THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

On 2nd March 1917, Nicholas II, the Tsar of Russia, abdicated. His family had ruled Russia for nearly three hundred years, but their demise occurred in a matter of days. Nicholas tried to pass the throne on to his brother Michael, but he refused and also abdicated on 3rd March. the situation in Russia was so bad that Michael could see no future for the royal family.

Why was there a revolution in Russia in February 1917?

How did the First World War affect Russia?

Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power in October 1917?

What factors let to the outbreak of Civil War in Russia in 1918?

 

WHY WAS THERE A REVOLUTION IN RUSSIA IN FEBRUARY 1917?


 There were some long term reasons for the revolution which had made people increasingly angry:

* Russia was an autocracy. This meant that the Tsar had total power. Although there was a parliament, the Duma, it had little influence and could only criticize the Tsar's government. Some politicians wanted to make Russia more democratic.

* Nicholas was a weak and incompetent ruler. He allowed himself to be influenced by people who did not want any changes to take place in Russia.

* In Russia there were huge differences between the rich and the poor. About four-fifths of the population were peasants many of whom could not read or write. In the towns workers were squashed into very poor accommodation. Political parties tried to make use of these conditions.

* There were a number of terrorist groups which used violence. One was the Bolsheviks led by Lenin. In 1881, Nicholas' grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, was murdered. In 1911 the prime minister, Peter Stolypin, was murdered.

* The Tsar's government used violence against the people; Stolypin had 9,000 people executed. If there were disturbances in the streets the government would use Cossacks (soldiers from southern Russia) to break up the crowds. Many people were killed.

There were also some short term reasons, these developed in the years before 1917:

* The Tsar's wife came under the influence of Gregory Rasputin. She was already unpopular because she was a German, but her connection with Rasputin made things even worse.

* The Tsar kept dismissing the Duma and then changing its organization; this made people think that they could not trust him.

* But the most important reason was that Russia became involved in the First World War.
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HOW DID WORLD WAR I IMPACT RUSSIA?
  * The Russian armies were very badly defeated by the German army. Millions of Russian soldiers were captured or killed.

* Russian industry could not produce enough war materials. Soldiers went into battle without weapons and were told to pick up rifles from their comrades who were killed.

* The Russian railway network was very poor and it could not get food to the cities. Prices rose and people began to starve in the big cities of Petrograd and Moscow.

* To make matters worse the Tsar dismissed the commander-in-chief of the army in 1915 and took command himself. This was a terrible mistake. Now he got the blame for everything that went wrong.

* When Nicholas left Petrograd for the front, he relied on information about the situation in the capital from his wife. She often did not tell the truth and made out that everything was fine. In fact by late 1916 the situation was desperate.

* In December 1916 Rasputin was murdered by Russian nobles, and in February 1917 workers in Petrograd began to go on strike. Soldiers sent to deal with the strikers refused to obey orders.

* The Tsar tried to return to Petrograd, but his train was stopped. He was forced to abdicate and a Provisional Government took over.
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WHY WERE THE BOLSHEVIKS ABLE TO SEIZE POWER IN OCTOBER 1917?

* The Provisional Government was only meant to be temporary. It was there to govern Russia until a general election was held. the Provisional Government did not want to take any major decisions.

* The Provisional Government did not end the war with Germany, which many Russians wanted them to do. This was because the Provisional Government did not believe that it could take decisions like this as it had not been elected. It also needed the support of the Petrograd Soviet. This was a committee of Soldiers and Workers which was set up soon after the Provisional Government. It represented the workers of Petrograd.

* The Bolsheviks were well organized and well led by Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin supplied the leadership and Trotsky organized the military take-over. He became the chairman of the Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in September 1917.

* The leader of the Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, became more and more unpopular; he also did not take the threat from the Bolsheviks very seriously.
* the Provisional Government lost the support of the Army in August and this led to the Kornilov Revolt. General Kornilov believed that the new prime minister, Alexander Kerensky, was going to seize power himself and tried to arrest him. Kerensky had to ask the Bolsheviks to defend him. This meant that they realized just how weak the Provisional Government really was. the Bolsheviks had tried to seize power in July (the July Days), but had failed. Now Lenin was sure they could succeed.

