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Russian Revolution

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Between 1861 and 1917, Russian society had undergone many changes. It is safe to say that every aspect of that society had been some how modified. These changes led up to the Bolshevik revolution in November of 1917. Given the nature of Russian society, was the Bolshevik revolution unavoidable?

Among the changes Russian society had undergone, one starts off the whole chain of events. This was the emancipation of the serfs, in 1861, by Czar Alexander. The emancipation freed 44 million peasants. The Czar knew that the only way to end the discontent of the serfs and to show that Russia too was a modern society would be to let them free. The Edict of Emancipation caused many problems these uneducated peasants. The land now assigned to them was smaller then the plots they were using as serfs. This was an average of 8 acres. There was also a forty-nine year period over which installments could be paid before the peasants were given full ownership of the land. In fact many peasants were still working for their landlords after the edict. Because of his efforts Alexander was nicknamed "the liberator". Despite giving the serfs their freedom, Alexander's actions cause more problems then they solved.

After the unification of Germany between 1861 and 1891, which accelerated it's military and political power, Russia too felt it should industrialize. A man named Sergei Witte, who was Minister of Finance from 1892-1903, almost single-handedly pushed Russia into its industrialization. He knew that Russia needed something to start her on the road to industrialization. Witte's efforts made industrial advances from 1892 to 1910. Between 1880 and 1914, Russia had a growth rate of 3.5%. This would have surely brought Russian higher in the rank of industrial and economical world powers. It was said that all Russia needs is 20 years of peace, without war and she will not be in risk of revolution. Unfortunately, the statement was ignored and in 1904, Russia commenced a yearlong war with Japan. The Czar's ministers had assured him that the war with Japan would be an easy victory. In fact Russia suffered a devastating defeat. This leads to the revolution of 1905.

Along with industrialization, Russia needed to educate the population. A large majority of the population was illiterate, and factories were looking for more skilled workers. The education of the people led to the growing popularity of several anti-Czarist groups. The Nihilists for example took very violent and destructive path towards revolution, the word "nihil" meaning "nothing". This group was mainly composed of young educated men from universities. There were also social democrats, such as the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Both groups aimed to over through the Czar and create a socialist state, they had the support of students and workers, but the main differences were in the organization of the parties. The Bolsheviks, "believed in a small, secret, disciplined party of professional revolutionists who would seize power when the time was right". They planned revolutionary cells of three or four people who would organize strikes and demonstrations in factories. Among these people was Vladimir Ulyanov, better as Lenin. He was a devoted Bolshevik who was exile to in Siberia after being arrested for his action in a Marxist group. Lenin remained outside Russia, with his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, a fellow revolutionist, and organizing strikes until the revolution in 1917. The Mensheviks, "believed the party should be a mass organization which all workers could join. This mass party would grow until it eventually took power. Among these the Mensheviks was Lev Bronstein, better known as Trotsky. Trotsky was a "kulack", a rich peasant. Like Lenin he also fell in love with a fellow revolutionist. He was sent to exile for writing revolutionary pamphlets and leading strikes. Later on, he became the Menshevik chairman after coming back from exile in February of 1905. When the revolution collapsed he was once again arrested, but escaped and fled to America.

In 1905, a petition of the workers and residents of St. Petersburg was submitted to Czar Nicholas II. A large group had formed in front of his palace and claimed that they would let themselves be shot if the demands of the people were not met, saying, "we do not regret this sacrifice. We are glad to make it." Among the demands were: The immediate release of all who have suffered for religious, political, striking and peasant disorders. Universal education financed by the state. The guarantee of the rule of law. Equality of everyone. Separation of church and state. The abolition of indirect taxation. The abolition of redemption payments and the gradual transfer of land to the people. Abolition of the institution of factory inspectors. Immediate freedom for consumer and trade unions. Immediate introduction of a minimum wage. Immediate participation of the working classes in the drafting of a bill for state insurance of workers.
The Czar responded by granting the population the freedom of speech, assembly and association, starting the Duma and the security that no law can be changed without the sanction of the state Duma. Unfortunately the set of three Dumas would not get anywhere at all, despite the efforts of Stolypin, who made great agricultural advances.
On October 1916, a police report from Petrograd was released. The report states that military defeats helped the masses understand the problem of war. An unfair foodstuffs distribution, a rapid increase in living costs and a lack of supplies are factors that show the state is neglecting what is happening in Russia. Everyday life has become impossible and everywhere there are feelings of hostility. When the revolution took place in November 1917, the Czar had lost the support of his police, as they did not fire upon the crowds, as they did before. The people were just fed up and would not stand for what was happening in their country anymore.

After rereading all the information I used to write this report I came to the conclusion that the revolution of 1917 indeed was unavoidable. Perhaps if Russia had gotten its 20 years of peace, as I notes before. Perhaps the Dumas would have worked out the way most people had hoped. The 20-year plan was interrupted by the war with the Japanese. This slowed down Russia development in every aspect. Then there was the First World War, which again slowed down Russian productivity and handicapped the whole country. Taking all the animosity the people felt towards the Czarist government I feel these events too were unavoidable. The Russian people had simply had enough and decided to take control of their own country.

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