Peasants in Russia

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“Assess the view that the condition of the peasantry in Russia was transformed in the period from 1855 to 1964.”

The conditions of the peasantry varied within the period 1855-1964 as the rulers had different ways of dealing with the peasants. There were times when the communists treated the urban working classes far worse than the tsars did such as during the rule of Stalin. On the other hand, there were also occasions when the tsars carried out policies that benefited working people such as reducing working hours. During the time of Alexander II, the urban working classes hardly existed so there could not be poor conditions for peasantry generally. In freeing the serfs, however, there was a side effect. Serfs fled to the towns and cities looking for work in factories, leading to urbanisation which caused public health problems such as the spread of cholera. In this way, Alexander II carried out a reform that did not help the working class and in turn created poor living conditions for the peasantry. His father, however, showed more interest in developing Russia’s industry which created jobs. He employed Witte to push industrialisation forwards including the expansion of the Trans-Siberian railway. However, like the other tsars, he used the police and army to eliminate any opposition when workers complained about conditions, showing how the peasantry endured great hardship through repression. Nicholas II continued his father’s economic policies, creating more regular and better paid work for those employed in industry. He introduced factory inspectors and, by 1917, the average working day had been reduced to eight hours. Better education was also introduced for the children of workers. However, urban living conditions got worse and little was done to solve the problem of the spread of disease. Workers either lived in overcrowded blocks of flats or barracks. The average flat housed 16 people and only about 30 per cent of the houses in the main cities had...
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