THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION (1917) | Essay for CSS and PMS
The Russian Revolution is the collective tern1 for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar the older Julian calendar was in use in Russia at the time). In the second revolution, during October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.
The February Revolution (March 1917) was a revolution focused around Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). In the chaos, members of the Imperial parliament or Duma assumed control of the country, forming the Russian Provisional Government. The army leadership felt they did not have the means to suppress the revolution and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the last Tsar of Russia, abdicated. The Soviets (workers’ councils), which were led by more radical socialist factions, initially permitted the Provisional Government to rule but insisted on a prerogative to influence the government and control various militias. The February Revolution took place in the context of heavy military setbacks during the First World War, which left much of the army in a state of mutiny.
A period of dual power ensued, during which the Provisional Government held state power while the national network of Soviets, led by socialists, had the allegiance of the lower-class citizens and the political left. During this chaotic period, there were frequent mutinies and many strikes. When the Provisional Government chose to continue fighting the war with Gern1any, the Bolsheviks and other socialist factions campaigned for the abandonment of the war effort. The Bolsheviks formed workers militias under their control into the Red Guards (later the Red Army) over which they exerted substantial control.
In the October Revolution (November in the Gregorian calendar), the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, and the workers’ Soviets, overthrew the Provisional Government in St Petersburg. The Bolsheviks appointed themselves as leaders of various government ministries and seized control of the countryside, establishing the Cheka to quash dissent. To end the war, the Bolshevik leadership signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany in March 1918.
Civil war erupted between the “Red” (Bolshevik), and “White” (anti-Bolshevik) factions, which was to continue for several years, with the Bolsheviks ultimately victorious. In this way, the Revolution paved the way for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). While many notable historical events occurred in Moscow and St Petersburg, there was also a broad-based movement in cities throughout the state, among national minorities through.out the empire, and in the rural areas, where peasants took over and redistributed land.
Following are the causes of the revolution
The revolution was the culmination of a long period of repression and unrest. From the time of Peter I (Peter the Great), the Czardom increasingly became an autocratic bureaucracy that imposed its will on the people by force, with wanton disregard for human life and liberty. As Western technology was adopted by the czars, Western hmmu1dtariau._ ideals were acquired by a group of educated Russians. Among this growing intelligentsia, the majority of whom were abstractly humanitarian and democratic, there were also those who were politically radical and even revolutionary. The university became a seat of revolutionary activity; nihilism, anarchism, and later Marxism was espoused and propagated.
The reforms of Alexander II brought the emancipation of the serfs and opened the way for industrial development. However, emancipation imposed harsh economic conditions on the peasants and did not satisfy their need for farn1land. Industrialization concentrated people in urban centres, where the exploited working class was a receptive audience for radical ideas. A reactionary and often ignorant clergy kept religion static and persecuted religious dissenters. Pogroms were instituted against the Jews, which. turned many radical Jews to Zionism. Non-Russian nationalities in the empire were repressed.
By 1903, Russia was divided into several political groups. The autocracy was upheld by the landed nobility and the higher clergy; the capitalists desired a constitutional monarchy; the liberal bourgeoisie made up the bulk of the group that later became the Constitutional Democratic party; peasants and intelligentsia were incorporated into the Socialist Revolutionary party; and the workers, influenced by Marxism, were represented in the Bolshevik and Menshevik wings of the Social Democratic Labour party.
Despite being allowed to seize power so easily Lenin soon discovered that his support was far from absolute. His Peace Policy with the Gern1ans was particularly unpopular as it ceded large amounts of Russian territory. Shortly after the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War broke out between the ‘Reds’ (Communists) and the ‘Whites’ (Nationalists, Conservatives, Imperialists and other anti-Bolshevik groups). After a bloody four-year struggle, Lenin and the Reds won, establishing the Soviet Union in 1922, at an estimated cost of 15 million lives and billions of roubles. In 1923 Lenin died and Stalin took over the Communist Party, which continued to rule Russia until 1991 when the USSR was dissolved.