At the beginning of the century Russia was difficult to rule for many reasons.
1.) Poor Communications – Russia was too big to effectively send messages across yet, you couldn’t send messages by road either as most roads hadn’t been paved making it difficult to pass across. Many rivers were impassable and the Trans Siberian Railway took over a week to go from Moscow to Vladivostok
2.) Diverse languages – many Russians spoke French or other languages rather than Russian, as most were not Russian and didn’t consider themselves to be, they considered themselves to be Georgians or Kazaks, not Russian. People also resented what was called Russification, this was the process of making people speak Russian, wear Russian clothes and obey the Russian Tzar.
3.) Sparse Population – Much of Russia was uninhabitable due to the Tundra in the North, most of Northern Russia is within the Arctic circle and so becomes desolate.
4.) Illiteracy – much of Russia was illiterate and those who could speak and write Russian preferred French anyway.
5.) Size – Russia spanned over two continents when Moscow was eating breakfast, it was an evening meal in Vladivostok.
Conditions for the peasants were very poor, many peasants used to be serfs, they were owned by the lords and would work on the lords land, when it was changed most of the land was given to the lords and it was the best land. At the time there was also a great population growth whereby the population increased by 50%, between 1860 and 1897.All of this inequality led to a revolution against the Tzar (Czar) in 1905.
The Urban Workers
The urban workers worked in place such as St. Petersburg and Moscow. The workers were treated unfairly, paid terrible wages, and forced to work long and hard. Their houses were small flats and from these they were expected to raise families.
Although the nobility only made up 1% of the population they controlled between them a quarter of all Russian land. They had large prosperous country estates and ruled with serfs, although no nobles tried to overthrow the Tzar in Russia, they all had separate armies.
The current Tzar at the time was Nicholas II, many people saw him as incompetent and useless. Nicholas didn’t listen to his advisors he done what he thought was right and that was it. Nicholas believed in an autocracy, he believed everything he done was right, and that it was supported by god, Nicholas believed that democracy would destroy Russia completely. It is told that he cared for his family more than Russia, and especially cared about his son Alexis, who had an illness. Any opposition to the Tzar was dealt with directly with violence, he would crush any political or military coup d’etait’s by using the feared Cossack army. He did not visit Russia at any point, he remained in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg during the entirety of his rule. After 1905 he ventured out to see peasants but even this was a set up in front of the Tzar to make Russia look greater in front of him.
The Russo – Japanese War
In 1902 there were strikes all over Russia and the Tzar used the Police to put them down, but in 1904, the Japanese attacked the Russians, this increased Patriotism. Nicholas looked at the War as a war to increase him popularity if he won. However the Japanese advanced far into Manchuria and defeated the Russians at Mukden and at Port Arthur. The Tzars navy sailed round the West Coast of Japan only to be sunk within half and hour.
This was a day when many strikers marched against the Tzar at St. Petersburg. Led by Father Gapon in non-violence protest the workers marched towards the Winter Palace. They walked on to find the Tzar’s army, fighting broke out and hundreds were killed. This increased bitterness as news of the massacre spread Russian peasants rebelled and began looting houses. Sailors on the ship Potemkin seized the ship and sailed towards Romania. The Tzar surrendered to the Japanese and the Russo-Japanese war was ended
The 1905 Revolution
The three parties that wanted to take over were
1.) The Liberals (Cadets) : They wanted the Tzar to rule as a monarch but they wanted greater rights. These were middle-classed doctors and lawyers, educated people.
2.) The Social Revolutionaries (Peasants Party) : They wanted to overthrow the Tzar and they wanted all land to belong to the peasants however and they were prepared to use violence and assassination if needed.
3.) The Social Democrats wanted to create a communist state and overthrow the Tzar. Their main support was from teachers and students. However they were split as to how to achieve a rule in Russia.
– The Bolsheviks led by Lenin wanted a small group of elite revolutionaries that would seize power when the time is right. They planed to infiltrate factories and organise strikes paralysing the Russian industry.
– The Mensheviks led by Trotsky wanted a huge mob; they wanted trade unions and more rights, including an increase in wages They also wanted mass parties to gain control.
The leaders of the parties for the Cadets, Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries are not really important. The leaders of the two communist parties, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks are quite important and still are today.
Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov (Lenin)
Lenin was born in Simirsk in 1870. His brother was killed in a revolutionary attempt of the earlier Tzar Alexander II and so he vowed that he would avenge the Tzars killing of his brother. He studied Law at university but was later expelled for demonstrations, it was at this point he changed his last name to Lenin. In 1894 after studying Marxism he created a Marxist group and was later arrested where he was exiled in Siberia. At this point he married his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya. They escaped and travelled to London where they set up a Marxist magazine – Iskra (The Spark). The Bolsheviks followed his teaching until 1917 where he returned to Russia just before the second revolution.
