Russian Oppression From the Tsars to the Present
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Alexander III came to the throne unexpectedly in 1881 following the assassination of Alexander II. He therefore was under no illusion that he was most likely going to suffer the same fate just like his father had done. As a cornerstone of his reign, he introduced repression of opponents. He had three major believes that included: repression of opponents, undoing the reforms that his father had done and also restoring the national identity and international position of Russia which was believed to have dwindled through out the nineteenth century. These were labeled russification and immediately after he was crowned tsar in 1881, came into being. The main objective of russification was to make russi get rid of western ideas that his father, Alexander III believed that had weakened Russia and reduced its national identity internationally. His main objective therefore was to reclaim the reputation that Russia had globally and to restore Russia Russianness. In order to achieve his objective therefore, he had to get rid of those individuals who had brought to Russia alien ideas from other European and American history because he believed that the ideas were seriously undermining the national reputation and position of Russia and also it undermined his position. He had the motive of making Russia what he wanted for himself and what Russia wanted from him. Therefore, russification was not new to Russians. Before his ascending to power, this had been done before. The difference in Alexander’s policy was the intensity that it gained after 1881 which attempted to give it backing from academic and intellectual backing.
It was organized that russification was to be enhanced by the governors and the civil service in regions where the policy would be carried out at the grass root level hence ensuring that it penetrated in to the people. The police were given the go- ahead to deal with those who opposed the policy. The most looked at theme to russification was the powers of the monarch. Alexander III believed that during his reign, for this to be unchallenged, he had to withdraw the reforms of Alexander II. The reversion of the emancipation of the serfs was not possible but there was the possibility of reversing the power of the zemstva and under his reign, their powers were reduced and handed over to ministry of interior. (Ware1998).
If the taxes were to be raised by the zemstva the ministry of interior had to give its permission. The interior ministry was also empowered to nominate peasants into zemstava. In this way, in this way, the government was ensuring that the people at local level held power and could do whatever to support Alexander III. In 1889 the zemstva were scrapped of their powers and land captains were in put in place who were answerable to the ministry. Through this, the government extended power at local level. People who could bend the rules were sent into exile, were flogged and handed death penalties. In a bid to further restrict what people would do, the government also reformed education. Universities no longer had the right to appoint their own professors and the government also approved new syllabuses to be taught in universities. No student was allowed to be a history student.
The church also played a major role of extending the powers of the tsar. Peters rule had made the church to be under the direct rule of the government. He had created the Holy Synod which was made up of civil servants and archbishops. The Holy Synod had the function of preaching obedience to the tsar at the expense of spirituality. The bishops transmitted the obedience to village clergy men. Alexander the tirds reign did a big deal to extend the tsars power at the expense of liberties that had been taken for granted in Western Europe. Alexander III was diligent, and willing to work for what he saw as right while Nicholas was lazy who always depended on others to work for him.
During the reign of Alexander III and Nicholas, so many Jews came for intensified prosecution. Ignatev made claims there was an international Jewish conspiracy which had been working in opposition of Russian interests beginning from the near east crisis. He was also supported by pobedonostey who made anti Semitic statements. He was chief Russian minster and was the director general of the Russian Orthodox Church. They claimed that the Jews had committed serious crimes against the sovereignty of the Russian state. The Jewish quarter of elizabethegrad was raided and burned: like wise, in Kiev, some two thousand Jews lost their homes due to arsonist attacks. The 1882 may laws debarred any Jew and prohibited him from owning land, becoming a lawyer or holding and administrative office. Schools that belonged to Jews were closed, the books that were written in Hebrew were banned and to make matters worst, marriage between Jews and Christians could not go on unless they renounced their faith. The Jews also lost their right of appeal. It is estimated that during this period, about two hundred and twenty five thousand Jews left Russia and went to Eastern Europe. Michael return who was the chairman of the committee of ministers was against the idea of Jewish persecution and this lead to the formation of a committee. During this it was established that Jews had to be given the same rights just as Russians and that the policy of emancipation should replace the policy of discrimination
Nonetheless, Alexander’s brother grand duke serge was appointed as the genera governor of Moscow. He was so ruthless and exercised aristocracy that was ruthless in the city and he was the one who caused the expulsion of about twenty thousand Jews during the Passover feast of eighteen ninety two out of the city. The Jews suffered a lot and were the biggest victims of discrimination. By 1900, they were about six million in number and mostly lived in the pale of settlement. There was increase in anti-Semitic sentiments because one of the assassins who had killed Alexander the second was a Jewish girl called Jessica Hellman. A riot that was anti-Jewish sprung in 1881 in yekaterinoslav in which some people were killed. Also at Easter in 1882 and in 1881 there were violent anti-Semitic riots in podolia and Warsaw which resulted in more than twenty thousand Jews being displaced and rendered homeless. Several hundreds Jews were left dead. The authorities were able to suppress the violence but it was only belated. There was a group called black hundreds whose major activity was to conduct most of the attacks on Jews. There were more than six hundred measures that were put into place that were meant to discriminate against the Jews. These pogroms caused the Jews to emigrate.
