The Fall of Tsarist Russia, The Rise of the Soviet Union. “To the very end, through its inflexibility and ineptness, the autocracy had been the principal architect of its own downfall. -Christopher Read Russia, prior to the rise of the Communist powers, was a simple country, with the Romanov bloodline at its helm. The country, with its sprawling landmass and spread out population, was perhaps one of the least developed countries in Europe. Bruner) While the rest of the world changed and adapted post industrial revolution, Russia failed to play catch up, relying on its conservative leader, who preferred the old world rather than the developing. The modernization of Russia, with its vast territories simply could not be supported by an autocracy successfully. Though the seeds for industrial development were placed in heavy industry, the lack of social rights and liberties, as denied by the Tsars, kept the working class in an unacceptable level of poverty. Ramage) The sudden outbreak of World War One provided a catalyst to effectively bring down the Tsarist rule of Russia, inspiring the rise of the Soviet Union . It is argued that had Russia retained from fighting in the First World War, the Bolsheviks would never been able to rise above and form the U. S. S. R. Tsarist Russia, already riddled with social and developmental problems had no capacity to take part in a global affair such as the First World War. Tsarist Russia, already in a frail state, was not prepared for fighting in the First World War.
The Tsar, who relied on a superficial relationship with the people, managed to isolate himself further from the people then they were willing to follow. The war ravaged through Russia’s economy and resources causing constant unrest for the people. The originally strong spirited war effort had fallen into shambles, under incompetent leadership, causing loss of hope and trust in the government. Nicholas II, the ruler of Russia during the dawn of the 20th century, saw the end of autocratic rule and gave way to the spread of communism.
The only thing keeping the country together was the superficial relationship the people had with the tsar. Nicholas the II failed to realize this, his first mistake being his isolation from the people. “By the end of 1916 the Court was virtually isolated from all educated society, from all the power elites in military, commercial, political and even governmental circles. ” (Stavrou 37) “Nicholas II and Alexandra disliked St. Petersburg. Considering it too modern, they moved the family residence in 1895 from Anichkov Palace to Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, where they lived in seclusion. (Bruner) Removing himself and his family from one of the few developing cities in the country closed his mind, secluded him from the people, and provided a even larger gap between the working class and the ruling party. The Tsar often did not see what was happening on the streets of his cities, as he had secluded himself from them. “The conservative philosophy of the Tsar underlay all his actions, public or private; he continued to be unreceptive to any suggestion of changes that might limit his authority. ” (Stavrou 8) “The first meeting of the Duma took place in May 1906.
Several changes in the composition of the Duma had been changed since the publication of the October Manifesto. Nicholas II had also created a State Council, an upper chamber, of which he would nominate half its members. He also retained for himself the right to declare war, to control the Orthodox Church and to dissolve the Duma. The Tsar also had the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. At their first meeting, members of the Duma put forward a series of demands including the release of political prisoners, trade union rights and land reform.
Nicholas II rejected all these proposals and dissolved the Duma. ”(Bruner) Nicholas was not willing to break years of tradition, and though superficially he provided the illusion that he was giving a voice to the people, in reality he made sure that he had the power to shut down any development that he did not like. The tsar created an image where he did not trust the people, and in return the people stopped trusting the tsar. The tsar had successfully jeopardized his rule and trust of the people, prior to the beginning of the Great War. In September 1915, Nicholas II assumed supreme command of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. This linked him to the country’s military failures and during 1917 there was a strong decline support for the Tsar in Russia. ”( Bruner) “The tensions brought about by the war, of five million dead or wounded, of the army’s bread ration being cut by a third between December 1916 and February 1917, of the shortages of food in the towns, burst to the surface. ”(Ramage)
The military, already under a technological disadvantage, were suffering the worst casualties of the nations involved in the war. When the tsar took over the military all the blame for the Russian Armies failure landed on him. The people were furious at his inability to lead the country to victory, but worst of all, while the tsar was busy with the war effort he successfully neglected ironing out the infrastructural problems created by those before his rule. Russia of the early 20th century had no capability of fighting in the war.
With the undeveloped infrastructure and industry being turned over for military production, resources were sparse, the country was too large and did not have a developed enough transportation system to successfully supply the war, shortage of food ravaged cities, the ever decreasing standard of living brought on the desire for revolution. “The clamor for rapid industrialization became more intensive. After the great military defeats of the spring and summer of 1915, the gap between resources and political ambition was wider than ever – not only in the view of immediate emergency, but for the long pull as well. (Stavrou 147) “Every shell that exploded on the battlefield helped to reduce the production of more shells back home in the munitions factories. In other words, the Russian economy could not support both war production and the railways, steel mills, factories, and mines that made war production possible (not to mention the continuing needs of the civilian sector of the economy, particularly of agriculture). ” (Stavrou 146) The country did not have developed the resources required to run the country and the war together. Poverty levels climaxed and workers began to strike, in hope of reform.
