Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Glenda Adkins
Last updated: April 8, 2019
I have decided to start my portfolio with a famous story from French revolution. King of France Louis XVI observed the protests in the streets of Paris in 1789, he turned to his friend, the due de La Rochefoucauld, and exclaimed, ‘My God! It’s a revolt! ‘ ‘No, Sire,’ La Rochefoucauld is said to have replied. “That is a revolution” (Kimmel, 1990). I suppose, I have chosen this story because it represents the lack of government understanding about what is happening within the country, within its structure or even incoherence what the masses need.Revolution was defined by Goodwin as a social movement with a minimum goal of coup d’i?? tat. But Conteh-Morgan would strongly disagree with this statement. There were many examples where many soldiers described their overthrow of a government as a revolution, but often the takeover is not profound enough to be called a revolution.
He would say that revolution is something profound, dramatic, and intense with regards to its impact in countries status quo.To add on, Revolutions involve changes and alterations of the following: values or the myths of the society; the social structure; institutions; and elite leadership or class composition. These alterations always combine with illegal transfer of power, as well as violent behaviour especially at the time of regime collapse. Changes in values involve operating on a new paradigm or a new worldview (Conteh-Morgan, 2004).There had been many revolutions such as the Chinese, Cuban, American and Iranian revolutions but the perfect revolution, according to Stanislav Andretski, were the French and Russian revolutions because they had the following characteristics: overthrow of the government by its own subject (people); the old ruling elite replaced by the new one from within the state; mass rebellion, involving violence or the threat; and transformation of old social system (Conteh-Morgan, 2004).
Probably, from Andretski perfect revolution model you could agree with majority theorists notion of power transition by the definition is necessarily violent upheaval and to exclude violence is absurd. I will try to discuss this issue within the portfolio. Why I chose revolution but not the case of social movement? Probably, I have understood social movement as something abstract and temporary, with a smaller amplitude and smaller involvement of the masses.Revolutions had crucial impact on history and even present. But social movement is a part of revolution, the patterns and the end are similar to change something, but revolution is more desperate- revolutionists want to change the power by any means. Revolutions are brutal but at the same time they are more optimistic- that is what attracts me most. There were several reasons why I have chosen the Russian revolution as my case study. I observed Russian history and I studied the Russian revolution before.
But it did not make my portfolio uninteresting for me, probably, due to I did not study the Russian revolution at this level where I had to analyse each according to social models why something caused something to happen. However, I could not define an initial statement of my case study as there are several issues which I am particulary interested in. First of them would be why people participated in collective actions against the authority? Why the Russian revolution was so cruel? What where the reasons for such severe losses that the nation of Russia suffered?Or even did the Tsar have an opportunity to avoid revolution and secure the throne? Also there was an interesting issue during a revolution people have to decide on whose side are they going to be. In revolution there cannot be bystanders. Furthermore, this portfolio will review most important actors such as Lenin, imperial Romanov family and the other major social forces- the peasantry, the workers and the soldiers. I also will try to exhibit and explain some reasons why did ordinary Russian peasantry rebel. What were their motives to risk their lives?I am going to answer these questions within this portfolio and review of key event of the Russian revolution will help to develop this case study. * An overview/chronology of key events/facts concerning the case study.
Some scholar disagrees when the Russian revolution started. Skocpol argues that the Russian revolution started 1917 when hungry strikers protested against the Tsar and overthrew the power but Figes states that the beginning of the Russian revolution is specifically 1891, when the public first time reacted to famine crisis and collide with tsarist autocracy.Probably, Figes wanted to underline that for the first time the Russian peasantry rally and a slow process of revolution started long before the eruption in 1917. Also it was the example of the common form of collective action as people were protesting and demanding food from zemstva – district and provincial assemblies which were dominated by the nobles. Although Tilly proposed that food riots or land occupations were common forms of collective action in early modern Europe but it still applied for Russia as it was still backward compare to the Western Europe. In the 1905 the first Russian revolution began.
