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15a. How important was the First World War to the collapse of the Tsarist Regime? Using the four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that.

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Presentation on theme: "15a. How important was the First World War to the collapse of the Tsarist Regime? Using the four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that."— Presentation transcript:

1 15a. How important was the First World War to the collapse of the Tsarist Regime?
Using the four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that the weaknesses of the Tsar were the main reasons for the Revolution of February 1917

2 Interpretation A: This historian argues that the First World War was of major importance in bringing
about the fall of the Tsar. After 1914 an unbridgeable chasm was opening up between the government and the people. In fact, who or what was the government? It changed so quickly, no-one could be quite sure. In the first two years of war four prime ministers came and went. The railway system in the western provinces and Poland proved inadequate. Through the closing of the Baltic and Black Sea ports, Russia was cut off from her allies. The low level of technical and economic development produced an army suffering a paralysing shortage of equipment and trained personnel. Many soldiers often had no weapons at all: they were expected to arm themselves from the discarded rifles of the killed and wounded. Shells had to be rationed to the artillery batteries. Hospital and medical services were so thinly spread that they had no practical value. The call-up operated irrationally, amounting in 1917 to some 15 million – around 37% of the males of working age. Chaos piled upon chaos with the influx of refugees. Inflation, food shortages and a fall in real wages produced an increasing ordeal for the mass of the population. A mounting wave of strikes gave voice and vent not only to economic demands. ‘Down with the Tsar’ was the ominous cry beginning to be heard. In a word, the war had utterly destroyed any confidence that still remained between the Government and the people. From: Lionel Kochan, The Making of Modern Russia, published in 1962.

3 Interpretation B: This historian argues that circumstances left Nicholas little option but to abdicate. Russia without a Tsar in the people’s minds was a contradiction in terms; for them it was the person of the Tsar that defined and gave reality to the state. In view of this tradition, one might have expected the mass of the population to favour the retention of the monarchy. But two factors militated against such a stand. The peasantry remained monarchistic. Nevertheless in early 1917 it was not averse to an interlude of anarchy, sensing it would provide the opportunity finally to carry out a nationwide ‘Black Partition’ (a wholesale redistribution of land). The other consideration had to do with the fear of punishment on the part of the Petrograd populace, especially the troops. The February events could be seen in different ways, as a glorious revolution or as a sordid military mutiny. If the monarchy survived it was likely to view the actions as mutiny. When he arrived at Pskov on March Nicholas had no thoughts of abdicating. In his diary of the previous day he noted he had sent a message to General Ivanov in Petrograd ‘to introduce order’. In the twenty four hours that followed, Nicholas heard from everyone that as long as he remained Tsar, Russia could not win the war. He paid heed to the generals. Telegram after telegram from the military commanders urged him, for the sake of the country, first to allow the Duma to form a cabinet and then to abdicate. All the evidence is that Nicholas abdicated from patriotic motives to spare Russia a humiliating defeat. If his foremost concern had been to preserve his throne, he could easily have made peace with Germany and used front-line troops to crush the rebellion in Petrograd and Moscow. He chose instead to give up his crown and save the front. From: Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution , published in 1990.

4 Interpretation C: These historians see inadequacies at the heart of government.
When the Emperor left to assume command of the army, the government, or what passed for the government, came under the direction of the empress, Alexandra. Nicholas wrote ‘Wifey, dear, don’t you think you should help hubby while he is away?’ ‘Wifey’ took up the new assignment with enthusiasm. She constantly urged Nicholas to be more autocratic. ‘Smash them all’, she wrote when Duma leaders questioned the administration. She looked for direction to her ‘man of God’, Rasputin. With the Emperor’s departure, Rasputin came to exercise near dominant influence in the making of military as well as civilian policy. When Nicholas left for the front, the cabinet consisted momentarily of exceptionally honest and, apart from Goremykin, liberal men. Rasputin and the empress changed all that. The contemptible Boris Stürmer assumed the office of Prime Minister and foreign minister. The capable minister of the interior gave way to the craven and nearly insane Protopopov. The government simply let things drift. Financial scandals came to light implicating Stürmer and the scheming toadies who surrounded him. He was forced from office and the new Prime Minister Trepov offered Rasputin a bribe if he would consent to the dismissal of Protopopov, but Rasputin scorned the offer. There seemed little other recourse but violence. In 1916 Rasputin was murdered by Purishkevitch, the Duma leader, Grand Duke Dmitri and Prince Felix Yusopov. General Krymov reported to Duma leaders that the army would welcome a coup d’état. The Grand Duke Alexander wrote ‘it is the government which is preparing the revolution’. From : Melvin C. Wren and Taylor Stults, The Course of Russian History, published in 1994.

5 Interpretation D: This historian records the chaotic and violent nature of the demonstrations in
Petrograd in February 1917. Larger crowds came onto the streets on Saturday 25 February, in what was virtually a general strike as 200,000 workers joined the demonstrators. Even at this point the authorities could have contained the situation. There was still some reason to suppose that the anger of the demonstrators was mainly focused on the shortage of bread. Shalapnikov, the leading Bolshevik in Petrograd said ‘Give the workers a pound of bread and the movement will peter out’. Whatever chance there was of containing the disorders was destroyed by the Tsar who sent a cable to General Khabalov ordering him to use military force to put down the disorders. The mutiny of the Petrograd garrison turned the disorders into a full-scale revolution. The crowd violence of the February days was not orchestrated by any revolutionary party or movement. It was a spontaneous reaction to the bloody repression of 26 February and an expression of the people’s long-felt hatred for the old regime. The crowd exacted a violent revenge against officials. Policemen were hunted down and killed brutally. Hundreds of naval officers were killed gruesomely by the sailors. According to official figures 1443 people were killed or wounded in Petrograd alone. It seemed to the writer Gorky that it was not revolution, but chaos. From: Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy, published in 1996.



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