The February/March Revolution
How far would you agree that the February/March revolution that overthrew the Russian monarchy was a “spontaneous uprising”? Answer this question and develop a deep analysis.
The second revolution in Russia at the time of World War One, following the first revolt in 1905, took place in February (March for the rest of Europe) of the year 1917. At the time, the conditions of the nation were strained under almost every aspect. The decision of the Tsar Nicholas II to appoint himself as supreme commander of the military forces had lead to a series of serious military defeats, and the number of casualties was extremely high. While Russia was occupied in the fighting, in the attempt to organize its forces, the population was suffering from severe food shortages, and a high inflation and unemployment rate, which had lead to workers demanding better living standards and peasants land redistribution through multiple strikes and demonstrations. Although some were still in support of the war, the public dissent indicated that most demanded the end of the conflict. The February Revolution began officially on February 23 (March 8) when various incidents took place in the same few days. Rioters, in particular numerous women from working class families in occasion of the socialist’s International Women’s Day, had taken to the streets as a sign of protest for the high bread prices and shortage. They were then joined by thousand of factory workers who had been locked out of the Putilov Iron Works factory for demanding a higher salary and had gone on strike. The combined forces of many other industrial workers and people in the streets of Petrograd, the capital (St. Petersburg), gained momentum as the dissenters marched towards the center. The Tsar ordered the police units and the regiments to disperse the protesting masses, however most of the military garrison mutinied and joined the demonstrators. The troops did kill 40 unarmed people, yet they were unable to suppress the mobs. The ex-military units seized police stations and weapon arsenals, arresting ministers and liberating prisoners. Although the Duma did advise Nicholas II to establish a constitutional monarchy, the Tar’s reply was to order more troops to the streets. On February 27 the revolution reached its climax, meanwhile the State Duma had established a Provisional Committee which would negotiate with the Soviet’s newly formed Executive Committee, and a few days later the Duma nominated a Provisional Government. When even the High Command of the Russian Army suggested that Nicholas II renounce his position, the Tsar was forced to abdicate in favor of his brother the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, who unexpectedly refused- thus marking the collapse of the dynasty of the Romanov on March 2. As the monarchy came to an abrupt end, the Provisional Government was left in power, primarily composed by a coalition of socialists- Social Revolutionaries and Social Democrats (specifically Mensheviks).
The question as to whether the February Revolution was a spontaneous uprising or an organized event has often been at the center of debate and controversy. It has been argued that the conspiracy amongst the elite of society did constitute a decisive factor for the outcome, and that these forces acted together to push the Tsar to abdicate in order to prevent the possibility of a real mass revolution from taking place. In such case, the revolution from “above” would have centrally involved only the Duma members, nobles and generals, taking into less consideration the masses who invaded the streets of St. Petersburg and who enabled the military units to mutiny and abandon their role, attributing to them only a secondary position. However, it was the movement of the people which represented almost a threat for the elite, threw it into panic and forced it to take further steps. Without the presence of the demonstrators, the higher ranks of society had no...
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