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Essay on the Russian Revolution Essay

The Russo-Japanese War lasted from 1904 to 1905, and arose from both Japan and Russia’s desire for expansion and dominance in Korea and Manchuria. Russia suffered many great defeats in this war, against a nation that was considered inferior and was not one of the Great Powers. This humiliated the people of Russia, and caused them to lose confidence in Tsar Nicholas II, as well as causing great military, economic, and political problems for Russia. When the Russo-Japanese War erupted in 1904, Russia was not fully prepared to involve itself in a war. The Trans-Siberian Railway was not completed and would not be until 1905, so Russia’s army was not fully mobile. Russia’s inability efficiently mobilize caused them to lose battles to the Japanese and to eventually lose the war itself. 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. Huge military defeats were caused by the Russo-Japanese War, which highlighted the weakness of the military and caused national humiliation. Russia, all along had prided themselves on military excellence. An example of such a defeat was in January 1905 when the army had to surrender their Port Arthur naval base in Northern China, which they had possessed before the start of the war. Another example of a great failure of the military was at the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905. The Russian Baltic fleet consisting of the 35 warships had sailed from northern Europe to the Far East, only to lose 25 warships in a defeat by the Japanese navy. The crushing of Russian’s military added impetus to the 1905 Revolution, as it made the people of Russia aware of the weakness of their military and ashamed to be Russian.

They were losing to a nation very few had heard of and it was humiliating, this caused the opposition to autocratic rule by the Tsar Nicholas II. The Russo-Japanese War brought about economic problems for Russia, and this therefore meant there was a significant lack of money to solve any other problems present Russia. The war, as all wars do, cost an extreme amount of money. As it resulted in failure no money could be gained from the invaded territories. Russia had already had economic problems, and its economy was still far behind that of other Great Powers. Russia needed more money to invest in the economy to enlarge it, to make it more comparable to other Great Powers. The backwardness of Russia compared to these other Great Powers was another source of national humiliation for the people of Russia.

Furthermore, the lack of money meant that the government could do nothing about the living and working conditions in towns and cities, or the problems in the rural areas of Russia. Consequently, the economic problems brought about a dent in national pride and Russia’s being unable to solve any of its other problems due to financial constraints. Both the peasants and the landowners were suffering. People were starving Agriculture was very behind that of other countries, as under the Witte system nothing had been done to improve it. Therefore the land was not cultivated properly, and famines occurred quite regularly such as the one in 1902 as well as the one in 1905, even with all this the peasants were still required to provide food for the Russian Army at war. There were also political implications of the Russo-Japanese War.

The war was fought in the very far eastern reaches of the country, far away from where the majority of the population lived, and hence they must have felt removed from it, especially as news was still slow to travel. There was therefore little public enthusiasm for the war. Many people felt there was little justification for it: public opinion was not on the side of the war. Moreover, the military was very ill-equipped for the war. This showed to the people of Russia the government’s failings, and caused people to turn away from the Tsar as a leader, and look elsewhere, such as to political groups who were prepared to take radical action to achieve their aims, the people had lost faith in the Tsar. Political groups such as the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks took advantage of the peasant discontent and tried to turn the peasants against the Czar and more towards radicalism and liberalism. 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. The petition, written by Gapon, made clear the problems and opinions of the workers and called for improved working conditions, fairer wages, and a reduction in the working day to eight hours and medical benefits. Other demands included an end to the Russo-Japanese War and the introduction of universal suffrage. They also wanted a parliament, or a Duma, to represent their views. The unarmed demonstrators were shot at by the Tsar’s troops (The Imperial Guard). This is referred to as the “Bloody Sunday”. There were many outbursts after that. Troops mutinied, peasants rose up and there were strikes and riots emerged. In the October Manifesto which was drafted by Sergei Witte, who became Russia’s first prime minister, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to : ” (1) Grant to the population the inviolable right of free citizenship, based on the principles of freedom of person, conscience, speech, assembly, and union. (2) Without postponing the intended elections for the State Duma and insofar as possible … to include in the participation of the work of the Duma those classes of the population that have been until now entirely deprived of the right to vote, and to extend in the future, by the newly created legislative way, the principles of the general right of election.

