The Russian Century - a TL

Watched. Well @alexmilman is right (as usual) and the "parliament" indeed was not anything like this, I do like a good Russian tale. And @Onkel Willie, you write well, so I look forward to reading the rest of the story. Given your own words it won't be a wank, but given OTL was IMHO in many ways a RussiaScrew only slight butterflies might save millions of people.
 
Chapter II: The Tsar is dead, long live the Tsar, 1884-1895.
And the story continues.

Chapter II: The Tsar is dead, long live the Tsar, 1884-1895.

It was 1884 and due to the assassination of Tsesarevich Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich, the Tsar’s new heir was his teenage grandson. Due a combination of health and the constant risk of a new assassination attempt by one or the other revolutionary terrorist grouping, he realized there was a distinct possibility he wouldn’t live to see the age of seventy. The sixteen year-old Grand Duke Nicholas had had the education any male scion of the Romanov dynasty, being well-read, cultivated and fluent in the German, English and French languages. As of 1884 he had not received any formal education whatsoever regarding statecraft as he hadn’t been expected to ascend to the throne for another few decades before his father’s assassination.

Tsar Alexander II considered it important to give his successor a Western education to complement his Russian one in order to equip him with all the knowledge needed to lead Russia into the twentieth century. He also felt it self-explanatory that his heir to the throne knew the state his future realm was in, so he sent him on a six month tour of the Russian Empire between October 1884 and March 1885. It got him out of his bubble as he wasn’t constantly surrounded only by court dignitaries, politicians, officials, aristocrats and foreign ambassadors, but also got to deal with poor peasants, craftsmen and factory workers. The young prince realized Russia’s vastness, but also its emptiness, underdevelopment and potential: a continent spanning empire with a poor rural population, limited infrastructure, but also vast natural resources.

After his Russian tour, it was time for his Western education to begin. Nicholas didn’t want to leave the country for so long and leave behind his widowed mother Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna, who also urged with her father-in-law to let him stay. The stern Tsar would have nothing of it and he sent Nicholas away to study, though he didn’t go alone: he was accompanied by a personal secretary, a cook, a valet, three servants and four housekeepers. That was meagre by the imperial court’s standards, but he was afforded a living standard well above that of any other normal student attending the University of Bonn: the stipend he received from Russia was enough to rent a modest country estate outside the city, pay his staff and cover all his other expenses. He arrived there in September 1885, in time for the start of the academic year.

The University of Bonn had been attended by his cousin, the future German Emperor Wilhelm II, and like his cousin Nicholas joined the exclusive Corps Borussia Bonn. He followed classes in political science, economics, history and law but particularly developed an interest in engineering drawing from his talent as a draughtsman. Besides his hobbies of photography and tennis, the seventeen year-old Russian prince also became intimately acquainted with the opposite sex when he began to regularly attend the Bonn theatre soon after his arrival. Actresses, singers and dancers seeking royal patronage would seek out this wealthy Russian heir to the throne and some of them were not unwilling to provide a sexual favour to get it. In February 1886, he wrote to his younger brothers George and Michael in great detail about a “pretty, buxom female specimen my age” that he had had a really enjoyable time with. It’s widely believed he was referring to his first sexual experience and that the girl in question was the then seventeen year-old Anna Waldmüller, whose career as a soprano and stage and film actress he stimulated. Besides this, he also regularly visited his German relatives in Berlin and went home during the summer and in the holiday season.

After two terms in Bonn, he departed for Britain to attend the prestigious University of Oxford and concentrated on the fields of engineering, economics, political science and law. He attended debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords in Westminster, gaining an appreciation of Britain’s parliamentary system and constitutional monarchy. He sought out Oxford’s industries – which included motor manufacturing, education, publishing, information technology and science – and realized how far behind Russia was on the West. He developed a good bond with his cousin, the future King George V, and the two regularly enjoyed hunting and play tennis. The two looked so alike that people often couldn’t tell them apart, confused one for the other and even thought they were twins. Nicholas spent two terms at Oxford University. He finally returned to St. Petersburg in July 1889, where he was regaled by an enthusiastic crowd and the court had organized a lavish celebratory state banquet in his honour. Out of the past 48 months he’d barely spent twelve in Russia, but that was over now.

