The Path to Revolution (1825-1920)Since the reign of Ivan the Terrible,the Russian Tsars had followed a fairly consistent policy of drawing more political power away from the nobility and into their own hands. This centralization of authority in the Russian state had usually been accomplished in one of two ways--either by simply taking power from the nobles and braving their opposition (Ivan the Terrible was very good at this), or by compensating the nobles for decreased power in government by giving them greater power over their land and its occupants. Serfdom, as this latter system was known, had increased steadily in Russia from the time of Ivan the Terrible, its inventor. By the time of Catherine the Great, the Russian Tsars enjoyed virtually autocratic rule over their nobles. However, they had in a sense purchased this powerby granting those nobles virtually autocratic power over the serfs, who by this time had been reduced to a state closer to slavery than to peasantry.By the nineteenth century, both of these relationships were under attack. In the Decembrist revolt in 1825, a group of young, reformist military officers attempted toforce the adoption of a constitutional monarchy in Russia by preventing the accession of Nicholas I. They failed utterly, and Nicholas became the most reactionary leader in Europe. Nicholas' successor, Alexander II, seemed by contrast to be amenable to reform. In 1861, he abolished serfdom, though the emancipation didn't in fact bring on any significant change in the condition of the peasants. As the country became more industrialized, its political system experienced even greater strain. Attempts by the lower classes to gain more freedom provoked fears of anarchy, and the government remained extremely conservative. As Russia became more industrialized, larger, and far more complicated, the inadequacies of autocraticTsarist rule became increasingly apparent. By the twentieth century conditions wereripe for a serious convulsion.