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- The Russian Empire was “an unwieldy conglomeration of territories inhabited by a nationally variegated population…” (pg 174)
- By 1914, Russia was composed of 148.4 million people. 43.4% were Russians, 17.5% Ukrainians, 10.6% Turkish speaking people.
- Some people such as the Fins, Poles and the Jews had a strong sense of national identity.
- The Tsarist government however opposed any form of autonomy and tried to extend the “Policy of Russification” – Russian was the language of administration, justice and education – and was imposed severely on Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine.
- “Russifacation” alienated nationalities of the Russian Empire from the government and ensured that national groups would be well represented in the revolutionary movement. It was one of the driving forces behind the 1905 Revolution and 1917 revolution.
The Roots of the Revolution: The Peasants
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- The Russian Empire at the start of 1900s were mostly an agrarian country with over 85% of the population living on the land and over 75% making their livelihood from agriculture.
- From the time of Emancipation the peasants were burdened with various types of financial exactions such as paying redemption dues for the land as well as poll taxes and zemstov (local gov’t) dues.
- Introduction of indirect taxes on goods such as; matches, Kerosene, tea, tobacco, liquor and sugar, items which were prominent items for the poor section of the population.
- In 1861, legislation on the land allotments weren’t owned by the peasants but a community of them called a mir.
- It provided mutual aid for its members and tried to maintain solidarity of interest within the whole community.
- But with little advance in farming technology and a rapidly increasing population, the economic situation of the peasants deteriorated significantly in 1970s, culminating into a famine in 1891-2. Peasants wanted to acquire more land particularly land belonging to the landowners.
- Discontent erupted in 1905 which included illegal cutting of timber, unauthorized grazing of cattle, strikes of farm labourers for higher wages or the refusal to pay taxes and seizure of estates.
- In 1906, Prime Minister Petr Stolypin passed on legislation which consolidated their scattered strips of land into a single holding which would be owned privately and would no longer be subject to redivision.
The Impact of Industry
- Russia experienced an upsurge in industrialization in the last decades of 1800s. It was led by a boom in railway building – the Trans-Siberian Railway (1891-1905).
- Besides being a strategic importance (goes to Port Arthur, Russia’s only warm water sea port), it transported grain for export.
- High tariff barriers were posted thus foreign investors build factories within Russia
- In the decade between 1887 and 1897 the # of industries increased by 26.5%, the # of workers by 59.2% and the value of production by 112.82%.
- The Industrial Revolution was only limited to the cities, Balkan states, Ukraine and the Urals.
- Wages in Russian industry were generally low and the working day was from 10 to 15 hours in conditions that were often dangerous and insanitary. Thus Strikes by workers began to multiply after 1870s. In the 1905 revolution the strike movement took on a mass character and the body responsible for leading the strike was the Petrograd Soviet of which Leon Trotsky became the chairman.
The Political Order
- The Autocratic rule of the Tsar was oppressive because it developed a strict censorship making the open discussion of political and social issues impossible. The behaviour of the population was monitored by the Secret Police.
- The Intelligentsia and the business community opposed this but there was no political parties voicing their opposition.
- The first political parties were consequently revolutionary ones. There were 2 parties: the Social Democrats and the Socialist Revolutionaries.
- The Social Democrats though to of the workers as the driving force behind the coming revolution. While the SR looked to all exploited groups in society for their support.
- In 1903 the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) split of the issue on how party membership was to be defined. The Bolsheviks favouring a more restricted and the Mensheviks a more open membership.
The First World War: The effects of the War.
- WWI put severe strains on the economic system, its society and its political system. At first there was a climate of national unity in the beginning of the war, but as it dragged on, the unprecedented scale of the war “aggravated the country’s most serious underlying problems and gave new intensity to old antagonisms” (pg179).
- Between 1914 and 1916, 3 million men were drafted as soldiers. Most of them were peasants. The massive recruitment of the young, able bodied men created a short of workers to provide food fro the army and the towns.
- Industry responded by switching into the production of munitions. But the Russian railway system was in critical state b/c t was used to carry soldiers and equipment than food.
- The War provide the opportunity for national groups to male a contribution to the military effort and by this to created a debt of gratitude, the desired reward being autonomy or even independence.
- A minority of socialists including Lenin and Trotsky took an internationalist position and demanded that the war be brought to an end immediately.
The Provisional Government
- At the end of Feb 1917 mass demonstrations took place on Petrograd which the garrison troops were unable to and unwilling to disperse. As a result the tsarist regime was finished and a PG headed by Prince G.E. Lvov was formed.
- It consisted of Paul Miliukov and Guchkov and Alexander Kerensky.
- The PG quickly introduced civil rights as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, which ironically helped its opposition have many opportunities to campaign against the PG.
- The PG failed to take effective action of problems of War, the agrarian situation, industrial relations, supply difficulties and the aspiration of the nationalities.
- Public opinion turned against the PG and discipline in the army deteriorated. The Bolsheviks began to enjoy unprecedented popularity.
- The PG postponed the agrarian reform until the Constituent Assembly had been set up, thus the peasants took matters to their own hands.
- Land was seized from landowners and from those peasants who had separated out from the commune under the Stolypin legislation.
- Pressure from the business community prevented the PG from legislating into action an 8 hour day for industrial workers. Thus workers formed factory committees, which took and increasingly active part in running the enterprise.
The Bolshevik Revolution
- By the autumn, when war weariness, hunger and disillusion with Kerensky government had become widespread, the Bolshevik promise of “Peace, Bread and Land” had a powerful and broad appeal.
- Members Zinoviev and Kamenev believed to use the party popularity for electoral campaign but Lenin believed in seizing power by force.
- The Bolsheviks knew that it would be pointless to control the capital if troops can be brought from the Northern front to restore order.
- So a Military Revolutionary Committee between the Northern front and Petrograd ensured that no troops could enter the capital. It was set in motion by Trotsky on Oct 11, 1917.
The Brest-Listovsk Peace
- Elections to the Assembly were held on Jan 5 1918. The SR received 40% of the vote, the Bolsheviks 24% the Kadets 5% and the Mensheviks 2%. The Bolsheviks dissolved the assembly, isolating themselves politically.
- Refusing Bolshevik rule, white collar workers of all kinds staged a stubborn and prolonged strike. Because of this, the Bolsheviks founded the Cheka.
- Civil rights and freedom of the press were early causalities of the B regime.
- The 1st act of the B gov’t was to issue decrees on Peace, Land and Workers’ Control. This signified that Bolsheviks offered a solution to the 3 major problems the PG failed to tackle. By doing so it was acting in the interest of the people at large. This move gave the B government legitimacy and popularity.
- The Germans demanded large territorial concessions as aa price for peace and the treaty was signed on May 3 1918. The G gained Ukraine and former Baltic provinces.
The Civil War
- The treaty of B-L provided the context for the Civil War. The treaty inflicted deep humiliation on the country that ppl thought it was better to fight the Germans, but the Russian army had been disintegrated.
- The allied powers intervened in the civil war on the side of the white army to renew the war efforts in Russia against the Germans. They gave ammunition and supplies to the white army.
- White army generals Kolchack and Denikin were dictator like themselves and wished to bring back the old order to Russia and keep the integrity of the Russian empire.
- Deep political divisions within the White army disabled it while the Red army was relatively united under the B party. Also, the geographical distance between the White Army made communication difficult. The Reds were based in the industrialized cities and the White army was mainly based on the agrarian periphery.
- Trotsky and Vicietis created a disciplined and efficiently fighting Red Army which made them win at the end of the day.