The Russian Century - a TL

Prologue: Period of Decline, 1825-1881.
Hello to you all on this second day of the new year. I present to you the beginning of my newest (hopefully) non-ASB TL.


The Russian Century



Prologue: Period of Decline, 1825-1881.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Russia devastatingly defeated Napoleon and became known as the saviour of Europe. It joined the Holy Alliance with Prussia and Austria, which dominated continental Europe and was intended to restrain liberalism and secularism in the wake of the devastating French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It became de facto defunct after the death of Tsar Alexander I in 1825, but Russia continued to play a leading role in continental affairs.

Although the Russian Empire remained a great power, thanks to its role in defeating Napoleonic France, its retention of serfdom limited any significant degree of economic progress. As Western European growth accelerated during the Industrial Revolution, Russia began to lag ever farther behind, creating new technological, economic, military and administrative weaknesses for the Empire seeking to play a role as a great power. Russia’s status as a great power obfuscated the inefficiency of its government, the isolation of its people, and its economic and social backwardness. Following the defeat of Napoleon, Alexander I had been ready to discuss constitutional reforms, but though a few were introduced, no major changes were undertaken.

The liberal Alexander I was replaced by his younger brother Nicholas I (1825-1855), who at the beginning of his reign was confronted with an uprising. The background of this revolt lay in the Napoleonic Wars, when a number of well-educated Russian officers travelled in Europe in the course of military campaigns, where their exposure to Western liberalism of encouraged them to seek change on their return to the autocratically ruled Russian Empire. The result was the Decembrist Revolt (December 1825), which was the work of a small circle of liberal nobles and army officers who wanted to install Nicholas' brother Constantine as a constitutional monarch. The revolt was easily crushed, but it caused Nicholas to turn away from the modernization program begun by Peter the Great and champion the doctrine of Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality instead.

In order to repress further revolts, censorship was intensified, including the constant surveillance of schools and universities. Textbooks were strictly regulated by the government. Police spies were planted everywhere. Would-be revolutionaries were sent off to Siberia – under Nicholas I hundreds of thousands were sent here. The retaliation for the revolt made "December Fourteenth" a day long remembered by later revolutionary movements.

Revolutionary groupings did not just include movements demanding political change, but there were also separatist groups as Russia was a multi-ethnic country in which ethnic Russians constituted only about half of the population. Poland rose up in 1830-’31 and 1863-’64, to which Alexander II responded by annexing the Kingdom of Poland directly and excluding it from his liberal reforms. Martial law in Lithuania, introduced in 1863, lasted for the next 40 years. Native languages, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian, were completely banned from printed texts, the Ems Ukase being an example. The Polish language was banned in both oral and written form from all provinces except Congress Poland, where it was allowed in private conversations only. Besides that, Russia also waged wars of conquest in Siberia, the Caucasus in Central Asia, suppressing Islam in their new territories (such as the Circassian Genocide). Russia was indeed a prison of peoples.

The question of Russia’s direction had been gaining attention ever since Peter the Great’s program of modernization. Some favoured imitating Western Europe while others were against this and called for a return to the traditions of the past. The latter path was advocated by Slavophiles, who held the “decadent” West in contempt. The Slavophiles were opponents of bureaucracy, who preferred the collectivism of the medieval Russian mir over the West’s individualism. More extreme social doctrines were elaborated by such Russian radicals on the left, such as Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin, and Pyotr Kropotkin.

Russia’s backwardness became evident during the Crimean War. Russia expected that in exchange for supplying the troops to be the policeman of Europe during the Revolutions of 1848, it should have a free hand in dealing with the decaying Ottoman Empire – the “sick man of Europe.” In 1853 Russia invaded Ottoman-controlled areas leading to the Crimean War as Britain and France came to the rescue of the Ottomans. After a gruelling war fought largely in Crimea, with very high death rates from disease, the allies won.

The long term damage was significant. The demilitarization of the Black Sea was a major blow to Russia, which was no longer able to protect its vulnerable southern coastal frontier against anyone. The destruction of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Sevastopol and other naval docks was a humiliation. The defeat discredited the armed forces and highlighted the need to modernize the countries defences as well as the building of railways, industrialization, sound finances etcetera. The image of being the biggest, richest and most powerful in the world had suddenly been shattered. The Crimean disaster had exposed the shortcomings of every institution in Russia – not just the corruption and incompetence of the military command, the technological backwardness of the army and navy, or the inadequate roads and lack of railways the accounted for the chronic problems of supply, but the poor condition and illiteracy of the serfs who made up the armed forces, the inability of the serf economy to sustain a state of war against industrial powers, and the failures of autocracy itself.

