Political Opponents of the Tsar and Their Methods and Aims

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How far was political opposition to the Tsar divided in their aims and methods, 1881-1905?

Political opponents of the Tsar were clearly divided in their aims and methods, and consequentially may have contributed to the survival of Tsarist Russia. The main parties were the Social democrats (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks), Social Revolutionaries and Liberals (Octobrists and Kadets). Each of these radical parties had their own separate beliefs on what Russia needed and each aimed for some sort of change. However, within the groups, there were many issues, which they refused to work with each other to solve. The SR believed that Russia’s future lay with the peasantry and so they wanted to give peasants their own land and improve living conditions for working classes. They used tactics such as terrorism and assassinations, such as the assassination of Alexander II. The Liberals also aimed to deal with these social problems facing Russia while establishing a democracy. However, the Liberals, especially Octobrists, did not agree with the violent tactics. They preferred votes and discussions as a way to put across their opinion. In fact, the Liberals were the most moderate of all the radical parties in Russia. They wanted to abolish autocracy and have the power shared between a democratic government. Similarly, the Social Democrat party also wanted to establish a democracy but, once again, without their aggressive methods. While the SR had a terrorist wing, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks preferred using propaganda campaigns. Although there are some similarities in the aims of the parties, the major differences in methods used meant that each group’s strength alone was not enough to achieve their own specific goals and even though the groups did have some tactics such as propaganda in common, it was not enough.

The parties all also pursued support from different groups of the population.