venue. It’s essential that you attend and bring this handbook with you.

course structure

The course comprises three elements: lectures, supervisions and reading.
Lectures: you’ll have sixteen lectures, eight in Michaelmas and eight in Lent. The lectures provide an introduction to and overview of the course, but no more. It’s important to understand that the lectures alone won’t enable you to cover the course, nor will they by themselves prepare you for the exam. They’re not a substitute for reading, only a supplement to reading.
Supervisions: you’ll have one semimar in Michaelmas term and ten supervisions, four in Michaelmas, four in Lent and two in Easter.
Reading: to study history is, primarily, to read, so reading is the most important aspect of the course. You must understand from the outset that this is primarily a reading course and that, above all, you’ll need to commit to reading extensively and consistently. That’s why the bulk of the handbook is devoted to providing you with detailed guidance on reading.

using the handbook

The handbook is divided into five sections:

Section 1 the exam

Section 2 lectures

Section 3 supervisions

Section 4 reading

Section 5 primary sources

Check each section carefully so you understand the course structure and timetable and exactly what’s expected of you.



The exam paper is divided into three sections and you answer one question from each section. All questions have equal weight.
Section A deals with the course’s four primary sources. There are always four questions, one on each source.
Section B has at least six questions. Most cover the period 1860 to c.1904 but there’ll sometimes be one or two questions of a general nature covering the whole period of the paper.
Section C has at least six questions. Most cover the period c.1904 to 1917 but, as in section B, there’ll sometimes be one or two questions of a general nature covering the whole period of the paper.

preparing for the exam
Section A is predictable because you can choose in advance which primary source you want to concentrate on in the knowledge that it will always come up on the paper. You should study the sources (section 5) as part of your specialist reading (section 4.2) and we’ll look at them in detail in supervisions (section 3).
Sections B&C are periodized (with the occasional general question included in each), but you’ll be asked to respond to problems and issues within periods, not simply to periods. You should note that there’s no guarantee that a particular problem or issue will always come up in sections B&C, or that problems or issues won’t be conflated. This means that you can’t ‘topic spot’ by focussing your work on a narrow aspect of the course – mugging up a couple of problems or issues and hoping they’ll see you through, for instance. You’ll have to do the whole course in order to be prepared for the exam. On the other hand you won’t be asked to respond to anything outside the course aims.
You should look at some past papers to get a feel for the style of questions.


Unless otherwise indicated all lectures are on Tuesdays at 12.00 and last for one hour. Check with the departmental secretary for venues.


1 Introduction to the course

Reforming the system c.1860-70

2 Revolution from above I: The end of serfdom

3 Revolution from above II: Controlling society

Modernization and the state c.1870-1904

4 Revolution from above III: Industrialization

5 Reaction in modernization: Aleksandr III and Nikolai II

Modernization and society c.1870-1904

6 Old wine into new bottles: крестьянство and дворянство

7 The fractured class: Workers

8 The missing class: The bourgeoisie

Modernization and revolution c.1870-1904

9 Heroic society: народничество and terror

10 Claiming the future: Marxism and socialism

11 Autocracy as anachronism?: Economic and political crisis

The Duma Monarchy and its problems c.1905-14

12 1905-6: Bourgeois revolution?

12 1907-14: Stolypin’s gamble

Russia in Revolution c.1914-17

14 Russia and world war: 1914-16

15 On the eve of Revolution?: 1914-16

16 Petrograd and the end of autocracy: February 1917


These will take the form of one seminar and ten supervisions. The seminar lasts for between one and a half hours, supervisions for one hour.

Seminar: Researching and writing history (with Ru8, Thursday 7 October 17.30 venue tba)

How to analyse, research and respond to supervision essays and exam questions. No preparation necessary.

1 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topics I-III of the Michaelmas list (p.6). Preparation: you can do any question you like from within a topic but make sure your supervision partners do the same topic as you. Aim at five to six sides of typed A4; research using the general and topic-related reading in the reading lists; cite quotations by footnoting; end with a full bibliography. You must give me your essays at the lecture prior to your supervision. Please note that I won’t be able to read or mark late work.

2 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topics I-III of the Michaelmas list (apart from the topic you’ve covered in 1). Preparation: as for 1.

3 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topics I-III of the Michaelmas list (apart from the topics you’ve covered in 1 & 2). Preparation: as for 1.

4 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topic IV of the Michaelmas list. Preparation: as for 1.

5 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topics V-VII of the Lent list (p.7). Preparation: as for 1.

6 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topics V-VII of the Lent list (apart from the topic you’ve covered in 5). Preparation: as for 1.

7 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topics V-VII of the Lent list (apart from the topics you’ve covered in 5 & 6). Preparation: as for 1.

8 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topic VIII of the Lent list. Preparation: as for 1.

9 Essay supervision

Choose a question from topic IX of the Easter list (p.8). Preparation: as for 1.