Tsar Alexander II intended to continue moulding his grandson and successor by immersing him in political tasks, administrative duties and public performances immediately upon his return. That was the reason the now 21 year-old Tsesarevich didn’t have much time to travel abroad. Nicholas joined his grandfather in cabinet meetings and attended sessions of the Imperial Council as well as the Duma. This gave him invaluable experience on how to rule Russia through its new semi-constitutional, semi-parliamentary and still mildly autocratic system. Besides that, he got to know the political landscape in the elected Duma, the Duma’s sensitivities and the most important politicians in it. He also gained experience in public speaking by attending the opening of new schools, hospitals and churches. With some encouragement the mild-mannered, timid young prince developed a strong sense of self-confidence and after a while his grandfather often let him preside over cabinet meetings alone. The Tsar even assigned him to organize and coordinate relief efforts to alleviate the 1891-’92 famine. This de facto dyarchy continued for four years from 1889 to 1893.

On October 21st 1893 [O.S], the entire Russian Empire was mourning as the news spread that the Tsar had passed away in his sleep at the age of 75 because his heart had simply stopped. He died only six months after massive celebrations had taken place for his 75th birthday in April that year after a reign of 38 years. A solemn yet grand funeral ceremony took place and in the years following his death monuments and statues to his honour were approved by his successor Tsar Nicholas II.

Russia was left with a young Tsar: Nicholas II was only 25 years old at the time of his coronation int the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin in Moscow and faced the monumental task of leading his country through a transitional phase. Russia’s experiment with parliamentary democracy was still in its infancy and had a long way to go, and could go either way as Nicholas had to choose to continue with it or return to autocracy. Besides that, Russia’s nascent industrial revolution was leading to urbanization as the cities working class grew, producing entirely new societal tensions: long working days, bad working conditions, low pay, bad housing, job insecurity and a ban on trade unions formed a toxic cocktail that radical socialists could utilize to foment proletarian revolution. And yet, this industrialization had to be encouraged to decrease the gap between the underdeveloped Russian Empire and Western Europe.

The proponents of the new semi-constitutional, semi-parliamentary system could rest assured as the young Tsar intended to preserve the system his grandfather had created and rule his country through consultation of and cooperation with the Duma for as far as possible. He witnessed how the Westminster system worked during his two years at Oxford, during which he’d regularly visited his British relatives and attended debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords on occasion. He’d come to appreciate it and commented that “elections of a parliament concentrate the intellects of the best men in their respective fields – be they lawyers, bankers professors, scientists or something else – into one body of knowledge, experience and differing opinions. Wouldn’t I be a fool if I didn’t listen to what they have to say to make a well-informed decision?”

He also, however, said Russia needed a firm hand and that Russia wasn’t ready yet for true parliamentary rule. Given how chaotic the Duma could be, he probably wasn’t completely wrong: lack of party discipline caused parties and even coalitions to split, members of parliament voted for their own interests or those who’d sponsored their candidacy, there was corruption with MPs voting in favour of rich and powerful patrons, heated debates often failed to produce any satisfactory compromise, and sometimes crippling stalling tactics like filibustering paralyzed decision making.

Nicholas made some changes to streamline parliamentary procedure to remedy these issues: filibustering was made impossible because the speaking time of every representative was limited to twenty minutes per session; Duma members were explicitly forbidden from accepting favours, monetary or otherwise, from external parties; parties running for office were not allowed to accept grants from sponsors, instead having to rely on contributions of their members and/or government subsidies; and the chairman of the Duma got the power to command orderlies to remove people who were out of line from the Duma building. When it became clear those opposed to these new rules were going to filibuster to stop it, the Tsar simply dissolved the Duma and passed them as imperial decrees.