Not only was the country not prepared for the war, its economy still recovering, the standard of living worsened as the war went on. Crucial resources being sent to the war front caused strikes and hindered production on the home front; Tsarist Russia’s undeveloped rail system failed to provide Russia’s needs. “The inadequacy of railroads – which both directly and indirectly contributed significantly to the desperate food shortage, an essential factor in the revolution in February – and the comparable deficiency in industry, which undermined provision of military supplies and of urban facilities, were both symptoms of economic backwardness. (Stavrou 36) The infrastructure failed to transport enough resources causing inflation, starvation, and caused thousands of strikes. “In 1916 there were 1,284 strikes, involving 952,000 workers. Troops fired on strikers in Kosruma, and the swollen industrial workforce of Moscow and Petrograd became increasingly susceptible to radical socialist agitation. ” (Cawood, Bell 103) “On March 8, International Women’s Day, women textile workers in Petrograd’s Vuborg District joined those already on strike and poured into the streets demanding more bread.
Other Petrograd workers soon joined them, and within two days more than 200,000 strikers, plus many students and other sympathizers, brought everyday life to a standstill. ” (Moss 186) Tsarist Russia was ripping itself apart from the inside; the political bodies were unable to seize control of the people, while the military that was supposed to end the riots joined them instead. The focus on the war, and lack of political, social and economic reform brought Russia on its knees.
The country needed change to survive. The Russian war-effort brought forth the downfall of Tsar Nicholas II. The campaign was not faring as well as the tsar had hoped, the large Russian army was up against a technologically advanced adversary, with causalities high and resources running out, the cities were ripe for revolution. “On 31st July, 1914, Sazonov advised the Tsar to order the mobilization of the Russian Army even though he knew it would lead to war with the Germany and Austria-Hungary. ” (Bruner) “…
World War 1, a war perceived by many Russians as a foreign imposition that did not serve Russia’s interests , evoked significant support among many nationally conscious Russians, as well as from the a-political peasantry exhausted by the travails of war. ” (Prizel 183) The initial mobilization of the army, brought forth potential hope and patriotism, but as the war expanded, the causalities increased and the resources diminished, the people became restless, and open to new concepts and ideas, they were no longer aligned with the tsar, but with the country, they saw the tsar as a pest to the country. The “unity of the nation” produced at the beginning of an imperialist war is really only a mask. As war drags on, it exposes all that is rotten in society, sharpening all the social contradictions. ” (Ramage) “… the reasons for the Russian army’s defeat were not just to do with quantities of guns, men, resources and foodstuffs. The fact was that the old regime was incapable of waging a modern total war” (Cawood,Bell 126) The people had no initial desire to be part of the conflict, the superficial democratic systems placed by the tsar were over ruled by his desire for the expansion of Russia. The tsar united the cities and the country in order to maintain the war effort, but in doing so he had neglected to provide for the countries needs, uniting it against himself. ” (Pearson 6) “Fifteen million, overwhelmingly peasants, were drafted into the army, where they faced a uniformity of misery which made them open to the ideas of the working class. By 1917 over 800,000 workers were concentrated in defence industries in Moscow, and 300,000 in Petrograd, mainly in huge factories employing thousands.
In contrast with previous struggles in Russia, the cities and countryside were brought together in their determination to be done with Tsarist autocracy. ” (Ramage) A crucial flaw of the tsar’s plan was unifying the Russian country and cities for the war effort, exerting all resources into the war, and creating havoc in the cities. By this time the Bolshevik takeover didn’t need to go to the streets, the streets had come to the Bolsheviks. The fate of the Tsarist rule of Russia was visible to everyone but the tsar and his family.
The seeds of collapse were placed long before, with Russia’s inability to catch up economically, socially and politically. The tsar’s incapacity to maintain his image as the caring, paternal leader of the motherland, gave people reason to doubt and criticize him. Russia’s overall underdevelopment, riddled with economic, industrial and social nuisance, and most importantly the denial for adaption and improvement into the modern world by the Tsar crippled Russia chance when the war began. The military failures of the Red Army, under incapable leadership, a technological disadvantage and depleted resources called for a new system.
Communism provided a bright light to the war-weary, exhausted and overworked people of Russia. The First World War provided the mechanism for the fall of a thousand year old empire, inspiring the rise of communism and one of the greatest social and political experiments.