Russian Revolution in March 1917

(1) There where many reasons that led to the fall of tsarism in march 1917. One of them was tsars’ incompetence and the fact that he was incapable of finding effective ministers, or of supporting those he appointed. He listened not to the Duma’s advises but to his wife, friends and favorites. One friend was particularly disliked, the unsavory Rasputin.

His name was Gregory Efimovitch but most people called him Rasputin, “the immortal one”, a Siberian peasant who claimed to be a Starets, a holy man of God. He was a wonderer whose uncouth appearance and outrageous behavior upset St. Petersburg society. Claiming mysterious powers of prophesy and healing, he convinced the Empress that he alone could control the painful and dangerous hemophilia of her young son Alexis, heir to the throne, through hypnotism. Alexandra, the tsarina, desperately grateful since she knew that she inherited her decease to her son, believed that Gregory was sent from God. From then on Rasputin was one of the most trusted members of the court. The Tsar and the Tsarina from now on they should follow this holy man’s advice.

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Despite the rumors, Nicholas and Alexandra were told about Rasputin’s wild behavior, (that Rasputin drank heavily and had affairs with many local women) they refused to listen, and continued to put all their trust in him. Rasputin began to give political advice to Alexandra, which she passed on to Nicholas. As Rasputin’s influence increased, hatred of him grew. Rumors began to go around that he was having an affair with Alexandra.

Alexandra, the tsarina, was not very popular either. Alexandra was of German origin and therefore people did not trust her. During the war they believed that Alexandra was working to destroy Russia from within! From the start of Nicholas reign she encouraged Nicholas to rule as an autocrat and to ignore new ideas about sharing power with people.

In 1915 Nicholas went to military headquarters to take command leaving the Empress in charge. Alexandra was able to do more or less what she wanted. She used her power to dismiss ministers who displeased her and replace them with men whom she, and Rasputin, favoured. With ministers coming and going the work of the government ground to a halt. Nicholas relied on information about the situation in the capital from his wife. She often did not tell him the truth and made out that everything was fine. Even the closest supporters of the Tsar were in despair.

(2) Short-term and long-term causes contributed to the revolution. Mutiny in the army, food shortages and discontent among the people, witch led to strikes were some of them. Mutiny in the army and food shortages were short-term causes of the revolution in 1917 but discontent among the people were long terms building up long ago, even from the start of Nicolas II, regime.

First of all there were 170 000 garrisoned soldiers sullenly awaiting the call to the front. More often the Russians had to retreat, with immense losses of men and weapons. Lice, dirt, frost, mud, starvation, shortages and lack of medical care made things worse. The army had always been the reliable bulwark of tsarist autocracy, able and willing to turn its arms against either foreign enemies or fellow Russians as the case required. The Tsar’s soldiers did not hesitate to fire on the peaceful marchers in 1905 or the striking Lena mineworkers in 1912.

This however was a different army, an army consisted of millions of poor, starving conscripted peasants fully attuned to what awaiting them at the front, embittered by their experiences under the autocracy, cynical and lacking in motivation. When the 1917 revolution out broke, the soldiers did not behave as they had in 1905. At first they dispersed the crowds, but then some refused to fire, and even helped demonstrators against the police. Some turned against their officers and joined the crowds, calling for the overthrow of tsar and government. Without reliable troops the Tsar was helpless.

In addition, people starved, not because of shortage of food, but the fact that most of it was left to rot on the railway track or in the trains during transfer. There were not enough trains to keep the armies as well as the town-people supplied with food and materials. There were severe food shortages in the year leading up to the 1917 Revolution. Unrest began in response to the food shortages. By late January 1917 bread shortages in Petrograd were becoming acute and rationing was implemented. Rumors of impending shortages spread rapidly and queues immediately began appearing at bakeries and other food supply shops. Each day, women began queuing at dawn at temperatures well below zero in attempt to get bread. Shops soon run out of supplies. The war caused lack of workers since the men were taken into the armies to fight. Many factories had to close because they did not have enough workers. Farms in the countryside were also lacking man due to conscription for the war.

The revolutionary upheavals of 1905 affected people of all classes, but factory workers in particular began strikes, demonstrations and street battles. By October, strikes had spread widely; railways, factories and even whole towns came to a standstill. From time to time, throughout Russian history, there had been outbreaks of violence among the peasant but strikes of industrial workers were something new. The industrial workers lived in harsh conditions. They were lacking food, shelter; they were working many hours and were poorly rewarded. They crowded into ramshackle shantytowns that shot up in new industrial regions. Crowded in thousands, it was easier for the discontented workers to organize protest and act together.

