chapter  5
Revolution and the failure of democracy in Russia
Byand Germany
Pages 24

Though over one and a quarter centuries had passed between the French and the Russian revolutions, in many ways Russia in 1917 was remarkably similar to France in 1789. Like France, in Russia the economy was predominantly agricultural, the social structure largely made up of peasants. Russia was similarly ruled over by an autocratic monarch with divine right, and, also like France, the state was highly bureaucratic and the government heavily repressive. Reforms had been introduced in Russia, under Alexander II (1855-81): serfdom had been ended; the courts had been reformed; and local government institutions, the zemstvos, had been introduced. Following Alexander II’s assassination, however, the state returned to its earlier levels of repression and, in consequence, pressures for liberalism grew, particularly in the zemstvos. These pressures for liberalism, however, were not for liberalism of the modern kind; as in France before 1848, liberalism in Russia was against individualism (Sakwa 1998: 9).