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Explain How Long And Short-term Causes Contributed To The March 1917 Revolution Essay, Research Paper

2) Explain how long and short-term causes contributed to the Bolshevik

Revolution. (10)In March 1917, the situation for the Russians had become desperate and

the workers wanted political changes as well as food and fuel. In Petrograd (as

St.Petersburg had been renamed to avoid any German connection), 40,000 workers

went on strike for higher wages and the people and troops overthrew the Tsar.

The Rominov dynasty was to end after 304 years, bought down by the March 1917

revolution. So what were the long and short-term causes that led to this

milestone in history? Firstly we have to ask ourselves, what is a long-term

cause and what is a short-term cause. I consider a long-term cause to be

something that started more than one year before the event, in the case of the

Russian revolution, before 1916. A short-term cause therefore is something that

happened a year or less before the event, 1916 till 1917. This is usually the

final spark, triggering the inevitable – the Russian revolution. It seemed

necessary for long and short term causes to interact to cause the revolution.The Tsars autocracy was very badly organised and caused many conflicts

between the people and the Russian government. It had been like this for a long

time and needed a complete change. The Tsarist system meant that the Tsar had

complete power and authority. He was the head of the state and had control over

the Russian Orthodox Church. All the important decisions were made in

St.Petersburg, without asking the people of Russia what their views were -

decisions that were made were announced by 1000’s of officials and bureaucrats.

This angered the people as they felt the Tsar was ignoring them and did not

care about their opinions. Nearly 90% of people were peasants and most were

poverty stricken. They worked with the most basic tools. Half the farming land

belonged to 300,000 landowners but the other half was shared with 15 million

peasant families. In the cities and countryside the government and bureaucrats

and secret police appeared to be in control, but underneath Russia was seething

with discontent especially the living and working conditions of the poor.From this discontent, various opposition parties were active throughout

the country, even though they were usually executed, imprisoned or sent to

Siberia. The main group was the Socialist Revolutionaries; they had a lot of

support from peasants. Another was the Russian Social Democratic party, founded

in 1898; it appealed to many town workers but then split in 1903 to the

Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. These two groups followed the teachings of Karl

Marx. The Bolsheviks allowed only fully committed members to join in with

opposing the Tsarist system. The Mensheviks were more cooperative and stood in

elections for duma parties and issued propaganda and organized strikes against

the Tsar. Then there was the problem of the wide range of nationalities in

Russia. Less than half the Tsars subjects were Russian, invaded nations like

the Poles from Poland and the Finns from Finland were anxious to overthrow the

Tsar. Only up until the outbreak of the First World War did these groups cause

real trouble and damage the Tsar’s reputation and ability to rule; this was a

long-term problem that could not be avoided. But in July 1914 Russia entered

the First World War on the side of France and Britain, fighting Germany and

Austria-Hungary.This outbreak of war at first helped the Tsar. All the classes rallied

together and initially wanted to help the Tsar and looked at him for

leadership, but then after their first defeat at Tannenburg, everything changed

after the Tsar made some fatal mistakes. In August 1915, the Tsar left Petrograd to command the Russian army. He

therefore received the blame personally for all their defeats and lost control

of his troops as he left Rasputin and the Tsarina to rule Russia. His army also

consisted of millions of poor, starving peasants with bad equipment, poor

supplies of rifles and ammunition. In 1916, two million soldiers were killed or

seriously wounded, and one third of a million taken prisoner and the civilian

population were horrified. They considered the Tsar irresponsible for taking

over the army and held him responsible for everything; as a result more

conflicts between the people were started.Gregory Rasputin, as mentioned earlier,

was another figure that played a significant part in causing the Russian

revolution. He was a monk in the Russian Orthodox Church and had increasing

importance and influence on the Tsar as he helped cure Alexei of hemophilia. He

made a mockery of the Royal Family and the people of Russia despised him for

his rebellious background and the rumours surrounding him. The Tsar was so

taken in by him; he left Rasputin and the Tsarina to rule Russia during the

First World War. The people did not trust either of them, as the Tsarina was

German and thought she would deliberately rule Russia badly so Russia would

lose the war and Germany win. Even though this chaotic situation would have

challenged the best of leaders, the Tsarina and Rasputin made it worse. They

dismissed able ministers, replacing them with hopeless ones and wild rumours

began to spread about Tsarina and Rasputin being lovers – the situation was on

the verge of breaking point and had almost spelt the end of the Tsarist regime.

