Imperial Russia: 1894 – 1914

Our children and grandchildren will not be capable of even imagining the Russia where we once (that is yesterday) lived and which we failed to appreciate and understand – all that might, complexity, wealth and happiness…

Ivan Bunin, Russian émigré author and Nobel prize-winner


One of the myths of Western propaganda, faithfully copied in every detail by Soviet propaganda, heir to the materialist West in all things – only more consistent than it, is that Imperial Russia was backward. In reality, everything that was good about the Soviet Union, its educational and health systems, literacy rates, absence of unemployment, low crime rate and thirst for social justice, was part of the heritage of the Russia of Tsar Nicholas II; what was bad about it, its atheism and persecution of Orthodox Christian values, came from the West. Some imagine that as Russian Orthodox we must be anti-Soviet; in reality, since we are anti-atheist, we are anti-Soviet only to the extent that Soviet ideology persecutes the Orthodox Church and imposes atheism. We are not anti-Soviet as regards the values which the Soviet system inherited from the Tsar’s government.

Thus, there was a time when we Russian Orthodox in the West supported the anti-atheism of the West. However, as soon as, a generation ago, that anti-atheism began to turn into Russophobia, we began to take another view. Today, the situation is the opposite of the past. The West, led by Washington and faithfully obeyed by its unthinking poodle Europe, part of which it has occupied since 1942 (the ‘friendly invasion’ of Great Britain by 2 million US troops) and another part since 1944 (the D-Day invasion), has become the most virulent centre of atheism in the world. At the same time, today’s Russian Federation has in many respects returned to Orthodoxy. We still, as is only logical, oppose atheism and if that opposes us Russian Orthodox to today’s apostate West and makes us protective of the West’s ancient Christian roots, that should be no surprise. We are consistent.


100 years ago Imperial Orthodox Russia stood on the verge of becoming the world’s greatest Power. Only the three European Powers, Great Britain, Germany and France, especially the former with its paranoid Russophobic ‘Great Game’, stood in the way. Indeed, the multinational and territorially continuous Russian Empire had made huge progress since the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1894 in all domains, in astronomy, radar, radio (Popov), rocketry (Tsiolkovsky), monorails, ice-breakers (all in the 19th century), petrol and diesel engines, cars, lorries, trolleybuses, trams, diesel tractors and tank designs (both the world’s first).

In the field of aviation the Russian Empire invented helicopters (Igor Sikorsky was the grandson of a priest), the world’s first four-engine aeroplanes, monoplanes, seaplanes, aerodynamics, (in 1914 263 of the world’s approximately 850 warplanes were Russian), airships, parachutes (the world’s first), submarines, electric railways (Russian railways were the cheapest and most comfortable in the world), telegraphy, telephones, television (the world’s first), chemistry (Mendeleev), medicine, physiology (Pavlov was a priest’s son), zoology, geology, oil pipelines and hydroelectricity.

Freedom from a Military-Industrial Complex

On the one hand, the Japanese had almost gone bankrupt as a result of the 1904-5 war which they launched against the Russian Empire as a result of their militarism, which had led to very high military expenditure. This had been encouraged by Western politicians, industrialists and bankers, to whom the Japanese had indebted themselves (but this all rebounded on the West which was to suffer in the Second World War as a result of its greed in arming and selling technology to Japan). On the other hand, Russia’s military expenditure was very low (explaining initial setbacks in both the war against the Japanese invasion and again ten years later in defending itself and Serbia against German and Austro-Hungarian militarism).

Not being dominated by a military-industrial complex like Western countries which relied on it for their economic development, the Russian Empire’s overall military expenditure was less than a third of Britain’s and France’s, less than half of Germany’s and some 25% less than that of Austro-Hungary’s and Italy’s, As regards its naval expenditure, it was a quarter of Britain’s, just over a third of Japan’s and two-thirds of the USA’s. It had proportionately less than half of France’s, Germany’s and Italy’s population under arms and slightly less than Austro-Hungary’s. Its police force was also very small. In 1914 there were seven times fewer policemen than in Britain and 5 times fewer than in France. Crime was also lower. In 1905-6 there were 77 criminals per 100,000 head of population in the Russian Empire, 132 in the USA, 429 in Britain and 853 in Germany.