The Jews faced a lot of difficulties like; they never had the permission to trade on Christian holidays. In 1887, there was the introduction of the ethnic quota. Jews who were in the army could not get promoted to become officers. The authorities introduced discrimination against the Jews as they introduced discriminatory laws because they blamed the victims of the eoutbreaks.
During the winter of 1891 and 18952, there was expulsion of Jewish artisans from Moscow city. In 1895 a document called the protocols of the lders of Zion was fabricated by the tsarist secret police. Although the pogroms existed, there was improvement of russo-jewish culture that included mark antokol the artist, Rubinstein brothers in music and Leonid paasternak. Some wrote in Russian while others increasingly wrote in Yiddish oir Hebrew. The damage had already been done and so many Jews decided to study anarchism and Marxism and the Jewish social democratic party played a key role in encouraging political and industrial unrest. In 1897, Jews decided to form a revolutionary union since non Russian minorities were the most subject of ethnic discrimination during the period. The tsarist administration decided to use repression to oppose nationalism by all means. They based their legitimacy not on dynamic grounds but on ethnic grounds. Russians who were orthodox and included Ukrainians came to occupy the positions that were privilege and this made them graduate in the scale of racial status while leaving the Jews at the bottom end. The policy developed organically and the policy of ethnic discrimination was not acknowledged in public. The government also did not accept the fact that there was the issue of the problem of minorities. There lacked a systematicploicy of russification which meant assimilation of minorities into the culture of the Russians.
To some extent, there was a policy of russification and it entailed only the attempt to make all organs of local government to be similar in structure throughout the empire. Poland and the Baltic states proved to be the biggest areas of difficulty. The government at st.petersburg in the Baltic state wanted to find ways of removing the privileges that were granted to the German burghers and nobles from as far as the eighteenth century. Alexander the tird refused to confirm these privileges on accession. As a result there was the introduction of Russian into Baltic schools as the main language of instruction. Alexander also ensured that people bought railway tickets and stamps using Russian which was a ridiculous measure. The government which was headed by Alexander wanted to remove the special status that Finland had and it achieved it by making Finland loose its separate postal service. They also wanted and planed to deprive Finland of its separate coinage and customs service but the Finns were able to resist this development. In 1899 Nicholas the second rescinded it in a declaration that they had considered It necessary to reserve themselves determination concerning the empire despite having confirmed fin lands autonomy in 1894.
The Alexander reign also made attempts and succeeded in replacing the Georgian language in Georgia by Russian and teaching it in schools. Other repressive measures and the introduction of Russian sparked the development of Georgian nationalism which Marxism also influenced. the oppression further went down to Armenia where Armenian charitable organizations and schools were closed down. The Armenians originally supported the Russians but the Armenians let them go because the government failed to prevent their falling of victim into turco-kurdish progrom in 1896.
The property of the Armenian Orthodox Church was confiscated in 1903. The religion of the transcaucasian Muslims was not interfered with by the Russians. There was revival of Muslim culture and religion in the region. Surprisingly, there was measure that aimed at repressing the Orthodox Church. Pobedonostey instituted a very strict rule that limited the operations of the church while he was a lay procurator. He was able to reinforce Episcopal authority over the priest as he discriminated over old believers. Nicholas the second had very bad achievements that were so negative. He pushed for anti-Semitic pogroms, he also ensured that his political; opponents were executed and he also utilized military campaigns in an unprecedented scale.
When Joseph Stalin consolidated power from 1920s, he changed his religion policy. Through out central Asia mosques were converted into warehouses or closed down. There was persecution of religious leaders and closing down of religious schools and also Waqfs were outlawed. The paranji veil that women wore that forms part of the Islamic hijab as an interpretation of modesty were taken by the soviet government. This was the evidence that Muslim women were oppressed and were forced to begin hujum in a bid to try and forcefully get rid of. This did not succeed and it backfired because the veil became, more than ever, more popular among the workers because before this, it had only been worn by wealthier and middle classes. Stalin left no place in his reign as place for religious sentiment. He , by force moved some small nationalities and Chechens that resided in southwestern Russia around karachais, meshketian, balkars Crimean Tatars and Kalmyk’s from their homes in world war II because he feared that they might rise in favor of the Nazi Germany against him. During his reign, Crimean Tatar Muslims were deported in large numbers which begun on May the 17th 1944 in all localities that were inhibited by the remain Muslims. From May to November ten thousand Crimean Muslims died due to starvation in Uzbekistan. Almost twenty percent died during the year in exile. The Crimean Tatars were made to work in projects that were conducted by soviet GULAG system. Stalin sued any means he could to achieve his main goal of becoming a leader, he used death and he was responsible for killing of thirty seven million people. He considered himself god and believed that all people were inferior to him.
During and after world war two, life in Russia became unbearable. Epidemics and contagious diseases prevailed and people dreaded concentration camps because they had dreadful living conditions that were varied depending with the location. Some people who went against the government were held as prisoners and were made to live in old bricks barracks. Overcrowding became a major problem as living conditions got worse. Prisoners were made to live in places that were made of leaky roofs and slept on straw mattresses. They lived together with rats and vermin’s. There was shortage of water for washing. Food given was not sufficient. The people provided a lot of labor and this lead to death due to malnutrition.
