FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY

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[The Revolutions of Russia - Context and Causes]

The Revolutions of Russia - Context and Causes

“The main weakness of the Russian monarchy of the imperial period consisted not at all in representing interests of a ‘minority,’ restricted in this or that manner, but in the fact that it represented no one whatsoever.”    - George Florovsky

  

 General Overview of the Revolutions

 In 1917 Russia went through two revolutions: 24-19 February and 24-25.

The first revolution overthrew the Tsarist Government and replaced it with a Provisional Government which allowed a Contact Commission of the Petrograd Soviet (first a workers’ committee, then a workers’ and soldiers’ council) to advise the Government.

Protests and strikes against the new government grew as Russia's involvement in World War I lingered on. The Provisional Government responded by establishing a Coalition Government with the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. This Dual Power, however, created a confused bureaucratic quagmire, leading the Government to inaction on urgent issues.

On 24-25 October the Bolshevik party led Russian workers and peasants to revolution, under the slogan, "All power to the Soviets!"  On October 25 - 26, after members of the Provisional Government fled or had been arrested, the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets met to create the Soviet Government through the elections of a new Council of People's Commissars and Central Executive Committee. The new government resolved to begin construction on a Socialist society.

 

Context of the February Revolution: Historical factors that served as combustibles awaiting a spark

 

  •  The impact of the industrial revolution on the economy and means of production in a country that entered the 20th century having, by census, a population of which 8 out of every 10 subjects were land-working peasants.
  • Russia's catastrophic participation in World War I, resulting in massive expenditures for an antiquated, elitist military machine and massive casualties for its personnel, spawning in turn unrest, deteriorating living conditions and food shortages throughout the population.
  •  An ineffectual and impotent autocratic state structure proving itself totally incapable of accommodating commitment to applications of liberal ideals among the masses; the Imperial Government could not even assert authority in its own capital. 
  •  The spark was produced February 23 (March 8, New Style      Calendar) as working-class women, observing the socialist holiday of International Women’s Day, took to the streets of the capital, Petrograd, to protest food shortages and high bread prices. Over the next several days, encouraged by calls from activists in the revolutionary underground, crowds of both men and women swelled and marched to the center of the city…

 

 The History of Russian Revolutions of 1917