Traditionally the imperial regime had been relatively tolerant of non-Russian cultures, languages, and religions. Much of the empire’s aristocracy was of non-Russian origin, spoke French by choice, and was not Orthodox in religion. In the second half of the 19th century, and in particular under Alexander III, the regime began emphasizing its Russianness. Increasing constraints were placed on non-Russian languages and cultures. Schools began teaching exclusively in Russian, administrative bodies could use only Russian, and publication in some languages was forbidden. To a degree these limitations followed trends evident elsewhere in Europe. The policy of Russification was also a response to fears that the multiethnic empire would disintegrate unless its population was drawn more closely together in culture and language. Whatever its motives, however, the policy of Russification caused great indignation among many non-Russians. The Jews were treated especially poorly: They were forced to live in certain areas, were not permitted to enter specific professions, and sometimes fell victim to murderous attacks by local Slavic mobs.
Many conflicts that boiled beneath the surface during Alexander III’s reign exploded under his son, Nicholas II, who ascended to the throne in 1894. Harsh conditions in industrial factories created mass support for the revolutionary socialist movement. Furthermore, from 1855 to 1914 the rural population more than doubled, increasing pressure on the land and peasant hostility to the landowners. Non-Russians were embittered by continued Russification. Most sectors of society were united by dislike of the imperial regime and by the demand for civil and political rights. In 1904 the government blundered into an unnecessary war with Japan over spheres of control in Korea and Manchuria. Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War the following year exposed its weakness, and the opposition to the regime seized its chance. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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