Thursday, July 16, 2009

Causes of the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution was one of the most important events in modern world history. Its impact was evident in both Europe and America. Although the Revolution did not directly spread Communism, it did give various other struggling third world countries an enticing example to follow. Decades later, the philosophy/governmental model would gain new notoriety as Russia, now a full communist state, squared off with the United States in the Cold War.

In any case, the two Revolutions of 1917 were broken down into two main parts: the overthrow of the tsarist regime (February Revolution) and the creation of the world?s first Communist state (October Revolution). The causes of these two revolutions encompass Russia?s political, social, and economic situation. Politically, the people of Russia resented the dictatorship of Tsar Nicholas II. The losses that the Russians suffered during World War I further weakened Russia?s view of Nicholas. Socially, the despotic tsarist regime had oppressed the peasant class for centuries. This caused unrest within the lower peasant class causing riots to break out. Economically, widespread inflation and famine in Russia contributed to the revolution.

Ultimately, a combination of these three, coupled with the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, led to the Russian Revolution.


The economic causes of the Russian Revolution were based largely on the Czar's mis-management, compounded by World War I. Over fifteen million men joined the army, which left an insufficient number of workers in the factories and on the farms. The result was widespread shortages of food and materials. Factory workers had to endure terrible working conditions, including twelve to fourteen hour days and low wages. Many riots and strikes for better conditions and higher wages broke out. Although some factories agreed to the requests for higher wages, wartime inflation nullified the increase. There was one protest to which Nicholas responded with violence (see Causes: Political); in response, industrial workers went on strike and effectively paralyzed the railway and transportation networks. What few supplies were available could not be effectively transported. As goods became more and more scarce, prices skyrocketed. By 1917, famine threatened many of the larger cities. Nicholas's failure to solve his country's economic suffering and communism's promise to do just that comprised the core of the Revolution.


The social causes of the Russian Revolution mainly stemmed from centuries of oppression towards the lower classes by the Czarist regime and Nicholas's failures in World War I. Roughly 85% of the Russian people were peasants, under harsh oppression from the upper classes and the Czarist regime. Serfdom is most often associated with the Middle Ages, yet it accurately describes the social situation in Russia under Nicholas: A small class of noble landowners controlled a vast number of indentured peasants. In 1861, Czar Alexander II of Russia emancipated these peasants not for moral reasons, but because it was preventing Russia from advancing socially. This newfound freedom was of limited use, however, since they now had no land to work. As a result, the government drafted new terms that gave the peasants set amounts of land to cultivate. However, the amount of land they were given was insufficient, thus mass riots broke out. World War I only added to the chaos. The vast demand for factory production of war supplies and workers caused many more labor riots and strikes. In addition, because more factory workers were needed, peasants moved out of the country and into the cities, which soon became overpopulated, and living conditions rapidly grew worse. Furthermore, as more food was needed for the soldiers, the food supply behind the front grew scarce. By 1917, famine threatened many of the larger cities. Overall, all of the aforementioned contributed to the vast discontent of the Russian citizens, which further motivated the Revolution.


The Political aspect of the Russian Revolution is essentially the combination or result of the Social and Economic problems created by the dictatorship of Czar Nicholas II. Since at least 1904, Russia's lower class workers had faced a dire economic situatio

Most of them were working 11 hour days. Health and safety provisions were dismal, and wages were falling. There were numerous strikes and protests as time went on. Almost all of these were either ignored by Nicholas or broken up, often in a violent and deadly fashion (see Bloody Sunday). His failed attempt at conquest in and around Manchuria was also very unpopular with the people. Some in the educated classes (many educated in the West) of Russia also resented the autocracy of Nicholas. In 1915, things took a critical turn for the worse when Nicholas decided to take direct command of the army, personally overseeing Russia's main warfront and leaving his incapable wife Alexandra in charge of the government. By the end of October 1916, Russia had lost between 1.6 and 1.8 million soldiers, with an addition two million prisoners of war and one million who had gone missing, which likely did little for the army's morale. Mutinies began to occur, and in 1916 reports of fraternizing with the enemy started to circulate. Soldiers went hungry and lacked shoes, munitions, and even weapons. Rampant discontent lowered morale, only to be further undermined by a series of military defeats. Nicholas was blamed, and what little support he had left began to crumble. As this discontent and utter hate of Nicholas grew, the State Duma (lower class of Russian parliament comprised of landowners, townspeople, industrial workers, and peasants) issued a warning to Nicholas in November 1916 stating that disaster would overtake the country unless a constitutional form of government was put in place. In typical fashion, Nicholas ignored them. As a result, Russia's Czarist regime collapsed a few months later during the February Revolution of 1917. A year later, the Czar and his family were executed. Ultimately, Nicholas's inept handling of his country and the War destroyed the Czarist regime and cost him both his rule and his life.

The seed of revolution is repression.

Woodrow T. Wilson quotes (American 28th President of the United States 1856-1924)

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