(3) To establish as an unbreakable rule that without its confirmation by the State Duma, no law shall go into force and that the persons elected by the people shall have the opportunity for actual participation in supervising the legality of the acts of authorities appointed by it” A Duma was elected in 1906, dominated by the middle-class Kadet party, the Duma was supposed to be able to enact legislation that would bind even the Tsar but even this proved too radical in its demands for the Tsar. The Tsar was determined to preserve his autocracy even in the context of reform and he restricted the Duma’s authority in many ways. The Tsar issued the Fundamental Laws. It stated in part that Tsar’s ministers could not be appointed by, and were not responsible to, the Duma, thus denying responsible government at the executive level. Furthermore, the Tsar had the power to dismiss the Duma and announce new elections whenever he wished.

He also restricted the franchise to the property-owning classes. The Tsar never allowed the Duma to be anything more than an advisory committee. This idealized vision of the Romanov monarchy blinded him to the actual state of his country. With a firm belief that his power to rule was granted by Divine Right, Nicholas assumed that the Russian people were devoted to him with unquestioning loyalty. This ironclad belief rendered Nicholas unwilling to allow the progressive reforms that might have alleviated the suffering of the Russian people. Tsar Nicholas II tried to deal with the pressures for change by increasing police powers; there was brutal suppression of dissent and the civil rights granted in 1905 gradually restricted. Witte resigned and was replaced in July by Stolypin, who combined ruthlessness in dealing with unrest with a thoughtful programme of agrarian reform which tried to remove the legacy of debt and land hunger and create a class of peasant farmers loyal to the regime.

Stolypin had fallen out with the Tsar even before he was assassinated in 1911, and after this Nicholas’s ministers were of limited ability. Even before the start of the First World War unrest was breaking out again, but the onset of war, and the rapidity and magnitude of Russian defeats, greatly weakened the political and economic structure of the country. Alexis, Tsar Nicholas II’s son 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, since Grigori Rasputin did what doctors couldn’t do, which was to help her son with his sickness and to help stop his pain. In 1911 Stolypin ordered Rasputin out of St. Petersburg, and the order was obeyed. Stolypin’s minister of religion, Lukyanov, on the reports of the police, ordered an investigation that produced abundant evidence of Rasputin’s scandalous deeds.

From this time on, the Tsarina detested Prime Minister Stolypin. After Stolypin was assassinated, the Tsarina brought Rasputin back to St. Petersburg. 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.

In 1915 Tsar Nicholas II unwisely chose to take direct command of field operations, personally overseeing Russia’s main theatre of war, leaving his German wife, Tsarina Alexandra as regent in charge of affairs in the capital. Alexandra was very unpopular with the Russian people, who accused her of collaboration with the Germans. Alexandra had no experience of government and under the influence of Rasputin constantly appointed and re-appointed incompetent new ministers, which meant the government was never stable or efficient.

This was particularly dangerous in a war of attrition, as neither the troops nor the civilian population were ever adequately supplied; the country was plunged into further state of crisis. By 1917 the regime was in a parlous state with revolutionary unrest spreading among the troops and workers, peasants seizing the large estates and (a decisive new factor compared with the events of 1905) signs of disunity and disaffection amongst the ruling élite and police, first shown in the murder of Rasputin by conservative nobles on Dec. 31, 1916.

When Nicholas II entered the First World War, his desire was to restore the prestige that Russia had lost during the Russo-Japanese war. Nicholas wanted to galvanize the diverse people in his empire under a single banner by directing military force at a common enemy, namely Germany and the Central Powers. A common assumption among his critics is that he believed that by doing so he could distract the people from the ongoing issues of poverty, inequality and poor working conditions that were sources of discontent. Instead of restoring Russia’s political and military standing, World War I lead to horrifying military casualties on the Russian side and undermined it further. By 1915 (during World War I), there were manifold signs that the economy was breaking down under the heightened strain of wartime demand and the Tsar’s mis-management of the country’s funds.

Over fifteen million men joined the army( due to conscription), which left an insufficient number of workers in the factories and on the farms. Conscription also stripped skilled workers from the cities and they had to be replaced with unskilled peasants. The result was widespread shortages of food and materials. Factory workers had to endure terrible working conditions, including twelve to fourteen hour days and low wages. Many riots and strikes for better conditions and higher wages broke out. Although some factories agreed to the requests for higher wages, wartime inflation nullified the increase. Industrial workers went on strike and effectively paralyzed the railway and transportation networks. What few supplies were available could not be effectively transported. As goods became more and more scarce, prices skyrocketed.