When Alexander II succeeded his father Nicholas I as Tsar in 1855, he recognized the need for reform. He became known as the Liberator for the emancipation of the serfs, but also the many other reforms he passed: including reorganizing the judicial system, setting up elected local judges, abolishing corporal punishment, promoting local self-government through the zemstvo system, imposing universal military service, ending some privileges of the nobility, and promoting university education. Up until 1881, the 1866 emancipation reform was his greatest change (even though the peasants had to repay the crown for essentially buying out the landlords for 49 years at a 6% interest).

Alexander pivoted towards foreign policy and sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, fearing the remote colony would fall into British hands if there were another war. He sought peace, moved away from bellicose France when Napoleon III fell in 1871, and in 1872 joined with Germany and Austria in the League of the Three Emperors that stabilized the European situation. Despite his otherwise pacifist foreign policy, he fought a brief successful war with the Ottoman Empire in 1877-’78, leading to the independence of the Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia and Romania. A European conference mediating the peace talks between Russia and the Turks, however, produced rather disappointing results for Russia. Yes, in 1878 it didn’t seem the twentieth century would shape up to be the Russian century. However, a new reform in 1881, by far Alexander II’s most significant reform, was soon to be passed.
 
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From the reference to Alexander II's most significant reform, he doesn't get assassinated.
Except in the world of a fantasy, there was nothing more significant than emancipation of the serfs. “Nothing” as in “Nothing in the known plans” and most definitely “nothing which would smell of a parliamentarian”.😉
 
Except in the world of a fantasy, there was nothing more significant than emancipation of the serfs. “Nothing” as in “Nothing in the known plans” and most definitely “nothing which would smell of a parliamentarian”.😉
Yeah. This only makes sense with our knowledge about somethimg like this being essential to avoid the revolution, but not with the in-world facts.
 
Chapter I: Dawn of the Constitutional Era, 1881-1884.
Update time.

Chapter I: Dawn of the Constitutional Era, 1881-1884.

What in hindsight would be Alexander II’s most important reform was yet to come after he survived the sixth assassination attempt against him. On March 13th 1881 [O.S.] he went to the Mikhailovsky Manège in St. Petersburg for the military roll call as he did every Sunday. As his closed carriage moved through the narrow streets, Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will, a revolutionary left-wing group) assassin Nikolai Rysakov failed as his bomb wasn’t strong enough to seriously damage the bulletproof carriage. Hryniewiecki, the second assassin, tripped and his own bomb killed him. The third, Yemelyanov, decided not to throw his bomb as the crowds prevented an accurately aimed throw and he quietly slipped away, which ultimately didn’t save him from the hangman’s noose as he was caught on the run.

At the time of the assassination attempt, Tsar Alexander II had already appointed Count Mikhail Loris-Melikov the head of the of the Supreme Executive Commission, which was given extraordinary powers to fight the revolutionaries. Loris-Melikov's proposals called for some form of parliamentary body, and the Tsar agreed. He unveiled plans for an elected Duma, though it would often be an advisory body in practice. It would have 500 members elected by all men over the age of 25 (women weren’t granted the right to vote at all, which Alexander II didn’t see as necessity and saw as an overreach in a conservative country like Russia anyway). The electoral system was a first-past-the-post system somewhat similar to what Great Britain had and it was gerrymandered with the country’s constituencies differing in size and composition to favour the votes of landowners and peasants (more loyal to Tsar) over urban working and middle class votes. Besides that, a system of weighed voting comparable to the Prussian three-tier franchise was introduced based on the amount of taxes paid, which meant a noble vote had fifteen times greater influence on the outcome then a peasant or worker vote. Furthermore, parties participating in the elections had to reach a 2% electoral threshold to gain seats in the Duma, making it difficult for small minorities to win parliamentary representation.

The constitution providing for this Duma was modelled on that of the German Empire. This meant the crown still retained significant powers such as appointing the cabinet, which had no responsibility to the Duma. It was still a major step forward in that it provided for certain basic rights such as protection from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, inviolability of domiciles, protection from illegal search and seizure, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but also mandated compulsory military service for men.

The Duma elected this way was the lower house; the Upper House was the Imperial Council composed of 196 members, 98 of which were elected while the Tsar appointed the remaining 98. The Duma and the Imperial Council would share legislative power in theory, though in practice the Tsar and the Imperial Council could decide to dissolve the Duma and issue new elections if they faced opposition from it. In practice this meant elections would be held more often than just once every four years and that the Tsar had a de facto veto right.

