All Russias Home Tsarist Russia Soviet Russia Russian Federation Learn Russian Images & Video
        A L L R U S S I A S . C O M
Russia from A to Z Russia on YouTube Best Student Essays Jokes about Rulers Russia with Laugh Useful Links

Šóńńźą˙ āåšńč˙


Political Jokes

Russian Music Samples

When Putin Retires...


The Beggarly Empire


Tsarist Russia was an empire of great internal contradictions. It was a colossus, which had expanded over one sixth of the earth’s landmass, and yet was ever vulnerable to foreign invasion. It had one of the world’s largest populations, yet the majority lived in poverty and discontent. It commanded the world’s richest natural resources, yet its productive forces were severely constricted by the remnants of feudalism. It strove to cement its multiethnic population by systematic Russification, which only stimulated nationalist movements. It tried to portray its political system as ‘people’s autocracy’ at a time when the regime was becoming increasingly ‘detached’ from its people. The gigantic empire of the tsars was becoming ever more fragile and vulnerable until it was shattered to pieces in the turmoil of war and revolution. This concluding part brings together the main lines of argument and draws conclusions in the form of paradoxes which are, to paraphrase Shakespeare, such stuff as Russian history is made on. 


In early Russia, in contrast to Western Europe, where flourishing towns and trade links became the cementing force which bound the edifice of national states, the unification of the Russian principalities around Moscow proceeded mainly under the pressure of external political factors. The constant threat of military invasion put heavy demands on the Russian people which had to strain its limited economic and human resources, scattered over a vast territory, to maintain its sovereignty. National security interests required from this poor, sparsely populated agrarian country the ability to mobilize all available resources at times of military emergency.

The solution of how to maintain its military security was found in the creation of a special warrior-class bound by the obligations of military service to the state. As a reward for their service and to provide them with an income, the State granted to members of the military class land and peasants to work it. A system thus took shape which featured a ruler with sweeping powers, a nobility based on service to the State, and a peasantry, increasingly tied to land owned by the nobility.

As the tsarist empire grew, so did the state’s expenses. Seeking to secure their income, the state and the ruling military class tightened the  grip over the peasants, and eventually a considerable part of Russian peasantry became bonded to their squires or the state. The Russian peasants were fully and completely enserfed by the articles of the new legal code of Tsar Alexis, father of Peter the Great, in 1649, the very year in which a ‘bourgeois’ revolution occurred in England bringing about the overthrow of the king. In contrast to the West, where social progress was achieved through the natural development of economic relations, the Russian state drew its strength and vitality from the use of non-economic methods. Force, repression, coercion and further enserfment of the mass of the population became the chief means by which Russia developed her productive forces. The clearest illustration of this is Peter the Great’s era. Under him Russia built up her industry, expanded her military might and established herself as one of the great powers of Europe. At the same time the mass of Russia’s peasants found itself increasingly bound by the restrictions of serfdom. The population was treated by the despotic state merely as building material for the establishment of a grand empire.

Copyrighted material
We Are Partners
Bookmark This Site ││Site Map ││Send Feedback ││About This Site
Lecture Bullet Points
Copyright 2007-2017 — Alex Chubarov — All Rights Reserved


The End of an Empire


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
The Revolutionary Movement
Appearance of Marxism
The Last Romanovs
The Birth of Bolshevism
The Revolution of 1905-7
Between Revolutions
The Revolutions of 1917
Interpretations of 1917
The End of an Empire
Tables and Statistics

Images & Video


Russia from A to Z

Learn Russian with Us