Russian Revolution is actually two revolutions which happened in Russia in 1917. The revolution took apart the Tsarist autocracy and finally led to the birth and rise of Soviet Union. The Russian Empire bowed with the resignation of Emperor Nicholas II. The old government was reinstated by an interim government during the first revolution of February 1917 and in the second revolution in October 1917 the interim government was removed and was reinstated by a communist state. The revolution which began on March 8th 1917 was called the February Revolution. This was so because until 1918 Russia followed the Julian calendar and it February 23rd on that day according to the Julian calendar. This revolution was focused around Petrograd, now known as Saint Petersburg, which was the capital of Russia then. Members of the Imperial parliament allegedly took control of the country forming the Russian Provisional Government.
The February Revolution
The February revolution took place in the background of heavy military setbacks which happened during the First World War, which left the Russian Army in a state of rebellion. This also resulted in which dual power happened. The Provisional Government held the state power whereas the national networks of Soviets headed by the socialists had power of the lower classes and the political left. This was the time when there was much chaos and there were frequent revolts, protests and strikes. The Provisional Government decided to continue the war with Germany whereas the Bolsheviks and other socialist groups campaigned for stopping the conflicts. Bolsheviks converted the workers militias under their control into the Red Guards and they took control over it.
The October Revolution
During the October Revolution the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin and the workers removed the Provisional Government in Petrograd from power and Russian SFSR was established. They shifted the capital to Moscow in 1918 and Bolsheviks appointed themselves as leaders took command of the rural area establishing the Cheka to nullify opposition. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany was signed in March 1918 to end Russia’s participation in the First World War. Very soon the civil war started among the Blosheviks, counter revolutionaries, independence movements and non-Bolshevik socialists and it carried on for several years. The Bolsheviks defeated the counter revolutionaries and all rival socialists and it also paved the way for the creation of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR in 1922.
Events That Led To The Russian Revolution
- Russian Revolution which started in 1905 was a major factor to the February Revolution of the year 1917.
- The events of Bloody Sunday of 22nd January 1905, was the cause of many a protests and the council of workers called the St. Petersburg Soviet was formed during this confusion and it also paved the way for the beginning of communist political protest countrywide.
- Another important factor which led to the vengeance of the Russian Communists against the royal opponents was the World War I which provoked a Russian protest against the Tsar Nicholas II.
- When the Ottoman Empire joined the side of the Central Powers in October 1914, Russia was deprived of a major route for trade through the Ottoman Empire.
- This was followed by minor economic crisis and because of this Russia was not in a position to provide and ammunitions and weapons to their army in the years closer to 1917.
- The war developed lethargy in the city due to the lack of food in response to the disruption of agriculture.
- There was wide spread food scarcity in Russia and the government started printing millions of rubbles in order to meet the expenses of war and by 1917 inflation made the prices to go up by four times than in 1914.
- The working class faced the higher cost of purchases and found it difficult because there was no corresponding gain in the sale of their own produce.
- The products were taken by the brokers and middlemen on whom they had to depend to sell products. Because of this they started to save their grains so that they could slip back from survival farming.
- This subsequently led to shortage of food and the rising prices led to demands for higher wages in work places.
- Added to this in January and February 1916 revolutionary propaganda supports by German funds paved the way for widespread general strikes.
- People were critical of the government because of all this and the heavy losses during the war also strengthened the thoughts that Tsar Nicholas II was not the right person to rule Russia.
- Liberals started gaining strength and were placed in a better position to voice their demands and they started participating actively through many voluntary organisations and Local Industrial committees started mushrooming.
- In July 1915 a Central War Industries Committee was formed under the leadership of noted Octobrist, Guchkov and ten working representatives.
- Petrograd Mensheviks too joined in spite of the objections from their leaders abroad and this gave new hope for political ambitions.
- In September 1915, Ocobrists and Kadets in Duma demanded forming a new responsible government.
- The Tsar was dead against these proposals. The Tsar had become the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and during the absence from Petrograd the day-to-day government fell in the hands of the Empress.
The Royal Fallout
Since the Tsar had become the Commander-in-chief he was at the military headquarters at Mogiley quite often. The mpress was unpopular because of her German origin and also because of Rasputin’s influence on her. All these issues and more led to loss of confidence in people against the regime by 1916. Guchkov took note of the situation and started taking sounding from the senior army officers and members of the Central War Industries Committee about a likely coup to force the resignation of the Tsar. Pavel Miliyukov openly blamed the government in November for contemplating peace negotiations with Germany and in December a group of nobles assassinated Rasputin. In 1917, Grand Duke Nicholas was asked to take over the throne from his nephew Tsar Nicholas II, by Price Lvov. These were the main reason why the monarchy survived only a few days after the agitation broke out.
