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Essay/Term paper: Wwi steps towards the russian revolution

Essay, term paper, research paper:  World War

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Russia, History, WWI Steps Towards the Russian

Revolution The quotation, ""I shall maintain the principle of

autocracy just as firmly and unflinchingly as it was preserved

by my unforgettable dead father.' (Nicholas II) In spite of the

Czar's decrees and declarations, Russia, by the beginning of

the 20th century, was overripe for revolution," is supported

by political and socioeconomic conditions late monarchial

Russia. Nicholas II was the Czar of Russia from

1896-1917, and his rule was the brute of political disarray.

An autocrat, Nicholas II had continued the divine-right

monarchy held by the Romanovs for many generations.

From the day Russia coronated Nicholas II as Emperor,

problems arose with the people. As was tradition at

coronations, the Emperor would leave presents for the

peasants outside Moscow. The people madly rushed to grab

the gifts, and they trampled thousands in the bedlam. As an

autocrat, no other monarch in Europe claimed such large

powers or stood so high above his subjects as Nicholas II.

Autocracy was traditionally impatient and short- tempered.

He wielded his power through his bureaucracy, which

contained the most knowledgeable and skilled members of

Russian high society. Like the Czar, the bureaucracy, or

chinovniki, stood above the people and were always in

danger of being poisoned by their own power. When Sergei

Witte acted as Russia's Minister of Finance from 1892 to

1903, attempted to solve Russia's "riddle of backwardness"

