Depth Study B: Russia, 1905-1941
Assignment A: Objectives 1 and 2
Here are some of the causes of the Russian Revolution in March 1917:
Failures in the War
The mutiny in the Army
The Tsarina and Rasputin
In 1904 The Tsar of Russia (Nicholas II) embarked on a war with Japan, hoping for a quick and glorious victory that would unite the country, decrease support for the Tsar’s opponents and gain control over Korea and Manchuria. Unfortunately for the Tsar, the Japanese were well prepared, both industrially and military. The Japanese crushed the Russian army and destroyed most of it’s fleet. Damaged both militarily and industrially, Russia had to sign a peace treaty. In 1905 the Tsar crushed the attempted revolution using the army that was loyal to him. In 1914, Russia entered the WWI, unprepared in any way it suffered countless losses and therefore all the problems that existed increased and new problems occurred.
1) FOOD SHORTAGES
Food shortages frustrated the people and soldiers more and more as prices were rising dramatically. Food shortages were a result of two main reasons. One was that Russia’s population was around 130 million (and growing) at that time there fore a lot of food was needed to support such a large population, even though Russia was large enough to easily fit that amount of population, ‘most of it’s farm land was unsuitable for farming’1, this shows that farm land often became overcrowded and farmers demanded more land. Russian farmers were ‘using ancient farming techniques’2 so one farmer had very little land and he used ancient farming techniques and so this dramatically minimized his productivity. ‘The population had increased by 50 per cent between 1860 and 1897 and was still growing fast’3 this shows how rapidly the population grew, there fore creating larger food shortages as the amount of farmland stayed the same but the amount of people it had to feed increased greatly.
The other reason was transporting the crop once it was harvested. ‘ The USA could fit into Russia two and a half times and over and Britain nearly 100 times’4, the problem with transportation was that the railroads were very often the only way to transport large amounts of goods as Russia’s conditions often made roads impassable. ‘By 1900 Russia had only as many miles of track as Britain’5 and Britain was 100 times smaller. This meant that there were very large delays of delivering food and most of it rotted before even reaching town. The only way of transporting goods from the industrial West to the unfarmable East was the Trans Siberian Express, which took more than a week to complete its journey from Moscow to Vladivostok.
During the WWI (which started in 1914), Food Shortages increased greatly because more strikes begun demanding an end to the war. Strikes of course caused food shortages as peasants began striking and not producing any food. Also more soldiers were needed to join the army and so the factory workers were taken to fight and peasants left the countryside to seek better jobs in factories so fewer farmers were left to grow food. Another very important reason that caused an increase in food shortage was that ‘ the Russian railway system was being used to carry supplies to the war front and so trains carrying food to the cities had been reduced’1so more delays in food delivery had been caused, so nor the people, nor the soldiers were being properly fed. Even though Russia got help from Britain and France, the goods were delivered into ports which froze in the winter and so the aid piled up at see and none of it could reach the population. Not only was there little food for the people, prices for food rose dramatically and very few could actually afford to eat what was produced.
Food Shortages were a serious cause of the revolution because they could be linked to each one of the causes on the list because the reasons that they led to, led to other, serious causes.
Food Shortages linked with
2) Failures in the war:
3) Tsarina and Rasputin:
4) Mutiny in the Army
Food shortages led to Strikes as people were underfed, so demanded bread, more strikes were forming as people demanded an end to the War because of the heavy losses which could be blamed on the ill feeding of the soldiers and the strikes that paralyzed industry, therefore the army had no recourses being produced for the fighting, also many soldiers got fed up of being ill treated and so many soldiers deserted from the Army and this led to more Failures as there were less men to fight. The Failures in the war could then partly share the blame for the Tsarina and Rasputin, who were left in charge of the country as the Tsar left to take control of the Army thinking he could do better, not only did the losses increase, but the Tsarina and Rasputin created chaos on the home front as they displaced able ministers with hopeless ones. This caused distrust to the Tsar and led to more strikes, as people wanted the German Tsarina to be put down, people also thought that the Tsarina and Rasputin had an affair and that the Tsarina was under great influence by the Rasputin and so the people began distrusting them and demanding them to be brought down. Failures in the war lead to the mutiny in the army as the troops began doubting the Tsar, as they were being underfed and ill equipped and so blamed this on the Tsar as they thought he left bad leaders in charge of Russia, they also died without the chance of victory against the Central Powers and so began to mutiny. Food Shortages were to be blamed for the Mutiny in the Army as soldiers got fed up of going to battle hungry, and ill equipped as food shortages created strikes that paralyzed the production of munitions. The troops had no chance of victory against the well equipped Germans and Austrians.
