Introduction: Since revolutions are complex social and political upheavals, historians who write about them are bound to differ on the most basic questions--causes, revolutionary aims, impact on the society, political outcome, and even the time p of the revolution itself. In the case of the Russian Revolution, the starting-point presents no problem: almost everyone takes it to be the "February Revolution" of 1917, which led to the abdication of Nicholas II and the formation of the Provisional Government. But when did the Russian Revolution end? Was it all over by October 1917, when the Bolsheviks took power?
Or did the end of the Revolution come with the Bolsheviks' victory in the Civil War in 1920? Was Stalin's "revolution from above" part of the Russian Revolution? Or should we take the view that the Revolution continued throughout the lifetime of the Soviet state? Russian Revolution, one of the major events that shaped world's future, overnight destroyed the existing society and replaced it with world's most radical social experiment ever seen. Although Russian Revolution is usually acknowledged as one revolution, it in fact consists of two different revolutions.
The second one is called the Bolshevik Revolution. Causes of Russian Revolution: • Dissatisfaction with Existing Conditions: The conditions in Russia were not optimistic. Not only was food scarce, the people were forced to pay heavy taxes and the gap between the peasants and the nobles was widening every day. Some people were also dissatisfied with the Tsar's autocratic rule and wanted him out to be replaced with a more democratic rule. Some felt that other powers were progressing faster than they were and that the Tsar should adopt some of their thinking.
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Moreover, of course, there were the communists, like the two groups, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. • Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War: Russia took on Japan in 1904, when Japan competed with them for Manchuria and Korea. The Russians were optimistic; as they were sure, their vast superiority of numbers would easily defeat the tiny Japan. But this was not to be. Japan, with their advanced technology destroyed the Russian Army, armed with their "primitive" weapons as compared to the Asians. This defeat was a great humiliation for Russia.
The people lost confidence in the Tsar and the military. Russia, all along priding itself on military excellence, suddenly defeated by Japan. • Bloody Sunday: On Sunday, 22nd January 1905, more than 200 000 workers, led by a priest of the church by the name of Father Gapon, took part in a peaceful demonstration in St. Petersburg (later known as Petrograd, and then Leningrad). They proceeded to the Winter Palace to present a petition to the Tsar regarding better working conditions, medical benefits and more freedom. They also wanted a parliament, or a Duma, to represent their views.
The unarmed demonstrators were shot at by the Tsar's troops. There were many outbursts after that. Troops mutinied, peasants rose up and strikes emerged, all demanding that the Tsar create a Duma and more freedom. In the October Manifesto, the Tsar decided to form a Duma and allow more freedom of speech. This was the Tsar's real chance to improve people's lives by implementing reforms and increasing work condition standards. He could have employed the Duma well to gain him support and yet keep the people happy at the same time. Instead, he made a big mess out of everything.
There were four Dumas within the p of 1906 and 1917, and the first three were changed due to the Tsar's selfishness and hunger for power. All four Dumas were powerless and did not really represent the people at all. • Rasputin: So who IS Rasputin? Well, the story starts off with Alexis, Tsar Nicholas II's son. He suffered from haemophilia, where his blood was unable to clot after bleeding due to a lack of platelets in the blood. Rasputin claimed to be a holy monk from the remote wastelands of Siberia, and was able to use his "supernatural healing powers" to heal Alexis.
Granted, Rasputin could ease some of Alexis' pain, but most of what he did seemed a scam. The Tsarina (the Tsar's wife) doted on her son and thus naturally treated the monk better. Rasputin abused his authority and replaced many ministers with his own family and friends, regardless of whether the previous ministers were good. Some of his decision in the country's administration were also foolish and led to many problems. This naturally led to people disliking Rasputin severely and thus blaming the Tsar for his trust in this incompetent person. • World War I:
This can be considered as one of the more important reasons for the revolution. Russia was, as we know, one of the most major powers in the world at that time. Up against a Germany that was being attacked from all sides, Russia expected a quick and decisive victory. In actual fact, Russia suffered a series of humiliating defeats. Tsar Nicholas II then decided to take matters into his own hands and take over as Commander in Chief. He went up to the battlefront to direct the battle, in the hope that his "brilliant tactics," "marvellous manoeuvring" and "royal presence" would spur the army to victory.
Sadly, this was not to be as his lack of military experience and inferior expertise devastated the Russian Army entirely, with the blame left on his shoulders. News of the large casualties and disappointing results of the campaign led to the people blaming the Tsar and losing even more trust in him as the weeks went by. When the Tsar was at the front, the Tsarina Alexandra was in charge of matters back in the capital. Under the influence of Rasputin (again), the Tsarina made many new changes to the administration and plunged the country into further crisis.
