Friday, June 3, 2011

Russian Revolutions-Why Nicholas II survived 1905?

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Why Nicholas II survived 105?

Up to the end of the 1th century, Russia was an autocratic country. It was ruled by an autocratic Czar. His will was the sole source of law, of taxation and justice. He controlled the army and all the officials. Through his special position on the Holy Synod, he controlled even religious affairs. His autocratic rule was supported by the privileged nobles, who possessed land and serfs, and held all the chief offices in the Czars administration. When the Czarist government failed to accomplish people’s needs , they revolted for the first time in 105 and then for the second time in 117, by which Czardom was finally overthrown.

Nicholas II never enjoyed the idea being a military leader. He was rather a man devoted to his family and religion than a brave soldier who could restore Russia’s lost magmanity. He easily succumbed to the influences of stronger personalities--the most important one was his wife, Princess Alexandra. She was most eager to preserve the full autocratic power for her husband, and later, for her son. While the Tsar was exercising autocracy there was the emergence of more virulent discontented groups, which presented a greater challenge. Those groups were the proletariat class, the Marxist-oriented revolutionary parties (Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries), the middleclass political parties, the subversive groups among the national minorities and the peasants in the countryside. The immediate cause of the 105 revolution though was the Russo-Japanese war. The Russian armies suffered a series of defeats in the battlefields because they were ill equipped, badly armed and poorly trained. The corruption and the inefficiency of the government were exposed in the conduct of the war. Transportation broke down, bread prices soared up. The Czarist government was totally discredited in the eyes of its people.

The first event to comes relatively quickly in January 105 when the assembly of workers at the Petersburg factory organized a demonstration in order to ask Nicholas more bread. They were guided by a figure called Father Gapon. As a result the march headed towards the Winter Palace and the tsar commanded his troops to disperse the crowds. The Kozaks resulted firing against them and managed to kill several workers. This Sunday remained in Russian History as Bloody Sunday and marked the beginning of a new era. Therefore, strikes and demonstrations flourished across the country forcing the Czar to make certain concessions. A Duma with advisory power (but not legislative power) elected chiefly by the rich people Only the rightwing liberals were contented. To the peasants, political concessions meant very little. They continued with violent peasant riots and seized land from the landlords. The workers were also discontented because they would not have any vote in the proposed Duma.

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Though the situation seemed no worse for Nicholas he finally managed to survive 105 due to several factors. Firstly and most important, the various revolutionary groups were not united. Despite sharing the same ultimate goal, they were divided from one another. The Liberals, the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks and the Social Revolutionaries had different political programmes. In 105 each political party made its own struggles against Czardom. As a result they could be confronted easily as they did not share as mentioned before central organization. Additionally, internal divisions and personal profits weakened the strength of each party against the common enemy.

On the other hand it is fairly accepted that the driving force of the 105 attempted revolution were the masses. But the problem was that they were not organized under political power, meaning that different parties as the Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries had wrong conceptions of the role they should take in the 105 Revolution. Therefore they made no use of the crowd’s strength and willingness. The political programmes of the political parties failed to secure whole-hearted support from the masses because their programmes did not represent their wishes. The Liberals did not include social and economic reforms in their programme. The programme of the Social Democrats advocated the establishment of a Socialist State through a class struggle but few of the workers understood revolutionary theories and they just wanted a better economic livelihood.

Another important issue was the fact that revolutions occurred as well among local groups which seeked the obtaining of local autonomy rather than the overthrowing of the Czar. Nicholas II managed to make concessions at the right time. With the promulgation of the October Manifesto, concerted opposition to the government melted away. The landed proprietors, the liberals and the less radical socialists were at least partially satisfied. They were afraid of going too far. Only the radical socialists, radical workers and hungry peasants continued the revolution. By establishing certain rights concerning freedom of speech and writing he managed to tame the crowd. Most important of all thus was the proclamation for the construction of the first Duma, which despite it gave no actual rights to the working class, at least satisfied partly the need for representation.

Last but not least a factor that played a role of equal importance to the above was the help of the army. At the time (before the events of the First World War occurred) the dynasty retained the support of the bureaucracy, the major part of the army (Kozaks) and the nobility. Thus the Czar was able to suppress the strikes and the revolts after the division had appeared among the opposition forces. In short, the opposition forces, divided, unprepared to seize power, unable to represent the wishes of the peasants and the workers, failed to overthrow the decadent and demoralized dynasty, which retained the support of the nobles, the bureaucrats and the army. Only in 117 (during the war, when Nicholas II was sent to the front) did the army lost its faith to the Czar while not only did the war lead to nothing but also the Czar didn’t manage to retain his soldier’s good opinion, as he was the only man to blame for the defeats.

Conclusively, even though the Tsar managed to survive through the revolution of 105, he didn’t manage to keep the good will of his supporters through the Russian Revolutions of 117. The year 105 was described later on as a powerful influence to awaken a mass revolutionary spirit and the first attempt for the people to prove the beginning of a new era.

1. Nicholas and Alexandra, Robert K. Massie, World BooksLondon

. A peoples tragedy, The Russian Revolution 181-14, Orlando Figes, Jonathan Cape London

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