2) A long-term reason is a reason that was going on for a very long time and so it was building up tension for a long time
A short-term reason is one that either strengthened dramatically during the war or it developed during the war.
a) Failures in the War:
This was a reason that only developed in the WWI, however the Failures against the Japanese in 1904-1905 were bad memories that created some doubts about the government. This was a Short Term cause of the revolution as the main Failures that contributed to the revolution were from 1914-1917. There were two main reasons for the Failures in 1917, one was that the Army was very poorly equipped and the other was that it had careless and incapable of victory commanders.
‘The War started well for Russia but the generals were careless’1 and also in August 1915 the Tsar took personal command of the army and ‘he was not a particularly able commander’2. As well as the Army being badly led:
‘The Minister of War, General Sukhomlinov,
did not think much of modern methods of war.
He and his generals’ favorite weapon was the
Bayonet. Their preferred method of attack was
to storm enemy positions and destroy them in
hand-to-hand combat. Against the machine guns
and barbed wire of the well equipped German Army,
such attacks were suicidal’3
The Russian Army also had a very old way of fighting and so it was no match for the well-equipped German Army.
The other reason was that Russia’s industry was not producing enough munitions for the army and soon the Army began running out of rifles. ‘ By February 1915 about half of the soldiers who arrived at the front-line trenches had to wait to pick up rifles from those who were killed’4, this meant that before even a year fighting passed the Army began running out of rifles so a large amount of the troops had no rifles. Troops were also under fed (because of the reason discussed in question1) and this lowered the morale of fighting.
This contributed to the revolution for many reasons. This led to strikes as people demanded peace. This led to more food shortages as more people went on strike. Failures in the war lead to mutiny in the army as soldiers refused getting killed without the chance of victory. This could partly share the blame for the Tsarina and Rasputin being left in charge as the Tsar left to take command of the Army because he thought he could put an end to the Failures.
b) The Tsarina and Rasputin:
The Tsarina and Rasputin were a short-term reason because the only time when they could cause havoc in the country was when the Tsar left in August 1915. Even though Rasputin came to power in 1911 after the assassination of Stolypin, he did not play an important role in the decisions when the Tsar was in charge. People distrusted them as the Tsarina was German and Rasputin was a mysterious figure, these also created distrust to the Tsar as he left them in charge. Tsarina was greatly influenced by Rasputin as he could control the bleeding of her hemophiliac son Alexis. Raputin influenced the Tsarina’s decision in appointing ministers and so hopeless ministers were brought to power. The people thought they were lovers and hated them even more. They made a mess of running the country, as ‘in two years there were four prime ministers and four ministers of war’5, this meant that no body was properly organizing the transportation of food and supplies to the cities and therefore the Tsarina and Rasputin shared the blame for food shortages, as they could not organize the transportation of food as well as stopping the strikes to get the peasants to produce food.
The people created strikes demanding an end to fuel and food shortages as well as an end to the greatly costing and humiliating war and also demanding the Tsarina and Rasputin to be put down. The Tsarina could also be blamed for Failures in the war as no body was organizing the delivery of food and supplies to the front line and no munitions were made, as the Tsarina and Rasputin were incapable of putting down the strikes. Soldiers were unhappy with this and created a Mutiny. Factories had to close as a result of large amount of strikers (partly caused by the Tsarina and Rasputin), which the leaders were incapable of putting down, and the fuel shortage for which the leaders and the climate were responsible. Rail tracks iced over and there were so many hopeless ministers appointed by the Tsarina that none of them could organize the fuel and food transportation.
Strikes were a very long-term reason as they were going on for a very long time. They could be traced back to 1903 when the Okhrana relaxed censorship. Strikes were mainly going on as a cause of food shortages. However strikes increased dramatically when the war began. People started demanding an end to the war, food, and fuel for warmth. This was virtually impossible to do as very few trains were left to transport supplies to the cities and the rail tracks iced over in winter. The strikes paralyzed industry that meant nothing was being produced.
