Universal Suffrage

In the late 19th century the Russian people were ruled by Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar (Czar) took the title 'Emperor and Autocrat of all Russia' and believed in autocratic rule - government by one man. Whereas most countries in Europe had granted male suffrage the Tsars of Russia refused to allow parliamentary elections to take place. Instead, the country was run by the Tsar and his ten man ministerial council. Each minister was both appointed and dismissed by the Tsar.

In October, 1879, a new illegal political group, the People's Will was formed. In its first year of existence the group murdered several government officials. In January, 1880, the group contacted the Russian government and claimed they would call off the terror campaign if the Russian people were granted a constitution that provided free elections and an end to censorship. On 25th February, 1880, Alexander II announced that he was considering granting the Russian people a constitution.

A year later Alexander II had still not published details of his reforms and the People's Will therefore decided to carry out their threat and the Tsar was assassinated by Ignatei Grinevitski on 1st March, 1881.

Alexander III now became the seventeenth Romanov tsar. He immediately cancelled his father's plans to introduce a representative assembly and announced he had no intention of limiting his autocratic power. He imposed a repressive policy against those seeking political reform and a large number of Russians were either executed or forced into exile.

Despite several assassination attempts Alexander III died a natural death on 20th October, 1894. He was succeeded by his son Nicholas II who attempted to continue his father's policy of suppressing those advocating political reform.