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Q1. Describe the Socio-Economic Conditions in Russia before the revolution.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was rooted in a long history of oppression and abuse of people which set the stage for major change. Until they were freed in 1861 by Czar Alexander II, the majority of Russians were serfs who worked on the land and could be bought or sold just like property. Though serfdom had been abolished in 1861, but it did not improve the condition of peasants. They still had miserably small holdings of land with no capital to develop even these. For the small holdings they acquired, they had to pay heavy redemption dues for decades. Peasants hunger for land of was a major social factor in the Russian society.

Industrialization began very late in Russia, in the second half of the nineteenth century. Then it developed at a fairly fast rate, but more than half of the capital for investment came from foreign countries. Foreign investors were interested in quick profits and showed no concern for the conditions of workers. Russian capitalists, with insufficient capital, competed with foreign investors by reducing workers’ wages. Whether factories were owned by foreigners or Russians, the conditions of work were horrible. The workers had no political rights and no means of gaining even minor reforms.

Most of the land and high government positions were in the hands of the rich. Public education was regarded as dangerous because things learned by the commoners might increase their dissatisfaction and lead to revolt. Great emphasis was placed on “Russification“, that is, the process of making the subject peoples Russian in language, dress, religion, and culture. Jew’s were often singled out for ill treatment. “Pogroms”, outbursts of violence were common.

The words of Marx, that workers have ‘nothing to lose but their chains’ rang literally true for them.

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