Why were there to revolutions in 1917?


1917 was a year of great turmoil for Russia. In the space of one year the tsarist regime collapsed, a provisional government was set up and overthrown and a communism government settled firmly in its place. This essay will report the events that contributed for these revolutions to occur.


During the reign of Tzar Nicholas II the realm was slowly crumbling on all sides. Its hostile involvement with Japan was causing more failure than victories, demoralizing the people. After the Emancipation Edict a small portion of the peasants had managed to become successful independent farmers but the vast majority suffered harsh taxes, lack of land, mortgages, etc. Some took to the cities in search of better living standards and food to sustain their family. Instead they found themselves working in highly concentrated factory areas that offered poor wages for long hours. Public hygiene was at its lowest in over populated slums.


The intelligentsia was aware that Russia was backward both politically and economically compared to other western countries. Most had acknowledge Marx’s teachings – theory that once the gap between the classes become to wide the lower would overcome the higher and the community would own the means of production, no longer needing a state or government. – And although some were willing to let this occur naturally most believed that society needed a push in the right direction.


This push however was a difficult thing to achieve as no other political parties were aloud – the Tzar had been appointed by God to rule Russia therefore was uncontestable in every way.


Nevertheless the Tzar issued reforms – mostly due to his fear in losing control over the masses and being overthrown. He consented in establishing self-government councils – Zemstva – but strictly forbid them to expand and form rivaling parties towards the Tzar whom didn’t want to give too much freedom that could endanger his position. Later in 1905 he granted a National Assembly called the Duma after the October Manifesto.


Once the war with Japan came to an end – causing a dramatic loss of land to the east – Tzar Nicholas II began neglect the promises he had made earlier. He profoundly detested the Duma as in his opinion it represented ‘the panicky surrender of autocratic principle’. In barely two months Nicholas dissolved the Duma due to the excessive presence of liberals in its midst, whom demanded universal suffrage, political amnesties and land reforms.


A person that accomplished a great deal of popularity within the imperial court was Gregory Rasputin – a ‘holy man’ that seemed to heal the imperial couple’s son suffering of hemophilia. The public in general was ignorant to the motive behind Rasputin’s frequent visits in court. They strongly mistrusted Rasputin and even went as far as criticizing the Tzar and Tzarina for harboring a corruptive, power-thirsty drunkard. This of course affected the Tzar’s image negatively bringing the divine emperor off his pedestal to be seen as a fallible man.


With its involvement in the First World War in 1914 the morale of the Russian people was boosted. The country’s capital St Petersburg was renamed Petrograd due to its German sounding name. A fever of patriotism swept through the land. Victory seemed certain and effortless.


But by the following year the mood had dropped, the Russian morale was at its lowest. Victories had surrendered to defeats, the men on the front were unequipped, and the casualties were growing at an alarming rate. There were food shortages both on the front and in the cities due to lack or railways and transport. The Tzar decided to take command of the army and left his wife Alexandra in power to rule for him. This proved to be an unwise decision as all the blame for the unsuccessful war was placed on the Tzar and the Tzarina was left under Rasputin’s influence. The Tzarina sacked and replaced ministers under Rasputin’s supervision making political decisions come literally to a halt. The Tzarina was widely called the ‘German woman’ and Rasputin suspected to be a German spy. The Duma became more and more concerned with this dark influence over the royal couple finding it hard to define whether it was ‘treason or stupidity?’ The