All these long-term causes were ongoing (namely the living and working

conditions of the poor, the effects of the first world war and Lenin?s

personality and skill as a speaker), and Russia almost had a complete

revolution in 1905. This was caused by Russia’s defeat by Japan and this almost

overthrew the Tsar and he was forced to introduce a Duma. This was a supposed

‘parliament’ that could only give advice to the Tsar and this was ignored -

members who opposed the Tsar were executed/imprisoned. The Tsar still kept the

majority of political power but it did weaken his authority. After the 1905

revolution and the Duma being introduced, they did introduce some reforms such

as opening schools and giving efficient peasants more land, but still little

for town workersThe Russian economy was also a major long-term problem that helped

contribute to this Russian revolution. Nearly 90% of people were peasants and

most were poverty stricken. This interacts with the living and working

conditions of the poor. They worked with the most basic tools. Half the farming

land belonged to 300,000 landowners but the other half was shared with 15

million peasant families. The outraged the people and the economy was in chaos;

Russia needed a quick change. Industry was also a big failure; there were large

numbers of poor landless peasants who worked long hours with low wages and

lived in appalling slums. Karl Marx wrote in ‘The Communist Manifesto’ in 1848:

‘they have nothing to lose but their chains’. This was a very accurate but sad

way of describing the peasant’s lives; the Tsar did not seem to have any

concern for them and seemed to focus on the higher-class people. This system of

governing Russia was severely unfair and had been so, since Nicholas II took

over position of the Tsar.It was however considerably hard to organise and look out for these

peasants and people of Russia, due to Russia’s geography. It stretches from

East to West over 4,000 miles with a very inadequate transport system. It took

over a week to travel across Russia consequently news and messages took a long

time to get across to different people in Russia. For example at the end of a

conference it could take days for the result to be broadcasted around Russia!

In addition, people starved, not because of shortage of food, but the fact that

most of it was left to rot on the railway track or in the trains during

transit. There were severe food shortages in the year leading up to the 1917

Revolution, and there were lots of strikes too. This was because of the

ridiculously low wages and long hours the working peasants had to endure. All

this was made even worse by the long term war. The conditions were disgraceful

and something had to be done. The situation was approaching breaking point.Then in 1917 the inevitable happened. Russia was plunged into

revolution. This had been expected for a long time. Event after event in

history triggered conflicts and more discontent. All the long term causes over

the years included opposition to the Tsar, the social structure of the Royal

Family, economic and industrial hardship and so on. These triggered events

nearer to 1917 such as the various strikes and food shortages that were

short-term causes. This proves that you always need long term and short term

causes for something major to happen. The revolution was a milestone in the

history of Russia and constituted of a much-needed change in the daily lives

and conditions of the working classes.There are many long term and short term causes of the 1917 Russian

