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Q5. Imperialistic ambitions of Russian Czar and his insensitivity caused “February revolution”. Comment

The reign of Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia saw Imperial Russia go from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse. He had become very unpopular among the population because of his unkept promises as well as violent suppression of ambitions of people.

Under his rule, Russia suffered humiliatingly defeated in the Russo-Japanese War. Hoping to satisfy his imperial ambitions by annexing Constantinople and the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Czar took Russia into the First World War. Nicholas approved the Russian mobilization of August 1914, which marked the beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War I.

The Czarist state was incapable of carrying on a modern war and government was completely unmindful of the conditions of soldiers on the front. In this war around 3 million Russians were killed.

The decadence of the royal family made matters worse, Nicholas II was completely dominated by his wife. Corruption in the state resulted in great suffering among the people. There was widespread discontent throughout the empire as well as in the army.

The condition was ripe for a revolution. In setting forth the fundamental law for a successful revolution, Lenin had included two conditions

  1. the people should fully understand that revolution is necessary and be ready to sacrifice their lives for it;
  2. the existing government should be in a state of crisis to make it possible for it to be overthrown rapidly..

 

The Imperial Army’s severe losses and the High Command’s incompetent handling of the war, along with other policies directed by Nicholas during his reign, are often cited as the leading causes of the fall of the Romanov dynasty

 

“The fall of the Czar marked only the beginning of the revolution”. Comment on statement and trace the events leading to second revolution.

The famous poet Mayakovsky, expressing the contempt of the Russian people for the Czar, wrote on the fall of the Czar: Like the chewed stump of a fag, we spat their dynasty out

Minor incidents usually set off revolutions. In the case of the Russian Revolution it was a demonstration by working-class women trying to purchase bread shouting “Bread” and “Stop the War!” women led the demonstrations as the men were at the front fighting World War I.

A general strike of workers followed, in which soldiers and others soon joined. On 12 March 1917 the capital city of St. Petersburg fell into the hands of the revolutionaries. Soon the revolutionaries took Moscow & the Czar gave up his throne.

Two contending groups emerged out of the chaos to claim leadership of Russia. The first was made up of former Duma members and the second was the Petrograd Soviet. The former Duma members represented the middle and upper classes while the Soviet represented workers and soldiers. Duma members formed a Provisional Government as Petrograd Soviet felt that Russia was not economically advanced enough to undergo a true socialist revolution.

In first few weeks after the February Revolution, the Provisional Government abolished the death penalty, granted amnesty for all political prisoners and those in exile, ended religious and ethnic discrimination, and granted civil liberties. What they did not deal with was an end to the war, land reform, or better quality of life for the Russian people.

The Provisional Government believed Russia should honor its commitments to its allies in World War I and continue fighting. V.I. Lenin did not agree.

Lenin returned to Russia in April from Switzerland at the time of the February Revolution. Lenin shocked everyone by denouncing the Provisional Government and calling for a new revolution. He reminded the people that the country was still at war and that the Provisional Government had done nothing to give the people bread and land.

The unpopularity of the Kerensky government led to its collapse on 7 November 1917, when a group of sailors occupied the Winter Palace, the seat of the Kerensky government.

Leon Trotsky who had played an important role in the 1905 Revolution returned to Russia in May 1917. As head of the Petrograd Soviet, he was one of the most outstanding leaders of the November uprising.

After nearly a bloodless coup, the Bolsheviks were the new leaders of Russia and advanced the slogan ‘All Power to the Soviets’. Nearly immediately, Lenin announced that the new regime would end the war, abolish all private land ownership, and would create a system for workers’ control of factories.

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