‘The desire seems to have been to reform and improve existing institutions rather then to destroy them root and branch.’ Though this quote is in reference to the French Revolution of 1789, yet upon hindsight many historians envisage the striking parallels between the revolutionary movements of France in 1789 and that of the Russian Revolution in 1905, and hence historiography for the two revolutions can largely be cross contextual. Thus, although the concessions introduced from 1906 might be enough to suppress the relatively mild spirit of reform, it is not sufficient to stem the revolutionary challenge that arose during 1917. The main argument of this discursive is the question of reform versus revolution: two inherently different situations cannot be solved with only one solution. Another reason why the Tsarist regime fell was because the reforms that were introduced did not dissipate the discontent of the general masses: by not solving the grievances of the people effectively, this only means that resentment will grow with time and lead to higher expectations, which culminated in the climatic movement of 1917. Thirdly, the autocratic regime fell as the Tsar’s bastion of support had dissolved: this not only includes the landed gentry, but also the military forces that represented the element of coercion that a monocracy needs. With his support base gone, the Tsar himself has become but an iconic past. Lastly, the incidence of World War One creates a coincidence of discontent: not only has it precipitated the problems of the past, it has also become a problem of itself. Alan Wood questions, ‘Did the military situation generate the domestic crisis which brought about the disintegration of the Tsarist regime; or were the pressures and contradictions within the social and political system already of such a refractory nature as to make revolution in any case inevitable?’ The answer is that there is probably an essence of both, but very evidently the War exposes the weaknesses of the regime and discredited its existence, which led to a question of whether a political paradigm shift is required.
‘Historians disagree on whether the revolution was inevitable by mid 1914.’ Taking the question to a deeper level, we will query the inevitability of the revolution: whether one subscribes to the Optimist view or the Pessimist view. In the former, which is identified with by most of historians, they believe that nothing is inevitable and the direction of history may be deviated or steered in any single direction with any single event, hence in our example the February Revolution of 1917 is by no means unavoidable. Soviet historians, however, share the latter view where the revolution is historically logical and inevitable, and by 1917 the stage is set for an imminent revolution. Thus, we shall examine why the Tsarist regime fell in 1917, and then determine to what extent is the downfall of the regime inevitable.
The Tsarist regime fell in 1917 because the challenge posed by the revolutionaries was far greater and more united then any other front in Russian history. In 1905, many in Russia were not aiming for a complete overthrow of Tsarism as their intention was to force concessions such as land reform and higher wages, which were basic liberal demands that did not call for a revolutionary change as with 1917. When these concessions were made, the struggle by the masses ceased, as seen by the drastic drop in lawlessness after the cancellation of the redemption payments, from 13995 strikes in 1905 to 6114 in 1906. By introducing the reforms, the Tsar had effectively stemmed the tide of the revolution. However by 1917 ‘the situation is growing worse. The capital is in a state of anarchy. The government is paralyzed…General discontent was on the increase.’ The upsurge of the politically radicalized masses is now united by their common discontent that arose out of the incidence of World War One coupled with the poor...
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