Dissent and Revolution 1917


Dissent and Revolution 1917

The 1905 Russian Revolution

Long term causes - Long term discontent among: Peasants: Russia had no form of income tax. The tsar taxed the produce of the peasant farmers to raise money to maintain his regime. The burden of taxation was so great that riotsfoten broke out. The peasants had been freed from serfdom under the 'Great Emancipation Statue' of 1861 by Alex II which meant that each serf was guaranteed minimal plot of land. However, in order for peasants to get land, the government had to pay landowners for it which meant peasants had to pay this 'loan' back in the form of redemption payments. This increased their hardship. Suffered periodic famines, widespread famine in 1901. Pesants expected to produce surplus grain for export even though they did not have enough to feed themselves. Workers: Protests and strikes increasing in early 1900's, by 1905 they were widespread. Under Tsarist advisor Witte's industrialisation  policy workers were worked hard with low wages and high indirect taxes. Conditions bad, working day was 11.5 hours. Many workers lived in communal houses, with bad conditions. National minorites: Fines, Poles, Jews etc. Wanted more autonomy and independence. Wanted an end to the policy of russification which was process where non-russians, voluntarily or not, give up their culture for a russian one. Jewish people persecuted  by state-sanctioned pogroms (riot). 

Short term causes - Outbreak of Russo-Japanese War, 1904: 1904-05, Russia and Japan fought for control of strategic territories in China. Tsar Nicholas II was advised that a national victory in a war would lessen opposition to tsarist rule. Opportunity to heighten patriotic fervour. Japan also threat to Russian interests in Asia. Russia had done well with economic expansion into far east, Japan concerned that russian expansion could threaten Korea. Lost Port Arthur, russian naval base: Japanese besiged Port Arthur, Russian forces without supplies, suffered heavy losses.

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Impact of the war: The embarassment of defeat made tsars government seem incompetent. The tsar had to agree to peace treaty with Russia. War caused shortages as resources diverted to the war lessened the limited supply of grain and fuel. 1904, Plehve who advised the tsar to the war was assassinated in bomb attack. Bloody Sunday: 22nd January 1905, march to deliver a petition to the tsar who was not at home at Winter Palace. Thousands of workers took part in peaceful protest, not trying to overthrow tsar. This demonstration was put down by soldiers, 200 killed.

1905 Revolution:Tsar 'at war with his own people', for most of 1905 - strikes, riots, peasant uprisings, demonstrations etc. In 1905, 400,000 workers went on strike in protest at Bloody Sunday.

Consquences of the 1905 revolution:

  • October Manifesto, 1905: Nicholas II made concessions and issed this, Promised significant political reform: - A duma was to be set up. No law to be passed unless approved by the Duma. - Censhorship would be loosend and freedom of speech encouraged. - The people would have more rights.
  • The Fundamental Laws, 1906: They were an edict from the tsar. They reinstated his power over the duma: - the right to rule independently if duma not in session, the right to dissolve the duma, power to change the electoral system/to appoint ministers, commands of the army and navy.
  • Suppression of political opposition: The army mostly stayed loyal to the tsar. In Feb 1905, 1,000 people were killed in the fighting between the army and strikers. The Union of Russian People had the right to execute, arrest. Okhrana arrested Bolshevik/Menshevik reperesentatives, forced Lenin into exile in 1907.
  • Stolypins reforms: wanted to reform agriculture to modernise Russia. Redemption payments abolished. 
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The State Dumas, 1906-1914

1st Duma, April-June 1906 - Consisted mainly of Kadets and SRs. Hence, it demanded further political reform, including land reform and the release of political prisoners. Denied by the Tsar. Lasted for just over 2 months before it was dissolved for passing a vote of 'no confidence' in Prime Minister Ivan Goremykin. FAILURES: Government obtained loan from France, weakening Dumas opportunity to use financial powers over Tsar, tsar issued 'Fundamental Laws' e.g. declared supreme authocratic power rested with Tsar.

