The Revolutions

The Seeds of Revolution

By the time the Mayakovsky family moved to Moscow in 1908, times were calming in Georgia but escalating in Russia. For decades Russians had been fighting with the tsarist regime to allow them greater participation and representation in government, and particularly a democratic constitution. Unwilling to relinquish any power, the tsars since Catherine the Great resisted these demands. Under Nicholas II, Russia suffered a humiliating loss in the Russo-Japanese war, which was initially intended to regain the confidence of the Russian people in their government. In light of this, Russia began to radicalize. On January 22, 1905, an influential priest led a workers rebellion in St. Petersburg, demanding again a constitution and rights for workers. The tsar, however, was not in Petersburg that day, and guards near the palace began to shoot into the crowd, killing and wounding thousands. Following this massacre, known as «Bloody Sunday», the tsar agreed to concede some of his power.


Nicholas II

A few months later, Nicholas offered his «October Manifesto,» which most importantly allowing for the creation of a consultative body (The Duma), and issued basic civil rights to all Russian citizens. Many of the more moderate and conservative parties at this time were pleased with the concessions of the October Manifesto, but the more socialist parties, the Socialist Democrats and the Socialist Revolutionaries, felt that the concessions were too few and far overdue. This was worsened by the passing of the Fundamental Laws in 1906, which restated the tsar as the absolute authority of the country, and calling for a State Council in conjunction with the Duma. This State Council would be appointed by the tsar and responsible only to the tsar, therefore nullifying any gains the Duma could have brought. The first Duma was dissolved shortly after its conception, causing waves of protests and an assassination attempt on Pyotr Stolypin, Nicholas' Prime Minister and the architect of the country's land reforms. This caused the tsar to clamp down on the leftist and radical parties, effectively eliminating them from being a part of the second Duma, as they were all imprisoned or executed.

Three more Dumas were created and dissolved from 1907- 1912, each one more conservative than the last, and Stolypin introduced land reforms for peasants hoping to win their favor for the tsar. These reforms broke up their communal way of living, angering the peasants and again showed a failed attempt of the Russian government to understand its people. Another blow delivered to the tsarist government would come with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. And, while at its start there was a brief rally of national unity to protect Russia and other Slavic countries, the government's ineptitude soon shown through, as none of the various governmental bodies could agree on or direct any part of the war. Russia soon faced devastating losses, and several times the Nicholas has been warned to abdicate before Russia fell into chaos. He categorically rejected this idea, believing that the tsar was chosen by god to rule. By 1917, however, the Russian people had had enough of the tsarist government.

The February Revolution

On February 23, 1917, citizens of Petrograd began to protest while standing in line for bread. The following day, social activists called a strike for all workers, and denounced the tsarist government. Rebellions lasted throughout the week, becoming uncontrollable. A week later, on February 27, soldiers joined the workers in their rebellion, and Nicholas, who had been on the front for months now, finally heard word of the rebellions happening in his country. On March 13th, he abdicated as the tsar of Russia, ending the 300- year reign of the Romanov dynasty, and the entire tsarist system in Russia. In place of the tsar, the Duma became a Provisional Government. However, the people still didn't believe that the Duma represented their ideas, and instead stood behind the Petrograd Soviet, believing this body represented the workers and would bring about the dramatic democratic reforms needed to renovate the country.


Aleksander Kerensky and General Kornilov

In July of 1917, Aleksander Kerensky simultaneously became a member of the Petrograd Soviet in the Soviet Revolutionary Party, as well as the leader of the Provisional Government. However, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, a prominent Bolshevik who had been exiled for revolutionary activities in 1895, had returned to Russia three months prior to Kerensky's ascent, and began to rally his party against the Provisional Government's handling of the war. This proved to be a major weak spot for Kerensky: the war had been going disastrously for Russia, and the initial patriotism soon gave way to a vast anti-war movement, propelling the popularity of the Bolshevik party. Because the bulk of Bolshevik support came from the working class, Lenin was able to rally his supporters and cut off telephone lines and halt transport, making it increasingly difficult for Kerensky's government to stabilize power. The in particular helped give the Bolsheviks leverage in what came to be known as the «The Kornilov Affair,» when the Bolsheviks revolted against the provisional government by halting the communication necessary for Kerensky to send troops into Petrograd in order to calm the city.

The October Revolution


On the 10th of October, 1917, the Bolsheviks passed a resolution to dissolve the Provisional Government. Soon thereafter, on October 25th, the Bolsheviks began a massive takeover of all government institutions, leading to a takeover of the Winter Palace. With them they had not only the power of the red army under the control of Leon Trotsky, but a company of sailors from the island of Kronsdat which allowed the Bolsheviks to easily take the palace and oust Kerensky. The Council of People's Commissars soon replaced the outdated government, and although several groups objected to the Bolshevkis «illegally» taking power, the Bolsheviks were now firmly in place. A Council of People's Commissars was set up to replace the old Provisional Government, and seized all private land.

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