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REVIEW: 'Revolutionary Russia 1891-1991,' by Orlando Figes

From the SparkNotes Blog

❶By some historians' accounts, Lenin and his followers were unprepared for how their groundswell of support, especially among influential worker and soldier groups, would translate into real power in the summer of And ironically enough, the most lasting cultural legacy of the widespread anti-Jewish agitation of the s may be the least recognized.

The Aftermath

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With a firm belief that his power to rule was granted by Divine Right , Nicholas assumed that the Russian people were devoted to him with unquestioning loyalty. This ironclad belief rendered Nicholas unwilling to allow the progressive reforms that might have alleviated the suffering of the Russian people. Even after the revolution spurred the Tsar to decree limited civil rights and democratic representation, he worked to limit even these liberties in order to preserve the ultimate authority of the crown.

Despite constant oppression, the desire of the people for democratic participation in government decisions was strong. Since the Age of Enlightenment , Russian intellectuals had promoted Enlightenment ideals such as the dignity of the individual and the rectitude of democratic representation.

These ideals were championed most vociferously by Russia's liberals, although populists, Marxists, and anarchists also claimed to support democratic reforms.

A growing opposition movement had begun to challenge the Romanov monarchy openly well before the turmoil of World War I. Dissatisfaction with Russian autocracy culminated in the huge national upheaval that followed the Bloody Sunday massacre of January , in which hundreds of unarmed protesters were shot by the Tsar's troops.

Workers responded to the massacre with a crippling general strike, forcing Nicholas to put forth the October Manifesto , which established a democratically elected parliament the State Duma. The Tsar undermined this promise of reform but a year later with Article 87 of the Fundamental State Laws , and subsequently dismissed the first two Dumas when they proved uncooperative. Unfulfilled hopes of democracy fueled revolutionary ideas and violent outbursts targeted at the monarchy.

One of the Tsar's principal rationales for risking war in was his desire to restore the prestige that Russia had lost amid the debacles of the Russo-Japanese war. Nicholas also sought to foster a greater sense of national unity with a war against a common and ancient enemy. The Russian Empire was an agglomeration of diverse ethnicities that had shown significant signs of disunity in the years before the First World War. Nicholas believed in part that the shared peril and tribulation of a foreign war would mitigate the social unrest over the persistent issues of poverty, inequality, and inhuman working conditions.

Instead of restoring Russia's political and military standing, World War I led to the horrifying slaughter of Russian troops and military defeats that undermined both the monarchy and society in general to the point of collapse. The outbreak of war in August initially served to quiet the prevalent social and political protests, focusing hostilities against a common external enemy, but this patriotic unity did not last long.

As the war dragged on inconclusively, war-weariness gradually took its toll. More important, though, was a deeper fragility: Hostility toward the Kaiser and the desire to defend their land and their lives did not necessarily translate into enthusiasm for the Tsar or the government. Russia's first major battle of the war was a disaster: However, Austro-Hungarian forces allied to Germany were driven back deep into the Galicia region by the end of the year.

In the autumn of , Nicholas had taken direct command of the army, personally overseeing Russia's main theatre of war and leaving his ambitious but incapable wife Alexandra in charge of the government. Reports of corruption and incompetence in the Imperial government began to emerge, and the growing influence of Grigori Rasputin in the Imperial family was widely resented.

In the eyes of Michael Lynch, a revisionist historian member of the School of Historical Studies at the University of Leicester who focuses on the role of the people, Rasputin was a "fatal disease" to the Tsarist regime.

In , things took a critical turn for the worse when Germany shifted its focus of attack to the Eastern front. By the end of October , Russia had lost between 1,, and 1,, soldiers, with an additional 2,, prisoners of war and 1,, missing, all making up a total of nearly 5,, men. These staggering losses played a definite role in the mutinies and revolts that began to occur. In , reports of fraternizing with the enemy started to circulate.

Soldiers went hungry, and lacked shoes, munitions, and even weapons. Rampant discontent lowered morale, which was further undermined by a series of military defeats. Casualty rates were the most vivid sign of this disaster. Already, by the end of , only five months into the war, around , Russian men had lost their lives and nearly 1,, were injured.

Far sooner than expected, barely trained recruits had to be called up for active duty, a process repeated throughout the war as staggering losses continued to mount. The officer class also saw remarkable changes, especially within the lower echelons, which were quickly filled with soldiers rising up through the ranks.