Although, we can not call it a proper revolution as it does not fit Andretski’s model given in first part of portfolio. It started because of Russian series of losses against Japan in 1905. Priest Gapon, who was one of the leaders of the pro-government trade unions, decided to lead a group of workers to present a petition to the tsar at the Winter Palace. A peaceful demonstration became known as ‘bloody Sunday’ as the guards of the tsar fired on armless people. There were hundred victims but after these gunshot the ‘holiness’ of the tsar was killed with these victims (Figes, 1996).
Strikes set up vastly and the country’s economy was paralysed. The tsar was persuaded to sign a Manifesto and to establish constitution and Russia became a constitutional monarchy. Strikes finished in October, 1905 and year after the promised parliament, the Duma, was convoked.
However, the last word belong to the tsar as every resolution was confirmed be by the Tsar (Figes, 1994). Shortly after the 1905 revolution Stolypin introduced agrarian reform. The main aim of this reform was- completely release people from the commune farming and prevents further rebellion.
He did much to improve their situation and did contribute greatly to delaying the downfall of the Tsarist state. He did not solve problems but attempted to alleviate them. The land reforms were perhaps not enough to secure the continuation of Tsarist autocracy in Russia. The less able peasants, because of their poor knowledge and management of the land, were often forced to give up their land as years passed by. These landless peasants were ready to participate in any revolutionary outbreaks if they came (Pipes, 1992).
The tsar did not learn from the first revolution. Russian lost their faith in the tsar.He entered the World War I (1914-1918) where Russia suffered vast military losses. Beside that, during the war Russia suffered from scarce resources. And in March 1917 the Great Russian revolution started. Hungry strikers demanded bread. The Tsar ordered his troops to curb the strikers.
When the Petrograd troops turned to the side of these hungry strikers on March 10, it meant that the army which had been used to preserve the autocratic monarchy would not protect the Tsar. A few days the Tsar ordered the fourth Duma to suspend its session but Duma refused to obey. The dynasty of Romanov family finished.Duma decides to give authority to the Provisional Government.
On March 11, 1917, the hungry strikers and the Petrograd troops had set up the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The foreign governments recognized the Provisional Government because it advocated those democratic principles close to British and American democracy (Figes, 1996). For instance, the Provisional Government granted an amnesty to political prisoners, cancelled the discriminatory legislation, introduced the eight-hour day, legalized strikes, and granted freedom of the press, speech and assembly. The ethnic minorities received autonomy.And it also let political prison to return from exile. According to scholars such as Skocpol or Figes, it is easy to make a statement that the Provisional government made a cruel mistake when it granted an amnesty to political prisoners. The political prisoners were allowed to return to Russia. Thus the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks had full freedom to attack the Provisional Government as soon as they returned from their exiles.
In April, 1917, Lenin returned from exile. As expected, Lenin immediately launched his antiwar attack on the Government and he also demanded the Provisional Government to give ‘All power to the Soviets’.When the First All Russian Congress of Soviets met in the capital, the Social Revolutionaries (285 deputies) and the Mensheviks (245 deputies) still dominated the soviets but the popularity of the Bolshevik Party rose as a result of its antiwar policy (Figes, 1996). But Lenin had a setback- it was general Kornilov who wanted to establish a military dictatorship. After Kornilov was stopped,the popularity of the Bolshevik Party rose as a result of its antiwar policy (Figes, 1996). Lenin planned revolution and his intention was to set up a socialist society in Russia.
However, the Provisional government was at its lowest ebb and Lenin decided to seize power. A ‘Military Revolutionary Committee’- or as they are better known ‘the Reds’- occupied the key points in Petrograd and Moscow – was ready for the coup d’i?? tat. Eventually, November, 1917, successful coup d’i?? tat was completed. This was the first communist government set up in the world and the Provisional Government, like the Tsarist government before them, offered almost no resistance In November, 1917, Lenin organized the Constituent assembly which was demanded by people.Unfortunately for him, Bolsheviks got just one quarter of votes.