10 Essay supervision

Choose a question from any list or from a past paper and write an essay under exam conditions.

michaelmas list


Topic I
1 ‘After 1861 classes began to replace сословия, but the social system remained unchanged.’ Discuss.
2 ‘Class relations were fracturing the “peasant mode of production” in post-emancipation Russia.’ Discuss.
3 ‘The concept of “class” is the key to the understanding of the socio-economic realities of Russia in the period 1861-1904.’ Discuss.
4 ‘Post-emancipation Russia was feudal.’ Discuss.


Topic II
5 ‘The reforms which followed the emancipation of the serfs were ill-conceived and, by 1904, fatal to the autocracy.’ Discuss.
6 ‘Гласность and reform pointed ineluctably towards terror and assassination.’ Discuss with reference to the period 1864-1881.
7 ‘By eschewing change Aleksandr III guaranteed stability.’ Discuss.
8 ‘Aleksandr III turned Russia into a “well-ordered police state”.’ Discuss.


Topic III
9 ‘Between 1861 and 1904 Russian imperialism was driven forward by international capitalism.’ Discuss.
10 ‘The state needed the peasantry but the peasantry did not need the state.’ Discuss with reference to the period 1861-1904.
11 ‘A bourgeois-democratic polity failed to develop in late nineteenth-century Russia because of the timidity of the bourgeoisie.’ Discuss.
12 Assess the significance of ANY TWO of the following: (a) G. V. Plekhanov; (b) M. T. Loris-Melikov; (c) V. K. von Plehve; (d) K. P. Pobedonostev.

Topic IV
13 Discuss the usefulness to historians of ONE of the following sources:

(a) Программа исполнительного комитета партии «Народной воли» and Письмо исполнительного комитета партии «Народной воли» к Александру III.

(b) Выставка русской промышленности 1896 г. and С. Ю. Витте, О положении русской промышленности.

lent list


Topic V
14 ‘Russian social democracy was predicated on a misunderstanding of the country’s socio-economic structures.’ Discuss with reference to the period up to 1914.
15 ‘There is little evidence of a “developing revolutionary situation” in the Russian Empire in the decade before 1904.’ Discuss.
16 ‘By 1904 urbanization was the main threat to the autocracy.’ Discuss.
17 ‘War is the locomotive of history.’ Discuss this aphorism with reference to Russia in the period 1861-1905.


Topic VI
18 Account for the Revolution of 1905.
19 Consider the view that the major problem confronting the Duma Monarchy was the failure of Russian capitalism.
20 Assess the significance of the career of P. A. Stolypin.
21 ‘The state’s economic policies served only to produce a disgruntled peasantry and a revolutionary working class.’ Discuss with reference to the period 1905 to 1914.


Topic VII
22 ‘An exercise in futility.’ Discuss this assessment of the political history of the Duma Monarchy.
23 ‘War is the supreme test of every social and political system.’ Discuss with reference to the period 1904 to October 1917.
24 ‘The wires of democracy cannot stand too high a voltage’ (Trotskii). Consider the period October 1905 to February 1917 in the light of this statement.
25 ‘The Russian state lacked popular legitimacy; as a consequence it was unable to rule effectively.’ Discuss with reference to the period 1905 to February 1917.

Topic VIII
26 Discuss the usefulness to historians of ONE of the following sources:

(a) Манифест об усовершенствовании государственного порядка (Манифест 17 Октября 1905 г.) and С. Ю. Витте, Письмо о Манифесте 17 Октября 1905 г.

(b) Доклад начальника Петербургского охранного отделения Министру Внутренних Дел о ходе массовой забастовки в Петербурге в июле 1914 г.



Topic IX
27 ‘By late 1916 the tsarist regime appeared to have overcome the crises engendered by war.’ Discuss.
28 ‘Nikolai II was responsible for the demise of the Russian Empire.’ Discuss.
29 Compare and contrast the revolutions of 1905 and February 1917.
30 ‘The Russian Empire collapsed because of failure in war.’ Discuss.

Topic X
31 Choose a revision question


Hardcopy Many books and articles are in our MML library. Many, however, aren’t in our library and very few will be in your college libraries, so you must get used to using the Seeley Library (in the History Faculty next to the Law building) and Marshall Library (in the Economics Faculty beside the Buttery) as well as the UL. Note that early volumes of Slavic Review may be catalogued as American Slavic Review.
Online JSTOR ( is an excellent site for journal articles. For a wonderful site on Marxism, Russian revolutionaries and a host of revolutionary and radical figures in general see ( If you come across other good sites let me know. Avoid popular sites like Wikipedia – they are full of inaccurate rubbish.

organization of the reading list
4.1 General works are listed in rough chronological/thematic order. Of course you can’t possible read them all, nor are you expected to. They are for you to consult as necessary throughout the course. An invaluable work, which you should get to know and will often find useful on a given topic before you read anything else, is

Wieczynski, J. L., ed., The Modern Encyclopaedia of Russian and Soviet History (multi-volume 1976 onwards).

It’s commonly known as MERSH and is on reference in our library.
4.2 Specialist reading is listed under each lecture heading. Don’t do any specialist reading until you’ve consulted a few general works. Again, you’re not expected to read everything. The lists are to guide you to a range of texts when you need to deepen your knowledge of a particular topic.