Furthermore, the Tsarina was a German by birth, and incurred many people's wrath by doing so. The war effort was hampered greatly by many constant problems. These included shortages of ammunition and other supplies, an inefficient transportation and distributing system, incompetent military leadership, low morale and desertions, and high land losses and casualty rates. The war was financed through borrowing and printing money instead of raising taxes, as they felt that doing so would cause objections from the already-unhappy people.
Wages did not keep pace with inflation, and Ukraine, the largest corn-producing area, was lost in the war. The inefficient railway system was unable to distribute food efficiently. Most of the young men went to fight for the army, leaving the women and elderly to do the work on farms. Additionally, corn prices were fixed, but clothes prices were rising. Many peasants had to go into factories to work. Lousy living conditions made things even worse. Course of Russian Revolution: • It all sparked of when the government held talks with some sea-workers.
The workers were asking for better work conditions and pay. However, the talks failed and the workers mutinied. • Furthermore, a few days ago it was International Women's Day, where many women gathered to protest against the food scarcity facing them in Russia. • On the day of the revolution itself, many people went on strikes and riots, effectively paralysing more than half of Petrograd. • Soldiers, too, fought half-heartedly as they believed that the government was ineffective. • The people clamoured for a change in the administration, which the Tsar refused to give.
Most of the soldiers then joined the strikes, with only a handful of patrols still remaining loyal to the Tsar. • The Duma, desperate for peace and change, forced the Tsar to make a decision immediately - change the administration or pass on power. The Tsar decided to abdicate in favour of his brother, Grand Duke Michael. The Grand Duke refused the throne, and the Duma formed a democratic Provisional Government on a temporary basis, thus ending the reign of the Romanov monarchy. Causes of Bolshevik Revolution: • Failure of the Provisional Government:
The Provisional Government was only a temporary government meant to take care of the empire until it could hold elections for a Constituent Assembly which would draw up a constitution for Russia. However, it was not confident enough of itself to implement mass reforms and such, as it was not elected, but self-appointed and temporary. After the revolution, many people expected democracy and an elected parliament. However, the Provisional Government delayed the elections and this lost them a lot of support. They claimed that so many people were away fighting that it was not possible to hold elections.
While this was going on, so was the war. While the war-weary people wanted the war to end, the Provisional Government felt that victory would boost morale. However, more defeats meant that hundreds of soldiers deserted and more support lost. The people wanted many reforms, most importantly land reforms, as the majority of the population - the peasants, wanted the lands of the aristocrats. However, the reluctant and wary government, as mentioned earlier, did not want to do so in order to consolidate their position first.
The government also inherited the problems of the Tsar's, as they had to face inflation and food shortages. The government was also humiliated many times by their own inability to deal with problems. In the cities, workers formed groups called the Petrograd Soviet, a form of workers' union. The Petrograd Soviet called upon all soldiers to obey them, and thus the government became reliant on them. This can be seen in the example of the Kornilov incident, where the rogue commander-in-chief Kornilov turned on the government with his troops.
The government had to turn to the Petrograd Soviet for help, and they promptly replied with their own forces, known as the Red Guard, by driving away Kornilov and his troops quickly. • The Appeal of the Bolshevik Party: The Bolsheviks were one of the communist parties in Russia at that time. Their leader was a man known as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and was a great fan of Marx's. He had been influenced by Marx's socialist writings and wished to transform Russia into the ideal communist state. He was originally exiled from Russia during monarchical reign, but returned to Russia in April 1917.
At this time, the Provisional Government had freed political prisoners and loosened up their hold on the press. The Okhrana was also disbanded. All this made it easier for Lenin to carry out his revolutionary activities. He was able to organise the party better with party communities all over Russia and in the army. At the same time, Lenin found a talent in a person called Leon Trotsky. Trotsky used to be on the side of the Mensheviks, another communist group but was more on the side of taking things slower and not having a revolution so early. Trotsky however opposed this view and joined the Bolsheviks instead.