Legitimately the Bolsheviks should have give up power, but Lenin ordered the Red Guards to disperse assembly by force. According to Figes, one of the reasons why The Bolsheviks achieved kept power in their hand was their antiwar policy. People did not demand the victory in the war they demanded bread. I suppose many people could call them selves patriots, but under circumstances that Russians had during the World War I – majority would be concerned with the food not with the military success.In 1918 Brest-Litovsk treaty was signed which announced German victory.
With this treaty Russia lost vast territories including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. But the treaty it self was humiliating for the non-Bolsheviks. Short after the civil war started where the Red defeated the Whites. There were several reasons why. First off all, the Bolsheviks were situated in the main cities were arms were produce. Ordinary peasants tended to support the Reds as they were afraid that the Whites wanted to recreate monarchy and to withdraw peasantry land.
Furthermore, the ‘Whites’ were supported by the foreign countries and Russians had a sense of nationalism which made the Bolshevik government more attractive Figes claims that the Russian civil war was one of the cruelest wars the humanity had ever seen. Russians suffered and the socialist system, which was supposed to liberate people from poverty, made life for people even harsher and around 6 million people died from starvation. Russia productivity fell down in all areas especially in agriculture. Strikes and rebellions started. One of them was from 1-17 of March 1921 by the old Bolshevik stronghold of Kronstadt.They demanded free election to the Soviets but was suppressed. Short after Lenin introduced the New Economical Policy in 1921.
Lenin claimed that In order to take two steps forward, the communists should take one step backward. The N. E. P helped to get back from the economic crisis. In 1924 Lenin died and Stalin regime started.
* An overview of the historical, political and cultural context in which the revolution occurred, with a reflection on how this context shaped the revolution you are looking at. It is said that Peter the Great broke the wall which was separating Russia from the Western Europe.He started to modernise rural Russia. He built up a city on the river Neva bank – St. Petersburg (Figes, 1996). However, more than a century after Emperors Peters death Russia still was backward from the rest of Europe.
Europe at the beginning of XIX century was emancipated but all innovations lagged in Russia and it still had a strong feudal system. The backwardness of Russia was its peasants. Although, serfs were emancipated in 1861 and granted a certain portion of the noble’s estates, but nobles were to be compensated by the government.The land did not become freed serf property but it was to be kept by the village communities. The village communities would allot a share of the village land to each peasant; in return, each peasant was compelled to repay the annual sum to the government (Seton-Watson, 1967). But it was sort of first steps from feudal system made by the Tsar Alexander II.
One of the innovations was zemstva – district and provincial assemblies which were dominated by the nobles. Primary education, public health, poor relief, local industry and elections were important every day aspects where people could feel involved.After the diminishing defeat in Crimean war Russia needed innovations which were done by the Tsar Alexander II. Firstly, military reforms which helped to renovate Russia’s status as a great power after the victory against Turkey in 1878. Secondly, significant increase of railways export increased, especially grain. Tariffs were abolished and simplified. Also industrial output increased. Finally, the number of universities was allowed to give lectures on “European government” and philosophies were permitted and finally universities were given more autonomy.
Censorship was reduced (Seton-Watson, 1967). Pipes argued that Russian universities were the recruiting ground of revolution because students were very receptive of new ideas. Firstly, students took nihilism ideas. They believed that old regime including the Orthodox Church and the Tsar should be destroyed.
But the tsar oppressed nihilists. Some of them were expelled from the universities and some even imprisoned. Nihilism was changed by populism. The essence of Populism was that the Russian peasantry would make a socialist revolution.Alter the revolution, the land of the nobles, the Tsar and the church would be confiscated and given to the peasant communities (Seton-Watson, 1967).