These men, usually of peasant or working-class backgrounds, were to play a large role in the politicization of the troops in The huge losses on the battlefields were not limited to men. The army quickly ran short of rifles and ammunition as well as uniforms and food , and, by mid, men were being sent to the front bearing no arms. It was hoped that they could equip themselves with the arms that they recovered from fallen soldiers, of both sides, on the battlefields.

The soldiers did not feel that they were being treated as valuable soldiers, or even as human beings, but rather as raw materials to be squandered for the purposes of the rich and powerful. By the spring of , the army was in steady retreat, which was not always orderly; desertion, plunder and chaotic flight were not uncommon.

By , however, the situation had improved in many respects. Russian troops stopped retreating, and there were even some modest successes in the offensives that were staged that year, albeit at great loss of life. Also, the problem of shortages was largely solved by a major effort to increase domestic production.

Nevertheless, by the end of , morale among soldiers was even worse than it had been during the great retreat of The fortunes of war may have improved, but the fact of the war, still draining away strength and lives from the country and its many individuals and families, remained an oppressive inevitability.

The crisis in morale as was argued by Allan Wildman, a leading historian of the Russian army in war and revolution "was rooted fundamentally in the feeling of utter despair that the slaughter would ever end and that anything resembling victory could be achieved.

The war devastated not only soldiers. By the end of , there were manifold signs that the economy was breaking down under the heightened strain of wartime demand. The main problems were food shortages and rising prices. Inflation dragged incomes down at an alarmingly rapid rate, and shortages made it difficult to buy even what one could afford.

These shortages were a problem especially in the capital, St. Petersburg , where distance from supplies and poor transportation networks made matters particularly bad. Shops closed early or entirely for lack of bread, sugar, meat and other provisions, and lines lengthened massively for what remained.

It became increasingly difficult both to afford and actually buy food. Not surprisingly, strikes increased steadily from the middle of , and so did crime; but, for the most part, people suffered and endured, scouring the city for food. Working class women in St. Petersburg reportedly spent about forty hours a week in food lines, begging, turning to prostitution or crime, tearing down wooden fences to keep stoves heated for warmth, grumbling about the rich, and wondering when and how this would all come to an end.

Government officials responsible for public order worried about how long people's patience would last. A report by the St. Petersburg branch of the security police, the Okhrana , in October , warned bluntly of "the possibility in the near future of riots by the lower classes of the empire enraged by the burdens of daily existence.

Nicholas was blamed for all of these crises, and what little support he had left began to crumble. As discontent grew, the State Duma issued a warning to Nicholas in November It stated that, inevitably, a terrible disaster would grip the country unless a constitutional form of government was put in place. Nicholas ignored these warnings and Russia's Tsarist regime collapsed a few months later during the February Revolution of One year later, the Tsar and his entire family were executed.

At the beginning of February, Petrograd workers began several strikes and demonstrations. The next day, a series of meetings and rallies were held for International Women's Day , which gradually turned into economic and political gatherings.

Demonstrations were organised to demand bread , and these were supported by the industrial working force who considered them a reason for continuing the strikes. The women workers marched to nearby factories bringing out over 50, workers on strike.

Students, white-collar workers and teachers joined the workers in the streets and at public meetings. To quell the riots, the Tsar looked to the army. At least , troops were available in the capital, but most were either untrained or injured. Historian Ian Beckett suggests around 12, could be regarded as reliable, but even these proved reluctant to move in on the crowd, since it included so many women.

It was for this reason that when, on 11 March [ O. The response of the Duma, urged on by the liberal bloc, was to establish a Temporary Committee to restore law and order; meanwhile, the socialist parties establish the Petrograd Soviet to represent workers and soldiers.

The remaining loyal units switched allegiance the next day. The Tsar directed the royal train back towards Petrograd, which was stopped 14 March [ O. He did so on 15 March [ O. But the Grand Duke realised that he would have little support as ruler, so he declined the crown on 16 March [ O. The immediate effect of the February Revolution was a widespread atmosphere of elation and excitement in Petrograd. The center-left was well represented, and the government was initially chaired by a liberal aristocrat, Prince Georgy Yevgenievich Lvov , a member of the Constitutional Democratic party KD.

The model for the soviet were workers' councils that had been established in scores of Russian cities during the Revolution. In February , striking workers elected deputies to represent them and socialist activists began organizing a citywide council to unite these deputies with representatives of the socialist parties.

