From War to Revolution

 

In the years leading up to the Revolutions of 1917, the Russian Empire’s status as a “great power” was increasingly insecure as a result of (among many other things) the devastating loss Russia faced in the Russo-Japanese War; the events and backlash of Bloody Sunday; as well as its innumerable losses faced in WWI.

The loss of the Russo-Japanese War and Bloody Sunday could be argued to be among two of the more important events leading up to the Revolutions of 1917. The Russo Japanese War was a devastating loss for Russia due to the national shame and anguish as a result of a “great power” such as Russia losing to a much smaller and (in Russian eyes) less sophisticated nation and force. Unrest resulted throughout Russia, coming to a head during the events of “Bloody Sunday”, when Russian troops fired unto a protest led by Father Gapon killing scores and igniting the Revolution of 1905. But it was the aftermath of these events, in addition to WWI, that led ultimately to the Revolutions in 1917. Tsar Nicholas II issued the October Manifesto and engaged in a “constitutional experiment”, in attempts to qualm the issues of the working class and address the concerns over religious and civil liberties. Despite this, the autocracy continued to engage in repression of fringe and radical groups, ironically drawing more of the disenfranchised lower class to said groups (such as the Bolsheviks) who would ultimately lead to the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty and usher in the Revolutions of 1917.

octobermanifesto Pictured: The October Manifesto

World War I also exacerbated the open wounds that existed in Russia after the Revolution of 1905 and ultimately helped drive the country to Revolution in 1917. What many Russian’s expected to be a victory turned into a nightmare; crushing defeats at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes; half a million casualties and one million Russian POWs during the Great Retreat of 1915; lack of supplies on the battlefront and food shortages  on the homefront; and a failing war effort under Nicholas II all created and culminated in the final pressures that brought on the Revolutions of 1917.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 8.59.12 PM.png

Pictured: Troops on the Russian Front

By February 23 1917 (the start of the February Revolution), Russia was crumbling from the inside. What started out as a shortage strike in the bread line evolved into riots and protests that consumed the capital, and eventually led to massive abandonment of post by Russian troops and demobilization of the Army; the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II form the throne; the end of the Romanov dynasty; and the formation of a fourth Duma and provisional government. The period of autocratic rule in Russia had come to an end, but still much more work was to be done to finally get the working class and the disenfranchised of Russia the liberties, rights, and empowerment they had desired for so long.

58cb1c2ac3618828698b456c.pngPictured: A U.S. Newspaper headline breaking the news of Tsar Nicholas II abdication from the Throne, the fall of the Romanov Dynasty

Ultimately, the events of Bloody Sunday (brought on in part by defeat in the Russo Japanese War), and the circumstances brought on by WWI within Russia, in combination with other factors at play, were the larger catalysts in bringing on the start of the Revolutions of 1917. Loss of confidence in Russia’s “great power” standing and the autocracy inability to refrain from repression helped bring on, among other things, the Revolutions that would reshape Russia’s trajectory throughout the 20th Century.

Sources:

Amazing news from Petrograd (Image): Western press caustic reaction to abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2018, from https://www.rt.com/news/381069-newspapers-react-nicholas-abdication/

“Context,” Module 03: 1917 – Did the War Cause a Revolution?, European History, accessed February 9th, 2018, http://www.dhr.history.vt.edu/modules/eu/mod03_1917/context.html.

The October Manifesto (Image). (2015, February 19). Retrieved February 11, 2018, from http://alphahistory.com/russianrevolution/october-manifesto/

Revolution in the Army Images. (2016, January 09). Retrieved February 11, 2018, from http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/revolution-in-the-army/revolution-in-the-army-images/#bwg5/202

Revolution in the Army,” Lewis Siegalbaum, Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, accessed February 9th, 2018, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/revolution-in-the-army/.

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9 thoughts on “From War to Revolution

  1. Awesome post! I really like how you discussed the unrest in Russia after the Russo-Japanese War and how people felt insecure with such a “great power” losing face in the public sphere. It’s interesting to look at how citizens felt about Russia losing to a state that they perceived as much smaller in size and ability. You did a great job of looking at this and explaining the other many reasons that Russia experienced so many riots following World War I.

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  2. Zane, I really liked your post and your focus on Russia’s view of itself as a “great power.” Throughout Russian history, Russia has struggled with how they were viewed internationally (especially by the west) and I agree that some of these factors were the final straw. Do you think that they saw these revolutions as the beginning of regaining their great power status?

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    1. I definitely think that these Revolutions were seen as a first step in a long series of trials and tribulations moving forward, that would help ultimately bring Russia back to a great power status on the international stage. I also think that the revolutions had a long term strategic goal of making Russia a great ideological influencer on the international stage as well.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your post! It went into great detail about each event and how they all had an overall snowball effect on Russia. I also talked about Tsar Nicholas and i just found it so interesting how one leader really could create so much unrest within a country and it go on for as long as it did!

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  4. I think Caroline raises an interesting question and I enjoyed reading your post! I’m struck by the NYT page (great idea to include the image, BTW) with the photos of the Tsar and Tsarina, and then the headline about “the army revolts and joins people.” Wow. That pretty much sums it up!

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  5. I liked how you gave us a timeline and hit some pretty important events that led to the the revolution. With the Tsar being leading the army, he wasn’t concentrating on what was going on back home. Do you think if he focused on leading the country rather than the army, that there would have been a different outcome? Maybe he would have pulled out of the war to work on the food scarcity and listened to what the people needed.

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    1. I think the Tsar might have been able to maintain control a bit longer if he had focused on leading the country rather than leading the war effort, but the overthrow was an inevitability in the end.

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  6. I agree that the revolutions represented the beginning building blocks of the Russian government to come. Moving forward meant that the Russian government would be facing a lot more issues in regard to the development of their government. Russia has historically been a strong power, especially in Europe. At this point and time its reconstruction meant that it needed to be able to redevelop itself back into the great power that it generally holds

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  7. Great article. I enjoyed all the supporting images you used. I think the image of the soldiers on the frontline is awesome because it was clearly taken in the midst of some kind of fun enjoyment, not a standstill shot. It is rather crazy to think how these troops were trained by the empire and would eventually use that same military training to get rid of said government.

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