For instance during Stalin’s rule ensured that people were pushed to work harder or otherwise, they would receive severe punishments. Those who did not like to obey the laws of working were forced into labor camps or gulagsin Siberia where people died of extreme cold, starvation and overworking. In 1934 Stalin came up with a direct way of eliminating his opponents, he murdered anyone who dared to oppose his ideas. He came up with the purges which lasted for four years during which seven million people disappeared in the night or were arrested in the arly morning mostly by the secret police. Stalin’s ahrsh rule knew no prejudice because it affected people from all classes in the society. He ensured that those who did not confer to what he was for this included party members and old Bolsheviks who had started the revolution to ordinary citizens to factory managers who did not meet quotas.
The similarity of the two regimes is seen where both leaders execute people who could be innocent citizens or those who have committed small crimes. Individuals were suffered extremely as others were forced to stay for days without food. The similarity between the reign of the tsars and the reign after them are as follows: life was cheap because the tsar and other leaders like Stalin did not think of having political rivals exiled; he was more cruel and executed most of them. Therefore other soviet leaders reigned in the terror hence few were killed under stallins heirs. Also, the state enhanced industrialization. Under Alexander and Nicholas the country was beginning to industrialize but it was majorly for steel and iron for guns and railways textiles for UN informs and coal to fire furnace of industry. Under the soviets the country increased the industrial capacity of Soviet Union. Under the communists and tsars movement of peasants was limited since there was an internal pass port system and hence people could not just move around. Both the reigns had secret police organizations.
The differences were also enormous. For instance, the monarchy was bound up with the Orthodox Church while some leaders like Stalin were trained priest but was strongly against the church and he was an atheist. Throughout the soviet period, the hostility continued. Another difference is that while the monarchy was so wealthy because most of them were aristocrats, other leaders like Lenin lived simple lives and did not live in palaces or did not have crown jewels or court jeweler. Exceptionally, the poor were under the poor with the tsars because the peasants were mostly made up of subsistence farmers who were just ordinary and not so wealthy. Another difference among the two was that under the tsars, education was so poor just about twenty five percent were poor this translates to about five percent during Alexander II and before him, during the period after the tsars, education was very good. Another difference is that during under the rule of the tsars, most people lived in the country side because farming was the major activity but as a result of industrialization most people became urban dwellers after the tsars. Under the tsars, only the aristocracy could have political influence while under the communists, only party members could have political influence. During the tsars, women could not begin divorce proceeding, get educated, stand for political office or have abortion while they could do all these under the communist. Both groups of leaders were cruel despotisms. The other communist rulers were less cruel than Stalin and less cruel than most enlightened tsar.
I do think there is democracy and individual rights will survive in the present day Russia because despite the progress being made of promoting citizens legally, there are still numerous instances where violations occur. Most of these violations are rooted in the totalitarian past but the current authorities are responsible for this. For example, the bringing of troops to Chechnya that lead to enormous loss of lives was government’s mistake. There have been repeated delays in paying salaries and wages to so many millions of workers and employees due to the short sighted economic policies that the federal government makes and in most cases, cases of deliberate sabotage and excesses of local authorities. Also the conditions of Russians prisons dates back to the communist past because they are very disastrous. The problem of bullying of Russian army is another major problem. Therefore Russia is not close to achieving individual freedoms and rights because the system of gorvenevce is leaning towards the communist like Stalin who were so ruthless.
Just the same way as individual rights, democracy in Russia is close to impossibility for example, Alexander lukashenko who is also referred to as the last dictator in Europe led another fraudulent election in Belarus. He went ahead and ordered his policemen to beat and arrest some protesters who were protesting peacefully made Putin to praise the election victory; this means that the president himself does not recognize what democracy means. The same time, Browder who happens to be the largest western investor in Russia revealed the trussian authorities denied him a visa on grounds that he posed security threat. This and many other reasons make me think that individual rights and democracy in Russia will not lat for a very long time.
In Russia, there is one person that will remain as a legend to them. The workers in all over the world know the name of Lenin. He is not known not because of his nation, he was not a Jew nor because he fought for the cause of the Jews. Millions of Jews all over the earth respect and know Lenin because he was the leader of the socialist revolution that became victorious in 1917 that saw the overthrowing of Russian tsars. This marked the end of the oppression and suffering that the Jews had been subjected to. Until the rising of the German Nazi camps, there had never been a blacker record history than that of the tsars.lenin is termed as being the leader and teacher of movement that saw the end of national persecutions and pogroms in the soviet union.
In summary, based on what has been happening in the history of Russia, I do not see Russia having or retaining democracy and individual rights. Russia has been linked with oppression of foreigners and very high racial discrimination. As a result, it’s most unlikely that Russia is going to change from its former communist ideas to become a free state where every citizen has individual rights and democracy.
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