Standard works:

Florinsky, M. Russia: A History and Interpretation (2 vols., 1970).

Kappeler, A. The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (2001).

Pipes, R. Russia under the Old Regime (1974).

Riasanovsky, N. V. A History of Russia (4th ed., 1984).

Rogger, H. Russia in the Age of Modernization and Revolution 1881-1917 (1983).

Saunders, D. Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform 1801-1881 (1992).

Seton-Watson, H. The Russian Empire 1801-1917 (1967).

Thaden, E. C. Russia Since 1801: The Making of a New Society (1971).

Vernadsky, G. A History of Russia (5 vols., 1943-69).


Carrère d’Encausse, H. Nicholas II: The Interrupted Transition (2000).

Ferro, M. Nicholas II: The Last of the Tsars (1991).

Lieven, D. Nicholas II: Twilight of the Empire (1996).

Duma Monarchy & Revolutions:

Acton, E., Cherniaev, V.
& Rosenberg, W., eds. Critical Companion to the Russian Revolution 1914-1921 (1997).

Ascher, A. P. A. Stolypin: The Search for Stability in Late Imperial Russia (2001).

_____ The Revolution of 1905 (1988).

Stockdale, M. K. Paul Miliukov and the Quest for a Liberal Russia 1880-1918 (1996).

Surh, G. St Petersburg in 1905: Labor, Society and Revolution (1989).

Waldron, P. Between Two Revolutions: Stolypin and the Politics of Renewal in Russia (1997).

Economy and society:

Black, C. E. The Modernization of Japan and Russia: A Comparative Study (1985).

Blum, J. Lord and Peasant in Russia from the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century (1961).

Crisp, O. Studies in the Russian Economy Before 1914 (1976).

Ely, C. This Meagre Nature: Landscape and National Identity in Imperial Russia (2002).

Falkus, M. The Industrialization of Russia 1700-1914 (1972).

Gatrell, P. The Tsarist Economy 1850-1917 (1986).

Hutton, M. J. Russian and West European Women 1860-1939: Dreams, Struggles and Nightmares (2001).

Lyashchenko, P. I. History of the National Economy of Russia to 1917 (1949).

Moon, D. ‘Reassessing Russian serfdom’, European History Quarterly (4, 1996).

_____ The Russian Peasantry 1600-1930: The World the Peasants Made (1999).

Rieber, A. J. Merchants and Entrepreneurs in Imperial Russia (1982).

Robinson, G. T. Rural Russia under the Old Regime (1932).

Roosevelt, P. Life on the Russian Country Estate: A Social and Cultural History (1995).

Venturi, F. Roots of Revolution (1960).

Wirtschafter, E. K. Social Identity in Imperial Russia (1997).

Yaney, G. L. The Urge to Mobilize: Agrarian Reform in Russia 1861-1930 (1982).
Government and society:

Brooks, J. When Russia Learned to Read: Literacy and Popular Literature 1861-1917 (1985).

Freeze, G. L. The Parish Clergy in Nineteenth-Century Russia: Crisis, Reform and Counter-Reform (1983).

_____ ‘The soslovie (estate) paradigm and Russian social history’, American Historical Review (1, 1986).

Geyer, D. Russian Imperialism: the Interaction of Domestic and Foreign Policy, 1860-1914 (1987).

Keep, J. H. L. Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia 1462-1874 (1985).

Kucherov, S. Courts, Lawyers and Trials under the Last Three Tsars (1953).

Lincoln, W. B. The Great Reforms: Autocracy, Bureaucracy and the Politics of Change in Imperial Russia (1990).

McCauley, M. &
Walden, P. The Emergence of the Modern Russian State 1855-61 (1988).

Manning, R. T. The Crisis of the Old Order in Russia: Gentry and Government (1982).

Orlovsky, D. T. The Limits of Reform. The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Imperial Russia 1801-1881 (1981).

Pearson, T. S. Russian Officialdom in Crisis: Autocracy and Local Self-Government 1861-1900 (1989).

Raeff, M. Understanding Imperial Russia. State and Society in the Old Regime (1984).

Starr, S. F. Decentralization and Self-Government in Russia 1830-1870 (1972).

Wcislo, F. W. Reforming Rural Russia: State, Local Society, and National Policies 1855-1914 (1990).

Wirtschafter, E. K. From Serf to Russian Soldier (1990).

Yaney, G. L. The Systematization of Russian Government: Social Evolution in the Domestic Administration of Imperial Russia 1711-1905 (1973).


Treadgold, D. W. The West in Russia and China: Religious and Secular Thought in Modern Times. Vol. I: Russia 1472-1917 (1973).

Ulam, A. B. Ideologies and Illusions: Revolutionary Thought from Herzen to Solzhenitsyn (1976).

_____ In the Name of the People: Prophets and Conspirators in Pre-Revolutionary Russia (1977).

Walicki, A. A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism (1980).
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