2nd Duma, Feb-June 1907 - Many Kadets were involved in writing the Vyborg Appeal, which criticised goverment/demanded the non-payment of taxes. These Kadets were made inelegible to vote which reduced their power. No of Kadet representatives were halved. Lasted 5 months. Dissolved when members criticised admin of military and promoting revolutionary organisations within the army.

3rd Duma, Nov 1907-June 1912 - Intended to be much more supportive of the Tsar. Arrangements made for landowners to have more voting power, this meant only the most affluent third of the population were able to vote. Less radical and more favourable to the government. Exercised right to question ministers and discuss state finances. Prime minister Pyotr Stolypin was able to pass land reform. Right wing parties dominated. FAILURES:  electoral system doctored to limit no of opponents by restricting the franchise/limiting no of peasant votes. 1 in 6 of male population had right to vote. Lasted until mid 1912. 4th Duma Nov 1912-Aug 1914 - Comprised mainly Octobrists on one side and socialists on the other, made decision making difficult. Secret police reports about protests in 4th duma show how seriously authorities took the assembly as a focus of public opinion. FAILURES: Growing despair over the way the govt ignored wishes of legislature and used violence to maintain public order. Suspended in 1915, by which time Russia was in WWI.

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Russia at war 1917

Economic Problems: Between 1914-1917 war costs meant government spending increased from 4 million roubles to 30 million. Increased taxation at home and heavy borrowing from abroad were only partially successful in raising the capital Russia needed. The gold standard (the rouble had a fixed gold content, giving it strength when exchanged with other currencies) was abandoned, which allowed the government to put more banknotes into circulation. This enabled wages to be paid and trade to continue, however money was wothless as rouble lost value. Led to rapid inflation (A decrease in value and purchasing power of money). In July 1914, the price index was 100 with 100 bank notes in circulation, to Jan 1917 398 price index and 336 banknotes. Massive expansion of war production (artillery 1916 4x that of 1914), but other industries declined. Agriculture: peasants found it impossible to sustain agricultural output. This was because of the requisitioning (state authorised seizure of property/resources) of farm horses/fertilisers by military. Inflation made trading unprofitable and so peasants stopped selling and hoarded. Army had first claim of limited food being produced. Transport: Military commandeered railways/roads, food supplies could not be distributed. Petrograd was remote from food-producing regions, refugees swelled population, increased demand of resources , by early 1917 bread rationing meant Petrograd inhabitants recieving less than 1/4 of amount available in 1914. Disruption of transport system intensified Petrograds wartime shortages. By end 1916, Petrograd/Moscow recieving 1/3 of food/fuel requirements. Moscow recieved 2200 wagons of grain, by 1917 this was 700.

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Military problems: By 1917, the war was going badly for Russia. A critical facter was that the army had a lack of equipment due to an underspending on the military. The problem was poor administration between the government departments responsible for supplies. Despite its takeover of the transport system, the army was also a victim of poor distribution. From 1916, shortages began to occur. Ths suffering might have been bearable had the war being going well. There had been some military successs such as in 1916 russian offensive brought Austria-Hungary on verge of collapse, but these gains were rarely followed up. Poland lost to Germans in 1916 and they advanced to just 200 miles from Moscow. Central to military failures was Nicholas II. The strong leadership that war effort needed was not being provided. This related to a decision in 1915 to take direct command of armed services. Intention was to rally the nation around him. Under his command, Russia sustained a series of military reverses that were rarely victorious. 1915, lost 3,400,00 men. Mistake, left his wife and Rasputin in charge. The public were not told why Rasputin was there, led to widespread distrust in the tsar for allowing himself to be influenced.   Political Problems:The result of his decision shown two years later. Growth of opposition ; majority of duma members shared view that Nicholas was an inept political/military leader, incapable. In 1914, duma was suspended by its own decision to show support for tsar for duration of war. However, in a year, Russia's poor military led to duma demanding to be recalled. Nicholas had bowed before the pressure and allowed the duma to reassemble in 1915. Duma became a platform for vocal crtics of the tsar and his government for mishandling of war. Mistake, Nicholas refused to co-operate with non-government organisations like Union of Zemstva (set of patriotic rural local councils) and Union of Municipal Councils (set of patriotic urban local councils). They formed the a joint body devoted to helping the wounded called Zemgor. 'The Progressive Bloc' was formed by 236 duma deputies after Nicholas refusal of their proposal of a 'government of confidence' with members of duma. Nicholas did not listen to bloc, so from a supporter who was trying to help, it became a focus of political resistance. FEB REVOLUTION