The young Tsar also wanted to stimulate industrial and infrastructural development, for which he initially relied on even more loans from France on top of the ones Russia had already taken on. At the end of the 1880s, Russo-German economic discrepancies grew stronger. The Russo-French political rapprochement contributed to the influx of French capital into Russia. At the end of the 1880s and the beginning of the 1890s, Russia received the aforementioned large number of major loans from France. The deterioration of Russo-German relations, the resurrection of the Triple Alliance in 1891, Germany’s failure to renew the reinsurance treaty, and the rumours that Great Britain would join the alliance laid the grounds for the conclusion of a political agreement between Russia and France. a military agreement was formed, but France also invested into Russia’s economic development.

Tsar Nicholas II wanted to attract more foreign capital and looked at the United States in particular, a country with which Russia enjoyed amicable relations. Russian ambassador Karl von Struve had returned home in 1892, subsequently becoming the Russian envoy to the Netherlands (his final diplomatic posting). Russia in 1893 had no diplomatic representative in the US, which Nicholas addressed by pulling Count Arthur Paul Nicholas Cassini from his posting in Beijing and reassigning him to Washington DC.

Cassini had explicit instructions to secure American investments and curry favour with the administration of President Grover Cleveland to secure their facilitation. He met with US Secretary of State Gresham and then President Cleveland himself, who proved sympathetic and arranged a meeting between the Russian ambassador and a group of business and banking magnates that included Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. They were introduced to elaborate plans for joint ventures to develop infrastructure and mine Russia’s resources.

A second meeting to convince them in New York was attended by the Tsar’s brother Grand Duke Michael, attracting the attention of the Big Apple’s high society who were invited to a ball and banquet. The presence of a European royal made the desired investors generous to say the least, such as J.P Morgan: he invested $5 million of his personal fortune (equivalent to $75 million in 2019) into the Trans-Siberian Railway to help accelerate its construction. This was absolutely necessary as the system of river transport was not nearly to deal with Siberia’s transportation problems. Morgan also augmented his effort by utilizing his railway and steel assets, for which he gained a profitable amount of shares in the Russian Imperial Railways. With his backing, Russia launched an ambitious program to increase its railway network from roughly 30.000 to 64.000 kilometres between 1893 and 1905. Other deals procured American investments into coal mining, steel industry and the mining of various ferrous and non-ferrous metals that Russia was endowed with. During the 1890s, Russia’s economic growth rate regularly achieved double digits.

The highlight of the year in 1894 was the Tsar’s wedding. Despite the best efforts of his grandfather and his mother to find a suitable wife, Nicholas II ascended the throne as an unmarried man. One candidate they’d considered was Princess Hélène of Orléans, but she’d already rejected several suitors and also rejected the Russian Tsar as there were no romantic feelings. He ultimately married Princess Marija of Montenegro, the 25 year-old daughter of Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro (he earned the sobriquet “father-in-law of Europe” as six of his daughters were married, each to princes and kings). The wedding was attended by crowned heads and royals from across Europe, and the US ambassador. In Russia she became known as Empress Consort Maria Nikolaevna (the new Tsarina was often informally referred to by her nickname Mimi). She became the mother of the Tsar’s eight children. The first child, a glowing healthy baby boy named Alexander, was born on June 18th 1895.
 
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Wouldn't be Alexander a more appropriate name (to honour his father and Grandfather) then Nicholas? That said very interesting, keep this up.
 
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I could see Nicholas II living into the 1940s if things go right for him (which I'm sure they will, considering that this is a TL called "The Russian Century").
 
Wouldn't be Alexander a more approprate name (to honour gis father and Grandfather) then Nicholas? That said very interesting, keep this up.

Agree. Alexander would be more plausible IMO.

I could see Nicholas II living into the 1940s if things go right for him (which I'm sure they will, considering that this is a TL called "The Russian Century").

Nicholas II could very well live until 1940's or even very early 1950's with good luck. I would expect him being succesful tsar. Just wondering would this be enough to avoid war with Japan or then could Russia win the war. WW1 probably is still happening at some point but in this time Russian Empire is going to be better prepared.
 
