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Indeed, many Duma delegates had lobbied for the tsar's abdication not in the name of revolution, but in order to prevent one. The conservative "flavor" of the Lvov government was deliberate in order to avoid giving the military at the front the perception of a radical change.


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Ordinary workers and peasants, in contrast, saw the developments in February as the prologue to an end of the war as well as an end to oppression in the factories and exploitation in the countryside. As the Provisional Government attempted to consolidate its authority, the implications of the tensions proved insurmountable. The period between March and April revealed the inherent instability of the "dual power" structure, as well as the contradictory goals of different social groups. During these months, the liberal-leaning Provisional Government's commitment to a "rule of law" proved to be a weak restraint in a society with a long history of coercive authoritarianism.

Similarly, its promise of political democracy seemed inadequate given the practical urgency of workers' and peasants' grievances. But because the Provisional Government was unable and unwilling to use coercive measures to consolidate control, some concessions were made to the workers, peasants, and soldiers who formed the constituency of the predominantly socialist Soviet. These included increased wages, the adoption of an eight-hour workday, and the legalization of trade unions and factory committees.

The formation of soldiers' committees authorized by Order No. Russia's participation in the war remained the most urgent and contentious issue. Under the leadership of moderate Socialists, the Soviet adopted a program of "revolutionary defensism" at the end of March.

The Russian Moderates and the Crisis of Tsarism 1914-1917

Urging troops to fight "to defend the revolution" while the government negotiated a democratic peace without territorial annexations, the position ran counter to both the Bolsheviks' more militant denunciation of the war and the Provisional Government's attempts to reinvigorate the Russian campaign. In April, the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, returned to Russia and issued the " April Theses ," which called for an immediate peace, land reform, the nationalization of wealth, and the formation of a Soviet Republic.

The radicalism of Lenin's program, along with Miliukov's note to the allies insisting that Russia remained committed to winning the war and could gain control of Constantinople and the Dardanelles, precipitated a crisis. Miliukov was dismissed and a coalition formed to bring moderate Socialists into the Provisional Government.

From that point on, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, emerged as the political party with the most consistent and compelling message.

Russian Revolution of

Economic chaos and collapse contributed to the instability and subsequent reorganizations of the Provisional Government over the next few months. The stock market and internal markets collapsed as banks and foreign investors declined to gamble on loans to the beleaguered government. Inflation outstripped the wage gains workers won in the first weeks after the February Revolution. And as the economy unraveled, many were laid off.

For peasants, the paramount objective was land reform. The addition of moderate Socialists from the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary Party to the governing coalition raised the peasants' expectations that land reform would be forthcoming, and their frustrations intensified when nothing happened. A final Russian offensive in late June precipitated a second crisis, after which the moderate Socialist Aleksander Kerensky became prime minister.

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Encouraged by radical Bolshevik elements, and against the better judgment of the party leadership, sailors from the Kronstadt naval base marched on Petrograd. Troops loyal to the Provisional Government crushed the "July Days" rebellion, giving the Provisional Government the chance to portray the Bolsheviks as insurrectionaries and German agents, arrest their leaders, and send Lenin back into hiding.

The political defeat, however, coincided with a deepening economic crisis that affected workers, soldiers, and peasants. The crisis saved the Bolsheviks, who were able to profit from the mistakes of their fellow Socialists.


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The army, with its large constituency of peasants, had originally favored the Socialist revolutionaries. When the party followed the Mensheviks into a coalition with the Provisional Government and backed the disastrous June offensive, the allegiances of many soldiers and peasants shifted. Elections in September returned a Bolshevik majority in the Petrograd Soviet, and Lenin began to urge his followers to seize power.

Other scholars emphasize the complexity and severity of the overlapping social, economic, and military crises gripping a war-torn nation. Regardless of how historians interpret the events, the resonance of the Bolsheviks' message and explanatory perspective must not be underestimated. Their appeal certainly derived in part from their Marxist ideology, but their ability to portray reality convincingly was crucial. While the Provisional Government touted the virtues of civil liberties and continued to work for victory on the battlefield, millions of Russians grappled with insecurity, food shortages, and unimaginable hardships.

Similarly, the "rule of law" offered little to the masses but protected the interests of propertied elites, thus perpetuating the economic relationships of bourgeois capitalism. Many were therefore willing to exchange a commitment to constitutionalism in the future for the promise of real change now, especially if that included organic restructuring in the interests of workers and peasants. Like the Lvov government in February, Lenin's fledgling regime began to rule in the midst of a disastrous war and a disintegrating economy, while struggling to consolidate and defend its hold on political authority.

Overcoming such challenges would require the acceptance of a punitive peace with Germany, followed by swift mobilization for a brutal civil war. The Bolsheviks' descent into authoritarian dictatorship and the implementation of their revolutionary agenda for transforming the former empire began in the waning moments of World War I, and the consequences and impact of their revolution would profoundly influence the events of the twentieth century. P RINT. Introduction Context Assignments Conclusions Resources.