Lev Bronstein (Trotsky)
Born in 1879 in the Ukraine. His father was a Jew frequently attacked during the Tzar’s raids on Jewish settlements. At 16 he joined a Marxist group and married Alexandra Sokolovska, who at the time was the leader of the Ukraine Marxist group. Exiled in Siberia he escaped and travelled to Paris where he divorced his first wife and married his second Natalie Sodova. He travelled to London to meet with Lenin. In 1903 he joined the Mensheviks and was made chairman of the Menshevik Petrograd Soviet in 1905. When the 1905 revolution failed he was exiled to Siberia again, and escaped this time destined for America.
The October Manifesto
1.) Strikes in St. Petersburg on Feb 4th, the Tzars uncle Grand Duke Sergei is shot and killed in Moscow.
2.) Russian navy defeated in Japanese straight. Battleship “Potemkin” in Black sea mutinies.
3.) Strikes over all of Russia demand equal rights and an elected parliament (Duma)
4.) In countryside farms and houses looted
5.) In September Russia and Japan signed peace treaty, leaving Tzars troops ready to use within Russia again.
6.) In Moscow great strikes took place, Barricades were set up. Within the month of October this was happening all over Russia
7.) On 26th October the St. Petersburg soviet was formed, a group that could put this views of the people across to the Tzar or Duma.
8.) The Tzar signed the October Manifesto on October the 30th. This stated that
– There was to be an elected parliament (Duma)
– Freedom of speech
– Un-censored newspapers
– The right to form political parties
9.) By December most uprisings has been settled by the October manifesto but some were not pleased enough and believed more should be done, the Tzar used his loyal troopers to crush what was left of the rebellions.
Improvements after 1905
After 1905, The Russian Prime Minister Peter Stolypin allowed peasants to buy strips of land, which they could own and work on. However many peasants couldn’t afford the land so Stolypin set up a bank to lend the peasants money which was expected back. The peasants couldn’t pay back so Stolypin took their land and told them they could find work at the Trans Siberian Railway, many headed to places such as Omsk or Irkursk to find there was no jobs. They headed back to European Russia furious at the Tzar and Stolypin.
The Dumas that were supposed to aid the country just bowed down to the Tsars wishes. When a third Duma came to power in 1906, they revolted against the Tzar, he disbanded them and began working on a fourth Duma. Stolypin decided that the fourth Duma should have more nobles to stop the revolts, but even the nobles revolted.
Stolypin then enforced military rule by setting up militia courts whereby people could be executed on the spot. This became known as Stolypins’ noose.
The freedom of speech noted in the October manifesto didn’t exist. Political newspapers were banned and anything found to be against the Tzar was considered to be treason even political jokes.
However some things did get better in Russia, between 1906 and 1914 there was an industrial boom in Russia thanks to the Duma. They rose to become an economic superpower with the 4th largest steel, coal, oil and pig iron in the world. This led to jobs becoming available to the peasants.
World War One
However not enough good things happened in the same ratio as to bad. In 1917 there was another revolution. This was not helped by Russia entering the war in 1914 and loosing early lowering morale even more and showing the Tzar to be useless. Another problem with WWI on the Russian front was that only 1 in 3 men had rifles the rest waited for someone else to die before they got a rifle. Also all of the Strong people were fighting the war meaning only weak people could farm, the same applied to industry, not enough could be made to support Russia.
The Russians fell bankrupt, as the bank had not got its money back. The Russians had to borrow 90% of it’s war funding. Conditions also went down, people were expected to work longer, harder and for a smaller wage. The price of goods increased as well to make matters worse. In 1916 Nicholas left the Tzarina in control while he went off to fight on the Russian frontier. One problem was that the Tzarina was of German origin and was considered by the Russian people to be untrustworthy. She dismissed ministers and disbanded the Duma more frequently than Nicholas did. The people were starving due to her inadequacy, and she just ignored them. The Russian people lost confidence and even the army began to lose morale. The Duma was told to disband but didn’t obey the Tzarina and decided to stay in power. Sections of the army mutinied, the Tzar ordered that they be killed but those who hadn’t mutinied refused to fire upon friends. The army was no longer under Nicholas’ rule.
The Tzar abdicated ending Russian monarchy; one question was posed to the Russians, who will take over ?
The Provisional government
The provisional government was set up by the Duma and was headed by the ex-prince or Russia, but was not accepted as the leading government of Russia at the time and many political parties (particularly the Tzarist regime and the two Communist parties).
The provisional government had to deal with . . .
1.) Rights for peasants : many peasants felt they were being treated harshly and unfairly and wanted more rights
2.) Transport : The Russian transport system was useless, roads were rocky and unstable, the only improvements they could make would be to extend the Trans-Siberian Railway.
3.) Workers : Many workers in the cities also felt unfairly treated and wanted more rights, such as an 8-hour day.
The provisional government supplied all of these but there were still some key issues that needed covering.
1.) War was a key issue, the Russians were still at war with Germany and had three options with three different leaders taking a different approach.
– Miliukov an army general wanted to advance against the Germans and try to gain Berlin to get the Germans to surrender.
– Kerensky was a politician who believed that the Russians should go on the defensive and wait for the French and British forces to gain control of Berlin forcing the Germans to surrender to both of them.