Chapter III: Social Reform on the Turn of the Century, 1895-1904.
Also, King Nicholas had no daughter Maria. Both his "Russian" daughters- Milica and Anastasia were married by 1889.

Yes, he did have a daughter named Maria (spelled as Marija) but she died in 1885.

Anyway, it's time for an update!


Chapter III: Social Reform on the Turn of the Century, 1895-1904.

As far as his family life and the issue of succession went, Tsar Nicholas II had little to worry about. After his heir Grand Duke Alexander was born in June 1895, he sired another seven heirs between 1896 and 1908: his second son Nicholas was born in May 1896, followed by the two eldest sisters Olga and Tatiana in 1897 and 1898, three more sons named Alexei, Michael and Vladimir in 1900, 1902 and 1904 respectively, and finally one more unexpected but just as equally loved daughter named Anastasia in 1908.

Meanwhile, Russia watched Germany with interest to see if its welfare state, the first of its kind, was successful in curbing the rise of socialism and decided to copy it when it seemed to be successful. Nicholas II decided to pursue a similar conservative state-building strategy to make ordinary Russians more loyal to the throne and not supportive of socialism. He worked closely with large industry, not only to stimulate economic growth but also to give the working class more security. He followed the advice to grant the working class a corporate status in Russia’s legal and political structures. Russia copied Bismarck’s 1883 Sickness Insurance Law, the 1884 Accident Insurance Law and the 1889 Old Age and Disability Insurance Law, uniting them in the Labour Insurance Law that was passed by the Duma in 1902. The idea was to implement welfare programs that were acceptable to conservatives and lacking socialistic aspects. The Liberal Democratic Party was supportive, the Emancipation of Labour group that became the social-democrats less so as they recognized the anti-socialist thought behind these policies.

The rise of the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) was slowed down but not halted by the embryonic albeit expanding welfare state just prior to the turn of the century. The decision of its parliamentary fraction to support the Labour Insurance Law, however, did lead to a split within the party. Though still espousing revolutionary rhetoric, the SDP had de facto chosen a parliamentary course that was supported by a majority of its members. Supporting the Labour Insurance Law in their view was just the beginning of much greater social reforms. A minority led by Plekhanov, one of the original founders of the party, left and formed their own named Communist Party of Russia (CPR) in 1895.

The majority remained in the SDP under the young and fairly unknown Julius Martov, who would become the face of the party as it grew and decidedly chose for a parliamentary rather than a social course to affect social change and ultimately socialism. The social-democrats grew as their voter base expanded, particularly as the departure of the radical Marxist element made the party palatable to not just the working class but the middle class as well, the group lumped together with the capitalist as the bourgeoisie by the communists. As the SDP quietly abandoned virulent communist atheism and anticlericalism, the deeply religious rural population now also became a potential voter base.

The SDP’s choice to pursue a legal electoral course to affect change through the Duma, in which it often joined coalition with the liberals, produced successes. In 1883 a law had already been passed to subsidize elementary schools and to educate teachers to staff them, but at the dawn of the century the SDP wanted to go a step further. The reason was that the intended goal of combating illiteracy wasn’t being met: most peasant towns still didn’t have a school, and even when they did not all children attended despite free tuition. The social-democrats introduced a bill concerning compulsory education to combat the still significant issue of massive illiteracy, which hampered the country’s development. In 1903, the Compulsory Education Act was passed and it stipulated that all children between six and twelve years of age had to attend school. It still took another three to four years to build all the required schools, but by 1910 95% of all six year-olds were enrolling in an elementary school. The church helped provide teachers, because in small villages they sometimes were the only people who could read and write.