Thanks to its freedom from the tyranny of a military-industrial complex, Russian productivity increased fourfold between 1890 and 1913; in 1901 it produced 51% of the world’s oil and by 1909 it was the world’s greatest producer of cereals. Between 1892 and 1913 its wheat production had increased by 78% and in 1913 its wheat harvest was 28% higher than that of the USA, Canada and Argentina combined. In 1913 it exported 50% of the world’s eggs, 70% of its butter and 80% of its flax. It also produced over 25% of the world’s wheat, oats and potatoes, 40% of its barley and over 50% of its rye.

Between 1890 and 1910 the Russian Empire’s average rate of growth was over 9%, greater than that of the youthful USA. In 1913 it had the lowest direct taxes in the world, four times lower than in France and Germany and 8.5 times lower than in Britain, and incomes had increased sixfold between 1893 and 1913. In the same period, the length of railways had doubled, as also had its grain harvest. Russian manufactured goods outclassed British and Japanese goods in the Far East – they were both cheaper and better quality.

International Affairs

Internationally, it was Tsar Nicholas who in 1898 had called for an International Peace Conference to be held in the Hague in order to ban, or at least limit, arms. Although this proposal was to become the foundation of the International Court, the League of Nations and then the UN, sadly for the victims of the First World War, the initial proposition was rejected outright and even mocked by aggressive and imperialistic Britain, as well as militaristic Germany, France and Japan

The Russian Empire opposed colonialism and would not allow foreign capitalists there to exploit native peoples or massacre them, as the Western Powers had done in the Americas (putting ‘Indians’ onto ‘reserves’, or concentration camps, a technique today copied by Israel in Palestine), in Africa (massacring peoples born there, as in the Belgian Congo, French North-West Africa, the British Sudan and South Africa, or German South-West Africa) and committing genocide, as in Tasmania. The different peoples of the Russian Empire were respected, not massacred, which is why countries like Hawaii, Siam (Thailand), Tibet, Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the Boers sought Russian protection or even Russian nationality.

This anti-colonialist policy was later continued by the Soviet Union, which did not invent it, as some imagine from its propaganda, but simply prolonged it. Thus, in 1899 the Russian Empire opposed the seizure by force by the USA of Hawaii, a territory which had previously voluntarily asked to receive Russian protection and even nationality in order to protect it from Western imperialism. In 1900, the Russian Tsar similarly protected Tibet from British imperialism and massacres, placing it under Chinese tutelage. In 1912 he set up the Balkan Union of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece in order to counter Turkish imperialism and also the provincial nationalism/phyletism of the governments of those four countries. Sadly, the treacherous German King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, egged on by the German Kaiser, soon broke the Union and attacked Serbia.

International Orthodoxy

Between 1894 and 1912 7,546 new Orthodox parish churches, not including chapels, were built and 211 new monasteries were opened. 17 churches were also built in major European cities as a witness to Orthodoxy, some with the Tsar’s own money, as in Nice and as also with St Nicholas church in New York. Tsar Nicholas made generous personal gifts to Local Orthodox Churches and others, including the Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, Montenegrin, Constantinopolitan (Mt Athos), Antiochian, Alexandrian and Abyssinian (Ethiopian) Churches, as well as to the Holy Land (Jerusalem).

By 1914 there were 117 million Orthodox in the Empire, with 48,000 parish churches, some 25,000 chapels and churches in monasteries and other institutions, some 50,000 priests and deacons and 130 bishops in 67 dioceses. The Church had over 35,000 primary schools and 58 seminaries. (By 1917 there were 163 bishops, 51,105 priests and 79,767 churches, including 25,593 chapels and churches in 1257 monasteries and other institutions).

