Roots of Russian Revolution


The Russian revolution was caused by the continual
breakdown of the governments in Russia and the incompetency
and authoritarian views of it's czars. Their failures as
leaders included policies that neither pleased nor
benefitted the people. By the end of the nineteenth
century, Russia's economy, government, military, and social
organization was at an extreme decline. Russia had become
the least advanced of the major European nations in terms
of political and social development. There was no
parliament, and no middle class. The Church, officers, and
other important people and institutions were firmly against
social progress. The disastrous defeat of Russia in the
Crimean War in 1855 and 1856 exposed weaknesses of Russia's
various organizations.
For the first few decades of the 1800's, Russia's outlook
was brighter under Alexander I, who was relatively liberal.
He became more reactionary however, and following his
death, a group of young army officers tried to overturn the
Czardom. This was called the Decembrist Revolt. The next
czar, Nicholas, was a die hard authoritarian. The
Administrative system continued to decay regardless of his
iron fisted rule. The gap between the rich and the poorer
continued to widen. Over five hundred peasant revolts took
place during his reign.
Alexander II, who took the throne in 1855 tried to avert
revolt by attempting reform. In 1861 he freed the serfs and
gave them expectations of free land allotments. But to
their surprise, and anger, they were only given the
opportunity to share it as members of a village
commune(mir). In addition, the mir had to pay back the
government for the land over a period of 49 years with
interest. Alexander also formed a series of elected local
councils that gave districts restricted jurisdiction of
certain aspects of life. He too became more of a
reactionary towards the end of his reign. The result was
his assassination by a group of conspirators called the
People's Will movement. The next Czar, Alexander III, was
yet another reactionary. He was active in silencing
criticism of the government, exiling agitators, and
stamping out revolutionary groups.
Industrialization began to appear and with it an increase
of dissatisfied workers. They were underpaid and forced to
work in unfavourable conditions. The peasants farmers were
doing fine on their farms but a famine in 1891 caused
extensive suffering. Revolts again became fairly frequent.
Intellectual groups organized and continued the fight
against serfdom and autocracy.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian people were
in the mood for revolution. The loss of the Russo Japanese
war to Japan, and the resulting hardships, made concrete
the opposition to the autocracy. In December of 1904,
unrest surfaced in Baku. Strikes occurred in factories in
the capital. Priest Father Gapon lead a peaceful march to
petition the czar for a redress of grievances but it ended
violently with the Czar's troops firing on the crowd. In
October of 1905 a general strike was declared that crippled
the country.
On October 30th, Nicholas dispatched the historical October
Manifesto which provided for a constitution under which
civil liberties were granted and an elected state
institution called the duma was formed. This broke the
czar's absolute power. However, the czar chose reactionary
ministers to lead the duma and the secret police force was
improved and strengthened. The first two were filled with
radicals but quickly dissolved. The members of the third
were conservative in outlook. Social conditions improved
too slowly to reverse public opposition to the absolute
monarchy. Poor political and military leadership in the
First World War led to widespread desertion of Russian
soldiers. Their army suffered great casualties and a
battered economy.
It was the accumulation of discontent for governments,
czar's, and living conditions along with Russian defeats in
various wars, including WWI, of the working class citizens
in Russia that eventually boiled over and resulted in
revolution. The public dissatisfaction continued to fill
for over a decade like a powderkeg and eventually was set
off and caused an explosion of great impact to the future
of Russia. They displayed their anger in various ways, but
the authoritarian Czar's which attained power did not react
to the incoming tide. In fact, they resisted change at
every avenue possible and proved to outrage certain people
to such a point that Czar's were assassinated. By 1917, the
Russian people had had enough, and a public disturbance in
Petrograd soon spread throughout the city and had become a
widespread revolt. The resulting revolution proved to
restructure the politics in Russia for years to come. 

Campling, Elizabeth. Living Through History: The Russian
London: Batsford Academic and Educational, 1985.
Hayden, David. "Russian Revolution." Merit Students
Encyclopedia. New York:
Macmillan Educational Co, 1982. 16:241©3
Robottom, John. Russia in Change. New York: Longman Group
Ltd., 1984
Trueman, John, et al. Modern Perspectives. Canada:
McGraw©Hill Ryerson
Ltd., 1979.

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