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The Role of Rasputin

  • The Tsars son Alexsei was afflicted with the 'Royal Disease' haemophilia. 1908, Rasputin was called. When he was summoned, he proved he had a healing power and helped the boy. Rasputin became the personal advisor and confidante for Alexandra.
  • He was hated because: To the aristocrats, having a peasant advising the tsarina, was unacceptable. Rasputin was a lover of alchohol and a womaniser. Though he appeared a pious and saintly man, people saw him as a dirty peasant who was running Russia and monarchy.
  • He was murdered in 1916.

The February Revolution, 1917

Long term causes: - Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Japanese army were able to defeat Russia in every single major confrontation. This led to public discontent and economic problems which led to the up rise of Bloody Sunday in 1905. - Long term economic issues.

Short term causes: -  Military failures during WWI, e.g Battle of Tannenburg. Morale was low. - Political problems, the Octobrists in Duma had demanded the removal of unwanted ministers and generals but was refused, 'Progressive Bloc', Nicholas refusal to listen.

Events: According to Russian system of dating, revolution occured between 18th Feb-4 March 1917.

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Strike started on 18th Feb by employees at the Putilov steel works, the largest factory in Petrograd. During the next five days, they were joined by workers who had been angered by rumours of a further cut in bread supplies. It is now known these were merely rumours and there was still enough bread. On 23rd February, it was International Womens Day. Thousands of women joined the protestors in demanding food and an end to the war. Factoires were occupied and attempts by authorities to disperse the workers were hampered by the growing sympathy among the police for the demonstrators. Political protests were indistinguishable from the general outcry against food shortages and the miseries from war.

Breakdown of order/short term events leading to abdication of tsar

  • Cossacks refused to fire on protestors after Nicholas ordered the commander of the Petrograd garrison to restore order; by 26th February all but a few thousand of the 150,000 Petrograd garrison troops had deserted.
  • Duma dissolved, but twelve members remained in session as 'provisional committee' (formation of provisional government). Marked the first open consitutional defiance of the tsar. Made up of landowners, industrialists who had been part of 'Progressive Bloc'. Also Kadets, Octobrists and two SR's, one was Alexander Kerensky. Called for the tsar to stand down as head of state.
  • The creation of the Petrograd Soviet, meeting of the 'Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers, Sailors and Workers Deputies'. The moving force behind the setting up of the soviet were the Mensheviks. These two bodies, the provisional committee (representing reformist elements of old duma ) and the petrograd soviet(speaking for the striking workers and troops) became the de facto government. This was the beginning of Dual Authority (the co-existence of the provisional committee and the petrograd soviet).
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The tsar abdicates: On 28th February, Nicholas decided to return to Petrograd, he thought his presence would have a calming effect on the capital. However, his royal train was intercepted by mutinous troops which forced it to divert to a city Pskov. There, Nicholas met generals and representatives of old duma to inform of his seriousness of situation and advised abdication. Nicholas tamely accepted this advice, but unsure whether also to renounce the throne on behalf of his son, which he did decide to do. His brother Grand Duke Michael was nominated as tsar, who refused because the title had not been offered to him by a russian constituent assembly.

The provisional government found itself responsible for governing Russia.

