The February 1917 Revolution Essay

Russian Revolution of 1917, two revolutions, the first of which, in February (March, New Style), overthrew the imperial government and the second of which, in October (November), placed the Bolsheviks in power.

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Soviet Union: The Russian Revolution

Sometime in the middle of the 19th century, Russia entered a phase of internal crisis that in 1917 would culminate in revolution. Its causes were not so much economic or social as political and cultural. For the sake of…

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By 1917 the bond between the tsar and most of the Russian people had been broken. Governmental corruption and inefficiency were rampant. The tsar’s reactionary policies, including the occasional dissolution of the Duma, or Russian parliament, the chief fruit of the 1905 revolution, had spread dissatisfaction even to moderate elements. The Russian Empire’s many ethnic minorities grew increasingly restive under Russian domination.

But it was the government’s inefficient prosecution of World War I that finally provided the challenge the old regime could not meet. Ill-equipped and poorly led, Russian armies suffered catastrophic losses in campaign after campaign against German armies. The war made revolution inevitable in two ways: it showed Russia was no longer a military match for the nations of central and western Europe, and it hopelessly disrupted the economy.

Riots over the scarcity of food broke out in the capital, Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg), on February 24 (March 8), and, when most of the Petrograd garrison joined the revolt, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate March 2 (March 15). When his brother, Grand Duke Michael, refused the throne, more than 300 years of rule by the Romanov dynasty came to an end.

A committee of the Duma appointed a Provisional Government to succeed the autocracy, but it faced a rival in the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The 2,500 delegates to this soviet were chosen from factories and military units in and around Petrograd.

The Soviet soon proved that it had greater authority than the Provisional Government, which sought to continue Russia’s participation in the European war. On March 1 (March 14) the Soviet issued its famous Order No. 1, which directed the military to obey only the orders of the Soviet and not those of the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government was unable to countermand the order. All that now prevented the Petrograd Soviet from openly declaring itself the real government of Russia was fear of provoking a conservative coup.

Between March and October the Provisional Government was reorganized four times. The first government was composed entirely of liberal ministers, with the exception of the Socialist Revolutionary Aleksandr F. Kerensky. The subsequent governments were coalitions. None of them, however, was able to cope adequately with the major problems afflicting the country: peasant land seizures, nationalist independence movements in non-Russian areas, and the collapse of army morale at the front.

Meanwhile, soviets on the Petrograd model, in far closer contact with the sentiments of the people than the Provisional Government was, had been organized in cities and major towns and in the army. In these soviets, “defeatist” sentiment, favouring Russian withdrawal from the war on almost any terms, was growing. One reason was that radical socialists increasingly dominated the soviet movement. At the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, convened on June 3 (June 16), the Socialist Revolutionaries were the largest single bloc, followed by the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.

Kerensky became head of the Provisional Government in July and put down a coup attempted by army commander in chief Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov (according to some historians, Kerensky may have initially plotted with Kornilov in the hope of gaining control over the Petrograd Soviet). However, he was increasingly unable to halt Russia’s slide into political, economic, and military chaos, and his party suffered a major split as the left wing broke from the Socialist Revolutionary Party. But while the Provisional Government’s power waned, that of the soviets was increasing, as was the Bolsheviks’ influence within them. By September the Bolsheviks and their allies, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, had overtaken the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks and held majorities in both the Petrograd and Moscow soviets.

By autumn the Bolshevik program of “peace, land, and bread” had won the party considerable support among the hungry urban workers and the soldiers, who were already deserting from the ranks in large numbers. Although a previous coup attempt (the July Days) had failed, the time now seemed ripe. On October 24–25 (November 6–7) the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist Revolutionaries staged a nearly bloodless coup, occupying government buildings, telegraph stations, and other strategic points. Kerensky’s attempt to organize resistance proved futile, and he fled the country. The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which convened in Petrograd simultaneously with the coup, approved the formation of a new government composed mainly of Bolshevik commissars.

Why Was There A Revolution In Russia In February 1917?

The revolution in Russia of February 1917 had successfully overthrown the Tsarist regime, which lasted for more than three hundred years. Even though the revolution in 1905 was often referred as the "dress" rehearsal" for the revolution of 1917, in fact, they did not have a lot in common. The most important causes of February Revolution in 1917 could be examined from the following aspects.

Politically, because of the weak personalities of Tsar Nicholas II, of which the whole system of Russian autocracy relied on, and his reliance on people around him, his inability to become a good Tsar was revealed, which induced the Revolution in 1917. Alexander III, the father of Nicholas II , did not give him enough training in state's affairs, and thus Nicholas II became, though charming, an ineffective and easily influenced ruler when a premature death fallen on Alexander III in 1894. Because of his incompetence, he often needed to rely on the people around him. Two of the most influential figures to him were his tutor, Pobedonostsev, and his wife Alexandra. Pobedonostsev was a reactionary, who helped to reinforce the ideas of reforming was a threat to the autocracy in Nicholas. Nicholas was a believer in autocracy, which could be seen in his statement at his coronation, "I shall defend the principle of autocracy as unswervingly as my deceased father." Pobedonostsev's reinforcement only made Nicholas a firmer believer in autocracy. Being a firm believer in autocracy, Nicholas had little appetite for changes, but Russia at that time was in need of reform and changes. Therefore, his belief and inability made the government system slower than it could be. Furthermore, because of his insensitive and inability, he lost the loyalty from his people. For example at the coronation ceremony 1300 people were killed because of the excitement aroused by alcohol at the arrival of Nicholas and Alexandra; he attended a lavish banquet in the evening, and this uncaring action shaken his subjects' loyalty a little. But more importantly, it was on the "Bloody Sunday" on January 9th, 1905, his image as a "little father" was ruined. Little loyalty was left for the Tsar. This made the success in the revolution two years after much easier. In addition, the Tsar was very reliant on his wife Alexandra's advice. Unfortunately, Alexandra was not adept at political issues and often relied on unsuitable people's advices, for example Rasputin's. Furthermore, her root in Germany during WWI allowed opponents to raise doubts about her loyalty to Russia and this indirectly affected Tsar and the Tsarina's reputation, which helped the revolution taking place in 1917. Therefore, Tsar Nicholas II's incompetence and over-reliance on others induced the February...

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