On 27 February, socialist Duma deputies, mainly Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, took the lead in organizing a citywide council. The Petrograd Soviet met in the Tauride Palace , the same building where the new government was taking shape. The leaders of the Petrograd Soviet believed that they represented particular classes of the population, not the whole nation. They also believed Russia was not ready for socialism.

So they saw their role as limited to pressuring hesitant "bourgeoisie" to rule and to introduce extensive democratic reforms in Russia the replacement of the monarchy by a republic, guaranteed civil rights, a democratic police and army, abolition of religious and ethnic discrimination, preparation of elections to a constituent assembly, and so on.

The relationship between these two major powers was complex from the beginning and would shape the politics of The representatives of the Provisional Government agreed to "take into account the opinions of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies", though they were also determined to prevent "interference in the actions of the government", which would create "an unacceptable situation of dual power.

Although the Soviet leadership initially refused to participate in the "bourgeois" Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky , a young and popular lawyer and a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party SRP , agreed to join the new cabinet, and became an increasingly central figure in the government, eventually taking leadership of the Provisional Government.

As minister of war and later Prime Minister, Kerensky promoted freedom of speech, released thousands of political prisoners, did his very best to continue the war effort and even organised another offensive which, however, was no more successful than its predecessors. Nevertheless, Kerensky still faced several great challenges, highlighted by the soldiers, urban workers and peasants, who claimed that they had gained nothing by the revolution:.

The political group that proved most troublesome for Kerensky, and would eventually overthrow him, was the Bolshevik Party, led by Vladimir Lenin. Lenin had been living in exile in neutral Switzerland and, due to democratization of politics after the February Revolution, which legalized formerly banned political parties, he perceived the opportunity for his Marxist revolution.

Although return to Russia had become a possibility, the war made it logistically difficult. Lenin and his associates, however, had to agree to travel to Russia in a sealed train: Germany would not take the chance that he would foment revolution in Germany.

After passing through the front, he arrived in Petrograd in April These included that the soviets take power as seen in the slogan "all power to the soviets" and denouncing the liberals and social revolutionaries in the Provisional Government, forbidding co-operation with it. With Lenin's arrival, the popularity of the Bolsheviks increased steadily. Over the course of the spring, public dissatisfaction with the Provisional Government and the war, in particular among workers, soldiers and peasants, pushed these groups to radical parties.

Despite growing support for the Bolsheviks, buoyed by maxims that called most famously for "all power to the Soviets," the party held very little real power in the moderate-dominated Petrograd Soviet. In fact, historians such as Sheila Fitzpatrick have asserted that Lenin's exhortations for the Soviet Council to take power were intended to arouse indignation both with the Provisional Government, whose policies were viewed as conservative, and the Soviet itself, which was viewed as subservient to the conservative government.

By some historians' accounts, Lenin and his followers were unprepared for how their groundswell of support, especially among influential worker and soldier groups, would translate into real power in the summer of On 18 June, the Provisional Government launched an attack against Germany that failed miserably.

Soon after, the government ordered soldiers to go to the front, reneging on a promise. The soldiers refused to follow the new orders.

The sailors and soldiers, along with Petrograd workers, took to the streets in violent protest, calling for "all power to the Soviets. In the aftermath, Lenin fled to Finland under threat of arrest while Trotsky , among other prominent Bolsheviks, was arrested.

The July Days confirmed the popularity of the anti-war, radical Bolsheviks, but their unpreparedness at the moment of revolt was an embarrassing gaffe that lost them support among their main constituent groups: The Bolshevik failure in the July Days proved temporary.

The Bolsheviks had undergone a spectacular growth in membership. Whereas, in February , the Bolsheviks were limited to only 24, members, by September there were , members of the Bolshevik faction.

Petersburg and Moscow behind the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, by September the Bolsheviks were in the majority in both cities. In August, poor or misleading communication led General Lavr Kornilov , the recently appointed Supreme Commander of Russian military forces, to believe that the Petrograd government had already been captured by radicals, or was in serious danger thereof.

To secure his position, Kerensky had to ask for Bolshevik assistance. He also sought help from the Petrograd Soviet, which called upon armed Red Guards to "defend the revolution".

The Kornilov Affair failed largely due to the efforts of the Bolsheviks, whose influence over railroad and telegraph workers proved vital in stopping the movement of troops. With his coup failing, Kornilov surrendered and was relieved of his position.