By 1895 there were 22,000 Orthodox in Japan and a seminary. In 1897 an Orthodox mission was established in Seoul in Korea. In 1898 the Nestorians of Urmia in Persia joined the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1903 86 Russian schools were opened in Syria. In 1913, there were 3,812 Orthodox in China and a seminary. Apart from his zeal for the glorification of new saints, in March 1905 Tsar Nicholas proposed himself as Patriarch, which would effectively have restored the Patriarchate almost immediately, if only his offer had been accepted.

Western Russophobia

Western newspapers, often owned by imperialistic bankers, industrialists and arms merchants, loved to attack Russia for the ‘pogroms’. In fact, these did not take place in Russia itself, but above all in Catholic Vienna and Berlin and among settlements of Jews in the Russian Empire (who had taken refuge there centuries ago from Western anti-semitism) namely in Catholic Poland, Catholic Lithuania, Catholic Galicia and Romanian Orthodox Bessarabia (Moldova).

Between the four years of 1903 and 1907 1,622 people were killed in the ‘pogroms’ in the Russian Empire, of whom however only 711 were Jews (the same number of Jews as were killed every four hours and the same number of Soviet citizens as were killed every hour by the Western Nazis between the four years of 1942 and 1945). The other victims were Catholic and Orthodox. Indeed, many of the pogroms were started by Jews, but the Tsar’s government had to constantly intervene between the two sides, usually Catholics and Jews, being as even-handed as possible. Despite the pogroms, the Jewish population rose considerably, in spite of massive emigration, mainly to the USA.

Another object of propaganda was the war launched by Japan, a proxy armed to the teeth by the West against Russia. Thus, the Japanese attack on Port Arthur, in no way different in its treacherous unexpectedness from Pearl Harbour, was greeted with joy by British and American newspapers, since the Japanese Navy had been built and armed mainly by Britain, all part of Britain’s ‘Great Game’ to control the whole world. Although Russia’s much smaller and older Navy did lose naval battles against Japan, its army was beginning to win on land and, if it had not been for the Japanese and Western-fomented troubles which began in 1905, there is no doubt that Russia would have won the war within another year, crushing Japan, as it did in 1945.

Western Support for the Enemies of Russia

The open support for the enemies of Russia can also be seen in the ‘Hull Incident’, when Russian battleships bravely sailed around the world, west to east, to fight against the superior Japanese Navy. Arriving in the North Sea, they were provoked, probably on purpose, by Japan’s British ally and the Russians fired on a British trawler in error. Once the Russians had arrived in the Far East, their small fleet was defeated at Tsushima by the Japanese fleet, twice as numerous and powerful. Breaking the 1899 Hague Convention, nearby Japanese ships refused to allow two Russian hospital ships to pick up wounded Russian sailors and seized the ships as prizes of war instead.

Another instance of extraordinarily biased propaganda occurred when Western newspapers deliberately misreported the tragic events known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. This was during the Western-financed 1905 troubles in Russia, when on 9 January a crowd led by the renovationist Fr George Gapon (who later committed suicide after it was discovered that he was in fact a secret agent), led a crowd to the Tsar’s Palace with a petition, knowing full well that the Tsar was absent, and terrorists in the crowd, hiding behind icons, opened fire on the troops who defended the Tsar’s residence. Many died in the crossfire, possibly as many as 128.

When the Tsar heard of the events, he personally generously compensated the families who had lost members in the crossfire between terrorists and troops. He at once instituted a commission to investigate workers’ needs. However, in comparison, in the next two years several thousand were to die at the hands of terrorists, of whom only a few hundred were captured and punished, many of them fleeing to Western countries, such as Britain (Lenin), the USA (Trotsky) and Switzerland, where they were deliberately protected by the authorities. Even the Edwardian British children’s book ‘The Railway Children’, written by E. Nesbit, sentimentally supported the protection of anti-Russian terrorists in England, which was a reality, for example the formation of the Bolshevik Party in London.