The bill had to rely on the Tsar’s support as it encountered resistance because it encountered resistance from both industrial interests and the rural population. Children from poor families working in factories wasn’t uncommon as children were cheaper than adults and because their families needed the extra income. The Tsar was aware of the importance of an education, having witnessed how the educated populations of Britain and Germany were much more affluent and possessing greater social mobility than even the best off illiterate Russian peasant. After being implored to do so, he made an unannounced visit to a textile factory where children worked and was appalled by what he saw. As a corollary to the Compulsory Education Act, he supported the Child Labour Act that explicitly forbade minors from working in factories and restricted what other labour children were allowed to do. As to farm work, it was still allowed because it was a necessary evil in the underdeveloped countryside. Children were given two weeks’ off in May to help sowing and a six week summer break in August and early September to help in the harvest. Both acts were passed by the Duma thanks to the Tsar’s explicit support.

Besides being supportive of these policies, the Tsar also supported them because the social-democrats had backed policies he favoured in the past. Contrary to the belief of the liberals that the railway system should also be left to the free market as the process of supply and demand would lead to the railway network Russia required, the Tsar believed in state programs to develop the railway network. The SDP supported the first Railway Act: it determined that the Ministry of Communication’s Department of Railways had to double the existing network from roughly 32.000 to 64.000 kilometres between 1895 and 1905 and, if need be, attract the necessary amount of foreign capital to do so. It also projected the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway by 1915. Plans were also made for the construction of the Ekaterinburg-Krasnovodsk Line to connect the Trans-Caspian Railway with the Trans-Siberian and thereby to the rest of Russia’s railway network. Construction on the Ekaterinburg-Krasnovodsk Line began in 1898 and was completed in 1904.

Another move from the social-democrats that Nicholas II appreciated was they helped block legislation proposed by the communists to disown all landowners, great and small, and forcing them into collective farms (the big idea was to increase production to finance industrialization and thus create a proletariat big enough for a revolution). Besides the obvious ideological opposition of the Tsar to communism, he also had major objections to the practicality of the proposal and the effect it’d have on support for the monarchy: the nobles would surely attempt to put a more pliable Tsar on the throne, likely plunging the country into civil war; another highly likely possibility was a peasant revolt, a dangerous phenomenon Russia had experienced before.

The SDP instead supported the Tsar’s own 1903 Agricultural Modernization Act. Aristocratic landowners were left unmolested and so were peasants owning small tracts of land. Instead voluntary collectivism was encouraged through the traditional Russian mir, supplying them with seed drills and combine harvesters imported from the United States to boost production. Individual peasants sometimes only possessing a few hectares of land could hardly all be supplied with such equipment, as that’d be inefficient. It was different with farming cooperatives based on the traditional mir, in which resources could be pooled. The participants in the cooperatives would still own their own land, but jointly operate machine stations. They’d also generally jointly purchase the supplies they needed and sell their produce at markets, cooperating to improve their bargaining position.

The advantages of such cooperation were too great for all but a few stubborn subsistence farmers not to join a cooperative. It enabled them to compete with major landowners, who could buy modern farming equipment themselves. The entire system was facilitated by the zemstvo, a system of autonomous elected local councils that took care of education, medical relief, public welfare, food supply and road maintenance (changes were made to the zemstvo system to make these bodies more representative, rather than the aristocratic bodies they were even though the nobles constituted only a tiny fraction of the population).

A majority in the Duma led by the SDP favoured the legalization of trade unions: organizations of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as protecting the integrity of their trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits (such as vacation, health care, and retirement), and working conditions through the increased bargaining power wielded by solidarity among workers. The delegate staff of the trade union representation in the workforce were to be made up of workplace volunteers who’d be appointed by members in democratic elections. The trade union, through an elected leadership and bargaining committee, was to bargain with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiate labour contracts with employers. The most common purpose of these associations or unions would be to “maintain or improve the conditions of their employment.” This was to include the negotiation of wages, work rules, occupational health and safety standards, complaint procedures, rules governing status of employees including promotions, just cause conditions for termination, and employment benefits. Captains of industry were not pleased, but the Tsar’s reasoning for supporting this were logical: happy workers wouldn’t be attracted to revolutionary groups and be more productive instead. Very soon Nicholas II would need the support of the working class for a difficult war.
 
