Russian Revolution of February 1917 Term Paper

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Russian History

This work will first address the idea that the Russian Revolution of 1917 was inevitable given the charged events that had occurred in and around Russia preceding the event and then it will go on to look at the issue from the opposite angle, describing ways in which it might have never happened. Given the extreme nature of the events and the almost unavoidable idea that the way history has occurred is the only way it could have, in hindsight, there is a need to better understand the concept from a what happened, and what could have happened, standpoint. It is also an accepted fact that understanding Russia is impossible without a clear understanding of her history, both as a Soviet state and as an empirical power. Change was inevitable, but was the Russian Revolution of 1917?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 began as almost all other revolutions do, at the heat of political, national and economic turmoil. "The root causes of the revolution lay in the everyday working of Russian society, particularly its harsh and growing level of exploitation of peasants and workers and the rigid barriers erected against political change. "

Read 11)

It is a demonstrated historical pattern that these kinds of tumultuous circumstances and events are often felt very deeply in Russia, as they are in almost no other place:

In 1905 came an astonishing event -- the first Russian Revolution. It accompanied the disastrous and humiliating defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, just as emancipation of the serfs followed the Crimean War, and as the February and October Revolutions to come in 1917 were the direct- result of the terrible beating Russia was taking in World War I. Foreign wars always shake Russia up. (Gunther 43)

Clearly the Russian Revolution or something equally extreme was in the works inside the politically charged environment within Russia during these times. (Riasanovsky 435-460) Though it is clear that the powers associated with the February, and especially the October revolutions where in many ways caught unprepared, as many of the main figures, Lenin included were organizing in exile. (Gunther 43-44)

Within the years preceding it many events shaped the future of the Russian government, including the first Russian Revolution, mentioned above, in 1905. The reasons for which were largely associated with a growing rural crisis, associated with falling grain international prices, archaic technology in agriculture, and drastic increases in the rural population that due to many factors could not be supported by the land.

Between 1861 and 1905 the situation grew progressively worse for the peasants here. The main engine-room of the crisis was rising population which put increasing pressure on already inadequate plots. Between 1880 and the 1897 census the population of the Empire rose from 100 million to 130 million. By the time of the 1917 revolution it had risen further to 182 million. (Read 13)

The tax burden, and land reapportionment after the serf emancipation continually burdened the mostly agricultural economy and the lives of the extremely culturally diverse peasantry deteriorated rapidly. (Read 12-14)

The cultural diversity of the peasants also played a role as many individuals and groups felt a greater sense of the burden due to their cultures political position within the society. (Read 12-14)

The Russian Empire was a museum of human cultures, an anthropologists' paradise. It had the cultural variety of the British Empire all wrapped into one, vast land mass which covered one-sixth of the land area of the globe and stretched through 180 degrees of longitude.

Read 12)

For the majority agricultural society it seemed that the harder they worked the less they seemed to gain, upward mobility was nearly impossible in the current situation, and some days it must have seemed nearly impossible just to maintain the status quo. The inflexibility of the situation added profoundly to the extreme situation.

After the 1905 revolution many circumstances had changed, but not enough to avoid the inevitable complete change that occurred during 1917 and continued to cause turmoil well into the 1920s.

In 1914 World War I broke out in Europe. The German's attacked England, France, and Russia. As a result of a series of disastrous defeats, Russia began to fall to pieces. A dissolute monk named Rasputin, the favorite of the Czarina, grew to have unparalleled powers, and the morals of the court disintegrated. Thousands of men deserted from the army, the domestic economy of the country was shattered, and the people, totally fed up with the war demanded freedom, peace and change. (Gunther 46)

The Tsarist government had over a few years time lost most real power, through the establishment of a Duma, or parliament, which in 1914 staged an insurrection and refused to follow the direction of the Tsar. " Little bloodshed occurred, and the monarchy was not forcibly wrenched off the throne; rather it fell of its own torpid weight." (Gunther 47) Though the insurrection was a success to some degree and the Czar abdicated power there was still much to be done, according to those who were at least marginally successful in 1914 and to those who were eventually successful in 1917.

The socialist movements, now internationally backed began to gain in strength and momentum, both internally and externally, through the Russian expatriate societies, one of which was organized by Lenin and his key players. After the abdication of the throne the provisional government, led by Kerensky attempted to establish a constitutional regime, but was unable to do so. It was at this point that the fight went international, as Lenin and other Marx followers reentered the scene.

In 1917 the German general staff, hoping to take advantage of the February Revolution in Russia and to finish of f the Russians once and for all, got the idea that Lenin could help their cause. If they could set him loose in Russia he might make a new revolution there, reverse the pro-ally policy of the Kerensky government, and seek a separate peace-which by taking Russia out of the war, would be immensely useful to German ends. (Gunther 47)

So, Lenin returned to Russia, smuggled in by train through the assistanc eof the German officials. He began to influence the political dissidents immediately, first he converted the Bolshevik party into a very decisive and effective team of revolutionaries. With the help of a key figure Leon Trotsky, who had much to do with the concise manner in which the revolutionaries strategically targeted communications and other facilities so they would be in real control over the government before they took decisive actions against the actual government strongholds. With Trotsky's genius the revolution was an immediate success, yet the years of war that followed were an outgrowth of the extreme conditions that already existed and also the dynamic size and diversity of the country.

The story is far from over but the establishment of the possibility of the inevitability of the 1917 Revolution has been made. It is at this stage that an analysis of the possibilities of other outcomes should begin. Working with just the information that has just been given there are several examples of turning points which can be seen clearly as decisive circumstances that prove that action not destiny determined the outcome of the and the actual events of the 1917 Revolution.

One of the most basic assumptions of this work, being that Russia almost inevitably demonstrates great social upheaval during times of foreign wars, can be demonstrated as only coincidence. Revolution is not the inevitable outcome of such situations. Though social, political and economic change are almost always inevitable in times of grand scale war, in every country they impact, the real change can and does often happen within existing governmental entities. Revolution means change but it does not necessarily mean complete political overthrow.

It can be argued that the emancipation of the serfs, during the continued reign of the Tsarist state was foundationally just as extreme an event as the Revolution, and yet for the most part the state remained intact, though fearful and shaken.

The rural conditions in Russia determined a great deal of the motivation that ended in the overthrowing of both the Tsarist state and the weak provisional government of Kerensky yet, the situation was not unsolvable through the proper channels of action. Had the Tsar or the provisional government acted in favor of the sentiments of the rural populous either might have been supported by the populous that was so much a part of the reactionary eventualities of the 1917 revolution.

Actions in favor of leniency and programs that would have converted the agrarian culture into the twentieth century, technologically may have lessoned at least a small part of the burden upon the peasants. The establishment of public works and agricultural training, with a more egalitarian land reapportionment might have done a great deal to ease the growing hatred toward the establishment, among the rural populations, flexibility being the key. Economic interventions, by the Duma, or…

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