Social Achievements

Free from domination by a military-industrial complex, by 1897 the population of the Russian Empire had reached 129.1 million and the annual rate of increase was then 1.6 million. Some 12% of people lived in towns and cities. The birth rate was 48 per 1,000, whereas in the rest of Europe it was between 22 and 41. By 1902 the population had reached 139 million and by 1913 170 million, an average rate of increase of 3.7 million per year, twice as high as in the decade between 1892 and 1902. Growth had become the highest in the world and it is estimated that by 2000 the population would have reached 600 million.

Education was made free at the start of Tsar Nicholas’ reign in 1894 and between 1893 and 1913 expenditure on education increased by 628%. Between 1902 and 1913 the national education budget was four times higher than the defence budget – a proportion which the Soviet Union was unable to maintain. On the eve of the First World War half of all students at the University of Moscow were educated for free, another quarter received grants. There were then over 39,000 university students in Russia and more women in higher education than in any other country in the world. By 1912 nearly two million children were being educated in over 37,000 Church schools, but there were 130,000 schools altogether, given that since 1908 10,000 schools had been opening every year.

In 1908 70 million books were published in Russia. In 1914 150,000 new titles were published worldwide, of which 32,238 were published in Russia, 25,531 in Russian, the others in other languages of the Empire. This was as many books as in Britain, France and the USA combined. In 1914 there were nearly 150,000 libraries in Russia and by 1920 literacy would have reached some 90%. Unlike in the bureaucracy of the later Soviet Union, the number of civil servants in Russia in 1914 was 336,000 – in much smaller France it was already 500,000. The merciful Tsar Nicholas II never signed a single death sentence during his reign and pardoned a great many who had been sentenced by the courts.

By 1913 medical treatment of the poor was free and virtually every hospital had free wards for their treatment. In 1897 the working day had been limited to a maximum of eleven and a half hours and ten hours if on a night shift (in France the maximum was 12 hours, in Italy the maximum was 12 hours, but for women only, in other countries there was no limit at all) and Sundays were non-working days. There was no unemployment in Russia – just as later in the Soviet Union. By the law of 1903 injuries caused by industrial accidents were generously compensated after more than three days of incapacity. If workers were incapacitated by a serious accident, they were paid a pension two-thirds of their salary. In 1912 the US President Taft publicly declared that ‘your Emperor has created the most perfect labour legislation, which not a single democratic state can boast of’.


Satan has inspired the jealous secularist Western Powers to destroy the Russian Empire in their greedy, anti-Christian bid for world hegemony, whether through their export there of atheist Communism in 1917 or through the export there of their atheist Capitalism in 2014. The only difference is that then it was Great Britain which led the war against Russia. Today it is its younger brother, the USA, which eclipsed Britain, making into its colony in 1942 under Churchill, who was half-American. And ever since the British Establishment has loyally followed orders from Washington, wagging its tail at every one, its prize – crumbs from the master’s table. As can be seen above, most of the achievements falsely claimed by the Soviet Union were in fact the real achievements of the Tsar’s Russia and built on its firm base.

During the reign of Tsar Nicholas, the length of the railways increased by almost 150%, production of coal by 430%, of sugar by 400%, of iron ore by 140%, of oil by 100% and gold reserves grew by 250%, despite the Japanese and then Austro-Hungarian and German aggression in their anti-Russian wars. In 1912 a French newspaper predicted that if the European nations continued to progress between 1912 and 1950 as they had between 1902 and 1912, then Russia would dominate Europe, politically, economically and financially by mid-century. A review in the November 1914 issue of the American ‘National Geographic Magazine’ called Russia ‘the land of unlimited opportunities’. It is to this that today we wish to return. If today’s Russia is faithful to Orthodoxy and Orthodox values, then it will indeed become once more ‘the land of unlimited opportunities’.