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11-08-2015, 17:06

THE RUSSIAN POPULATION AND INDUSTRIAL GROWTH

Prewar Russia contained a rapidly growing population, 130 million people according to the census of 1 897, most of whom lived in rural poverty. Serfdom, which tied the rural population to the land, had been abolished in the 1860s. But this halfway reform had left the peasantry dissatisfied. Forced to pay exorbitant prices for the land they received, they saw an equal share of the land given to their former overlords, the local nobility. The terms of the emancipation also tied the peasantry to their local villages, perpetuating most of the personal restrictions of serfdom. The country's ethnic mixture merely added to such tensions. Since the middle of the seventeenth century, Russia had acquired a large non-Russian population. Constituting 55 percent of the population in 1 897, the nationalities included ethnic Germans in the Baltic provinces, Moslems in Central Asia, non-Russian Slavs such as the Ukrainians, and a host of tiny groups ranging from the Chechens of the northern Caucasus to the Khants of northwestern Siberia. Nicholas continued a campaign of Russification begun under his father, Alexander III, who ruled from 1881 to 1894. This effort to force the Russian language and culture on other nationalities within the country served to sharpen the discontent of dangerously large groups like the Ukrainians. Humiliated by military defeat in the Crimean War (1854-1856) the government by the 1 890s had embarked upon a program of rapid industrial growth with little thought to the social or human costs involved. This added factory slums to Russia's major cities, as well as producing millions of urban industrial workers, most of them recently uprooted peasants. The grim nature of life in the new industrial slums was reflected in workers' health. One of every seven factory workers fell ill each year; one in two died before reaching the age of forty-five. Most children in the workers' quarters of the burgeoning industrial centers never lived to become adults.-' Industrialization also helped produce a Marxist revolutionary movement to compete with the Populist revolutionary movement that had existed since the 1 860s. Both the Populists, with their faith in peasant revolution, and the Marxists, with their expectation of a revolufion by factory workers, consisted of urban intellectuals. The Marxists included talented leaders ranging from radicals like Vladimir I. Lenin nd Leon Trotsky to more moderate figures such as Julius Martov. All worked confidently to produce the revolution that their German mentor, Karl Marx, called inevitable in an industrial society.

 

 

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