This was nonetheless a revolutionary step forward as Russia had never had parliamentary elections or anything like it before during its one thousand year history. The reform was passed and hundreds of political parties sprang up ranging from extreme right reactionary, to more moderate conservative-nationalist and centre right liberal parties to social democrats and outright communist parties. Besides that were thousands of ethnic and religious minority parties, corporate candidates, land-owners, single issue parties and independents. Press control was relaxed and these parties were allowed to campaign for the elections, issuing newspapers, posters and pamphlets in a lively public debate.

Exactly one year after the new constitution had been approved by the Tsar, elections took place in March-April 1882. Despite all the provisions favouring the aristocratic and rural vote the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) founded by Boris Chicherin, Konstantin Kavelin and Sergey Muromtsev won. They had a five point platform: firstly, the introduction of direct, secret, universal and equal suffrage; secondly, no discrimination based on religion, nationality, class or sex; thirdly, the abolition of capital punishment; and, lastly, an amnesty for political prisoners. As to economic policy, the LDP favoured a minimal government and free trade policies. Their primary political aim was to build the Duma into a strong, popular body similar to the British House of Commons. This program appealed to workers, the middle class, intellectuals and progressives among the nobility alike.

The LDP won 150 seats in this new Duma and became the largest parliamentary group, which is attributed to a very high urban voter turnout compared to a low voter turnout among the peasantry (and the nobles, despite their voting counting for fifteen, had too little an impact because they constituted such a small proportion of the population). Runner up was a leftist group named Emancipation of Labour founded by Georgi Plekhanov, which had a Marxist and a social-democratic wing: its positions included a 40 hour workweek, a minimum wage, the right to unionize, nationalization of industry, nationalization of banks, expropriation of major landowners, and universal suffrage. The Emancipation of Labour Group, which soon renamed itself the Social-Democratic Party (SDP), won 45 seats.

Second runner up was the National Party (NP) headed by the tutor of the Tsar’s oldest son Konstantin Pobedonostsev, a jurist, statesman and advisor to the Tsar: it ran on a program of Russian nationalism, a zeal for Orthodox Christianity, protectionism, laissez-faire capitalism, voluntary collectivism, a powerful executive branch constituted of the Tsar and the Imperial Council, a purely consultative Duma, institutionalization of anti-Semitism by barring Jews from public service, and opposition to voting rights for women and non-Christian Orthodox and non-Slavic minorities. It was heavily favoured by the government, but they were disappointed with the result, which amounted to merely 43 seats. The remainder consisted of national and religious minorities as well as independents.

Coalition talks were difficult and took 225 days, with serious meddling from the court. Tsar Alexander II had hoped the politically liberal, socially progressive LDP and the socially and religiously conservative, monarchist and economically liberal NP could form the core of a “centre-right bloc.” After all, they agreed that domestic economic policy should be deregulated, laissez-faire, overseen by a libertarian small government. The LDP, however, wanted the Tsar as a purely symbolic figurehead in this new parliamentary system like in Britain. The NP, however, didn’t want the new system to evolve any further and would ideally undo it if they could and also didn’t see eye to eye with the LDP concerning secularism and education reform.

An LDP-SDP “progressive bloc” was formed instead, which had 205 seats in the Duma. That was still 46 seats short of a majority, but by negotiating with minority parties and independents party leader Chicherin and Duma chairman Kavelin managed to enact a moderately progressive agenda. Conservatives around the Tsar backing the National Party attempted the opposite with some success under the supervision of Count Loris-Melikov, who’d been appointed Prime Minister. Among the successes of the LDP-SDP bloc in the early 1880s were lowering the right of the male age to vote from 25 to 21, a 48 hour workweek and nationwide subsidies for elementary schools and extra budget to educate teachers to staff them. In 1883, the NP and a slew of smaller parties managed to pass an act that elementary schools had to include “Orthodox Christian values” into their curriculums.

Meanwhile radically leftist revolutionary groups decided this reformist Tsar had to be killed to put the genie back into the bottle. These Marxists and anarchists witnessed how their support base slowly began to erode because the significant successes of the new semi-autocratic, semi-constitutional, parliamentary monarchy soaked off their more moderate elements. To reinvigorate the revolutionary fire, a terrorist Narodnaya Volya cell intended to assassinate the Tsar during the spring of 1884: however, with the Tsar out of the country visiting his relatives in Denmark his heir would have to do as they lacked the patience to wait. Tsesarevich Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich was killed by multiple bombs thrown at his carriage on May 15th [O.S.] in St. Petersburg by Alexander Ulyanov and his co-conspirators. The Crown Prince died at the age of 39. The eighteen year-old Ulyanov (the group’s ideologue and bomb-maker) and all the other conspirators were swiftly sentenced and hanged.

