Research Essay: The Russian Revolution (Task 1)
Assess the role of the Bolsheviks for the decline and fall of the Romanov dynasty.
The beginning of the 20th century brought radical changes to the social and political structure of autocratic Russia. It was a period of regression, reform, revolution and eradication. Eradication of a blood line that had remained in rule for over 300 years; the Romanov Dynasty. The central figure of this eradication was Tsar Nicholas II, often described as an incompetent leader, absent of the “commanding personality nor the strong character and prompt decision which are so essential to an autocratic ruler...” (Sir G. Buchman, British ambassador to Russia from 1910 in H. Seton-Watson, The Decline of Imperial Russia, 1964, p.108) What caused or defined the decline and eventual fall of the Romanov dynasty cannot concluded by one influencing factor but an amalgamation of Tsar’s leadership, certain events that impacted on Russia and Revolutionary groups that aided this process. From these it is evident though that Tsar Nicholas’ role, to a major extent, was the key factor in the end of the 300-year reigning Romanov rule and subsequent execution. In exploring Russia in the early 20th Century, the revolutionary groups, mainly including the Bolsheviks, can be seen as having a minor role in that actual reason for the decline of the Romanov dynasty but rather a larger role in the events after the fall, in regards to the execution itself and shaping Russia’s future afterwards.
The early years plunging Russia into the 20th century brought humiliation and prevalent discontent and resentment towards Tsar Nicholas. The decision to push Russia into a war with Japan unprepared and overconfident was the first fatal mistake Tsar Nicholas made. The humiliating blow of the disastrous war with Japan was felt nation-wide and led the people to lose faith in their “little father” and “divine ruler”. “Russia was humiliated in the eyes of the world” (Paul Dowswell, Days that Shook the World: The Russian Revolution, p.12). The outcome of this war was greatly converse to the expectations and outcomes Tsar Nicholas anticipated; a victory that was “meant to have bound the people in patriotic fervour to Nicholas” (cited in: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/1905_russian_revolution.htm). This was a direct example of the Tsar’s ignorance to reality and the first noticeable sign of the ensuing road of detrimental mistakes to come for Russia. This defeat sparked widespread displays of discontentment, rebellion and rage towards the Tsar in which had already been arising as a result of poor harvests and rising unemployment, which Tsar also remained ignorant to. His people were rebelling, demanding civil liberties and a Duma but Nicholas still remained adamant, stubborn and desperate to clutch onto his autocratic rule. This was one of the key qualities that Nicholas possessed that contributed to the downfall of the Romanov dynasty, as no matter what grievances or obstacles posed a threat to Russia, Nicholas never ceased fighting for his “God-given right to rule.”
“...the one event that unleashed a fury of mass action and set Russia well and truly on the path to revolution was the cold-blooded shooting of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in St Petersburg on 22 January 1905” (stated by Historian Peter Litwin). The ripples of the infamous “Bloody Sunday” massacre on January 9 1905 left the nation in shock, triggering a wave of massive demonstrations and strikes throughout the empire. A wave of assassinations occurred and in June the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutinied. This mutiny struck the Tsar in particular as he had never doubted the loyalty of his armed forces. As stated by historians Bruce Dennett and Sephen Dixon, “It seemed that Nicholas II and his government would be overthrown by the revolutionary force of opponents from all levels of Russian society”(Paul Dowswell, Days that Shook...