People were suffering, they began to turn to prostitution or crime( there was an increase in crime), people were begging, they were tearing down wooden fences to keep stoves heated for warmth. Also famine threatened many of the larger cities. The vast demand for factory production of war supplies and workers caused many more labor riots and strikes. In addition, because more factory workers were needed, peasants moved out of the country and into the cities, which soon became overpopulated, and living conditions rapidly grew worse. Furthermore, as more food was needed for the soldiers, the food supply behind the front grew scarce. Soldiers themselves, who were suffering from lack of equipment and protection from the elements, began to turn against the Tsar.

This was mainly because as the war progressed, many of the officers who were loyal to the Tsar were killed and they were replaced with discontented conscripts from the major cities who were much less loyal to the Tsar. Russia’s first major battle was a disaster. In the 1914 Battle of Tannenberg, over 120, 000 Russian troops were killed, wounded or captured, while Germany suffered only 20,000 casualties. In 1915, things took a critical turn for the worse, when Germany shifted its focus of attack to the Eastern front. The superior German army destroyed the unequipped Russian forces. By the end of October 1916, Russia had lost between 1.6 and 1.8 million soldiers with an additional two million prisoners of war and one million missing. Soldiers went hungry and lacked shoes, ammunition and weapons.

Rampant discontent lowered morale, only to be further undermined by a series of military defeats. The Tsar was blamed for all these crises and what little support he had left began to crumple. As this discontent grew, the State Duma issued a warning to Nicholas in November of 1916 stating that disaster would overtake the country unless a constitutional form of government was put in place. In typical fashion, Nicholas ignored them. The people were upset with the Tsar and his lack of care about his people. He was the reason they were suffering. The people were disgusted with his inept handing of the country. Alexander Kerensky was a young and popular lawyer who gained a reputation for his work as a defense lawyer in a number of political trials of revolutionaries.

Afterwards he gained a reputation for his work as a defence lawyer in a number of political trials of revolutionaries. He was elected to the Fourth Duma in 1912 as a member of the Trudoviks, a moderate labour party who were associated with the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. He was a brilliant orator and skilled parliamentary leader of the socialist opposition to the regime of the ruling Tsar, Nicholas II. When the February Revolution broke out in spring of 1917, Kerensky was one of its most prominent leaders: he was a member of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma and was elected vice-chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He simultaneously became the first Minister of Justice in the newly formed Provisional Government. Kerensky became the Minister of War and the dominant figure in the newly formed government and in July of that same year he became Prime Minister. However, as Prime Minister he made two major errors.

He ensured that Russia stayed in a war that was detested in the country itself. The overwhelming bulk of the population wanted Russia to withdraw from the war. There must have been few families, especially among the poor, who had not experienced personal tragedy between 1914 and 1917. His second mistake was not to offer the peasants land. Lenin did just this and immediately got the support he and the Bolsheviks needed at the expense of Kerensky. Kerensky also invited the Mensheviks to take part in the administration. To undermine the support of the Bolsheviks, Kerensky ordered that elections should take place for a constituent assembly. The elections were to be held in January 1918. Lenin had called for such elections earlier in 1917, so he could not object to this. As Kerensky argued, it was simply an extension of the democratic process denied to the people by the Romanovs. However, all the evidence indicated that the Bolsheviks would have done less well than other groups – including the Mensheviks. On September 1st 1917, Kerensky declared Russia a republic.

Vladimir Lenin was exiled in neutral Switzerland, when he heard of the revolution he made arrangements with the German government for permission to travel back to Russia. German officials agreed, evidently assuming that Lenin’s activities might weaken Russia, or if the Bolsheviks came to power, lead to Russia withdrawing from the war with Germany. He arrived in Petrograd in April 1917. Lenin demanded that the Provisional Government give “All Powers to the Soviets” in addition to the speedy conclusion of the war without annexation, the renunciation of all secret diplomatic agreements, the control of factories by workers and the immediate seizure of land by peasants. He convinced his Bolshevik supporters that the seizure of power by the Soviets would be the signal for a European-wide socialist revolution.

