The Soviet Russia
The opposition movements at the turn of the 20th century
In the following years the expansion continued above all to the East of the Russia, where a significant opposition movement, populism, grew up, which over time gave rise to forms of terrorist-type political struggle. Alexander II himself fell victim to an attack in 1881. A period of reaction followed that lasted during the reigns of Alexander III (1881-94) and Nicholas II (1894-1917), the last Tsar. In these years an industrialization process began in some regions of the country, which drew impetus above all from the state and foreign capital and which at the same time favored the birth of a modern workers’ movement. After the defeat suffered in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) the first Russian revolution broke out. The tsar was forced to grant a constitution and a parliament was formed – the Duma – whose powers were however progressively limited.
● In this context, despite some significant attempts at agrarian reform, important revolutionary groups acquired consistency, including the Social Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats, who had already split between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks in 1902-03. These forces became decisive during the crisis brought about by the World War I, in which the Russia participated in alliance with Great Britain and France. The war caught the Russia unprepared on the military level: the defeats suffered and the moral and material wear and tear formed the immediate premises of the revolution of February 1917 (March according to the Gregorian calendar) which, with the abdication of Nicholas II, put an end to the regime tsarist.
The Soviet Russia
The collapse of the monarchy paved the way for a general crisis in the social and political structure of the Russia, which resulted in the October Revolution and the establishment of Soviet power (for the discussion of revolutionary events and subsequent Russian history up to the dissolution of the ‘USSR in 1991, ➔ USSR).
● The proclamation of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was followed by the loss of large western territories already belonging to the Russian Empire (Finland, Baltic countries, Poland, Western Ukraine, Bessarabia) and the birth of new Soviet republics (Ukraine, Belarus, Transcaucasia) in the area which remained under the influence of Moscow. The USSR had Moscow as its capital and Russian as its official language, but its complex ethnoterritorial structure developed largely at the expense of the Russian republic: the surface of the latter was considerably reduced following the constitution, between 1925 and 1925. 1936, of 5 new Union republics (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan); moreover, within the Russian republic itself, numerous territories characterized by the presence of non-Russian nationalities obtained a status of autonomy. In the years of the Second World War, the Russian republic obtained new territories, both in the west (Karelia, East Prussia) and in the east (Tuva, Kuril Islands), while in 1954, with the cession of Crimea to the Ukrainian republic, it acquired the extension it would have maintained even after the dissolution of the USSR.
● Although it was formally on the same level as the other federated republics, the policy of the communist party in power tended to identify the interests of the Russia with those of the USSR as a whole. Most of the prominent positions in the Soviet ruling groups were occupied by Russians; the economic policy of the central government also encouraged the Russians to emigrate to other federated republics. During the 1980s the progressive crisis of the Soviet economic and political system caused a weakening of central power and the development of nationalist and separatist tendencies, particularly in the economically more advanced non-Russian republics; these phenomena in turn generated a nationalist and isolationist reaction among large sections of the Russian population. Starting from 1990, in the framework of the attempt to reform the USSR led by MS Gorbačëv (since 1985 general secretary of the CPSU, since 1989 president of the USSR), a process of autonomy was also initiated in the Russian republic and specific national institutions were created.. In March 1990 a new Russian parliament was elected, which in May elected the leader of the radical reformers, BN El´cin, president of the Supreme Soviet, the highest office of the republic, and in June voted a Declaration of Sovereignty of the Russia towards of the USSR; a year later, the process was consolidated with the establishment of the office of President of the Republic (elected by universal suffrage and endowed with executive powers) and the election of El´cin. Gorbačëv tried to cope with nationalist and independentist pressures by proposing to the constituent republics of the USSR to sign a new union treaty, which would grant them a wide autonomy, but the project was blocked by an attempted coup d’état, the failure of which opened the road to the definitive crisis of Soviet power. After the dissolution of the CPSU and the Russian Communist Party, the gradual deprivation of the organs of central power and a series of proclamations of independence by the federated republics, the process ended in December 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR;Russian Federation.