The Dual Authority and continued dissent

Provisional government had two weaknesses: - It was not an elected body, having come into being as a rebellious committee of the old duma. In consequence it lacked legitimate authority and had no claim on the loyalty of the russian people. It would be judged by how well it dealt with nations problems.

- Its authority was limited by its unofficial partnership with the Petrograd Soviet in the Dual Authority. Limited by Order No 1 which declared that in military matters, the orders of the PG were to be obeyed 'only when they do not contradict the orders and decrees of the soviet'. The decrees of the PG were not binding unless approved by the Petrograd Soviet.

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Why did the Petrograd Soviet not take power?

  • The leaders of the soviet did not think the time was right for the workers to form the government. The Mensheviks and SR's believed that Russia had to go through a 'bourgeois revolution' before the workers could assume power. They were following the classical Marxist line and believed there had to be a period where capitalism developed more. They believed the workers needed education before they could run a country.
  • There was a practical reason behind this position, they wanted to avoid a civil war. They needed to keep the middle classes and army commanders on their side.
  • Some leaders, mainly intellectual socialists, were scared and were not sure they could control the masses.

Provisional Government: What general policy statements did they make?: War - Committed to continuing the war on the side of Britan & France. After the war, they wanted western help for their democracy & to remain an important power. Land - Wanted the land redistribution problem to be dealt by the elected consitutent assembly. National Minorities - They did not want the old empire broken up, maintain integrity of state. Elections to constituent assembly - Realised that the majority of population were not going to vote for them, sought to delay elections until war was over.

Petrograd Soviet: What general policy statements did they make?: Co-operation - prepared to co-operate with the PG, while acting as a watchdog to ensure that peoples interests were not jeopardised. War - Fight a defensive war only, to prevent defeat, not fight to gain territory. Land - Leave this to constituent assembly, SR's anxious to redistribute land, but prepared to wait. National Minorities - To accede to the aspirations of

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non russian people, offering more self government and local control.


Both the Mensheviks & SR's were split over the war: Mensheviks - moderate Mensheviks supported continuation of the war, but some opposed it. SR's - Chernov and moderate SR's favoured continuation of war, while left wing SR's opposed it.


Some Kadets believed that the revolution was over and should go no further. They wanted to set up a constitutional framework, with an elected government. Left leaning Kadets wanted greater social reform, more power to regional centres.

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Return of Lenin & The Bolsheviks

- Lenin arrived in Petrograd on 3rd April. In the hope that the tsars fall would be the prelude to the collapse of the Russian armies, the German government arranged for Lenin to return to Russia. Since the outbreak of war in 1914, the German foregin office had given regular financial support to Lenin & Bolsheviks in the hope that if they achieved their revolutionary aims they would pull Russia out of the war. Anti-Bolsheviks considered the German government and the Bolsheviks to be co-operating for the defeat of Russia. Lenin declared that the events of February had created a parliamentary-bourgeois republic (term for the PG, which for lenin had replaced the rule of the tsar with the rule of the reactionary duma).

The April Theses: Lenin used this to spell out future Bolshevik policy.

  • worldwide socialist revolution
  • an immediate end to the war
  • an end to co-operation with the provisional government
  • the soviet to take power
  • land to be given to the peasants

Recieved with boos from Mensheviks who claimed he was ignoring the lessons of Marx. Even Bolsheviks shocked as they believed this was far too radical, some said Lenin had become out of touch.

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Lenin had ulterior motives for demanding that soviets take power. He saw them as a power base and circumstances had made them an essential part of the post-tsarist government. The Bolsheviks could infiltrate/dominate the societ to take over the state.

The main points of the Theses were turned into slogan 'Peace, Bread and Land' and 'All power to the Soviets'. These displayed the problems in russia, Peace - the continuing war with Germany, Bread - the food shortages, Land - the disruption in the countryside. Lenin asserted that as long as the PG was in power these problems could not be solved.

How did the provisonal government deal with the problems it faced?

