In 1900 the Russian Empire was made up of approximately 150 million people. The majority lived west of the Ural Mountains, in European Russia, and had developed a deep pride in their customs and religion.
However, less than half the population of the Empire regarded themselves as true Russians, belonging to nationalities conquered by the European Russians of the west. They had their own languages and cultures.
Therefore, a major problem in governing Russia at this period was the deep resentment amongst many of the national groups towards their conquerors. A policy of ‘Russification’ (being forced to speak Russian, wear Russian clothing and adopt Russian customs) brought about widespread dissatisfaction.
Areas such as Finland, Poland and Latvia were overseen by Russian bureaucrats who ensured the Russian language was spoken in key areas such as law courts, schools and in local government.
In addition to seething resentments, divisions between national groups themselves exacerbated the situation.