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 Rasputin, a faith-healer, to live with them in the Winter Palace at Petrograd. Alexandria believed he was holy and could save her son, Alexander, from dying of hemophilia. Rasputin ate into the woodwork of the Russian aristocracy, and Alexandria made sure that the members of the Duma did not tarnish him, and that they met his requests. Two revolutionaries murdered Rasputin in December of 1916, after being poisoned, shot, and drowned. Many members of the Imperial family and army generals in the field believed that, “If it is a choice between the Czar and Russia, I’ll take Russia.” The British Ambassador to Russia, Sir George Buchanan, said to Nicholas II on January 12, 1917, “Your Majesty, if I may be permitted to say so, has but one safe course open to you, namely to break down the barrier that separates you from your people and to regain their confidence.” To this, Nicholas II replied, “Do you mean that I am to regain the confidence of my people or that they are to regain my confidence?” History took its course with the belligerent ravings of Nicholas II, and on March 7, 1917, a major demonstration ignited in Petrograd.
After two days of heavy rioting, the soldiers called into to control the bunch and defend the regime gave up and joined in. On March 12, the soldiers in Petrograd would not obey the Czar’s orders, and in several days this …