Meanwhile many of the Social Democrat leaders went in exile and majority of them were in Switzerland and had to be morose viewers of the fall down of the international socialist solidarity. French and German Social Democrats voted in favour of their relevant governments. Georgi Plekhanov in Paris opposed the German effort for war but the Parvus supported the German war effort. Mensheviks thought that Russia had the right to defend against Germany but a prominent Menshevik, Martov, demanded an end to the war and opted for settlement on the basis of national self-determination with no conditions. Once the Tsar was stripped off his powers the social democrats returned to strengthen their movement as there were many social and economic inequalities that were being practised by the royalty.
The Rural and Urban Divide
There were many economic and social changes which lead to the Russian Revolution. The basic theory of property believed by many peasant workers was that the land on which they are working should belong to them. The change was made possible by the physical movement of growing number of peasant villagers who shifted to and from industrial and urban environments and also because of the city culture entering into village through material goods, press and word of mouth. Workers had strong reasons for dissatisfaction and few of them were staying overcrowded houses with terrible sanitary conditions. The workers did not like the idea of working long hours, they had to work 10 hour for six days a week and many were working 11-12 hours a day by 1916. The supervisors were cruel to the workers and there were no proper rules and wages. Urban workers, on the other hand had full of benefits and there were many reasons for them to expect more from life. Workers living in the cities saw many new material goods which they have never seen in villages and they were exposed to new ideas about social and political order. The major social cause of the Russian Revolutions started from the oppression of lowers classes by the Tsarist regime which started centuries before.
War and Poor Living Conditions
Nicholas’s failure in the World War I also was another reason for the revolution. Workers had to pay redemption payments to the state and they demanded communal tender of the land they worked. The land reform of Sergei Witte in the early 20th century was a flop and this added to the problems. This led to regular worker disturbances which often lead to revolts. The workers wanted to own the land they worked on Russia was full of poor farming workers only 1.5% of the populations owned 25% of the land. Industrialisation of Russia in a rapid pace also resulted in urban overcrowding and this lead to poor conditions for urban industrial workers. Mass shift of people between 1890 and 1910 led to swelling of population in the capital, Saint Petersburg. The population bloated from 1,033,600 to 1,905,600 in the capital city and also Moscow. There was shortage of running water and loads of human waste was a threat to the health of the workers. This led to frequent strikes and public disorder before the World War I. World War I also added to the chaotic situation in Russia. Recruitment swept up the unwilling across Russia because there was big demand for factory production of war supplies and this too led to many labour riots and strikes. Recruitment stripped skilled workers from the major cities and they had to be replaced with unskilled peasants. Food shortage started due to the poor railway system and workers started moving out from cities in search of food. The soldiers too began to suffer from lack of equipment and protection and turned against the Tsar. Many of the officers loyal to the Tsar were killed and were reinstated by unhappy officers from major cities who were not loyal to the Tsar.
The Revolutions and Its Results
Nicholas II was a hardcore conservative ruler and followed strictly a dictatorial system. Bolsheviks executed the Tsar and his family on 16th July 1918. The Tsar and his family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. In August 1917 the Kerensky governments evacuated the Romanovs to Tobolsk in the Urals mainly to protect them from the rising tide of revolution during the Red Terror. Bolsheviks came to power in October 1917 and the discussions of putting Nicholas on trial increased. The counter revolutionary movement gathered strength and it led to a full scale civil war by the summer and Romanovs were shifted during April and May 1918 to Yekaterinburg which was strong militant Bolshevik stronghold. On July 16th, Nicholas, Alexandra, their children, physician and loyal servants were all taken into the basement and shot. The order to kill the Tsar and the family came directly from Lenin and Syerdlov n Moscow. The order for execution was directly delivered in the form of a telegram by Lenin’s bodyguard and he destroyed the evidence also under orders from the top.
After the end of February Revolution the power was shared by the weak provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet. On November 6th and 7th of the year 1917 Bolsheviks Party Leader Vladimir Lenin launched a nearly bloodless coup against the provisional government and they occupied the government buildings and other main locations of Petrograd. They soon formed a government under the leadership of Lenin. Lenin was a virtual dictator of the first Marxist state in the world and they made peace with Germany. They nationalised industry and distributed land even though they had to fight civil war against the anti-Bolshevik White Army forces. In 1920 Bolsheviks defeated the anti-Bolsheviks and in 1922 USSR was established. Lenin laid the foundations of dictatorship and lawlessness. He practised terror and supported revolutionary methods of practices. After the fall of the Communism in Russia in 1991 the Western view has again become dominant and the Soviet-Marxist view has almost vanished in the present Russia.