By 1917 Russia was a vast empire made of many countries and people, ruled by an autocrat. The collapse of the Romanov dynasty and the Tsarist regime was all in time to be expected due to the incompetence and ignorance of the Tsars since 1825. Generally to succeed a political leader must have the support of the majority of the people or have a military force that must be able to overwhelm the populace. The last Romanov, Nicholas II had neither and on top of all that he and his governors were very corrupt.
Russia had been deteriorating since 1825 and it soon became time for a revolution. The main reasons for the collapse of the Romanovs and the Tsarist regime were that life in Russia was becoming exceptionally difficult for the peasants due to poor leadership, most of the populace had very little rights, events such as ‘Bloody Sunday’ tarnished the Tsar’s reputation, and finally influence of the transforming Europe that was converting to liberalism and republicanism opened way to the ever waiting floodgates of change.
To begin with the standard of living that was already incredibly hard to maintain for the peasants of Russia was ever deteriorating since 1861 when Russia was left behind in industrialisation. In the 19th century Russia still had a form a feudal social system, where the nobles, clergy and the King (Tsar) were all maintained by the peasants. The upper classes usually contained no more than three or four percent of the population, but they controlled more than eighty percent of the countries wealth.
This left the majority of the population; the peasants extremely poor. In the country peasants had to work with land of poor quality and there were often food shortages. In the cities a worker had a normal working day of more than eleven hours, while their wages were very low. To add to that the scarcity of accommodation forced them to live in overcrowded shelters, where in some cases up to ten people would share a room with one bed. These conditions were all due to the Tsars failure to industrialize. Since the Tsars had outlawed liberalism, these people had no say and no worker’s unions to look out for them and implement changes when needed. Almost all reforms put forward to the Tsar since 1825 were instantly rejected. With such treatment and living conditions, the people grew unsteady and were moving to support illegal opposition groups plotting for reforms.
Moreover not only did the peasants live in a bad state, they had close to no civil rights. In the Russian empire there were many different races and groups of people in the time of the Tsars. There was one group however who were worse off than the others, and these were the serfs. The serfs were literally slaves of the nobles. They were bought and sold together with property, didn’t have a choice in marriage, owed work and taxes to their landlords, were owned by landlords, were illiterate and very poor. Other peasants were deprived of many rights as well. Peasants could not own their own land and weren’t allowed to use machinery on their farms; workers in the city had no trade unions because liberalism was made illegal by the Tsar; and the overwhelming majority of people just wanted freedom of speech and a say in the government. The Tsars really didn’t care about the people of Russia and their rights. They only cared about themselves. In the 1830’s and 1840’s Nicholas I introduced a set of repressive measures called the Nicholas System to keep political ideas out of Russia and keep the people in obedience. Due to the Tsar’s general attitude toward the people, more groups that opposed the Tsar formed with ever growing support for change.
Subsequently an enormous event in the history of Russia took place. On the 9th of January 1905 a procession of peasants, including women and children made their way to the Tsar’s winter palace to humbly present a petition of problems that they had hoped he could possibly resolve. The Tsar’s solider who were ordered no to let the procession continue fired at the people killing thousands. The event thereafter was named Bloody Sunday. This event angered the people greatly and sparked a flurry of riots, industrial strikes, mutinies in the defence forces, and the unmasking of many organised opposition groups that demanded reforms. The country went into a state of emergency. These acts show how the Romanovs were slowly losing power of the country, even in the faction that should be loyal to them – the army. However Nicholas II (the Tsar at that time) survived through the revolution of 1905 by introducing some reforms such as a Duma (government) to lay back the people. But this did not last for long as Nicholas II thought that the people were stupid and by doing this he would be safe for good. He was wrong. The people wanted more changes and reforms, and Russia once again went into a state of emergency. Other events such as the loss of the Russo-Japanese war and the heavy toll and serious mistake of taking part in World War I added to the ever-growing list of the Tsar Nicholas’ leadership blunders.
Simultaneously many countries of Europe were converting to the new ideas and theories of liberalism and republicanism. After the American war of independence with Britain, ideas of democracy entered Europe. The people of many countries believed this new way to be better than the traditional European governing style of autocratic and absolutism monarchies. Therefore many countries chose to change. The problem for Russia was that while these countries themselves were changing to democracy, Russia was ever tightening the grip of the Tsar. At the same time traders and foreigners brought back these ideas into Russia after they had travelled to a reforming country. Additionally a man named Carl Marx developed ideas in 1848 of communism where all people would be equal. After his death a revolutionary by the name of Lenin took up Marx’s ideas and formed an opposition group. These ideas of freedom and rights spread all over Russia, forming groups that opposed the Tsarist regime. However the Tsar was ignorant of these groups and continued his selfish reign. If the Tsars had been less ignorant he maybe could have done something about this.