Land/Peasants - Land shortage was a problem. The February Revolution led peasants to believe that they would benefit from land redistribution. This did not happen, so pesants seized the property of landlords. Disturbances amounted to a national peasants revolt. The PG set up a land commission with the aim of redistributing land, however majority of its members came from landed classes who had little enthusiasm for a policy that threatened their own interests. Liberals in the PG wanted land redistribution to be done within the law set down by the constituent assembly. SR's too urged the problem to be solved by the assembly. NOT SUCCESSFUL as peasants took more land from private estates, 237 cases of land seizures.

The war - The Minister of War wanted to defend Russia, but also to make territorial gains. This outraged the soviets who only wanted a defensive war. The government was reformed and 5 socialist leaders joined. The Menshevik/SR leaders would be associated with the conduct of the war. Launched summer offensive against Germans.

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The Summer Offensive, 1917 - PG launched because: - Britain & France had requested that Russia attack on the Easstern Front to take pressure of thie forces. - There was still a strong nationalist element in society that did not like to surrender to the Germans. - The Kadets and other conservative forces thought that a successful offensive might put generals back in control of armed forces to bring revolution under control. - Some socialists felt that a successful offensive might put them in a better position for peace negotiations with the Germans.

Alexander Kerensky was the new Minister for War and used propoganda to mobilise armed forces and the people for a massive attack. Middle class civilians volunteered, however soldiers committees argued that they found little point in fighting when everyone wanted peace. Thousands ran away before the offensive began. Hundreds of thousands soldiers killed, territory lost, led to armed uprising 'July Days'.

National Minority Demands - The Fines and Poles called for independance, others wanted more autonomy. Ukranians demanded self government. Moderate socialists made concessions to them; this outraged liberals who saw it as a step to the breakup of Russia.  UNSUCCESSFUL as it led to anger from liberals who believed that for Russia to be a great power, it had to keep all the regions in one centrally governed state.

Deteriorating economic situation - The railway system showed signs of breaking down, shortages of fuel led to factories cutting output or closing and laying off workers. 568 factories closed. The government increased the price it paid for grain by 100% but this did not persuade peasants to bring grain into the cities. It sent out punishment brigades to countryside to requisition grain, but this made peasants hostile. The prices increased, e.g. milk cost 0.07 roubles in 1914, but in 1917 cost 0.40. As long as the wr continued and resources were given to army, not much government could do.  

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The July Days 3rd-6th

Causes: Soviets ready to take power from PG, Failure of Summer Offensive. By summer 1917, the government were no longer in control because: the establishment of soviets throughout Russia, worker control of factories, seizure of land by peasants, the creation of national minority governments. A month before at the All Russian Congress of Soviets Lenin had declared that the Bolsheviks were ready to take power, but the delegates regarded this as an intention rather than a plan. Unclear who started the uprising. Events: large scale demonstrations occured in Petrograd. After the news of the failure of south-western offensive and the governments problems, the demonstrations turned into a challenge to provisional government. However, the disunity allowed it to be crushed easily by the government. Lenin did not provide coherent leadership or make an attempt to seize power. The lack of leadership proved the undoing of the uprising. Troops loyal to the government were rushed from the front and they restored order.  Consequences: Showed that the PG still had sufficient strength to put down an uprising. Kerensky became PM, and turned on the Bolsheviks. 500 Bolsheviks were arrested, Lenin fled Petrograd. Pravada (the chief bolshevik newspaper) was closed down.

The Kornilov Affair

Causes: The advance of German forces deeper into Russia began to threaten Petrograd. Large numbers of refugees and deserters flocked into the city. Kerensky came to the conclusion that he needed to restore law and order. Kerensky appointed a new Supreme Commander Kornilov and agreed with him to bring trustworthy troops to Petrograd. General Kornilov, the new commander in chief, declared that Russisa/government stood in grave danger of a socialist inspired insurrection. Kornilov had never accepted the February Revolution.

