Causes of the Russian Revolution Weakness of Czar Nicholas II



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Causes of the Russian Revolution

  1. Weakness of Czar Nicholas II

The ruler of Russia was Czar Nicholas II. He was an absolute monarch, meaning that he had total power in Russia. Nicholas was a weak man. He used his secret police to persecute opponents. Books and newspapers were censored. The Church supported the Czar – the ‘Little Father of the Russian people’. Nicholas II ruled a vast country that was almost medieval in comparison to other countries. The Czar’s undemocratic government was a major cause of the revolution.

Why was the rule of Czar Nicholas II a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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  1. Failure of the Duma

In 1905 Russia lost a war with Japan. This defeat caused strikes in the Russian cities, and the Czar nearly lost control. Nicholas II offered to call a Duma, or parliament, with free elections. This was accepted by the demonstrators. When the Duma met, it began to criticise the Czar and demanded changes. Nicholas II did not like this at all. The Duma was dismissed and new elections, controlled by the Czar, were called. It became clear that the Duma would be shut down if it criticised the Czar. As long as the Czar had control of the army, his power could not be broken.

Why was the failure of the Duma a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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  1. The Discontent of the Workers

Industrialization began much later in Russia than in Western Europe. Huge iron foundries, textile factories and engineering firms were set up. Most were owned by the government or foreigners, and were located in the big cities such as St Petersburg or Moscow. By 1900 20% of Russians were workers living in cities. Working conditions in the new industrial towns were hard. Pay was very low. Although strikes and demonstrations were illegal, they often took place. Strikers were frequently shot by the Tsar’s soldiers or secret police.

Why was the discontent of the workers a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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  1. The Discontent of the Peasants

Russia was a rural society with over 90% of the population being poor peasants. Until 1861 the peasants had belonged to their masters, who could buy and sell them like animals. When the peasants were freed in 1861 they were given small amounts of land for which they had to pay back the government. As a result most farmers were in absolute poverty. Agriculture was in desperate need of modernization. In contrast, a small number of upper-class people held most of the wealth and power. This aristocracy had large town houses and country estates.

Why was the discontent of the peasants a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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  1. Russian Failures in World War I

In the first few months of the World War I, Russia fought better than had been expected. Russian forces attacked Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1914 and were only pushed back after fierce fighting at the battle of Tannenberg. In 1915, Tsar Nicholas II assumed personal command of the Russian armed forces. This was a risky policy; any defeats would be blamed on him. As it turned out the Tsar was a poor commander. The Russian army lost confidence in the Tsar after a string of serious defeats. The Russian soldiers, poorly trained and equipped, lacking in basic items such as rifles and ammunition, suffered from lowering morale. Thousands of men deserted. Without the support of the army, the Tsar’s position became increasingly precarious.

Why were Russian failures in World War I a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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  1. Rasputin and Scandal

While Tsar Nicholas II was absent commanding Russian forces during World War I, he left the day to day running of Russia in the control of his wife Tsarina Alexandra. Alexandra came increasingly under the influence of Gregory Rasputin, a ‘holy man’ who appeared to be able to heal the haemophilia of Prince Alexis, her son and heir to the throne. Rasputin used his power to win effective control of the Russian government. But this aroused envy and he was murdered in 1916. Rasputin’s influence undermined the prestige of the royal family, but his murder came too late to save them.

Why was Rasputin a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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  1. The Opposition of the Communists

Many middle-class Liberals and Social Revolutionaries (who supported the peasants) opposed the rule of the Tsar, but the most revolutionary were the Social Democrats or Communists. The Communists believed in the ideas of Karl Marx. Marx claimed that history is all about the struggles between the classes. He claimed that the capitalist system was unfair because the factory owners (bourgeois) made profits from the toils of the workers (proletariat). Marx predicted that the proletariat would violently overthrow the bosses and take control of the country on behalf of the people. The Russian Communists were called the Bolsheviks and were led by V.I. Lenin. Lenin believed that the small party of Bolsheviks should seize power and control Russia on behalf of the people. Before 1917 Lenin and many of the other Communist leaders were in exile abroad, plotting to bring about a revolution in Russia.

Why was the opposition of the communists a cause of the Russian Revolution?

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