in its governmental system. He is considered more of a

forerunner of Stalin rather than a contemporary of Nicholas

II. In 1900, Witte wrote a memorandum to Nicholas II,

underscoring the necessity of industrialization in Russia. After

the government implemented Witte's plan, Russia had an

industrial upsurge. All of Russia, however, shared a

deep-seated resentment of the sudden jump into an

uncongenial way of life. Witte realized that Nicholas II was

not meant to carry the burden of leading Russia to an

industrial nation as a Great Power. Nicholas II's weakness

was even obvious to himself, when he said, "I always give in

and in the end am made the fool, without will, without

character." At this time, the Czar did not lead, his ministers

bickered amongst themselves, and cliques and

special-interest groups interfered with the conduct of

government. Nicholas II never took interest in public

opinion, and seemed oblivious to what was happening

around him. He was still convinced he could handle Russia

himself. By 1902, the peasants had revolted against Witte's

industrialization movements, which were marked by a raise

in taxes as Russia spent more than it ever had. Russia was

struggling in the European and Asian markets, and with much

domestic unrest, Nicholas II did not want foreign affairs

muddled as well. Nicholas II dismissed Witte from the

Minister of Finance in August 1903. January 22, 1905,

commonly known as Bloody Sunday, was a revolutionary

event only because of what followed, not of what actually

happened on that day. A group of workers and their families

set out, with the backing of several officials, to present a

petition to the Czar. As they approached the Winter Palace,

rifles sprayed them with bullets. This cruel act by the Czar

shattered what smidgen of faith the workers and peasants

still held for Nicholas II, and sparked the quickly-aborted

"October Revolution." Peasants and workers revolted in an

elemental and anarchic rebellion, ultimately turning a

large-scale strike and bringing the government, economy,

and all public services to a complete halt. By October 1905,

the relations between the Czar and his subjects had come to

a complete breakdown. The October Manifesto, created in

1905, caused two things. First, it granted basic civil liberties

to all, despite religion or nationality; it even legalized political

parties. This concession was capped by the creation of an

elected legislative body, the Imperial Duma. Second, it split

the revolutionary front, reconciling the most cautious

elements among the moderates, who had no heart for

violence, with a government which promised to end the

abuses of autocracy. This formed the political party called

Octobrist, which lead the Duma. Peter Stolypin was Chair of

the Soviet of Ministers (1907-1911). Stolypin's goal was to

seal the rift between the government and the public. His

scheme was a moderate one, based largely on Witte's earlier

suggestions. Its essence was the creation of a prosperous

and conservative element in the countryside composed of

"the strong and the sober." On the whole, Stolypin

succeeded with some improvements in the civic status of the

peasantry, but did not expunge the barriers separating it from

"privilege Russia" (see explanation in section covering social

aspects). A revolutionary assassinated Stolypin in 1911. In

1916, Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandria, were so

estranged from the ruling circle that a palace coup was freely

advocated. Before this, Alexandria had brought Rasputin, a

faith-healer, to live with them in the Winter Palace at

Petrograd. Alexandria believed he was holy and could save

her son, Alexander, from dying of hemophilia. Rasputin ate

into the woodwork of the Russian aristocracy, and

Alexandria made sure that the members of the Duma did not

tarnish him, and that they met his requests. Two

revolutionaries murdered Rasputin in December of 1916,

after being poisoned, shot, and drowned. Many members of

the Imperial family and army generals in the field believed

that, "If it is a choice between the Czar and Russia, I'll take

Russia." The British Ambassador to Russia, Sir George

Buchanan, said to Nicholas II on January 12, 1917, "Your

Majesty, if I may be permitted to say so, has but one safe

course open to you, namely to break down the barrier that

separates you from your people and to regain their

confidence." To this, Nicholas II replied, "Do you mean that

I am to regain the confidence of my people or that they are

to regain my confidence?" History took its course with the

belligerent ravings of Nicholas II, and on March 7, 1917, a

major demonstration ignited in Petrograd. After two days of

heavy rioting, the soldiers called into to control the bunch

and defend the regime gave up and joined in. On March 12,

the soldiers in Petrograd would not obey the Czar's orders,

and in several days this held for the rest of Russia. On

March 15, Czar Nicholas II abdicated his Empire to the

emissaries of the Duma. Socially, Russia was in just about as

much of as mess as they were politically. In 1900, the Czar

and his government had not decided how to treat its

peasants. It kept all the peasants legally and socially

segregated from the other social groups. There were

essentially two sides to Russian society at this time. On one

side stood the peasants, the "dark people." On the other was

"privilege Russia," including nobles, bureaucrats, the run of

educated Russians, and even the merchants, who often had

risen from the peasants. "Privilege Russia" look down upon

the "dark people" with much contempt. Chekhov described

the peasants in a story that he published in 1897: . . . these

people lived worse than cattle, and it was terrible to be with

them; they were coarse, dishonest, dirty, and drunken; they

did not live at peace with one another but quarreled

continually, because they feared, suspected, and despised

each other . . . The most insignificant little clerk or official

treated the peasants as though they were tramps, and

addressed even the village elders and church wardens as

inferiors, and as though he had a right to do so. The peasants

were the bulk of Russian citizenry, and acted as the soldiers

of the 1917 revolution. While "privilege Russia," worked

reluctantly to make themselves more western, the "dark

people" had remained the same over the years. Most were,

until this time, politically unaware. The only Russia that they

knew existed within a five-mile radius of their shanty. In the

bottom of the peasant's heart, he or she carried a deep,

imbedded bitterness and hatred for the "upper crust." All

moves toward industrialization and westernization had been

done without regard to him or even at his expense. The

peasant was simply apathetic and harbored a sense of

personal worthlessness to his country. Ultimately, he

rejected it, and was not a Russian, but identified himself as

merely from his local area. As pathetic as the peasant's

situation might be, it was finally them who started the

revolution and them who slowly came politically aware. As

visionaries believed in the power of the people, the peasants'

resilience and drive encouraged them. "Privilege Russia,"

although markedly better-off than the peasantry, was not

having a picnic either. As much as it tried to westernize itself,

it did not enjoy the equal citizenship of a European

democracy. It was divided into state-supervised

organizations: the nobility, the bureaucracy, the priesthood,

the merchant community, and the "lower middle class." If a

citizen had graduated from a school which was considered

"higher education," the citizen became known as an

"honorary citizen," which granted enough more privileges to

appear somewhat like a western citizen. The Balkans had

ethnic groups numbering in double-digits, and they weren't

worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier. Greater Russia

had groups numbering in triple- digits. There were hundreds

of different ethnicities, languages, cultures, and many

different religions, ranging from sects of Judeo- Christian to

Islam to even Buddhism. Getting along with one another was

not easy for these groups, and especially so under Russia's

policy of forced assimilation. Most Russians were

dissatisfied with their country's "cultural barrier" between

Russia and Europe. They had an inferiority complex, thinking

of themselves as less civilized, backwards, "Asiatic," and in

doing so created a lack of respect among Russia's European

counterparts. During World War I, when the Allies bullied

Russia to get back into the war after their first retreat, they

seemed to think of Russia as "stupid cowards." Germany

made Russia soon to sign a treaty with Germany, after their

army — embarrassingly enough — ran away from strong

German defenses. If losing a war isn't enough to give people

of a nation an inferiority complex, nothing is. The Russian

people unconsciously accepted the flood of western

standards into Russia between 1890 and 1914. Not

surprisingly, the Russians with their extra-long- sleeved shirts

were complacent to this infuse of foreign culture, wanting to

do anything to feel equal to Europeans. The years of

revolution between 1907 and 1914 were not particularly

bad ones for the peasants. Stolypin's reformation plan had

given more land to the peasants (who already owned most

of the land in the first place). Though taxes had increased un

expectantly under Witte's system, Stolypin quickly lowered

the rates and eased the tax burden on the peasants. Rural

goods-cooperatives had expanded and even introduced

technolical advancements. The literacy rate had risen as the

government put more emphasis on elementary education.

Even under the political restrictions imposed by Stolypin and

his successors, with the creation of the Duma and political

parties, people felt freer. Educational planners predicted that

there would be schools for every child in Russia built by

1922. Russia's contacts with western Europe grew, as they

even began contributing to the fashions in art, literature, and

philosophy. Not looking at these years from a pessimistic,

intellectually political point of view, these were Russia's

version of our "roaring twenties." By 1916, all of this had

changed. Peasants were forced into the army as punishment

for striking. Much of the army was made up of peasants, and

hundreds of thousands of men died. No one believed the

war was a noble cause to fight for. At the beginning of 1917,

an estimated 1.5 million people deserted the Russian army.

All of this amounted to one thing everyone knew for sure;

they were in for another storm of revolution. With the first

aborted revolution attempt of 1905, the people were like

half a splinter removed; there was a momentary relief, but

later the pain returned with an infection. All of Russia knew

something had to be done by 1917, and up until that point

no one could decide upon what should take place. Russia

had been torn apart politically by a weak Emperor, festering

with indecision, and socio- economically with World War I,

class wars, and the increasing state of industrialization's

unrest and bread lines. It was a time for change, and in

1917, Russia was clearly "overripe" for revolution.  

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