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RUSSIAN INDUSTRIALISATION PART BY NANDINI MAHARAJ
Background And Early Difficulties In The Progress Of Russia: By 1815, Russia was not only the largest, most populous nation in Europe but also a great world power. Since the 1600s, explorers had pushed the Russian frontier eastward across Siberia to the Pacific -Peter the Great and Catherine the Great had added lands on the Baltic and Black seas, and Tsars in the 1800s had expanded into Central Asia. Russia had thus acquired a huge multinational empire, part European and part Asian. Russia had immense natural resources.
-lts vast size gave it global interests and influence -But Western Europeans disliked its autocratic government and feared its expansionist aims. Despite efforts by Peter and Catherine to westernize Russia, it remained economically undeveloped. By the 1800s, Tsars saw the need to modernize but resisted reforms that would undermine their absolute rule. -During the early 19th century Russia developed trade relationships with other European countries and exported large amounts of grain. But most of the export revenue that flowed into the empire simply lined the pockets of aristocrats and powerful land-
owners; it was not used as capital to develop an industrialised economy -Industrial projects and incentives were often proposed - but they were rarely embraced, since they threatened the financial interests of conservative landowners. There was some heavy industry - mining, steel production, oil and so on - but this was small when compared to Russia's imperial rivals: Britain, France and Germany. -It took defeat in the Crimean War (1853-56) to expose the empire's lack of development and the urgent need for Russian industrialisation.
Russia's Social Structure: -A great obstacle to progress was the rigid social structure. Landowning nobles dominated society and rejected any change that would threaten their privileges. The middle class was too small to have much influence. -The majority of Russians were serfs, or laborers bound to the land and to masters who controlled their fates. As industry expanded, some masters sent serfs to work in factories but took much of their pay. Many enlightened Russians knew that serfdom was inefficient.
However, landowning nobles had no reason to improve agriculture and took little interest in industry.
Ruling With Absolute Power: For centuries, tsars had ruled with absolute power -On occasion, the tsars made limited attempts at liberal reform, such as easing censorship or making legal and economic reforms to improve the lives of serfs. However, in each instance the tsars drew back from their reforms when they began to fear losing the support of nobles. The liberal and nationalist changes brought about by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had almost no effect on Russian autocracy.
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