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Reform and Revolution in Russia, 1861-1905

Produced by Chuck Kloes, Beverly Hills High School, 1996


To understand the means by which Russian revolutionaries and reformers who were exiled, imprisoned, or working underground in Tsarist Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries maintained their operations to change the government of Russia.

This 3 day module will be taught in Unit VI, the Age of Nationalism in Europe, 1860-1914.

Day 1 Topic: The Need to Reform, 1861-1881

READING: Palmer & Colton, History of the Modern World, section 57 and McKay, et. al, History of World Societies, Vol. 2, p. 942-945.
ACTIVITY: Class discussion focused on assigned reading and terms checking student level of understanding.
TERMS FOR UNDERSTANDING: Alexander II; Westernizers vs. Slavophiles; modernization; Autocracy of the Tsar: methods ; serfdom, c. 1850; "intelligentsia"; Polar Star; Emancipation Act, 1861; mir; lessons of the Crimean War; Edict of 1864; zemstvos; legal reforms; "nihilists"; socialism, appropriate for Russia?; Bakunin and Nechaiev; People's Will; Alexander II: 1880 reforms; railroad development; industrial development; Alexander III: political views; Sergei Witte's policies; Social Democrats; Plekhanov; Lenin; Social Revolutionaries; Martov; Chernov; Liberals; Struve; Zubatov; Father Gapon; Nicholas II: political outlook; "Bloody Sunday"; Revolution of 1905; Trans-Siberian Railroad; Tolstoy; Dostoevsky; gentry lifestyles and attitudes toward the regime.

Day 2 Topic: Reform, Revolt, or Stand Pat?

ACTIVITY: 35 MINUTES: Students will read short selections from both primary and secondary sources which reflect different viewpoints on the political state of affairs in Russia, c. 1896-1905. These will include Lenin, Martov, Struve, Count Witte, and Pobedonostsev. Students will take notes to answer these questions for discussion:

  1. What are the author's views on Tsar's relations to his peoples?
  2. Why is there such a variance of views? How can this variance be permitted in this autocracy?
  3. Can these differences be reconciled ? If not, what effect might these differences of policies have on the government and social structure of Tsarist Russia?

15 MINUTES: Class discussion to address student answers to the questions.

Day 3 Topic: Open Forum:

Is the Russian Government and Social Structure Suitable to meet the Challenges of the 20th Century?

ACTIVITY: 40 MINUTES: Students will role play a variety of social and political positions assuming the views and attitudes of Russians, c. 1904.

METHODOLOGY: Five students will be selected to play the roles of a Czarist bureaucrat, a Russian liberal, a Social Revolutionary, two Social Democrats (Menshevik and Bolshevik). The remainder of the class will be selected for sub-roles in the following categories: bureaucrats, military, court, provincial leaders, Russian liberals, writers, doctors, teachers, intelligentsia, students, and workers.

The class will focus on three topics:

  1. What is the status of Russia and its people today?
  2. Where is Russia headed if no change occurs with the political leadership?
  3. Where should Russia be headed politically and socially?

The five principal students will be seated in front of the room. The instructor will be the moderator. The students will present their viewpoints on the above topics and students ho represent sub-roles will participate by asking questions or making comments based upon their assigned role

There will be a ten minute debriefing in the form of a short essay in which students will answer this question: Is it possible in light of current Czarist policy to reform the Russian government without destroying it in its present form?

The 3 day module will serve as a frame of reference when the 1917 revolutions are studied and analyzed.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies