The pace of economic change in the Russian Empire during the last decades of the Tsarist regime was mirrored by huge upheavals to the way in which the Tsar’s subjects lived. Social change left no family or individual in the empire untouched. By 1917 the face of the Russian countryside was deeply affected by the process of urbanization and its impact on the lives of the peasantry. The traditional role which the nobility had played in rural society also underwent dramatic shifts. The new towns and cities of the empire and the factory work on which they rested introduced a new social environment to which urban dwellers had to adapt. Russian society became increasingly complex in the second half of the nineteenth century, especially with the development of new groups in the middle, between the long-standing noble elites and the mass of peasants. These far-reaching changes to the social structure of the Russian Empire were to have important repercussions for the stability of the state.
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