Lenin found that Trotsky was highly capable, both in speaking and in military expertise. He entrusted Trotsky with the job of organising the Bolshevik troops, the Red Army. He also found some qualities in a man called Joseph Stalin. Although less capable than Trotsky in speaking, he was reliable and not so flamboyant. Stalin took charge of the party newspaper, Pravda (Truth), which spread Bolshevik propaganda and news. Lenin often made speeches to the people. He told them about his ideas for Russia, encapsulated in three basic points: "Peace, Bread and Land. Not only that, he also opposed the government violently and wanted the immediate transfer of power to the Bolsheviks. This, and the Bolshevik slogan, made them so appealing that they gained power so rapidly and the government's hold on Russia began to slide. The slogan of "Peace" was probably the most attractive offer to the Russian people. Almost everybody wanted the war to stop, as it had dragged on for too long. The devastated economy and dwindling food supplies were all caused by the war, and people wished to return to their lives, just as before the war.
Lenin knew this and aptly used this as a slogan for his campaign. Being the only party which constantly opposed the continuation of the war, the Bolsheviks attracted many supporters. The "Bread" problem was not being met by the government, but the Bolsheviks promised that they would deal with it. Lenin promised to provide the people with sufficient food, and the starving population turned to him for help. "Land" was another point well handled by Lenin. Most peasants were furious with the government and the landowners for not giving the peasants a chance to earn their own money with their own land.
Lenin, however, in accordance with the communist ideology, promised that the landowners' property would be split up and distributed equally, naturally attracting mass support from the majority of the population. As Lenin's support grew, and membership increased tenfold in 8 months, so did dissatisfaction with the government. In July, during a period known as the "July Days," a political crisis erupted as soldiers in Petrograd refused to go to the front and sailors joined the workers in anti-government demonstrations. These people were mostly Bolshevik supporters, and these riots were no doubt sparked off by party instigators.
However, they were delivered a crushing defeat when the government managed to suppress the demonstrations and arrested a few leading Bolsheviks. Lenin himself was shot twice in the chest from close range, but survived to escape to Finland. However, this event goes to show that the Bolsheviks were gaining a lot of support and would soon be able to take power. Course of Bolshevik Revolution: • Trotsky did the detailed organisation of the Bolshevik revolution. He planned very systematically the seizure of important government buildings and strategic locations by the Red Army. The government knew very well that a revolution was being planned, but were so inefficient and disorganised that they could do nothing about it. • In the end, Lenin returned to Russia on the 23rd of October and thus, the Bolshevik Revolution began. • Trotsky and the Red Army began by getting the support of the Petrograd garrison, and together they seized important railway stations, the telephone exchange and bridges. • They met with no resistance all the way from the Smolny Institute where the Bolshevik headquarters was, to the Winter Palace. • There, the few remaining loyal troops were defending the Palace bravely. However, their resistance collapsed quickly as the Aurora fired warning shots (some people say its guns were too pathetic to even reach the walls of the Palace). • Government members were arrested and the head, Alexander Kerensky, escaped. • By the 26th of that month, the Bolsheviks had taken Petrograd. After another month, they controlled Russia. The reason why the Bolsheviks were so successful was because other groups like the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks were hesitant in leading a revolution after February. They were willing to work together with the Provisional Government for the good of the people.
The Bolsheviks, branding them as traitors, eventually used this cooperative mentality against them. Not only that, they also supported the government in their continuation of the war, and this worked against them too. All this brought the Bolsheviks support from many workers and soldiers in Moscow and Petrograd. However, the Bolsheviks did not have the full support of ALL people in Russia. It was Lenin's and the Bolshevik's task to extend and maintain their control over the vast empire they had inherited. Conclusion: When there is proliferation of crime, poverty and mass discrimination, people of the nation rebel.
Although the people of Russia didn't have a say in the political issues, they didn't protest. However, once they became deprived of their economical rights, along with the assiduous wars, their wrath grew. It grew to such an extend that it overthrew the monarch of a dynasty that has been ruling for over 300 yrs. But Russian Revolution is an classic example that people have the supreme power for the Russians overthrew the administration of the nation, not once; but two times in a p of 3 yrs (although the suffering had been since 19th century). Bibliography/ Acknowledgements: • Google Images http://www. factmonster. com/encyclopedia/history/russian-revolution-causes. html • http://www. bbc. co. uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/mwh/russia/longtermcausesrev1. shtml • http://answers. yahoo. com/question/index? qid=20110317174148AA2efvO • http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Russian_Revolution • http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Bolshevik • http://europeanhistory. about. com/od/russiaandukraine/a/Causes-Of-The-Russian-Revolution. htm • http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=2WxNQLr2dKA • http://history1900s. about. com/od/Russian-Revolution/a/Russian-Revolution-Timeline. htm
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