To what extent was there political and economic reform in the years 1906-1916?

To what extent was there political and economic reform in the years 1906-1916? In the years 1906-1916 there was some economic reform made my Stolypin and some political reform made by the four Dumas. Stolypin made his land reforms and other agricultural reforms in order to improve agriculture and increase production. However he was not majorly successful in constructing economic reforms to improve conditions in cities. The tsar had allowed an elected legislative assembly (Duma) which was in place for the first time.

However the concessions the tsar made in the October manifesto after the 1905 revolution were expedients rather than real reforms. The Duma did not become a limitation on the tsar’s autocratic powers. This essay will look at both the extent to which there was political and economic reform in the years 1906-1916 by referring to Stolypin’s reforms, the strengths and weaknesses of the Duma, as well as the government’s involvement in political and economic reform. Stolypin was one factor which contributed to the economic reform in the years 1906-1916.

Stolypin made reforms which contributed in modernising Russian agriculture and making it more productive. For example he passed a law that made it easier for peasants to break away from communes, allowing them to move freely around Russia. The peasants’ land bank was also promoted by Stolypin to give more loans to peasants and hence encourage them to move to the undeveloped agricultural areas of Siberia with the incentive of cheap land financed by the government loans. Stolypin’s reforms meant that increasing the number of peasants landowners who farmed more efficiently would lead to fewer Russian peasants being needed to farm land.

They then had to move to the cities to gain employment, which helped in meeting the increasing demand for workers in cities. It could be argued that his land reforms were a success as in 1905, 20 per cent of peasants owned land which by 1915 increased to 50 per cent. Agricultural production had also increased from 45. 9 million tonnes in 1906 to 61. 7 million tonnes in 1913. These figures illustrate that the reforms he introduced had an enormous impact in the improvement of agriculture and production suggesting that Stolypin had made significant reforms and the years 1906-1916 were a period of major economic reform.

However on the other hand it could be argued that Stolypins ideas were not as helpful in economic reform as although he had helped in agricultural production; he had done little to improve the cities. For example industries where most of the profit is generated were not developed and even thought he had helped peasants and brought great changes to the Russian countryside, he had not done much to improve living and working conditions of Russia’s industrial workers suggesting that there were little economic reforms in 1906-1916.

With limited industrialisation Russia could not supply its self with all the required goods and could not export goods and products to different countries hence their balance of payments and economic state was affected negatively; conveying that there was restricted economic reform in 1906-1916. The four Dumas from 1906- 1917 were a factor which contributed to the political reform in Russia in the years 1906-1916. In 1906 there was an elected legislative assembly (The first Duma) for the first time.

All Dumas throughout the period questioned ministers and some were critics of the tsarist system. The amount of laws they were able to pass were limited, but the Dumas could be seen as a huge political reform as before 1906 there was no any

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form of democratic parliament but rather only the tsar ruled Russia. No one ever dared to question the tsarist system, but there was now a huge improvement and a step forward to what the people of Russia wanted a democratic power.

However The Dumas were simply allowed by the tsar to give the appearance of a democratic government and so were not so significant in political reform in 1906-1916. The Dumas were very limited in their actions and the laws they could pass, as they had to be agreed by the tsar. For example the first Duma in 1906 had 319 requests of Laws but only 2 were passed. The tsars ‘Fundamental Laws’ hugely limited the powers of the Dumas and portrayed that things had still not changed majorly, the tsar was still the ruler of Russia and made the main decisions of running the country.

This is further intensified by the fact that the tsar had dismissed the first two Dumas in 1906 and 1907 as they were strong critics of the tsarist system and voiced their anger as the ‘Supreme Autocratic Power’ still belonged to the tsar. This contrasts with the 3rd and 4rth Dumas which were kept for longer as were less critics of the tsarist system and were rather supportive. This clearly illustrates that there was limited political reform in 1906-1916 as the tsar was still the main ruler of Russia and the Dumas were still not able to pass on laws which would improve the state of Russia.

Finally although the policies of Stolypin and the introduction of the Duma were important advances, they were not enough to end the tsarist system or make significant political and economic reforms. There was very little political and economic reform in 1906-1916 which was partly because of the tsarist system, but also because of the tsars and governments resistance to make reforms. The government, the Dumas and the tsar also did not cooperate with each other to make changes but rather had their own interests, leading to the obstruction of reform.

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