The Bolsheviks' role in stopping the attempted coup further strengthened their position. Growing numbers of socialists and lower-class Russians viewed the government less and less as a force in support of their needs and interests. The Bolsheviks benefited as the only major organized opposition party that had refused to compromise with the Provisional Government, and they benefited from growing frustration and even disgust with other parties, such as the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, who stubbornly refused to break with the idea of national unity across all classes.

In Finland, Lenin had worked on his book State and Revolution [28] and continued to lead his party, writing newspaper articles and policy decrees.

By October, he returned to Petrograd St. Petersburg , aware that the increasingly radical city presented him no legal danger and a second opportunity for revolution.

Recognising the strength of the Bolsheviks, Lenin began pressing for the immediate overthrow of the Kerensky government by the Bolsheviks. Lenin was of the opinion that taking power should occur in both St. Petersburg and Moscow simultaneously, parenthetically stating that it made no difference which city rose up first, but expressing his opinion that Moscow may well rise up first.

The resolution was passed 10—2 Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev prominently dissenting and the October Revolution began. It marked the beginning of the spread of communism in the 20th century. It was far less sporadic than the revolution of February and came about as the result of deliberate planning and coordinated activity to that end. Though Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik Party, it has been argued that since Lenin was not present during the actual takeover of the Winter Palace, it was really Trotsky's organization and direction that led the revolution, merely spurred by the motivation Lenin instigated within his party.

On 7 November , Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his leftist revolutionaries in a revolt against the ineffective Provisional Government Russia was still using the Julian calendar at the time, so period references show a 25 October date. The October revolution ended the phase of the revolution instigated in February, replacing Russia's short-lived provisional parliamentary government with government by soviets , local councils elected by bodies of workers and peasants.

Liberal and monarchist forces, loosely organized into the White Army , immediately went to war against the Bolsheviks' Red Army , in a series of battles that would become known as the Russian Civil War.

Soviet membership was initially freely elected, but many members of the Socialist Revolutionary Party , anarchists, and other leftists created opposition to the Bolsheviks through the soviets themselves. The elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly took place in November The most notable instances of this anti-Bolshevik mentality were expressed in the Tambov rebellion , —, and the Kronstadt rebellion in March These movements, which made a wide range of demands and lacked effective coordination, were eventually defeated along with the White Army during the Civil War.

The Russian Civil War, which broke out in shortly after the October Revolution, brought death and suffering to millions of people regardless of their political orientation. Though the Allied nations, using external interference, provided substantial military aid to the loosely knit anti-Bolshevik forces, they were ultimately defeated.

The Bolsheviks firstly assumed power in Petrograd, expanding their rule outwards. They eventually reached the Easterly Siberian Russian coast in Vladivostok , 4 years after the war began, an occupation that is believed to have ended all significant military campaigns in the nation. Less than one year later the last area controlled by the White Army, the Ayano-Maysky District , directly to the north of the Krai containing Vladivostok, was given up when General Anatoly Pepelyayev capitulated in Several revolts were initiated against the Bolsheviks and their army near the end of the war, notably the Kronstadt Rebellion.

This was a naval mutiny engineered by Soviet Baltic sailors, former Red Army soldiers, and the people of Kronstadt. This armed uprising was fought against the antagonizing Bolshevik economic policies that farmers were subjected to, including seizures of grain crops by the Communists.

When delegates representing the Kronstadt sailors arrived at Petrograd for negotiations, they raised 15 demands primarily pertaining to the Russian right to freedom. The Government then responded with an armed suppression of these revolts and suffered 10 thousand casualties before entering the city of Kronstadt. During the Civil War, Nestor Makhno led a Ukrainian anarchist movement, the Black Army allied to the Bolsheviks thrice, one of the powers ending the alliance each time.

However, a Bolshevik force under Mikhail Frunze destroyed the Makhnovist movement, when the Makhnovists refused to merge into the Red Army.

In addition, the so-called " Green Army " peasants defending their property against the opposing forces played a secondary role in the war, mainly in the Ukraine. The Bolsheviks executed the tsar and his family on 16 July In August the Kerensky government evacuated the Romanovs to Tobolsk in the Urals , to protect them from the rising tide of revolution.

After the Bolsheviks came to power in October , the conditions of their imprisonment grew stricter and talk of putting Nicholas on trial increased. As the counter revolutionary White movement gathered force, leading to full-scale civil war by the summer, the Romanovs were moved during April and May to Yekaterinburg , a militant Bolshevik stronghold.

