Compare and contrast the causes and nature of the two 1917 Russian Revolutions.
March/February was a spontaneous revolution, where Russian people had an uprising due to misery and discontent and took the power. November/December was an organized coup d’état, where Bolsheviks seized power from the Provisional Government.
There are many causes for March/February Revolution and some of the events can already been discovered when Alexander the II was Tsar. Only a small amount of Russian people were actually Russian. There were many nationalities in the Empire and nationalistic moves became popular in 19th century, which also alienated people from the Tsarist regime.
The discontent of peasants which made 80% of the Russian people had been unhappy for many years already. Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1961, however the condition of the serfs didn`t improve, as they had to pay huge redemption payments for 49 years, for their poor land that that bought from the landlords. Though Alexander II attempted to make reforms, he was reluctant in giving a constitution for the people. The reforms were never enough for the liberals and for conservatives they were already too much. The discontent of people was highlighted by the assassination of the Alexander II. His son Alexander III succeeded the throne. However, unlike his father Alexander III was a conservative tsar. During his reign reforms were taken back and Russification was tightened. Nicholas II who succeeded Alexander III, was also reluctant in making reforms. He believed that God had made him tsar, therefore no on could take it away. However after the humiliating Russo-Japanese war 1904, the Bloody Sunday 1905 and the 1905 revolution, people were so discontent that the tsar had only toe options. Either crushes the revolution or give in to people`s will. Nicholas II chose the latter one and gave in to the people. The October Manifesto gave people freedom of the press, opinion, assembly and association. A Duma was also established. However, the Duma had little power and the Tsar still had the last word.
The inadequate communications system in Russia contributed to food shortages as food went bad in the trains between the long transports. Mortality rate increased due to poor housing conditions. These conditions led to bread riots and increased unhappiness and misery for poor. When WWI broke out in 1914 the Russian people united in order to fight a common enemy. Nicholas appointed himself as the Chief Commander of the army, which was a fatal mistake. Doing this he left the control of the country to his German wife Alexandra, as he left to the battlefield. Alexandra was influenced by Rasputin, who could occasionally cure Alexi`s (the tsar and tsarinas son) haemophilia. Rasputin was hated by the Russian people, who also didn`t like the Tsarina due to her German background. Some believed that the two worked for Germany, which contributed to the Russia`s defeat.
The condition in Russia grew rapidly worse during March 1917. Wages rose, but the rouble (Russia`s currency) dropped in value, making it worthless. Food prices rose and less people could afford food anymore.
Workers went on strike, factories were closed down, which lead to more workers going on strike. On Thursday 8 March, International Women`s day, thousands of socialist women went on the streets to demonstrate about the food shortages. There was mutiny in the army as soldiers refused to shoot the demonstrators, but joined them.
Duma met up 12th March and set up the Provisional Government to take over the government. At Nicholas was halted by revolutionaries on his way to Petrograd from army headquarters (as he had made himself Commander in-Chief of the army and went to the battlefield). The government, the people and the army had all abandoned the tsar and he was forced to abdicate.
The second revolution was a coup d’état by Bolsheviks, led by Lenin. After Nicolas II abdication, the Provisional government functioned as the official government till elections were held. However, at the same time there existed an unofficial government, the Petrograd Soviet, which aimed to protect soldier`s and worker`s interest. Other Soviets were formed all over Russia with the same aim and took the orders from Petrograd Soviet. Lenin, who had been in exile in Switzerland, came back to Russia as he disagreed with the revolutionaries who cooperated with the Provisional Government. He wanted a second revolution. Germans happily helped Lenin back to Russia, as he would be a trouble for the Provisional Government and help Germany win the war. Lenin and his April theses encouraged Soviet to take control and form a new government. Russia’s failure against Austria in the war 1917 led more soldiers in the arms of Bolsheviks, where they demanded an end to the Provisional Government. However, after three days of rioting Alexander Kerensky send loyal troop’s who crushed the revolutionaries. Lenin fled to Finland and many Bolsheviks were arrested. However, the Kornilov issue led Kerensky seeking help from the Bolsheviks, in order to protect the Provisional Government and Petrograd. The Red Guard. Bolsheviks defence force came out from the Kornilov revolt as heroes as they had saved the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks got majority in elections for the Petrograd Soviet in September. By October 1917 the Bolsheviks were more powerful than ever before.
Kerensky and the Provisional government lost support during September and October 1917. Peasants rebelled, soldiers refused to fight against Germany. When the Provisional Government failed to give peasants land, which they had promised, the peasant took the matters into their own hands. Though, Kerensky sent troops to stop the violence, it wasn`t enough to stop the violence. The violence delayed the harvest, which in turn led to further food shortage. Soldiers disobeyed their officers and left the army. In 1917 Lenin returned to Petrograd. The Bolshevik decided to revolt against the Provisional Government and had the army`s support. The Red Gurad was well armed by 6th November and began to take control of all the most important locations in Petrograd, e.g. government buildings, power stations and railway stations. On 7 November the Red Guards took control of the Winter Palace, which was the headquarter of the Provisional Government. The Cadets and the Women`s Battalion, which guarded the Winter palace surrendered without fight, and the ministers of Provisional Government surrendered and were taken under arrest. After the Bolsheviks controlled the capital of Russia, Petrograd, Lenin set up a new government.
The 1917 March revolution was a spontaneous revolution, that was triggered by the long lasting misery that people in Russia had suffered. Failures in the Crimean War, Japanese War and WWI added to the dissatisfaction and misery of the people. Old wounds like the Bloody Sunday was hard to forget and people held Nicholas II responsible, which added mistrust on the Tsar and the regime. People were starving because of the food shortage, while their husbands were once again in war. The October revolution was an organized coup d’état by Bolsheviks. However, people were also dissatisfied with the provisional government which enabled Soviets to become popular and seize power. The Russian people didn`t care who was in power as long as they would get food and pull out of the war.
I've corredted your essay and graded it 13-14/20. You cover both the
causes nature of the revolutions but you fail to have a constant focus
of comparing and contrasting. The focus is included in the very
beginning and end of the essay but in the body you cover the both
revolutions separetely. Instead the structure should be finding
differences and similarities first in the causes and then in the
Keep up the good work and mail any questions you have.