So the Russo-Japanese War is going to happen? With the Russian victory during the war, I believe they will get basically all of Manchuria and Korea as a vassal state. Korea will be better in the long run, but the Chinese are going to get wrecked by Russian manifest destiny in Manchuria.

With the Manchurian lands Russia will have a ton more population growth potential, enough for more one hundred million citizens. Maybe the Czar could use these lands as a dumping ground for the population excesses in the Russian heartland? A place where poor Russians and even Slavs from other countries can go and get a plot of land to call their own.

Still, there's one big issue with this. Winning this war may lead to a scenario where Britain doesn't compromise with the Entente to fight Germany. Maybe concessions on other areas could help to alleviate the problem. If the Chinese are already going to get fucked up the Russians can declare support for an official British protectorate over Tibet.
 
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With the Manchurian lands Russia will have a ton more population growth potential, enough for more one hundred million citizens. Maybe the Czar could use these lands as a dumping ground for the population excesses in the Russian heartland?
Manchuria already had a large population at the time and there aren’t enough Eastern Slavs to settle Manchuria
 
This isn't a SI, mass expulsions are on the table.
What would be the trigger for such mass expulsion? It's not like Russia is a Ethno-state or need for empty land. This is without going into the fact this would wreak the economy of the region. Along with this, there is the problem of expelling millions in a region which Russia is struggling to supply.
 
With the Manchurian lands Russia will have a ton more population growth potential, enough for more one hundred million citizens. Maybe the Czar could use these lands as a dumping ground for the population excesses in the Russian heartland? A place where poor Russians and even Slavs from other countries can go and get a plot of land to call their own.
That would be Siberia, which could support a lot more people than it has IOTL. Not all of Siberia is uninhabitable, much of it actually has pretty good soil and a climate similar to the Upper Midwest or the Canadian Prairies, which are both major breadbaskets. Siberia IOTL has a population of 35 Million, it could easily have twice that amount with more robust population growth in Russia ITTL's 20th Century (no gulags, famines or WW2 would do the trick).
 
So the Russo-Japanese War is going to happen? With the Russian victory during the war, I believe they will get basically all of Manchuria and Korea as a vassal state. Korea will be better in the long run, but the Chinese are going to get wrecked by Russian manifest destiny in Manchuria.

There was no “manifest destiny” ideology related to Manchuria and no noticeable resettlements into the Chinese-held part of it before the RJW. Even resettlement into the parts of Manchuria which Russia got by the XIX century treaties with China was quite small both due to the limited capacity of the TransSib and because of the shortage of enthusiasm.
The whole thing was strictly along the commercial lines - TransSib was about the trade with China, not colonization.
With the Manchurian lands Russia will have a ton more population growth potential, enough for more one hundred million citizens. Maybe the Czar could use these lands as a dumping ground for the population excesses in the Russian heartland? A place where poor Russians and even Slavs from other countries can go and get a plot of land to call their own.

Sorry, but this does not make sense on at least two accounts:
1st, your program will require a genocide or at least a massive expulsion of the local population who was already using the agricultural lands.
2nd, Russia did not need more peasants, it already had too many of them, it needed more industrial workers.

 
1st, your program will require a genocide or at least a massive expulsion of the local population who was already using the agricultural lands.
There's no need for a dictator, just normal colonial policy for "western democracies" at the time would be enough.
2nd, Russia did not need more peasants, it already had too many of them,
That's exactly the point. They have too many peasants in Central Russia, they could relocate some of them into Manchuria.
 
just normal colonial policy for "western democracies" at the time would be enough.
Which was the opposite to genocide or expulsion due to the need for a large market/labor force for natural resources.

That's exactly the point. They have too many peasants in Central Russia, they could relocate some of them into Manchuria.
Which could be relocated closer and cheaper to Siberia or Central Asia or even the emptier parts of the European half of the empire. Manchuria by 1900 had 14 million, it will take more than a few Russians to have a Slavic majority.
 
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