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Since the reign of Ivan the Terrible the Russian Tsars had followed a fairly consistent policy of drawing more political power away from the nobility and into their own hands This centralization of authority in the Russian state had usually been accomplished in one of two ways--either by simply taking power from the nobles and braving their opposition Ivan the Terrible was very good at this or by compensating the nobles for decreased power in government by giving them greater power over their land and its occupants Serfdom as this latter system was known had increased steadily in Russia from the time of Ivan the Terrible its inventor By the time of Catherine the Great the Russian Tsars enjoyed virtually autocratic rule over their nobles However they had in a sense purchased this power by granting those nobles virtually autocratic power over the serfs who by this time had been reduced to a state closer to slavery than to peasantry By the nineteenth century both of these relationships were under attack In the Decembrist revolt in 1825 a group of young reformist military officers attempted to force the adoption of a constitutional monarchy in Russia by preventing the accession of Nicholas I They failed utterly and Nicholas became the most reactionary leader in Europe Nicholas successor Alexander II seemed by contrast to be amenable to reform In 1861 he abolished serfdom though the emancipation didnt in fact bring on any significant change in the condition of the peasants As the country became more industrialized its political system experienced even greater strain Attempts by the lower classes to gain more freedom provoked fears of anarchy and the government remained extremely conservative As Russia became more industrialized larger and far more complicated the inadequacies of autocratic Tsarist rule became increasingly apparent By the twentieth century conditions were ripe for a serious convulsion At the same time Russia had expanded its territory and its power considerably over the
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