Period 3, H World History
February 20, 2013
The Russian Revolution
Russia’s government and economic system underwent profound changes in the 20th century. With a monarchy that had been in power for more than two centuries, a lack of industrialization, and the advent of World War I, Russia’s time had come to evolve as a country. Over the course of two decades, Russia went from agricultural to industrial, and the new idea of communism was implemented. Communism is an economic system in which all business is government-owned and distributed evenly among citizens, and is vital to the understanding of Russia’s growth. The issue arises with respect to how, what, and why did Russia evolve and “progress” from an antiquated monarchy into its latest evolution, and what will Russia evolve into next?
Conditions in the early 1900s were ripe for a revolution in Russia. A small revolt had already occurred in 1905, and the Russians had suffered a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese war. The Czar, Nicholas II, was extremely unpopular, and late in the year granted Russia’s first constitution and permission to create a parliament, the Duma. However, radical political groups often came into power in the Duma, which bothered the Czar. As a result, he continuously disbanded it and forced new elections, rendering it ineffective. Meanwhile, while many other European countries were industrialized, Russia remained a primarily agricultural country. When they joined World War I in 1914, they lacked the weapons and technology to fight, and suffered huge losses relative to the other combatants. In hopes of gaining popularity, Czar Nicholas II went to fight at the battlefront, leaving his wife, Alexandra, in charge. Alexandra was largely disliked by the people, due to a combination of her German heritage and obstinate personality. Alexandra’s biggest problem was the overwhelming influence of Gregori Rasputin, a poor uneducated “holy man” from Siberia. Rasputin claimed to be able to cure Alexandra’s son and heir to the throne, Alexis, of his hemophilia (a disease preventing blood from clotting). Alexandra believed Rasputin and appointed him as her trusted advisor, consulting Rasputin on all decisions and government affairs. The monarchy was now disastrous and making horrible decisions, and though Rasputin was assassinated, it was too late to save them.
In early March, 1917, a series of strikes led by working-class women broke out in the capital city of Petrogad (St. Petersburg). The strikers demanded “Bread and Peace” and “Down with autocracy,” and things quickly turned violent when they were joined by men. The Czar ordered the army to put down the revolt with instructions to shoot into the crowd if necessary. However, many soldiers soon joined the crowds, and it became clear that the monarchy had lost control. The Duma, though ordered not to convene, met in secret. They advised the Czar to step down, and created a provisional government led by Alexander Kerensky. Other groups made up of revolutionary-minded workers and soldiers, called soviets, assembled, demanding full-scale revolution and an end to the monarchy. On March 15, Czar Nicholas II abdicated, ending the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty.
During the March Revolution, as the previous events came to be called, a Russian political leader named Vladmir Lenin had been in exile in Germany. On April 3, 1917, Lenin returned to Russia, sent by Germany to destabilize the country. Lenin was the leader of the Bolsheviks, a faction of a communist party called the Russian Social Democrats. Upon his return, Lenin announced his disapproval of the provisional government and gave several speeches about overthrowing it, which were soon gathered and published collectively as the April Theses. Over the next several months, Lenin gathered support, promising an end to the war, redistribution of all land to the peasants, transfer of factories and industries from capitalists to committees of...