The Russian Revolution of 1917 was certainly a turning point in Russian history. Many events led to the revolution, which actually consisted of two revolutions, the March Revolution and the November Revolution. By the end of the revolution, it was deemed successful. The Bolsheviks had successfully taken over Petrograd and within a short time controlled Russia. “Power had passed from the moderates to a small band of dedicated extremists with a vision of an entirely changed society. ” (Findley-Rothney, p. 89) The most obvious of causes would be the circumstances in Russia.
Russia was in a state of distress before the revolutions occurred. The food shortages were a major problem. There was not nearly enough to go around and prices were high. The people of Russia were forced to pay high taxes and the gap between the poor and the rich was widening every day. Some people were also not satisfied with the tsar’s, Nicholas II, autocratic rule and wanted to replace it with a more democratic system. Bloody Sunday was also a major factor that played into the brewing of the revolutions. It managed to trigger a revolution of its own.
In 1905 on Sunday, January 22nd more than 200,000 workers gathered in St. Petersburg. Cities were rapidly industrializing and more often than not, the laborers suffered grueling hours and the shacks they went home to were not pleasant. Workers were becoming dissatisfied with their conditions, however strikes of any sort were not allowed. When the workers had gathered together their protests and could not take any more they decided to stand up for themselves. “Their peaceful attempt to petition the tsar by gathering outside his palace in St.
Petersburg ended in a hail of bullets. ” (Findley-Rothney, p. 87) Hundreds of workers were brutally massacred outside the Winter Palace. Citizens of Russia did not like the power at hand. Alexandra, the tsar’s wife, was thought to be a spy having been German. What everyone thought to be her lover, Rasputin, was also thought to be a spy. This did not sit well with many. World War I did not help matters at all in any situation. German armies invaded deeply into Russia, showing that it was completely incapable of mobilizing society for war.
In 1915, Nicholas entered the battlefront with his “brilliant tactics” to lead Russia to victory. Nicholas, however, had very little military experience and defeat was blamed on him (Notes). While Nicholas was away, Alexandra and Rasputin were thought to be running the country. With these two already being looked down upon, this situation was not optimal. The first of the revolutions occurring in 1917 was the March Revolution, often referred to as the February revolution because at that time Russia was on a different calendar system than used in the Western hemisphere.
It began with two groups of women, one celebrating International Women’s Day and another of women unable to buy bread. The two groups combined and demanded a Republic and an end to the war (Notes). The women were then combined with striking workers. Nicholas ordered for troops to forcefully shut down the rioters, but his troops were too weak and the rebels began to take over. Some of whom were ordered to fire began joining the food rioters. “Nicholas II could do nothing but give up his throne. Four years would elapse before it became clear to whom power had passed” (Findley-Rothney, p. 8). Members of the Duma, who called themselves the tsar’s immediate successors, formed the Provisional Government. They instantly began enacting reforms. It promised a new constitution, granted Jews and Muslims equal rights, and granted amnesty of political prisoners.
The Provisional Government represented the middle class more than any other class. It could not seem to create order to the havoc, however. It was soon faced with the challenge of the new Petrograd Soviet, formed by workers and soldiers from everywhere. In this confused situation one of the most formidable figures of modern times saw his opportunity to change the course of history” (Findley-Rothney, p. 88). Vladimar Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, had become a revolutionary when his brother was executed for being involved with the planning of the assassination of Tsar Alexander III. Under amnesty, political exiles such as Lenin were permitted to return. Lenin believed that he could form a revolution that would be successful and change the world. Lenin knew that the Bolsheviks could now successfully seize and hold power.
Lenin did just that. “History will not forgive revolutionaries for procrastinating when they could be victorious today (and they certainly will be victorious today), while they risk losing much tomorrow; in fact they risk losing everything… To delay action is fatal” (The Call to Power). Lenin urged for the revolution to happen as soon as possible, feeling that if they wanted any longer their desires would be not be met. The Provisional Government attempted to hold their grounds, but threatened by the Bolsheviks, they could not.
The Provisional Government hardly put up a fight, firing few shots. Lenin was right; they managed to occupy government headquarters and seize power. The Bolsheviks were so successful in doing so because unlike other groups, they were not hesitant. They acted quickly, just as Lenin called for. Unfortunately for Lenin, most of his country, and the world for that matter, turned against him as he made many changes quickly. He made peace with the Germans, giving up much of Russia’s most valuable and industrialized land.
Lenin no longer allowed private ownership of land. He nationalized Russia’s banks and then merged several industries into government-controlled trusts, along with many other changes. Lenin knew that these new reforms would not gain majority consent of the public, so he simply did not ask. Russia continued to face serious political problems, with industrial production at 13% of its pre-war status. In 1921, the New Economic Policy (NEP) began to replace communism. Many changes were made once again.
Private property and free enterprises were allowed, privately owned small businesses were allowed, but the government still controlled large and medium sized industries (Notes). In 1922, Russia’s name was changed to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or simply U. S. S. R. In 1924, Lenin dies of a series of strokes. His death marked the end of the revolution. It was thought that Trotsky would be the one to take power, but Trotsky was outmaneuvered by Joseph Stalin, who called for “socialism in one country” (Notes). Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party and Stalin managed to take full control of the Soviet Union.