On the night of 25th October 1917 the Bolsheviks seized control of the Winter Palace in Petrograd almost without firing a shot. No one was ready to fight for the Provisional Government.
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How did the First World War affect Russia?
 
* the Russian armies were very badly defeated by the German army. Millions of Russian soldiers were captured or killed.
* Russian industry could not produce enough war materials. Soldiers went into battle without weapons and were told to pick up rifles from their comrades who were killed.
* the Russian railway network was very poor and it could not get food to the cities. Prices rose and people began to starve in the big cities of Petrograd and Moscow.
* To make matters worse the Tsar dismissed the commander-in-chief of the army in 1915 and took command himself. This was a terrible mistake. Now he got the blame for everything that went wrong.
* When Nicholas left Petrograd for the front, he relied on information about the situation in the capital from his wife. She often did not tell the truth and made out that everything was fine. In fact by late 1916 the situation was desperate.
* In December 1916 Rasputin was murdered by Russian nobles, and in February 1917 workers in Petrograd began to go on strike. Soldiers sent to deal with the strikers refused to obey orders.
* the Tsar tried to return to Petrograd, but his train was stopped. He was forced to abdicate and a Provisional Government took over.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power in October 1917? * the Provisional Government was only meant to be temporary. It was there to govern Russia until a general election was held. the Provisional Government did not want to take any major decisions.
* the Provisional Government did not end the war with Germany, which many Russians wanted them to do. This was because the Provisional Government did not believe that it could take decisions like this as it had not been elected. It also needed the support of the Petrograd Soviet. This was a committee of Soldiers and Workers which was set up soon after the Provisional Government. It represented the workers of Petrograd.
* the Bolsheviks were well organised and well led by Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin supplied the leadership and Trotsky organised the military take-over. He became the chairman of the Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet in September 1917.
* the leader of the Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, became more and more unpopular; he also did not take the threat from the Bolsheviks very seriously.
* the Provisional Government lost the support of the Army in August and this led to the Kornilov Revolt. General Kornilov believed that the new prime minister, Alexander Kerensky, was going to seize power himself and tried to arrest him. Kerensky had to ask the Bolsheviks to defend him. This meant that they realised just how weak the Provisional Government really was. the Bolsheviks had tried to seize power in July (the July Days), but had failed. Now Lenin was sure they could succeed.

On the night of 25th October 1917 the Bolsheviks seized control of the Winter Palace in Petrograd almost without firing a shot. No one was ready to fight for the Provisional Government.
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What factors let to the outbreak of Civil War in Russia in 1918?
 
* As soon as he gained power, Lenin made clear what he intended to do. A "Land Decree" was issued which said that land now belonged to the people who farmed it. This was followed by the "Peace Decree", which stated that the war with Germany was over.
* these decrees were intended to win support for the Bolsheviks, but Lenin's plans did not work. When a general election was held in November, the Bolsheviks came second to the Socialists-Revolutionaries. Lenin's response was simple. When the new Russian Parliament, the Constituent Assembly, met on 5th January, it was dispersed and Lenin began to rule as a dictator.
* Other political parties were banned, newspapers were censored and a secret police force was set up, the Cheka, led by Felix Dzherzhinsky. they enforced Lenin's ideas and thousands of people were murdered.
* the property and land of the Russian Orthodox Church was seized.
* All businesses and banks were taken over.
* In March 1918 a peace treaty with Germany was signed at Brest-Litovsk. Russia left the First World War. All the loans, which the Allies had given to Russia, were repudiated.

Lenin made many enemies and they all came together to try to overthrow the new Bolshevik government. Britain, France and the USA, who landed troops in northern Russia in 1918, supported them. the Poles, Ukrainians and Cossacks also tried to win independence. Together these forces were known as the Whites. But the Reds, as the Bolsheviks were called, were better equipped and had more men. Many Russians did not want a return to rule by the Tsar. By 1920, the White armies had all been defeated and the Bolsheviks controlled Russia.

So began the Communist dictatorship of Russia, which was to last for seventy-four years.

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