A grand funeral ceremony was held, with the most prominent attendees being the 66 year-old Tsar and the sixteen year-old new heir to the throne Grand Duke Nicholas. Crowned heads and others who attended the funeral included Queen Victoria, German Emperor Wilhelm I, Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, King Umberto I of Italy, King William III of the Netherlands, King Leopold II Belgium, the ambassadors of China and Japan, and many others. Representatives from European noble families as well as some from Asian royal families attended too at Gatchina Palace, where the body lay in state and the funeral ceremony took place.
 
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Update time.

Chapter I: Dawn of the Constitutional Era, 1881-1884.

What in hindsight would be Alexander II’s most important reform was yet to come after he survived the sixth assassination attempt against him. On March 13th 1881 [O.S.] he went to the Mikhailovsky Manège in St. Petersburg for the military roll call as he did every Sunday. As his closed carriage moved through the narrow streets, Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will, a revolutionary left-wing group) assassin Nikolai Rysakov failed as his bomb wasn’t strong enough to seriously damage the bulletproof carriage. Hryniewiecki, the second assassin, tripped and his own bomb killed him. The third, Yemelyanov, decided not to throw his bomb as the crowds prevented an accurately aimed throw and he quietly slipped away, which ultimately didn’t save him from the hangman’s noose as he was caught on the run.

At the time of the assassination attempt, Tsar Alexander II had already appointed Count Mikhail Loris-Melikov the head of the of the Supreme Executive Commission, which was given extraordinary powers to fight the revolutionaries. Loris-Melikov's proposals called for some form of parliamentary body, and the Tsar agreed

Of course, this is alt-history but I wonder why “everybody” sticks to that parliament story, which has absolutely nothing to do with what Loris-Melikov did propose and which, by his own words, “had nothing to do with the Western parliamentarism”? 😂


 
Except in the world of a fantasy, there was nothing more significant than emancipation of the serfs. “Nothing” as in “Nothing in the known plans” and most definitely “nothing which would smell of a parliamentarian”.😉
The only big plans Alexander had at the time was crowning his second wife Empress which could have had really interesting consequences.

The Parliament thing is a nice over reading of events to fit a narrative. It's possible that what he planned could have evolved into a Parliament. It's also about as unlikely as a frog flying
 
A grand funeral ceremony was held, with the most prominent attendees being the 66 year-old Tsar and the sixteen year-old new heir to the throne Grand Duke Nicholas. Crowned heads and others who attended the funeral included Queen Victoria, German Emperor Wilhelm I, Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, King Umberto I of Italy, King William III of the Netherlands, King Leopold II Belgium, the ambassadors of China and Japan, and many others. Representatives from European noble families as well as some from Asian royal families attended too at Gatchina Palace, where the body lay in state and the funeral ceremony took place.
A possible progressive Nicholas without an self insert, vert interesting
 
The only big plans Alexander had at the time was crowning his second wife Empress which could have had really interesting consequences.

Yes, he may end up with the completely different set of the assassins. 😂
The Parliament thing is a nice over reading of events to fit a narrative.
It would be a nice reading if it was not already beaten to death in don’t remember how many TLs.

It's possible that what he planned could have evolved into a Parliament. It's also about as unlikely as a frog flying
It would not. LM proposed to expand the State Council by adding to it the “subject experts” elected on the low levels and then selected by the government from this pool. In even more “parliamentarian” form this had been done in 1905 for the SC and nobody even remembers about it.
As for the Parliament, the Duma existed for quite a few years without producing too much in the terms of the positive results.
 
A possible progressive Nicholas without an self insert, vert interesting
And why would Nicholas becomes a progressive after his father was assassinated by the “progressivists” for no obvious reason? Of course, Nicky was not excessively bright but he was not a complete idiot.
 
A possible progressive Nicholas without an self insert, vert interesting

I don't think that Nicholas II is going to be much more progressive than in OTL. Yes, now he is under his more liberal mind grandfather but AII is not going to live very long anymore. Perhaps 10 - 12 years yet left. And not sure if Nicholas II is going to be more ready to regin. Yes, there is Duma for limiting tsar's powers but not much.
 
I don't think that Nicholas II is going to be much more progressive than in OTL. Yes, now he is under his more liberal mind grandfather but AII is not going to live very long anymore. Perhaps 10 - 12 years yet left. And not sure if Nicholas II is going to be more ready to regin. Yes, there is Duma for limiting tsar's powers but not much.
Shouldn’t we start with the basic assumption that being “progressive” is unquestionably good?

