Long and short-term causes that contributed to the 1917 Russian Revolution

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Long and short-term causes that contributed to the 1917 Revolution

By early 1917, the existing order in Russia was on the verge of collapse. The spark to the events that ended tsarist rule was ignited on the streets of Petrograd in March 1917. Driven by shortages of food and fuel, crowds of hungry citizens and striking workers began spontaneous rioting and demonstrations. The Rominov dynasty was to end after 304 years, bought down by the March 1917 revolution. There were many long term causes such as the Nicholas personal ruling style, the Russian economy, and general feeling of discontent, but ulitimaly the outbreak of revolution was the caused by Russia entering World War I.

Nicholas was a weak and incompetent ruler. He allowed himself to be influenced by people who did not want any changes to take place in Russia. In Russia there were huge differences between the rich and the poor. About four-fifths of the population were peasants many of whom could not read or write. In the towns workers were squashed into very poor accommodation. The Tsars autocracy was very badly organized and caused many conflicts between the people and the Russian government. It had been like this for a long time and needed a complete change. The Tsarist system meant that the Tsar had complete power and authority. He was the head of the state and had control over the Russian Orthodox Church. All the important decisions were made in St.Petersburg, without asking the people of Russia what their views were - decisions that were made were announced by thousands of officials and bureaucrats. This angered the people as they felt the Tsar was ignoring them and did not care about their opinions. Nearly 90% of people were peasants and most were poverty stricken. Political parties tried to make use of these conditions. Peasants worked with the most basic tools. Half the farming land belonged to 300,000 landowners but the other half was shared with 15 million peasant families. In the cities and countryside the government and bureaucrats and secret police appeared to be in control, but underneath Russia was seething with discontent.

From this discontent, various opposition parties were active throughout the country, even though they were usually executed, imprisoned or sent to Siberia. The main group was the Socialist Revolutionaries; they had a lot of support from peasants. Another was the Russian Social Democratic party, founded in 1898, it appealed to many town workers but then split in 1903 to the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. These two groups followed the teachings of Karl Marx. The Bolsheviks allowed only fully committed members to join in with opposing the Tsarist system. The Mensheviks were more cooperative and stood in elections for duma parties and issued propaganda and organized strikes against the Tsar. Then there was the problem of the wide range of nationalities in Russia. Less than half the Tsars subjects were Russian, invaded nations like the Poles from Poland and the Finns from Finland were anxious to overthrow the Tsar. Only up until the outbreak of the First World War did these groups cause real trouble and damage the Tsar's reputation and ability to rule; this was a long-term problem that could not be avoided. But in July 1914 Russia entered the First World War on the side of France and Britain, fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Some may argue that this outbreak of war at first helped the Tsar. As all the classes rallied together and initially wanted to help the Tsar and looked at him for leadership, but then after their first defeat at Tannenburg, everything changed after the Tsar made some fatal mistakes. The war may have had the initially effect of unionfying people and nobles behind the czar on a wave of national unity, this war effort in the end discredited his and his regime.

All these long-term causes were ongoing, and Russia almost had a complete revolution in 1905. This was caused by Russia's defeat by Japan and...
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