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AH History: Soviet Russia

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Presentation on theme: "AH History: Soviet Russia"— Presentation transcript:

1 AH History: Soviet Russia
The February Revolution

2 “A revolution that no-one expected, planned or controlled.”
How valid is this view of the February Revolution?

Problems of Identity: Russification Lack of Political Development Problems of Industrialisation Distressing situation of the Peasants Range of groups that were disheartened by the Tsarist regime The beginning of new ideologies Repressive Tsarist Regime

4 Was the revolution expected?
The People, particularly the intelligentsia, urban workers and peasants were not satisfied with the Tsar. They wanted a bigger role in government and more political power. The war exacerbated the already inadequate living conditions and the economy suffered due to a disruption of supplies. McKean- ‘The Great War acted as the spark which set the combustible of mass discontent alight’ There were earlier predictions of the possible failure of the Tsarist government in a revolution if Russia suffered a defeat in the war. As Sazonov stated, the regime would find itself ‘hanging in the air’ and Durnovo agrees with this: ‘In the event of defeat, social revolution in its most extreme form is inevitable.’ Therefore, it could be argued that the revolution was expected to a certain extent. McKean states that there was ‘mass discontent’ among the people. Figes argues that the Revolution was ‘born in the bread queues’. By the end of 1916, even the generals told the Tsar that they would not support him, because of Russia’s inevitable defeat in the war and therefore they thought that by getting rid of him, they could retain their own power. Pipes: ‘The tsar yielded to his generals and politicians.’ The tsar’s credibility was ruined by his inability to run the country and his decision to put the Tsarina and Rasputin in charge. Briggs states that the Tsarina could not control the government or win back the support of the Russian people.

5 After the Tsar went to the frontline in September 1915 and took control of the army, he was held personally responsible for the defeats in war. Brusilov: ‘Everyone knew that Nicholas understood next to nothing about military matters’ Brusilova: ‘We are already convinced that the Germans will win the war.’ M. Lynch argues that it was clear that Russia would experience a confrontation. Foyd agrees stating that the Russian people had already lost faith in their monarchy before 1917. Trotsky argues that ‘Nicholas II inherited from his ancestors not only a giant empire, but also a revolution.’ It could be argued that the changes that occurred under the Provisional Government could be used as evidence of discontent at the Tsarist regime and evidence that a revolution could have been expected, as popular unrest had been evident for a while.

6 Was the revolution planned?
For many years, opposition parties had been hoping for a revolution. It could be argued that a revolutionary atmosphere has been in the air since 1905. The Liberals formed the Progressive Bloc, wanting to change the government to a constitutional monarchy. However, the Tsar would not comply and it could be discussed that the Liberals had been planning the Tsar’s downfall and wanted to reform from within. Socialist Revolutionaries had killed a Tsar in the past and therefore, it could be argued that this made it clear that they were capable and willing to do the same again. While the main leaders of the Social Democrats were not present during the February Revolution, local Bolshevik leaders had told the women to go home, because they were planning a big demonstration for May Day. This meant that there was a certain amount of planning and White argues that the Bolshevik influence has been neglected by other historians and ‘downplayed’. Along with political groups, there were also a number of workers groups and influencers, such as the Petrograd Bureau, Mezraionka, Schliapnikov, Shop Stewards and the Vyborg workers that wanted revolution. As Rex Wade argues ‘the long awaited revolution had come swiftly, arising out of strikes and popular demonstrations…’

7 Was the revolution controlled?
There were a huge number of disparate groups, so it would be difficult, if not impossible, to argue that there was one leader or one powerful group that led the revolution against the Tsar. However, during the February Revolution, members of the Bolshevik Revolutionary Party were active in protesting against the Tsar and encouraged workers to rebel on the streets. Pipes argues that it was not a workers’ rebellion, but that it was the politicians and the generals who really made the Tsar abdicate. Whereas, Service contradicts him, stating that ‘it was workers, soldiers and sailors who acted…’ and that ‘no revolution takes place without action’.

8 How was the Revolution spontaneous?
The unrest was sudden. The march on ‘International Women’s Day’ began as a peaceful protest, but suddenly the atmosphere changed and a political protest began. Figes states that it was the new law on bread rationing that acted as a catalyst to further the discontent of the people. It could be argued that the Revolution was spontaneous, as in the past. the Cossacks and the army had squashed demonstrations and rebellions, but this time, the soldiers switched sides and joined the demonstrators. As Figes argues “Even on evening of 25th, authorities could have contained the situation.” He also states later that the soldiers sudden mutiny was responsible for the full scale revolution. Chamberlain argues that the February revolution was ‘One of the most leaderless, spontaneous, anonymous revolutions of all time’. Williams agrees stating that ‘no political party organised the revolution’ and that ‘Revolution developed from ten days of popular demonstrations, army mutiny and political manoeuvring.’

9 “The February Revolution came more from below than above” Discuss this view of the origins of the February Revolution. The essay should be split into the two debates: Was the revolution mainly organised and advocated from the generals and the aristocrats or was it engineered and brought to life by the peasants and workers from below? BELOW: Long term discontentment with tsarist regime Desire for more political power Bad living conditions and food shortages - made worse by the war. Corin and Fiehn : ‘the main push came from workers in the cities’ ABOVE: Role of Guchkov and the Generals Krymov and Alexeev- Generals willing to overthrow Tsar, as he was responsible for the defeat in war and they wanted to keep their power. Various political parties- The Liberals, Socialist Revolutionaries, Social Democrats - wanted to overthrow the tsarist government.

10 “February was not a workers’ revolution; it was a mutiny, a Russian workers’ riot, unchecked by weak government.” Is this an accurate assessment of the events surrounding the abdication of the Tsar? This essay would lead to a discussion of what was revolution at the time. In the beginning, the actions were uncoordinated and they appeared to be spontaneous, but despite this, it quickly turned into a more politicised protest within a few days. Was there a lack of direction in the revolution- ‘a mutiny’ of the soldiers? ‘Weak government’- Tsar’s role, his influence over the Duma and repressive control. Therefore, was the revolution a popular one? Was the revolution controlled and planned? Arguably, the main leaders of the Bolsheviks- abroad/exiled, therefore no political party organised the revolution. On the other hand, influence of the Bolsheviks “invisible hand”- shown through shop stewards and men on the street. Perhaps, not a planned revolution- just reactions from other long term problems existing in Russia and led by reserve troops and workers. Revolution from above or below?

11 ‘Why were so few Russians prepared to defend Tsarism in February 1917
Essay could discuss: The tsarist regime and the tsar himself- reasons for little support, attitude of the people towards him, his role in the war and how the Tsarina and Rasputin’s rule affected the people of Russia. Range of groups from opposition parties, peasants, the palace coup - Yusupov, that were disheartened by the tsarist regime. No advances towards a more democratic/constitutional monarchy. Duma overshadowed by Tsar’s repressive control. Economic situation, food shortages and inflation caused by war. Revolution on 25th of February and International Women’s Day- evidence of discontent. Political influence- part of the reason that many people failed to support the Tsar. Army joins protestors and generals turn against the Tsar.

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