Populists formed a ‘People’s Will’ Party which successfully assassinated Tsar Alexander II. But Seton-Watson argues that assassination of Alexander II was a big step back. The following monarchs – Alexander III and Nicholas II – suppressed innovations and increased censorship.
Russia as a state became more centralized. Although poor peasantry did not have any rights but they loved their ruler.The image of the Tsar was not just a king, mortal as a man but ruling with a divine right; like in the Western medieval traditions – he was fabricated as a God on earth.
Time passed Russians seemed gradually to dispose this opinion especially after the 1905 ‘Bloody Sunday’ (Figes, 1996). Furthermore, Figes claims that people living in the St. Petersburg did not understand their nobles and their customs as St. Petersburg became a modern city with plenty museums, art galleries etc. The nobles were following modern European fashions but the masses did not understand their dressing code and even language as the nobility spoke in French.Imperial Russian was at the similar stage ancient the Rome Empire in fifth century; it was depredating. Rumours such as sex orgies took place in the Tsars chamber also that Rasputin, a black magician, had bigger power than the Tsar or event that the Tsarina cheated with Rasputin (Figes and Kolonitski, 1999).
All these rumours made the country and especially the Tsars’ authority weaker. In Russian customs father was a main family supporter and there was widely spread patriarchy. Moreover, according to Kolonitski and Figes Russia had influence not only on the Russian revolution but on the French also.There were rumours that pornographic satire stripped the Bourbon monarchy- Marie Antoinette uncontrollable libido, the kings impotence- increased political and moral degeneration of old regime. Furthermore, after 1905 the Tsar decreased his power and moved toward limited monarchy. Russia in terms of state power became weaker as it was decentralized also level of censorship declined.
Weaker censorship had a big matter for counter-government ideas to be spread. But even before that Karl Marx ‘Das Kapital’ arrived in Russia. I think once again comparing The French and Russian revolutions we can dig up another similarity.French revolutions ideas were based on Enlightenment thinkers whereas in Russia the main ideology was Marxism from which in the long run was developed Leninism. The end of XIX century represented in Russia a brake through of industrialisation and a rapid growth of proletariat class; due to French investment. However, the quality of life was terrible- people were working approximately 15 hours a day and living in communal barracks with no sanitary facilities. Mass strikes started.
Main aims were not only economic improvement but also political reforms of the tsarist government (Pipes, 1992).The industrialization process also represented the creation of the working class, which according to Marx tend to upraise against the bourgeois. From the last subdivision of Lithuanian-Poland kingdom in 1795 russification process started. The Russian language was enforced as the compulsory language in the Ukraine, White Russia, Lithuania, Poland and the Baltic provinces.
But the underground organisation did not obey the new authorities and national morale in these parts of Russian empire grew with every year (Figes, 1996).But all the scholars (Skocpol, 1979; Figes, 1996, Pipes, 1992) agree on one fact that main causations of the Russian revolution were its military losses in battlefields. Firstly, Russian ego was violated in Crimean war. Afterwards, war against Japan (1904 – 1905) where The Russian armies suffered a series of defeats in the battlefields because they were ill-equipped, badly-armed and poorly trained. It had a big impact on the 1905 revolution. After all these, loses Nicholas’ desired to restore the prestige that Russia had lost during the Russo-Japanese and he joined the World War I.
Unfortunately, Russians were losing against Germany, beside that, famine started. The Tsar paid more attention to the war than to the starving nation. Ultimately the revolution occurred because the people lost faith in their Tsar’s competence to govern, and the revolt of the Petrograd garrisons, which would normally suppress such activity, is arguably the greatest evidence to this. * A critical analysis of the ways in which the revolutionary framed the issues of contention. After Tsar Nicholas II became a king he pulled Russia backwards.He increased censorship ant forbid any antigovernment activities and increased centralisation.
In other words build up stronger state. Seton-Watson claims it was result of Alexander’s II assassination. Obviously, any government would not support antigovernment movement as it is threat for itself.