Revolution including the opposition to the Tsar, the abdication of the Tsar,

Russia’s shattered economy and industry, the First World War, the social

structure of the Russian government, Russia’s geography and so on. There is one

cause that I think inevitably helped cause or did cause the others: The

outbreak of the First World War in 1914. This was a long-term cause and lasted

from 1914 to 1918, and triggered chaos in Russia.Initially, this outbreak of war helped the Tsar as the classes looked

to the ‘Little Father’ as Nicholas was known by, for help and leadership – they

thought this would be a time when Russia would ‘pull together’. At first the

Russian armies did well but war enthusiasm did not last. However, at Tannenburg

in August, there was a heavy defeat of one of two main Russian armies by

Germans. Then in September 1914, the second Russian army was driven out of East

Germany. The Russian armies then reformed and counter attacked Galacia, the

army was in full retreat and had lost over one million men. However the

Russians did have a victory over the Austrians on the Galician front. From

1915, large parts of the Russian Empire fell into enemy hands.In August 1915, Nicholas II left Petrograd to take over the Russian

army. This was a fatal mistake as he received the blame personally for Russia’s

defeats and he lost control of his troops. It also meant leaving his German

wife, Tsarina Alexandra and her adviser, Gregory Rasputin better known as

Rasputin to rule Russia. The people were losing trust in the Tsarina, as she

was German. Rasputin was introduced to the Royal Family in 1905 and had

increasing importance and influence over them, especially after he cured Alexei

(the Tsars son) of haemophilia. The people of Russia did not trust this

mysterious new figure due to his rebellious background and the disturbing

rumours regarding his social life that surrounded him. They considered the Tsar

very naÏve to leave Rasputin and the Tsarina to rule Russia after he had gone

toe command the Russian armies.The Russian army consisted of millions of peasants but they had bad

equipment to fight with. By December 1915, more than one third of all men of

the working age had been recruited into the army of fifteen million troops. By

1916, peasants were being asked to bring pitchforks with them when they were

called up for their service. Not surprisingly, Russian casualties were very

high. In 1916, two million soldiers were killed or seriously wounded and one

third were taken prisoner. Soldiers saw their comrades as they were being

slaughtered in a futile manner – officers were blamed and it was severely

disturbing and unjust. Consequently, when these people were being recruited to

fight in the war, the unemployment rate in the cities increased and factories

were desperate for workers. Wages got lower and lower so the factory owners

could afford to employ them and more and more strikes broke out. In December

1916, workers in Petrograd starved due to lack of workers – Russia was in

chaos. Not only the soldiers but also the civilian population became angry.In January 1917, Russian armies were driven out of Poland and Romania.

The Tsar was ignoring the Duma’s advice regarding Russia’s demand for a change

in government so consequently more strikes broke out. The Russians blamed the

Tsar and did not support him anymore, which contributed to the Tsars abdication

from the throne in 1917. On March the 7th, 1917, a food riot in St.Petersburg

broke out, 40,000 workers went on strike for higher wages. Women joined the

strike due to extreme hunger. When the Tsar ordered the army to stop these

riots, the army instead joined in with them and did not stop the protesters!

The Tsar could not operate!From this account on the events of the First World War we can see that

because of this War, the strikes broke out and people starved due to lack of

money or workers. Without this war, the opposition parties would have not had

such a great impact on Russia and the Tsar, the Tsar would not have made those

fatal mistakes he made, even though the economic and industrial situation was

not great before the war, after the revolution things changed for the better.

It helped all the people realise what was needed a complete reform in the

practices and lives of the Russians. Conditions before the war had not improved

at all as well. Prices of good were constantly rising but wages were not going

up at all. Families were in a mess, workers asked for more hours to make end

meet. Peasants were constricted into the army, which meant fewer workers that

caused food shortages and a drop in the living standards of the peasants.

Without the war, these things would have carried on getting more and more out

of control because the main trigger of the Russian 1917 revolution was the

strikes and Nicholas’s behaviour in War. The working conditions did not improve

under the provisional government, which therefore meant there was more support

for the Marxists who made preparations for the revolution.I therefore consider this long-term cause of the First World War to be

the main cause that contributed to all the others – without this main cause the

Revolution may not have happened at all. That would have caused immense chaos

and uproar because eventually the situation would have reached breaking point.

All of these causes are made worse in conjunction with others.? The working conditions did not improve under

the provisional government, which therefore meant there was more support for

the Marxists who made preparations for the revolution.

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