AII was “progressive” for most of his reign (by the end of it he started backpedalling). “Accomplishments”:
1. Russian finances in a free fall.
2. No industrial development due to the free trade paradigm.
3. The peasants are emancipated but financially destroyed.
4. The landowners financially destroyed. Anybody who uses term “nobility” as some meaningful class by 1870s is seriously confused.
5. Wasteful unnecessary war with a massive loss of government’s prestige and international isolation.
6. Aggressive colonial politics involving the genocidal practices.
7. Modernization of the judicial system
8. Modernization of the system of high education - almost exclusively the humanitarian specialities, the least needed.
9. Complete loss of control over the domestic situation: unchecked political terrorism protected by #7.

Reactionary AIII:
1. Finances are back in order.
2. High rate of industrialization.
3. The first package of the labor laws
4. No wars.
5. Restored international prestige.
6. Restored law and order.

So perhaps just having a label attached is not enough? 😉

Now, as far as the Duma is involved, this was not some kind of a miracle tool. It was a bunch of the people, predominantly with no experience in administration or business, dominated by the political demagogues. Maybe in a century or so it could evolve into something useful but for that period Russia would have to be placed in a vacuum. 😂
 
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And why would Nicholas becomes a progressive after his father was assassinated by the “progressivists” for no obvious reason? Of course, Nicky was not excessively bright but he was not a complete idiot.
If he doesn't have his father's reign as an example he may very well stick more to his grandfather's policies.

That could mean things like assimilation of Jews and ethnic minorities. It certainly would mean sticking with free trade, fiat currency and spending more on the military.
 
Shouldn’t we start with the basic assumption that being “progressive” is unquestionably good?

AII was “progressive” for most of his reign (by the end of it he started backpedalling). “Accomplishments”:
1. Russian finances in a free fall.
2. No industrial development due to the free trade paradigm.
3. The peasants are emancipated but financially destroyed.
4. The landowners financially destroyed. Anybody who uses term “nobility” as some meaningful class by 1870s is seriously confused.
5. Wasteful unnecessary war with a massive loss of government’s prestige and international isolation.
6. Aggressive colonial politics involving the genocidal practices.
7. Modernization of the judicial system
8. Modernization of the system of high education - almost exclusively the humanitarian specialities, the least needed.
9. Complete loss of control over the domestic situation: unchecked political terrorism protected by #7.

Reactionary AIII:
1. Finances are back in order.
2. High rate of industrialization.
3. The first package of the labor laws
4. No wars.
5. Restored international prestige.
6. Restored law and order.

So perhaps just having a label attached is not enough? 😉

Now, as far as the Duma is involved, this was not some kind of a miracle tool. It was a bunch of the people, predominantly with no experience in administration or business, dominated by the political demagogues. Maybe in a century or so it could evolve into something useful but for that period Russia would have to be placed in a vacuum. 😂
I just want to say that your comments are very informative and I like them a lot.
 
If he doesn't have his father's reign as an example he may very well stick more to his grandfather's policies.

Even his grandfather started getting back to the “conservatism” by the end of his reign.
That could mean things like assimilation of Jews and ethnic minorities. It certainly would mean sticking with free trade, fiat currency and spending more on the military.
Well, AII had plenty of time for giving the Jews equal rights but he did not so this is is pretty much a groundless guess. Even the “progressives” of that time tended to be anti-semitic (look at Saltykov Schedrin). And as for the “ethnic minorities”, AII conducted genocide of the Circassians and crushed uprising in Poland so the ‘good example’ was definitely there.
I’m not sure if the Russian Empire could afford a free trade for much longer without turning to something equal to China and the worthless paper currency would not be useful for buying a modern weaponry abroad…
 
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Even his grandfather started getting back to the “conservatism” by the end of his reign.

Well, AII had plenty of time for giving the Jews equal rights but he did not so this is is pretty much a groundless guess. Even the “progressives” of that time tended to be anti-semitic (look at Saltykov Schedrin). And as for the “ethnic minorities”, AII conducted genocide of the Circassians so the good example was definitely there.
I’m not sure if the Russian Empire could afford a free trade for much longer without turning to something equal to China and the worthless paper currency would not be useful for buying a modern weaponry abroad…
Well, there are big differences between Alexander II and III on their attitudes towards Jews and the ethnic minorities. Not saying AII was a model of progressivism on that score just much different.

Rather than hijack this thread, we can start a new one on things like the Mendeleev tariffs, the cartelization of Russian industry and the gold standard.
 
Nice Timeline Onkel Willam keep this up; While we had several "Constitutional Russia" timeline we have had few of them actually completed.
 
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