From Tsardom to Communism: Russia, 1914-1924

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From Tsardom to Communism: Russia 1914-1924
Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February/March 1917?
Background
In 1900 Russia was ruled by Tsar Nicholas II, who had absolute power. He ruled
without a parliament, and was not elected ­ he believed that he had the divine right to rule. He
had a ministerial council who advised him, but they were very corrupt. He also had
thousands of civil servants. He censored the press, and employed the `Okhrana' (secret
police) to stop opposition and dissidence. The `mir' had control of all land owned by peasants.
The Orthodox Church in Russia contained many holy men (or `Startsy') who were
highly regarded. They upheld the Tsar's rule by preaching that he was chosen as a
representative of God. They said he was `the little father'.
A small minority of the population were the middle and upper classes. They owned
the majority of the country's wealth and often had large estates on which peasants worked.
80% of the Russian population were peasants. They had very little food, and when
there was a poor harvest disease and starvation were widespread. Most were freed serfs
(slaves) since 1861, but having been given loans to buy farming land, they could now not pay
them off, and were in debt. Their farming methods were backward and inefficient.
Industry in Russia was growing, and many young peasants who had been forced off the
land moved to inner cities to work. Workers occupied very poor quality housing, often with
one family per room. Typically, a working day was at least 11 hours long, and paid very poor
wages.
The government wanted to improve the social conditions in Russia by speeding up
their industrial revolution. However, in order to do this money was needed, so the
government increased taxes on everyday items such as salt and alcohol. In 1902 there was an
industrial slump and mass unemployment. The Russian people had even less food than usual.
Along with poor harvests in 1900 and 1902, this lead to starvation on a national level.
The Tsar thought that going to war with Japan in 1905 would bring the country back
together, and would be won quickly and easily, boosting morale. However, Russia suffered
heavy losses, worsening the economic situation, and causing protest about the incompetence
of the Tsar's rule.
In 1905 a spontaneous revolution was led by Father Gapon. The rioters ran to the
Winter Palace, demanding a list of points (the October Manifesto). They were shot down by
Cossacks, but the Tsar did grant some of their wishes. He agreed to form a parliament (or
`Duma') and to shorten the working day. The first Duma began in 1906, but had no real power
due to the `Fundamental Laws'. They were as follows:
1) The supreme autocratic power is rested in the Tsar.
2) The Tsar exercises the legislative power in the Council and the Duma.
3) The initiative of all legislation belongs to the Tsar.
(I.e. - The Tsar must approve of all laws or they cannot come into existence.)
Stolypin became the Prime Minister of Russia in 1906, and lead some farming and
economic reforms. He ended the control of the mir and allowed hard-working peasants to buy
or rent land for themselves. This created a new class of better-off peasants known as `Kulaks'.
He hung huge numbers of people who opposed the reforms ­ `Stolypin's necktie'. He was
murdered by a revolutionary in 1911.
There were three main opposition movements before 1914. These were all very
secretive as any opposition to the Tsar would result in exile to Siberia. They were:
1) Socialist Revolutionaries- support of peasants, wanted communes as in Marxism. E.g.
Marie Spiradonova.
2) Social Democrats- wanted to create a socialist state

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Bolsheviks ­ wanted a small, secretive unit to carry out a planned takeover.
E.g. Lenin
b. Mensheviks ­ wanted as big a party as possible to rise up spontaneously. E.g.
Trotsky
3) Liberals/Cadets- support of educated middle class, wanted freedom of speech and
free elections.
Causes of the February/March Revolution
Problems with the army
When Russia entered WWI in 1914, it was an initial victory for the Tsar.…read more

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The people distrusted her because of her German background, and
suspected her of being a spy. Her close relationship with Rasputin (see
below) contributed further to the collapse of her reputation. He seemed to
be in charge of her government, and there were rumours that they were
lovers.
b. The Tsarina was incompetent as a ruler. She would not work with the Duma
at all. She dismissed able ministers and replaced them with men
recommended by (i.e. friends of) Rasputin.…read more

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They looked up to him as the `Little Father', but since he failed to solve
their problems, the workers and peasants started to see that he was just as
human as everybody else.
The February/March Revolution (1917)
7th March Workers from Putilov engineering works went on strike demanding
higher wages.
8th March Marches for International Women's Day joined in with the Engineering
works march and demanded `bread for the workers'.
9th/10th March Increasing numbers join the strikes in Petrograd.…read more

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The PG decided to wait until the November elections. They were afraid that
soldiers would desert to rake part in a land grab. However, peasants started to
take the land and ignored the government.
April Theses (1917)
The Bolshevik leaders had been in exile during the February/March revolution, with
Lenin in Switzerland. When he heard about the revolution, he travelled back to Russia as
quickly as possible, with the help of the Germans, who wanted Russia's internal problems to
force submission in the war.…read more

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The Bolsheviks had strong leaders: Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin had the determination
and the public speaking skills; Trotsky had the brainpower and the tactical skills.
2) The Bolsheviks had a clear plan and were well organised. (e.g. the way they took out
communications)
3) The war continued to deteriorate and the Bolsheviks planned the end it. They knew
what the people wanted and had their support.
4) Kornilov provided the ideal opportunity for the Bolsheviks to win popularity, and
Kerensky provided them with weapons.…read more

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Lenin was forced to hold elections in November 1917. The railway workers threatened
to shut down the railways if he didn't go ahead with Russia's first free election. The
Constituent Assembly was to work out how Russia would be governed in the future.
The Socialist Revolutionaries won with 370 seats. The Bolsheviks only got 175 seats.
The Constituent Assembly met in January, 1918. Shortly after, Lenin sent in soldiers to
forcibly shut it down.…read more

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They lacked good leaders. Often the commanders were cruel, treated their men
with disrespect, drank and took drugs.
5) The white generals did not trust each other and would not coordinate their attacks.
This allowed the Reds to pick them off one by one.
6) The Whites' armies had internal problems. There was often squabbling because of
the different views held. It meant that revolutionaries had to try and work
alongside Tsarists.…read more

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Terror was again used to stop any opposition to the regime. The Cheka became increasingly
brutal, and anyone opposing the government was arrested and shot, or taken to labour
camps.
Results of War Communism
1) Widespread famine.
2) The rich lost their homes and belongings.
3) Money became worthless.
4) The middle class suffered particularly, being unable to get jobs and therefore
rations. Many fled to Paris and New York.
5) Industrial output halved.
6) Production of grain halved.
7) Many war orphans were produced.…read more

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Levels of unemployment stayed a serious problem, particularly among young
people, and there was a high crime rate as a result.
5) By the end of the 1920s, food had become a problem again. People wanted to see
more socialist policies.
6) Successful peasants could employ other peasants, undermining communism.
7) Nepmen were making huge amounts of money by gambling (capitalist).
8) A massive new investment was needed to turn the Soviet Union into a modern
country.…read more

Comments

Rowan

Great resource mate. Thanks a lot!

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