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He believed that before Russia could defeat Germany, it must remove the enemies within. He wanted to crush radical socialists. He informed Kerensky that he intended to bring his troops to petrograd to save PG from being overthrown. Events: Kerensky panicked and denounced Kerensky. He called on the Soviet to help to defend Petrograd from counter-revolution. Some middle classes might have supported Kornilov and the restoration of order, the mass of the people were scared. It meant the return of the old order, the loss of the gains of the Revolution. The soldiers in the Petrograd were also scared, old style discipline would be restored, lose power they had gained over their officers, forced to go to front to fight. The Bolsheviks were released from prison to collect weapons issued by PG to all who were willing to fight. In the event, the weapons were not needed against him as railway workers refused to operate trains to bring Kornilovs army to Petrograd. Kornilov abandoned the advance and allowed himself to be arrested. Consequences: Kerenskys reputation was damaged. The Menshevik/SR leaders were distrusted by Kadets and other liberals as seen as supporting the interests of the rich, supporters of Kornilov. Soldiers, infuriated by what they thought was an officers plot, murdered hundreds of officers. The Bolsheviks rode back on a wave of popular support as the saviours of the city. They were elected in huge numbers to the soviets. THE BOLSHEVIKS GAINED OVERALL CONTROL OF THE PETROGRAD SOVIET and Trotsky elected president. He was now in charge of Order No 1 so can create a revolution., the PG is dependent on the Bolsheviks and it is now defenceless as the bolsheviks have total military control and do not have to support the PG with an army.

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The October Revolution 1917

Causes: Lenin decided the time was right for Bolsheviks to take power. He thought a number of factors were working in his favour: - The bolsheviks had control of the soviet - their popularity was high and they had done well in elections to soviets - the liberals and other conservative forces were demoralised after Kornilov Affair - the PG was helpless. A power vacuum had been created and Lenin was determined to fill it. Lenin's urgency arose from his concern over: the meeting of the All Russian Congress of Soviets in late October, the election for the Constituent Assembly in November. 

If they could topple the PG before the Congress of Soviets met, they could present their new authority as a situation that cannot be changed (fait accompli) which the congress would have no reason to reject. The Constituent Assembly was the body on which all progressives/reformers had set their hopes. Once it came into being, its moral authority would be hard to challenge. Events: Despite Lenins efforts, there were Bolsheviks on the Central Committee (the decision making body of the Bolshevik Party) who doubting the wisdom of striking against the PG. They failed to agree on a date. Kerensky read an article written by Grigor Zinoviev and Lev Kamenez which he interpreted saying that a date for an overthrow of the government had already been set. He ordered a pre-emptive attack on the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks no longer had a choice; Lenin ordered the planned insurrection to begin. Trotsky was chairman of Petrograd Soviet and set up the Petrograds soviet MRC (Military Revolutionary Committee) which had weapons and Red Guards, the only effective military force in Petrograd. Trotsky appointed himself as one of the three men to run the MRC as it meant Bolsheviks could control Petrograd. Trotsky directed the Red Guards to seize vantage points such as bridges/telegraph offices.

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Took three days (25-27) for the city to fall under Bolshevik control. Only 6 deaths. The PG had hardly any military forces on which to call, the petrograd garrison did not come to aid of PG. When Red Guards approach Winter Palace they met no resistance; Cossacks, Amazons and Cadets gave up. Members of the government ran away, Kerensky fled. The speed and ease with which the Bolsheviks took power suprised even Lenin. Kamenev informed the leaders of the All Russian Congress of Soviets on 28th that the soviets now ruled Russia, as the PS had seized power in a revolution. All 14 members of the government were Bolsheviks with Lenin as chief minister.


  • Short term causes like Mistakes made by Kerensky such as launching summer offensive, handling of Kornilov coup
  • Long term causes like Policies of PG in terms of continuation of the war, economic isusues
  • Luck of the Bolsheviks


  • Kornilov Coup
  • Failures of the PG
  • October Revolutions
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