How far do you agree that a study of Russia in the period from 1855 to 1956 suggests that change was always imposed from above?
Throughout the period 1855-1956, it’s clear that with both the Tsars and the Bolsheviks, change was, often implemented from both the leaders and the people, However, under both Tsars and the Bolsheviks, they were ruthlessly prevented from striking, having trade unions or really having any control over the future.
The most fundamental change which occurred under the Tsars was the emancipation of the Serfs in 1861, under Alexander II, the ‘Tsar liberator’, and this was mostly caused by Alexander II’s desire to modernise Russia; Serfdom was increasingly holding Russia back economically and militarily, as exemplified by the defeat at the Crimean war. This change was for the most instigated by Alexander II and not the Serfs; though it can be argued that he was forced into it by the Serfs as their had been 400 strikes in the 10 years prior to his accession, however he could have put these rebellions down if he had seriously not wanted to emancipate the Serfs. The emancipation of the Serfs was mainly from the need to modernise Russia and put her on par with Western Europe who had removed the feudal many years previously, and thus was a change from above. This is further exemplified by the fact that after emancipation there were 647 peasant revolts in Western Russia, due to the mir and redemption taxes; though the peasants demanded a second emancipation, they were instead killed with Alexander II stating “There will be no other emancipation except the one I have given you”.
Stalin’s ‘dizzy with success’ article is an example which could be shown to show peasant control but clearly doesn’t. It’s true that Stalin was forced to counter some of his collectivisation laws, due to the mass, unprecedented unpopularity, and that after this article appeared in Pravda the amount of peasants in collectivised farms dropped to about 20%....