Merely Picked It Up Essay, Research Paper
The Bolsheviks did not seize power they merely picked it up
It is true to say that the Bolsheviks did not seize power but rather picked it up. The process that ensured their seizure of power is known as the Russian Revolution. This brought an end to 300 years of rule by monarchical, the Romanov dynasty. “The Bolsheviks were too numerically weak to overthrow a properly run government. What they did have was ambition, determination and a strategy to rise to an empty seat of power” . They were eager to overthrow the monarchy and rose to power as a result of the revolution.
Nicholas II is historically noted for being the last Tsar of Russia. Known to his ministers as being an incredibly weak and easily lead autocrat, he was out of tune with the people he ruled. His unruly, opinionated wife Alexandra was said to dominate Nicholas and tell him what to do. This is obviously a factor which contributed to his downfall and the rise of the Bolsheviks to power. At the time of his coronation as King he said, “Let all know that I, devoting all my strength to the welfare of the people, will uphold the principle of autocracy as firmly and as unflinchingly as my late unforgettable father” . This is a unbelievable contradiction. It is true that Nicholas did everything in his power to hold onto absolute autocracy that ruled Russia but, in not one sense did he look after the welfare of his people. During World War One famine swept Russia and many peasants died as a result. By the start of 1917 the peasants, the middle class and even the army were against the Tsar and this resulted in the Revolution.
By 1900 there was great discontent in the people of Russia. The peasants in particular were discontent with the life that they lived. They owned no land and were forced to work in the fields all day just to feed their families. This resulted in great poverty that swept Russia s lower classes and as there became less land to work peasants were forced to move to the cities and work in the factories. Russia was in the middle of its Industrial Revolution and many factories were full of peasants who lived in appalling conditions. It seemed that the poor became hungrier as the richer became wealthier. In 1905, a peaceful demonstration was lead by a priest called Father Gapon. He organised thousands of discontented peasants to march harmoniously to the Winter Palace. They carried pictures and placards of the Tsar and chanted, “God save the Tsar”. The Royal Soldiers turned on the crowd an shot hundreds of defenseless people men, women and children. It was from this moment that the Tsar became known as “Bloody Nicholas”. He was distant and unsympathetic to his people and relentless to share his power.
The Russian people demanded that their voice be heard and after many strikes which resulted in mutiny against the Tsar, Nicholas was forced to form an elected parliament he called the Duma. In the space of time between 1906 and 1917, the Duma met four times but, had no real power. The Tsar s secret police, called the Okrana arrested anyone who opposed Nicholas and exiled them to Siberia or imprisoned them. Trade Unions were banned and there was strict censorship of press. “Many members of the middle class and the aristocracy criticised the government for being incompetent and oppressive” . It was widely agreed that something must be done.
A group who called themselves the Socialist Revolutionaries formed in Russia in 1900. Their leader Lenin ( a great intellect from serf stock ) decided that something must be done to overthrow the autocratic ruling that dominated Russia at the time. In 1903, the Social Revolutionaries split into two different groups, the Bolsheviks, meaning majority and the Mensheviks, meaning minority. Both parties believed in the need for a Russian revolution however, they disagreed on how this should be brought about. The Bolsheviks had a tightly controlled and disciplined party in which all members obeyed orders from the leaders. They saw themselves as professional revolutionaries who could bestow their country with leadership the population could not provide themselves. They also believed that they had the power to speed up the process of the forthcoming Revolution. On the other hand the Mensheviks were open and willing to acquire differences of opinion. They were of the opinion that the revolution would not occur until economic conditions were stable and while Russia was still under Tsarist regime this would not be for a long time. Friction between the two factions dominated party politics until the commencement of World War One.
Both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks were followers and believers in Karl Marx (1818-83) a German who is known for being the father of Communism. He concluded that after hundreds of years of dictatorship one day the middle class would rise to power and this would only happen as a result of a revolution. He believed that only then would every one be equal. Marx noted that this would only happen in countries like Britain and Germany and not in Russia as it was a feudal country. It is somehow ironic that Russia was the first to fall to Communism.
“Despite all this discontent, the prospects for revolution did not seem good in 1914. None of the revolutionary parties was organised to take over power. Most of their leaders were in prison or in exile. It was only the outbreak of the First World War that, unexpectedly, gave them the opportunity for which they had been looking.”
Allied with Britain, Russia s army was the biggest in the war with about 14 million soldiers being drafted by 1917. This did not stop them from being unprepared and inadequately qualified with one gun available for every three soldiers in training and three bullets a day for soldiers in battle. Russia began to suffer humiliating defeats and in 1915, the Tsar went to the front to take over as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. He left Alexandra behind to run the country, who was unpopular with the people because of her German background. She was under the influence of a wandering peasant holy man called Rasputin who took over the government and sacked many competent ministers and advisors. The new ministers that Rasputin appointed were not only incompetent but corrupt and this added to the popular discontent that swept Russia.
In February 1917 representatives from the Duma went to see the Tsar at the front and urged him to abdicate. He did, with little resistance, not only for himself, but his son Alexis as well. Nicholas brother The Grand Duke Michael was offered the throne and he declined, so after 300 years of the Romanov dynasty Russia was no longer a monarchy. This created the biggest power vacuum that Russia had ever experienced. A provisional government was set up. Headed by Alexander Kerensky, they abolished the Okrana and introduced the freedoms of speech and press. These moves were popular with the people.
This popularity did not last for long. The Provisional Government refused to pull out of the War because they thought that under new instruction the army would start to succeed. This was not the case. Soldiers began setting up committees and refusing to obey the commanders who were sending them into battle. Secondly, they refused to address the matter of peasants and their land. This once more resulted in great discontentment and the provisional government became known as being as autocratic in their dealings with the people as the Tsar had been.
Lenin spent his whole adult life waiting for the revolution and when it first happened, in February 1917, it caught him off guard while he was hiding in Finland. By April he had returned to Petrograd (formally St. Petersburg). At a Bolshevik meeting he said that they should begin the second revolution immediately, “Hunger does not wait. The peasant uprising does not wait. The war does not wait.” . Lenin stood in front of crowds of peasants at a demonstration and said “Peace, Bread and Land” . This is what they wanted to hear. After the hardship and damage that World War one had brought to the people, all they wanted was peace, and at any cost. That is perhaps why the Bolsheviks rise to power was approved by the Russian people.
On October 25 the Winter Palace was stormed by the Bolsheviks and the Provisional Government succumbed to the pressure and gave in. The Provisional Government realised that they possessed no real power or support from the people and that there was no future for them as rulers of Russia.
The Bolsheviks did not seize power they merely picked it up where it had been left by the Tsar. They came to power because the people of Russia were discontent and the Bolsheviks had a great leader called Lenin who orchestrated their rise to power with the downfall of the monarchy and the failure of the provisional government.