Context Russia Under the Tsar The narrative below provides a brief overview of the main developments between the outbreak of World War I in August and Russia's withdrawal from that conflict in March The Russo-Japanese War The aspirations of a rapidly changing society and the growing tensions between the population and a regime intent on avoiding political reform burst into the open in , as the autocracy grappled with a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese war.

Entering World War I Scholars have long debated the long-term prospects for the survival and evolution of consitutionalism in Russia in the absence of a devastating military conflict, but everyone agrees that World War I brought out the broader structural deficiencies of Russia's industry, polity, and modernization programs.

The "Progressive Blok" Under these grim conditions, peasants in uniform proved much more susceptible to political radicalism than those who stayed on the land. Political Opposition Offended by critiques of the war effort, Nicholas II assumed personal control over military operations in the fall of Strikes and Unrest In January and February of , various pressures coalesced against the tottering regime. The Abdication of Tsar Nicolas II On March 2, the tsar yielded to the counsel of his generals and cabinet, abdicating the throne for himself and his hemophiliac son, Alexis.

The Petrograd Soviet's Order No. Expectations After the February Revolution Over the next six months, the contradictory expectations of different social groups over the meaning of the February Revolution worked themselves out in dynamic and complex ways. The Emergence of the Bolsheviks Russia's participation in the war remained the most urgent and contentious issue. The Economic Crisis Economic chaos and collapse contributed to the instability and subsequent reorganizations of the Provisional Government over the next few months.

The "July Days" Rebellion A final Russian offensive in late June precipitated a second crisis, after which the moderate Socialist Aleksander Kerensky became prime minister. The Impact of Lenin's Regime Like the Lvov government in February, Lenin's fledgling regime began to rule in the midst of a disastrous war and a disintegrating economy, while struggling to consolidate and defend its hold on political authority.

The State Council, in contrast, was composed of half appointed and half elected members. The tsar chose former generals, high level bureaucrats, and other prominent nobles to serve in the State Council; the Council's elected members came from limited constituencies, including landowners, zemstvos, Assemblies of Nobility, clergy, the Academy of Science and Universities, as well as commerce and industry. In , the composition of the State Council had been reorganized in an effort to prevent Duma bills from passing both houses.

Consequently, historians have tended to assume that the State Council was quite monolithic in its opposition to the Duma and in its support for the monarchy. As the tsar had the power to appoint half its members, he could always threaten not to renew appointments, thereby greatly influencing both the way State Council members voted as well as the actual composition of the body.

Consequently, the formation of the Progressive Bloc marked an important change in State Council politics. In it attained majorities willing to advance legislation from the lower chamber or pass resolutions critical of the tsarist government. Similar to the Duma, the State Council was comprised of groups representing different political viewpoints.

Most possessed unimaginative, but descriptive names that reflected their position on the political spectrum. These included the so-called Left group, a Center Group, and, to the right, miscellaneous smaller clusters of members such as the Unaffiliated Group, the Independent Group , the Ministers group , the Neidgardt Group and the Right Group.

The Russian Moderates and the Crisis of Tsarism 1914-1917 by Raymond Pearson (1977, Hardcover)

Members from the Academy of Sciences and Universities along with representatives of trade and industry, landowner and zemstvo assemblies comprised the bulk of the Progressive Bloc's membership in the State Council. Additional members were drawn from elected nobles and clergy as well as from appointed members affiliated with the Left and Center, and members of the unaffiliated and independent groups.

Transcripts from meetings held at the end of August and in early September clearly indicate that the formation of the Progressive Bloc caused concern in the Council of Ministers. The Chair of the Council, I. Shturmer voiced similar concerns. In a lengthy report to Nicholas II dated 7 June, Shturmer listed the various legislative initiatives which the Bloc planned to introduce in the Duma.

These included lifting all legal restrictions on peasants, more zemstvo reform, changes in town organization, as well as new laws pertaining to the position of the Zemgor Zemstvo and Town Unions as operational institutions outside government oversight during the war and after its end. For example, in April , the State Council debated a bill which the Duma had passed in The legislation sought to make it easier for enterprises to issue shares in joint stock offerings. He asserted although Russian entrepreneurs were as good as any other capitalists, the Empire's legal system prevented them from competing because organizing a stock offering in Russia took several years as opposed to just one or two months in the USA.

Revising laws governing issuance of shares, he argued, would allow Russian enterprises to compete more effectively on the international front. Maklakov, a leading member of the Right group and notorious anti-Semite, countered with an amendment to exclude Jews from participating in such initiatives, the Progressive Bloc and its adherents successfully defeated the amendment.

Russia Under the Tsar

During the lead up to the fall legislative sessions, supplementary elections to the State Council further strengthened the Progressive Bloc. As the thirteen vacant seats filled, the Progressive Bloc benefited by gaining four more seats; the right lost six. They cooperated on joint positions for the new session which were reflected at the first meeting. Still, debates in the legislative chambers conveyed a sense of impending doom. Agitation against government incompetence and rumors about the pro-German leanings of the tsarina and Shturmer were growing. Their views were soon vindicated.

Trepov in his stead. Trepov lasted only six weeks when he was replaced by N.