These three factors and all the others were linked together, and together they caused the March revolution. Russia going into the war was the most serious one and many historians believe that Revolution would have not have happened if Russia did not joined the war.

(3) There were many reasons for the revolution, which had made people increasingly angry. Tsar was a weak and incompetent ruler, who had total power. There was a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The tsar’s government used violence against the people and many people were killed. Rasputin was a bad influence on the Tsar and the Tsarina. Tsarina was already unpopular because she was German but her connection with Rasputin made things even worse. People lost their trust towards the Tsar when he did not kept his promises in the October manifesto. But the most important reason was that Russia entered the First World War.

Russia went to war in August 1914. The news that the country was at war was very popular. All over Russia there were patriotic demonstrations in support of the Tsar. The armies gathered and millions of ordinary Russians filled the ranks to serve their Tsar. However soon there were terrible muddles for Russia. The Russian armies were very badly defeated by the German army. At Tannenburg in August, there was a heavy defeat of one of two main Russian armies by Germans. Then in September 1914, the second Russian army was driven out of East Germany.

The Russian armies then reformed and counter attacked Galacia, the army was in full retreat and had lost over one million men. However the Russians did have a victory over the Austrians on the Galician front. From 1915, large parts of the Russian empire fell into enemy hands. Russian industry could not produce enough war materials due to lack of workers and even those that they did produce did not get to the army since there were not enough trains to transport them. Soldiers went into battle without weapons and they were told to pick up rifles from their comrades who were killed. Almost two millions Russian soldiers were captured, wounded or killed.

By December 1915, more than one third of all men of the working age had been recruited into the army of fifteen million troops. By 1916, peasants were being asked to bring pitchforks with them when they were called up for their service. Peasant soldiers had bad equipment (if any) and were inexperienced and untrained. Officers were generally aristocrats, which have been placed there through favoritism not merit. They were unjust with the peasant soldiers and the “quality” of officers was getting worse.

The Tsar saw it as his duty to direct the war himself and although at the begging he was convinced not to do so in August 1915 he decided to take personal command of the armies. This was a terrible mistake. The result was that whenever things went wrong at the front, in arms production, or in food supplies the Tsar was to blame. When the Tsar left to go to the war he left the Empress and his trusty Rasputin in charge. Rasputin was a man introduced to the court of the palace after he was discovered to control Alexis’s, the Tsar’s only son, hemophilia. He soon became very trusted by the Emperor and Empress. Alexandra was able to do more or less what she wanted.

She used her power to dismiss ministers who displeased her and replace them with men whom she, and Rasputin, favored. With ministers coming and going the work of the government ground to a halt. Nicholas relied on information about the situation in the capital from his wife. She often did not tell him the truth and made out that everything was fine. Even the closest supporters of the Tsar were in despair. It seemed as if all Russia knew about Rasputin’s corruption. All except the “Supreme Autocrat”. In December 1916 three nobles loyal to the Tsar decided to kill Rasputin. Luring Rasputin to one of their houses, they poisoned, shot, battered and drowned him in a messy effort to rescue Nicholas from his influence. Rasputin’s death came too late to save the Tsar.

Economic collapse began in Russia due to the war. First of all there were not enough men to work in factories and in farms. Conscription took 15.5 million young men leaving factories and fields with half the men needed to work. Almost six hundred factories had to close because they did not have enough workers and field had been covered with weeds. Railways failed to satisfy Russia’s need for transportation of food and raw materials. In towns people and soldiers were starving just because there were not enough train to transport them. Factories producing engines were unable to produce more engines for the trains since there were not getting coal for energy since there were not enough trains to transport coal. Therefore the whole country was paralyzing in a domino effect. Another problem was inflation. Russian money was starting to lose their value. At the same time food prices went up and people’s wages were buying less and less food

Military disasters, industrial muddles, profiteering and inflation, constant food shortages in the cities, distrust of the Empress and her favorite, Rasputin, all led to growing discontent. On March the 7th, 1917, a food riot in St.Petersburg broke out, 40,000 workers went on strike for higher wages. Women joined the strike due to extreme hunger. When the Tsar ordered the army to stop these riots, the army instead joined in with them and did not stop the protesters! The Tsar could not operate! Some began demanding a new government. The rioters now had the army’s support; the ministers without reliable troops were helpless. Once Petrograd had revolted, the rest of Russia followed.

Tsar Nicholas set off from army headquarters to restore order, but striking railway workers stopped his train. Cut off from his army and his capital, he could do nothing. On March 1917 Nicholas II, the Tsar of Russia, abdicated hoping thus to re-unite Russia against the German enemy. His family had ruled Russia for nearly three hundred years, but their demise occurred in a matter of days.

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