Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 the armies of the Russian tsar reached Paris. The military triumph was followed by hopes for constitutional reform at home as the ideas that had inspired the French revolution filtered back to Russia . The Decembrist uprising in 1825 signalled the beginning of a revolutionary movement for political change: the Russian revolution had begun. The partial and disappointing land reform of 1861 and the continued blockage on political reform that could ensure effective and meaningful popular participation and the rudiments of executive accountability inspired an increasingly strong radical movement that looked to revolution as the solution to the country’s problems. Quite why the siren call of revolution should have been so strong in Russia is still not clear. The classic Leninist formulation suggests that political and economic backwardness breeds radical solutions as a way of overcoming the resistance of the ruling elites. The argument undoubtedly contains an element of truth, but this is to formulate the problem in a Leninist way.
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