Strikes created more food shortages as the peasants were striking instead of producing food. Factory workers also went on strike meaning no munitions were being produced and so the army suffered great Failures as a cause of vast shell shortage. Strikes were then responsible for the Mutiny in the Army as soldiers were unhappy with their living conditions. Strikes were a major cause of the revolution as all the people turned against he government, and the government could not satisfy all the wants without the people working and not striking, so strikes increased as nothing was done to improve their living conditions. Strikes were also caused by sky high prices and there fore after waiting in the queue for bread for hours, people would realize that the prices have risen to high and they can not afford or that all the bread has ran out while they were waiting. This created great frustration and the strikers were ready to use violence against the government, this is why the army was sent to deal with them but it refused. People began hating the government and so they were doing their best to create trouble for the government and the Tsar so that he would abdicate.
3) The Mutiny in the Army:
In the year 1905, the people had attempted to over throw the Tsar, however in 1905, the army was loyal to the Tsar since it was not mistreated to such an extend (as in 1917). There fore the Tsar used the Army to put down the attempted revolution by force, this is what it did, and it shot at the strikers and revolutionaries and so put down the attempted revolution by force. The Army protected the Tsar’s reign until 12th March 1917, when the generals told the Tsar that the Army no longer supports him. After the attempted revolution of 1905, the outcome of the army joining the strikers in 1917 was clear.
All reasons did something for the revolution, just like in 1905, but in 1905 no revolution succeeded; for the only reason that the Army did as the Tsar had commanded. If the Army followed the Tsar’s commands and did not mutiny in 1917, no revolution would take place as long as the army was loyal to the Tsar. All the reasons already discussed had built up tension between the Tsar and his people, some may have built up less but all of them contributed to firstly, the people turning against the Tsar, and secondly, the Army turning against the Tsar. In 1905 only the people turned against the Tsar, whereas in 1917 the Army also turned against the Tsar, this was the Mutiny. As you can see, remove one of the 2 away, and no revolution would happen. The Army was the half that decided whether the Revolution would happen or not.
The Mutiny in the Army was the cause that triggered the revolution. It was due to the starvation of the troops as well as the reason of going to combat without any chances of victory (therefore suffering countless defeats) and having nearly half the troops unarmed. This meant that about half the army would have to get killed before the others got the chance to hold a rifle in combat. Also, the Tsar was a very bad commander, this meant he had bad strategic plans and the soldiers began to realize that when the death tolls became endless and therefore did not support his plans any longer.
The soldiers were ordered to shoot the revolutionaries; the army shot about 40 people before refusing to obey further commands, some regiments even shot their own officers. The soldiers had enough of the War and the way they were treated. Some soldiers just refused to shoot at the crowd and others joined the demonstrators and marched to the Duma demanding they take control.
The soldiers blamed all their losses on the commander, the Tsar, and therefore began to hate him. The Tsar lost support of its only protection, the Army; once he lost his protection, there was no barrier to separate him from the revolutionaries. The Army was all that gave power to the Tsar, without it, the Tsar would have no power over the people. The Army was also the only thing that controlled the population because the people would no longer listen to the Tsar or the government, however because of ill treatment the Army refused to control the strikers by force and joined them as they were suffering just as badly as the people. After the Tsar lost his power, control over the population and his protection, he was the forced to abdicate.
Once the public found out that there was no one to shoot at them, strikes increased as the people who were afraid of getting shot at joined the strikers. Now the Tsar had no support of the population or the Army and therefore was forced to abdicate on the 15th of March 1917.
AUTHOR TITLE OF BOOK/WEBSITE PLACE OF PUBLICATION DATE OF PUBLICATION PAGE/S
Downey Tony andNigel SmithFiehn TerryMacdonald HamishMurray JohnNigel KellyWilloughby Susan Russia and the USSR 1900-1995Oxford HistoryRussia and the USSR1905-1941Russia and the USSR;Empire of RevolutionModern World HistoryRussia and the USSR1905-1956Heinemann HistoryThe Russian RevolutionHeinemann Historywww.bbc.co.uk/education/modern/russia/russihtm.htm#q1 OXFORDLONDONLONDONLONDONOXFORDOXFORD 199619961994199619961995 p12p2,p6,p32p36,p37p78,p84