WWI Steps Towards the Russian Revolution

Russia, History, WWI Steps Towards the Russian
Revolution The quotation, "‘I shall maintain the principle of
autocracy just as firmly and unflinchingly as it was preserved
by my unforgettable dead father.' (Nicholas II) In spite of the
Czar's decrees and declarations, Russia, by the beginning of
the 20th century, was overripe for revolution," is supported
by political and socioeconomic conditions late monarchial
Russia. Nicholas II was the Czar of Russia from
1896-1917, and his rule was the brute of political disarray.
An autocrat, Nicholas II had continued the divine-right
monarchy held by the Romanovs for many generations.
From the day Russia coronated Nicholas II as Emperor,
problems arose with the people. As was tradition at
coronations, the Emperor would leave presents for the
peasants outside Moscow. The people madly rushed to grab
the gifts, and they trampled thousands in the bedlam. As an
autocrat, no other monarch in Europe claimed such large
powers or stood so high above his subjects as Nicholas II.
Autocracy was traditionally impatient and short- tempered.
He wielded his power through his bureaucracy, which
contained the most knowledgeable and skilled members of
Russian high society. Like the Czar, the bureaucracy, or
chinovniki, stood above the people and were always in
danger of being poisoned by their own power. When Sergei
Witte acted as Russia's Minister of Finance from 1892 to
1903, attempted to solve Russia's "riddle of backwardness"
in its governmental system. He is considered more of a
forerunner of Stalin rather than a contemporary of Nicholas
II. In 1900, Witte wrote a memorandum to Nicholas II,
underscoring the necessity of industrialization in Russia. After
the government implemented Witte's plan, Russia had an
industrial upsurge. All of Russia, however, shared a
deep-seated resentment of the sudden jump into an
uncongenial way of life. Witte realized that Nicholas II was
not meant to carry the burden of leading Russia to an
industrial nation as a Great Power. Nicholas II's weakness
was even obvious to himself, when he said, "I always give in
and in the end am made the fool, without will, without
character." At this time, the Czar did not lead, his ministers
bickered amongst themselves, and cliques and
special-interest groups interfered with the conduct of
government. Nicholas II never took interest in public
opinion, and seemed oblivious to what was happening
around him. He was still convinced he could handle Russia
himself. By 1902, the peasants had revolted against Witte's
industrialization movements, which were marked by a raise
in taxes as Russia spent more than it ever had. Russia was
struggling in the European and Asian markets, and with much
domestic unrest, Nicholas II did not want foreign affairs
muddled as well. Nicholas II dismissed Witte from the
Minister of Finance in August 1903. January 22, 1905,
commonly known as Bloody Sunday, was a revolutionary
event only because of what followed, not of what actually
happened on that day. A group of workers and their families
set out, with the backing of several officials, to present a
petition to the Czar. As they approached the Winter Palace,
rifles sprayed them with bullets. This cruel act by the Czar
shattered what smidgen of faith the workers and peasants
still held for Nicholas II, and sparked the quickly-aborted
"October Revolution." Peasants and workers revolted in an
elemental and anarchic rebellion, ultimately turning a
large-scale strike and bringing the government, economy,
and all public services to a complete halt. By October 1905,
the relations between the Czar and his subjects had come to
a complete breakdown. The October Manifesto, created in
1905, caused two things. First, it granted basic civil liberties
to all, despite religion or nationality; it even legalized political
parties. This concession was capped by the creation of an
elected legislative body, the Imperial Duma. Second, it split
the revolutionary front, reconciling the most cautious
elements among the moderates, who had no heart for
violence, with a government which promised to end the
abuses of autocracy. This formed the political party called
Octobrist, which lead the Duma. Peter Stolypin was Chair of
the Soviet of Ministers (1907-1911). Stolypin's goal was to
seal the rift between the government and the public. His
scheme was a moderate one, based largely on Witte's earlier
suggestions. Its essence was the creation of a prosperous
and conservative element in the countryside composed of
"the strong and the sober." On the whole, Stolypin
succeeded with some improvements in the civic status of the
peasantry, but did not expunge the barriers separating it from
"privilege Russia" (see explanation in section covering social
aspects). A revolutionary assassinated Stolypin in 1911. In
1916, Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandria, were so
estranged from the ruling circle that a palace coup was freely
advocated. Before this, Alexandria had brought