– Lenin believed in a peaceful approach and believed that if the war was stopped he could gain support from the army and use the ex-soldiers to work on farms again.
2.) Another problem is that the food was not being harvested and the peasants had no land to work on, this meant that no food was being produced to feed Russia.
Lenin promised these problems would be solved if a Communist government came to power in St. Petersburg, he used the slogan “Peace, Bread, Land” to gain support another phrase used was “All power to the Soviets”. These ideas became know as the “April Thesis”. They were popular with the people, Lenin also announced he would not co-operate with the Provisional Government and that he would have them overthrown.
The July Days
In July to try and raise morale the Provisional Government decided on trying an offensive against the Germans, this failed and news reached Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Workers, Peasants and soldiers protested against the provisional government, the Communists also joined in. This was put down by the part of the army not on Russia’s western front and Lenin and other Communists fled to Finland, many were arrested. However this didn’t solve the food crisis in Russia
This was the Russian prime minister chosen by the Duma to succeed Stolypin. He tried to unite Russia but was defeated by the Bolsheviks, intent on power.
The Russian General Kornilov decided on a coup d’etait, he tried to establish military rule over Russia and planned to overthrow the provisional government. This failed as his troops refused to fire upon friends who were protecting the provisional government. Kornilov was arrested, this shows just how unpopular the provisional government was at the time.
Timeline leading to the November Revolution
April 16th 1917
Lenin was in Zurich in Switzerland at the time, as the Tzar forced him into exile. The Germans helped him get back to Russia in the hope that he would bring peace, control and stability.
April 17th 1917
Lenin published the “April Thesis”. Many Bolsheviks considered these to be stupid and refused to believe him. It was at this point he created his slogan “Peace, Bread, Land”.
July 2nd 1917
Kerensky tried to attack the Germans but failed in a terrible defeat. This led to a great revolution in Petrograd.
July 16-17th 1917
It was during this time many people looked for an anti-war party to place their hopes in, Kerensky saw this as a great threat and killed many Bolsheviks. Lenin fled for Finland in Safety
September 15th 1917
Kerensky asked Kornilov to become head of the army, Kornilov tried to kill Kerensky and turned the army against him. Kerensky turned to the Bolsheviks for help and gave them all rifles. The Bolsheviks just stopped the trains carrying the troops from reaching Petrograd and kept the rifles. The Bolsheviks now had an army which they called the Red army
September 19th 1917
The Bolsheviks were now seen as heroes and won an overall majority in the Petrograd soviet. This then started the Moscow soviet.
October 23rd 1917
The Bolsheviks tried to gain power in Petrograd. Lenin returned on November 6th and they stormed the Winter palace in Petrograd later in November
In the summer of 1917 Leon Trotsky, a leading Menshevik joined the Bolsheviks and Lenin.
The Winter Palace
In November 1917 the Bolsheviks finally seized power by overthrowing the provisional government and storming the winter palace in Petrograd. Lenin and Trotsky stormed the palace with little resistance, a few days later they had captured Moscow, they had two major cities, but little else.
The Communist State
Lenin now had the task of creating a new communist state. His new government was made up of commissars (ministers). Lenin was head of this new government, Trotsky was head of foreign affairs and Stalin was commissar for Nationalities.
Lenin announced an immediate end to the war with Germany in December and gave all of the old Tzars and lords land to the peasants. They would then divide this up among themselves.
Kerensky was still alive and had promised the Russian people a permanent parliament. Lenin renamed the Bolshevik party the Communists at this point and renamed Russia, the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).
Within the Parliament the Social Revolutionaries won a majority of seats and so Lenin closed down the assembly after only one day.
Communism or Dictatorship ?
In 1917 Lenin wanted to create a Communist state whereby he had as much and more power than the Tzar did. In 1917 Lenin set up the Cheka, his secret police, the earlier equivalent of the KGB. The Tzar had his own secret police called the Okrana, most Cheka members where ex-Okrana.
They would spy and assassinate anyone they believed to be an anti-Communist, most of the time without trial. In 1918 Lenin was almost assassinated, this triggered the Red Terror campaign where over 500,000 men were found to be anti-Communist and were killed.
Lenin also banned all other political parties, it was kept this way until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The media was also state controlled, only Bolshevik newspaper could be sold.
Peace with Germany
Lenin had to end the war at any cost, he feared it would be the war that would overthrow him just as the Provisional government had been. He knew he couldn’t fight his enemies in Russia and elsewhere, so on March 3rd 1918, Trotsky travelled to Brest-Litovsk to sign a peace treaty with the Germans. These terms were very harsh, Russia lost over one-sixth of it’s overall population and three-quarters of it’s overall coal, oil and steel areas to the Germans. The Communists had paid a high price but they had ended the war
However the areas to the north that Russia had lost became independent states and the Ukraine corn growing area was taken by the League of Nations when Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and given to Poland.
Another problem with his treaty was that afterwards the Russians were seen as traitors as they “gave into” German demands. This led to them being banned from the League of Nations in 1919 as well as Germany.