In the end it is safe to conclude that due to the poor leadership of the Tsars and the events that took place because of it, the collapse of the Romanovs was inevitable well justified. However it wasn’t unstoppable. Had the last Tsar, Nicholas II been a more competent leader, and paid attention to what was happening and the to people’s voices, he could have easily saved the autocracy by relinquishing some of his rule and take up a president’s role like the British monarchy. If he did this after the 1905 revolution the 1917 revolution may have never happened. In the end the Romanovs really made their own fate. Russia as a country had been deteriorating and slowly collapsing due to ignorance and incompetence. Eventually a group named the Bolsheviks that practised the ideas of a communist Russia overthrew the Tsar. After the autocracy was abolished Russia rose into being a superpower economically and militarily. The abolishment of the Romanovs and the Tsarist regime was certainly a better turn for Russia’s future.
The sources that I had referred to gave many reasons for the collapse for the Romanov dynasty. These reasons ranged from poor leadership to defeat at war. However each source gives one or a combination of two main points that the author viewed as the main reasons for the collapse of the Tsarist regime.
Kelly N. who is the author of Russia and the USSR 1905-1956 points out that a combination of poor leadership from the Tsarist government and humiliation suffered at the end of World War I made the Tsar very unpopular and due to that the people of Petrograd rebelled and forced the Tsar to abdicate. The text book is set out very well and shows a build up of the revolution in its early chapters. Almost all sources within the book are well analysed and relevant to the subject. However Kelly is the only author of the book, which means that the analysis of the sources and reasons for the downfall are solely his. However he has listed his sources and the book is published by Heinemann, an Oxford publisher that publishes some of the best study material.
Anderson M. from the book Challenge, Change and Continuity points out that ‘the decision to go to war was the death knell of the Romanov Government’. Anderson reveals that the Russians had dreams of a quick victory over the Germans, but instead the Germans with their fully industrialised machinery and weapons defeated the Russians in a swiftly and invaded areas of the Russian border. Anderson further states that the war cost Russia far too much and the poor decision by Nicholas to leave the capital for the front line of the battle and leave the Tsarina in charge were all due to this decision to go to war. This text book is very good because it specifically looks at the decline of the Romanov dynasty. There are three main authors to the book and the book seems to give a neutral view on Russia at that time. The book also gives valuable appendices to some internet reference sites.
Piotr Labenz a student who wrote an IB essay on the Revolution of 1905 states that in the end if the last Tsar, Tsar Nicholas II had been a more competent leader, he could have avoided the revolution. This source looks into Tsar Nicholas specifically. The author weighs out the sources and arguments and critically analyses. Both long term and short term causes are analysed and presented. The essay was written for the IB diploma program therefore most of the tasks with the analysis of the sources have been performed before writing the essay. This essay also gives ways in which the Romanov dynasty could have been saved.
The excerpt from the web page http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Cyprus/1169/history/revolut.html that has no author, states that a combination of internal problems and fact that Russia was an autocratic country while the rest of Europe was transforming into republicanism and liberalism were the two main causes of the Revolution. This source also states that these problems can be traced back to 1861, meaning that the author believed it was not the problem with one Tsar, but many Tsars. Since the excerpt has no author there can be doubt on weather the information is reliable.
Rempel G. a professor of History in Western New England Collage believes a combination of bad advisors, influence of Rasputin and Philippe on the Tsarina, and the way the Tsar never accepted that his will wasn’t above the law led to the Romanov downfall. Again this source blames Tsar Nicholas the most for the collapse of the Romanov Dynasty. The source can be counted as reliable since he isn’t a Russian and he is also a Professor of History. Again this Source gives exactly the same issues as the rest expect for the main few.
Perrie M a historian of the University of Birmingham has written probably the best source for writing an essay on the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty. Not only are the facts given, but she compares and contrasts the main reasons given for the downfall by other historians. The source also gives facts on why the revolution happened at this time and not earlier. Other sources have been written as appendices and further arguments have been written out as questions. This piece gives insight into the Russian Revolution and is a marvellous source.