During the early morning of 16 July, Nicholas, Alexandra, their children, their physician, and several servants were taken into the basement and shot. That the order came from the top has long been believed, although there is a lack of hard evidence. The execution may have been carried out on the initiative of local Bolshevik officials, or it may have been an option pre-approved in Moscow should White troops approach Yekaterinburg.

Radzinsky noted that Lenin's bodyguard personally delivered the telegram ordering the execution and that he was ordered to destroy the evidence. Leon Trotsky said that the goal of socialism in Russia would not be realized without the success of the world revolution.

Indeed, a revolutionary wave caused by the Russian Revolution lasted until Despite initial hopes for success in the German Revolution of —19 , in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic and others like it, no other Marxist movement at the time succeeded in keeping power in its hands. This issue is subject to conflicting views on communist history by various Marxist groups and parties.

Joseph Stalin later rejected this idea, stating that socialism was possible in one country. Few events in historical research have been as conditioned by political influences as the October Revolution.

The historiography of the Revolution generally divides into three camps: Lenin's biographer Robert Service , says he, "laid the foundations of dictatorship and lawlessness. Lenin had consolidated the principle of state penetration of the whole society, its economy and its culture. Lenin had practised terror and advocated revolutionary amoralism.

Dates are correct for the Julian calendar , which was used in Russia until It was twelve days behind the Gregorian calendar during the 19th century and thirteen days behind it during the 20th century. George Orwell 's classic novella Animal Farm is an allegory of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. It describes the dictator Stalin as a big Berkshire boar named, "Napoleon.

However, Napoleon overthrows Snowball as Stalin overthrew Trotsky and Napoleon takes over the farm the animals live on. Napoleon becomes a tyrant and uses force and propaganda to oppress the animals. The Russian Revolution has been portrayed in or served as backdrop for many films. Among them, in order of release date:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. On December 15 , Russia signed an armistice with Germany and Austria, pending a formal peace treaty the treaty was not completed until March The lost territories included Finland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bessarabia, and the Caucasus region, along with some of the coal-mining lands of southern Russia.

Communication was poor, and large chunks of the country, including the Ukraine, were still occupied by foreign armies. Outside of Petrograd and Moscow, especially in more distant regions such as Siberia and Central Asia, it was hard even to define what was happening politically, much less to take control of it.

At least in theory, the SPC was a democratic institution. They had been voted into power after they had taken it and were supposed to answer to the Executive Committee and in turn to the future Constituent Assembly.

Indeed, Lenin, expecting the Bolsheviks to do well, allowed elections for members of the Constituent Assembly to proceed as scheduled throughout the month of November. When the final tally was in, however, Bolshevik candidates received less than 25 percent of the vote. The highest percentage, 40 percent, went to the Socialist Revolutionary SR party, which at the time was mildly sympathetic to the Bolsheviks.

However, members of other more hostile parties, including the Cadets Constitutional Democrats , had strong showings as well.

Because the Bolsheviks placed only modestly in the elections, the Constituent Assembly became a problem for them. Initially, it appeared that the Bolsheviks might have to make some severe compromises in order to stay in power.

What Was the Outcome of the Russian Revolution?

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Following the revolution and the Second Congress of Soviets, Lenin’s new government, the SPC, faced the overwhelming task of governing a country in chaos. Communication was poor, and large chunks of the country, including the Ukraine, were still occupied by foreign armies.

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And, since the world revolution never did take place, it was the resources from the capitalist west that were badly needed to assist Russian reconstruction. So, the adoption of NEP coincided with an Anglo-Russian trade treaty.

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And since everyone today acknowledges that Schiff had heavily financed the failed Revolution in Russia, it seems perfectly possible that the $20 million figure mentioned by his grandson refers to the total invested over the years supporting all the different Russian revolutionary movements and leaders, which together finally culminated in the establishment of Bolshevik Russia. The other major instrument of Bolshevik power was the secret police, known by the Russian acronym Cheka (for Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage).

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The Russian revolution actually included two separate revolutions, both in First, the February Revolution grew out of food riots in the city of Petrograd, now St. Petersburg. When the armed forces were called out to quell the uprising, many of the soldiers defected, forcing Czar Nicholas to abdicate and dissolving the imperial government. Mar 14,  · Russian Revolution and its aftermath. Posted on March 14, by tarbaby. The Jewish Destruction of the Russian Empire. From National Vanguard. This summary of Jewish operations in the Russian Empire is horrifying and entirely consistent with other sources. It makes Adolf’s efforts in the Nazi period look fairly amateurish.