To prepare for the seizure of power, his Bolshevik supporters set out to win support from the masses in the soviets. Vladimir Lenin was the architect and first head of the USSR, led the October Revolution, which was effectively a coup d’etat. Lenin justified his violent seizure of power from the Provisional Government as merely a transfer of authority to the soviets, the popular councils elected by workers and soldiers that sprang up everywhere after the fall of the tsar. Lenin declared the formation of a Soviet government, withdrew Russia from World War I, and invited the peasants to take charge of the land that had formerly belonged to the nobles, state, and church.

At the same time, Lenin’s government quickly moved to shut down opposition political parties and to censor the press, introduced conscription for the Red Army, and requisitioned grain from the peasants in order to fight the bloody Russian Civil War of 1918–1920. In January 1918, Lenin closed down the Constituent Assembly after the Bolsheviks won only 24 percent of the popular vote. In 1918, Lenin renamed the Bolshevik Party as the Communist Party.

Although Lenin was ruthless, he was also pragmatic. When his efforts to transform the Russian economy to a socialist model stalled, he introduced the New Economic Policy, where a measure of private enterprise was again permitted, a policy that continued for several years after his death. In 1918, Lenin narrowly survived an assassination attempt, but was severely wounded. When Lenin was badly injured in a failed assassination attempt on August 30, 1918, his government quickly responded with the September 5, 1918, announcement of a policy of Red Terror that would take the form of arrests, imprisonments, and murders.

Trotsky was a Marxist and for a long time worked as an independent revolutionary in Russia. Before 1914 he had attempted to bring about great cooperation between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks but her failed. In 1917, after the March Revolution, he returned from exile in America. In July, he decided to join the Bolsheviks. Leon Trotsky was a Communist theorist, prolific writer, leader in the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the people’s commissar for foreign affairs under Lenin and then head of the Red Army as the people’s commissar of army and navy affairs. He was also elected as the President of Petrograd Soviet. Joseph Stalin was a Bolshevik leader who became prominent only after Lenin’s return to Petrograd in April 1917. Although Stalin was very much a secondary figure during the October Revolution, he did gain Lenin’s attention as a useful ally. Stalin had a very important, yet secretive job.

He was to provide disguises and safe houses and to arrange safe passage out of Petrograd to Finland, with guides and bodyguards, for Lenin, had the revolution not worked out as planned. Following the October coup, Lenin gave him a position in the government as commissar of nationalities. As Stalin was a member of an ethnic minority as he was from the central Asian region of Georgia, not Russia. Lenin felt he would be an effective ambassador of sorts to the many ethnic minorities within the former Russian Empire. After the revolution, Stalin became increasingly powerful and eventually succeeded Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union upon Lenin’s death in 1924. Kerensky’ Provisional Government fell On October 25-26, 1917when Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik supporters overthrew it in the October Revolution (coup d etat).

There are many reasons as to why the provisional government fell. The Provisional Government fell because they insisted to continue fighting in the First World War, although things were going so badly. Millions of soldiers were dead and injured, also the soldiers lacked proper equipment and weapons to fight effectively, and they also had little to no training in war tactics. Also the failure of the Brusilov offensive is an important factor. The Provisional Government also did not solve the economic problems that Russia was facing.

There were stills strikes and riots. Shortages continued and the people saw now improvement. By this time there was subsequent unpopularity of Alexander Kerensky who the most prominent person off the Provisional Government (War Minister and Prime Minister). Also in October with the crisis building, the Bolsheviks saw the opportunity to seize important institutions in Petrograd such as banks and railways.

The Russian Civil War, which broke out in 1918 shortly after the revolution, brought death and suffering to millions of people regardless of their political orientation. The war was fought mainly between the Red Amy (Reds), consisting of radical communist and revolutionaries, and the Whites consisting of: the monarchist, conservatives, liberals and moderate socialist who opposed the drastic restructuring championed by the Bolsheviks. The Whites has backing from nations such as the UK, France, USA and Japan.

Also during the Civil War, Nestor Makhno led a Ukrainian anarchist movement which generally cooperated with the Bolsheviks. However, a Bolshevik force under Mikkhail Frunze destroyed the Makhnovist movement, when the Makhnovists refused to merge into the Red Army. In addition the so-called “Green Army” (nationalist and anarchist played a secondary role in the war, mainly in Ukraine.

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