As a result many students were expelled from universities for anti government movement or other collective actions. One of these students was Lenin. Universities lost their autonomy. Many soldiers and generals were discharged after the war against Japan in 1905.Workers were vastly exploited and their living standard was lowermost. The peasantry was unsatisfied – they still did not have their own property and had to give up a big part of their yield to the government even during famine (Figes, 1996). All these major social forces grew their complaint and they wanted a big change. And 1905 revolution started.
Tsar Nicholas II restrained revolution, but according to definition, lost absolute power and introduced parliament Duma with advisory power (but not legislative power).The cleavage was rooted in social, economic and cultural conflict between the Tsar and social forces. Social forces identify with each other for the same aim- the change in structure (Kimmel, 1990). After the 1905 revolution and Tsar’s Manifesto which promised innovation and alleviation for the nation. People of all classes believed that a new Russia had been born, and that the country was now firmly on the path towards Western constitutionalism and liberal democracy. Indeed there was initially much to be optimistic about.For the first time, legislative power was to be shared and all classes, including the peasantry, were to have a direct say in this power (Figes, 1996). Autocracy was theoretically at an end.
While the creation of the Duma did, to some extent, sow the first seeds of a Western style democracy, the fact that it was created reluctantly in order to preserve autocracy rather than establish democracy ensured that its powers remained limited. No true liberal democracy could be created with such lack of support from the ultimate source of power.The Tsar let people to calm down and acted as he learned from his mistakes. Furthermore, the cleavage between the Tsar and unsatisfied people grew. He did not follow his Manifesto. Although, I reckon he could have escaped revolution if he would had listen to proposals made by the Duma on how to respond to people needs. But he did not. As a result people lost their belief in the Tsar.
I suppose according to the dimensions collective action frames I would put the Russian revolution next to prognostic dimension. Due to the nation started to follow political parties and their ideas.Labour movement preached workers and promoted the idea of social equality.
The proletariat saw how capitalists grew their capital and even more how working class people were exploited by the bourgeois. People understood this movement as opportunity to make a change in the structure (Figes, 1996). After 1905 revolution the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks (August, 1903, the Social Democratic Party was established) agreed to overthrow Tsars power, transform Russia into a democratic bourgeois republic and in turn overthrow it by a socialist revolution.The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin wanted a small party consisting of highly-disciplined and devoted professional revolutionaries. The Mensheviks wanted a mass party consisting of both active supporters and non-active sympathizers. This split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks was formalized in 1905 and deepened in 1912 when the Bolsheviks expelled the Mensheviks from the party (Pipes, 2001).
Public dissatisfaction was at its zenith just before the 1917 revolution.Conteh-Morgan claims that all governments tend to hide inner country problems with external conflicts as in the Russian revolution case. Majority of government spending increased due to the World War I. The Tsar concentrated factories to produce guns and arms but not bread for starving nation. All these contentions between the Tsar and nation imply that social revolution started, which demanded rapid transformation of society.
Many strikes occurred and showed dissatisfaction by the proletariat.Nicholas II demanded his garrison to repress social upheaval. But his garrison turn back on him and joint rebellions, the Duma refused to recognize Tsars authority.
There were no bystanders everyone had to decide on whose side to be. Majority of people showed solidarity against monarchy (Figes, 1996). After revolution there were disagreement how and who should governed the country. The Provisional government lacked of unity and it was a good opportunity for the Bolsheviks to absorb the power.After they did it Lenin understood that they can keep the power only by force. Firstly, they finished the war as the nation demanded it- due to it he won some time and peoples trust.
But the other parties were not satisfied with new regime. They wanted democracy and some conservatives wanted to re-establish old monarchy (Figes, 1996). The contention between the ‘Reds’, who represented new soviet regime, and the ‘Whites’, old regime representatives, finished with the civil war and the ‘Reds’ victory and new regime with dictatorship anchored.