VCE History: Unit 3 The February Revolution • With the war a disaster and the home front no better, by February of 1917 Russia was in a ‘critical condition’. • But all the key players were away from Petrograd. Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries were in exile and the Tsar was 650 kilometres away at the military base in Mogilev. • Two key crises in Russia – food and fuel shortages, well not so much a lack of these but an inability to transport them to the cities. … in a critical condition • In addition to the revolutionaries there were also many liberal elements (e.g. industrialists and property owners) who had lost belief in the autocracy and were pushing for a constitutional monarchy. • Their case was strengthened by the Tsar’s absence and the presence of Rasputin who was accused (and probably guilty) of corruption and abuse of authority. Political discontent • Two key features – Petrograd is built along a 30km stretch of the Neva River. The system of canals means that waterways are the main form of transport. This means that the city can be protected by a raising of the bridges. • The freezing of the waterways in winter meant that marches and protests were limited for many months of the year. Petrograd • The Okhrana regularly sent reports to the Tsar informing him of the discontent in Petrograd and he is warned of conditions that would make 1905 seem ‘but a toy’. • Rodzianko, Chairman of the Duma, warned the Tsar that ‘all Russia’ were seeking a ‘change in government’ to restore the ‘confidence of the nation’ as distrust and hatred towards the German Tsarina grew. • Buchanan, the British Ambassador, warned that most of the army could not be relied on in the event of a revolution. He pleaded with the Tsar to choose between ‘two paths’ (i.e. reform for peace or maintain the status quo and suffer ‘disaster’). Advising the Tsars • 18 February, 1917: 20,000 workers locked out of the Putilov Steel Works over a pay disagreement. Political activism resulted. The Tsar, Duma and Soldiers failed to respond. • 23 February, 1917: International Women’s Day protest of 90,000. The Tsar, Duma and Soldiers failed to respond. • 24 February, 1917: 200,000 workers on strike. Cossacks patrol the city but refuse to fire on striking workers. A lack of response • 25 February, 1917: now 240,000 striking workers. Tsar orders General Khabalov to ‘suppress’ them so Russia can focus on the war effort. Tsarina calls them hooligans. • 26 February, 1917: Many soldiers join the protestors turning protests into dangerous revolts. Rodzianko urges immediate action but Nicholas angrily dismisses him as a ‘fat pig’ and dismisses the Duma. A lack of response • 27 February, 1917: workers control the entire city except the Winter Palace. Political prisoners and criminals are released and riots ensue. Tsar is deluded calling the mutiny ‘minor’. He again ignores Rodzianko’s pleas. The Duma refuses the Tsar’s request to dissolve and form a Provisional Committee. A lack of response • 28 February, 1917: Fighting escalates to extreme violence. Soldiers take on the police. Alexandra sends a telegram to the Tsar conceding that ‘concessions are inevitable’. Nicholas again fails to act. • 1 March, 1917: Soldiers, including the imperial guard and the Cossacks march, demonstrating their allegiance to the revolution. The Tsar approves the formation of the Provisional Government and begins return journey to Petrograd. Petrograd Soviet issue Soviet Order No. 1 (military units elect representatives, military must follow the Provisional Government). A lack of response • 2 March, 1917: Tsar’s train journey is stopped by revolutionary soldiers causing him to detour to Pskov. Nicholas abdicates and requests that his brother Mikhail becomes the new tsar. The Provisional Government take official control of Russia. • 3 March, 1917: key political action takes place and peace is restored to the streets. Grand Duke Mikhail also abdicates! The Romanov Dynasty ends. Official power is transferred to the Provisional Government. A lack of response • Nicholas failed to react… ‘he probably found it easier to abdicate than to turn himself into a constitutional king’. • Reason 1: Failure to modernise industry – not strong as Russia had made improvements. • Reason 2: Failure to overcome backward agrarian system – not strong as, apart from the war, agriculture was promising. • Reason 3: Failure to provide a representative parliament – strong argument that it was all too late and not enough. • Reason 4: Weak leadership of Tsar Nicholas II – strong argument, he was rubbish. Why?