Russian political life before 1917 was overwhelmingly the preserve of social elites. The formal structures of government and bureaucracy were dominated by educated noblemen and it was their attitudes which continued to permeate the Russian political system.1 The middle classes which were making their mark on the politics of Western Europe were much slower to emerge in Russia. In addition, the groups and individuals who manifested opposition to the autocracy came in large part from the same social background as those who made up the regime which they sought to reform or destroy.2 The ordinary people of the Russian Empire played almost no part in institutional politics, and it was revolt — whether threatened or real — which most forcefully reminded the patriarchal Tsarist autocracy of their existence.
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