Origins and Progression of the Russian Revolution

Topics: Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Russia Pages: 10 (3048 words) Published: June 3, 2015


LEVEL: 4:2
Explain the origins and progression of the Russian revolution between 1917 and 1922.

The origins of the Russian Revolution can be explained in terms of the peasant consciousness of land which can be traced back to 1861. Russia had been the last country in Europe to abolish serfdom; nevertheless, Alexander II’s emancipation edict of 1861 though earning him the title Czar Liberator, had left peasants feeling cheated. The Russian Revolution of 1905 failed to solve the land issue, reaction of the government in trying to suppress the grievances of the peasants helped less. Economic and social changes in Russia from 1905 affected the peasants. The Russo-Japanese war of 1905 humiliated the Russians and increased the economic downturn. The defeat increased the unpopularity of the Tsarist regime among the generals as also did the Bloody Sunday and World war One. “The Russian Revolution is an extremely complex event, made all the more complex by the varying historiographical traditions – Soviet, liberal, libertarian and revisionist – that have sought to explain it.”1 The period after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1917 to 1922 saw the Revolution going through various shapes. These include the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and the establishment of the provisional government, the October Revolution and assumption of power by the Bolsheviks, Treaty of Brest-Litovisk, the Civil War and collapse of opposition to the Russian Soviet State. At the heart of the Revolution there is a paradox: an autocratic, oppressive, bureaucratic and militaristic police state under the Czars was replaced by an autocratic, oppressive, bureaucratic and militaristic police state under the Bolsheviks.2 On December 30 1922 only the personnel had changed but the system was still the same.

The origins of the Revolution can be traced back to the unsatisfactory legislation which abolished serfdom in Russia in 1861. Wood says that, the emancipation of the serfs has been variously described as the ‘most important single act of legislation in the entire history of Russia’, and as being ‘not worth the paper it was written on’.3 Czar Alexander II conservative though he was, realized that the rising tide of peasant revolts, especially after the Crimean War 1853-1856, would not permit further delay. As he told the nobility: ‘Better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait until it abolishes itself from below.’4 Some features of the complex legislation were as follows. First, the serfs were given their legal freedom that is they were no longer the private property of their masters and were free to trade, marry and acquire property. However, the emancipation of 1861 had left peasants feeling cheated since an elementary theory of property, believed by many peasants, was that land should belong to those who work on it.5 The landed gentry kept roughly one-sixth of the land - usually the best-quality land – and the peasants had to pay for the land they received at a price above its market value. Therefore the emancipation of the serfs was the foundation of Czar Alexander’s reforms which generated new social, political and intellectual forces confined within the rigid political framework of an absolutist, autocratic state but however made the revolution inevitable.6

The Russian Revolution of 1905 failed to solve the land issue. On January 9, 1905, as a group of unarmed workers approached the Winter Palace to present a petition of grievances to the...

Bibliography: Darby, G., The Russian revolution, Longman, New York, 2000.
Wood, A., The Origins of the Russian Revolution 1861–1917, Lancaster Pamphlets, Second edition, Routledge, London, 1993.
Curtiss, J. S., The Russian Revolutions of 1917, D. Van Nostrand Company, INC, New Jersey, 1957.
Westwood, J. N., Endurance and Endeavour, Russian History 1812 – 2001, Fifth Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001.
Smith, S. A., The Russian Revolution, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002.
Wade, R. A., The Russian Revolution, 1917, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000.
Bromley, J., Russia 1848 – 1917, Heinemann Educational Publishers, Oxford, 2002.
Pipes, R., A Concise History of The Russian Revolution, Vintage Books, New York, 1991.
Fitzpatrick, S., The Russian Revolution, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990.
Ramm, A., Europe in the Nineteenth Century 1789 – 1905, Longman, New York, 1984.
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