Russian Revolution: Pre-Conditions Study Notes

An image of Tsar (Czar) Nicholas IIBelow are a collection of notes to aid in the study of the "Pre-Conditions" period before the Russian Revolution occurred in 1917. Please note, however, that they should not be used as a replacement for your own studies of the topic. Rather, they should be used to help consolidate your own notes, and/or as a quick revision tool before tests or exams. They are not intended to be complete or comprehensive, and instead are what I personally found to be significant in my own studies of the topic, either in preperation for tests/exams or the writing of essays.

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1. Political
2. Economic
3. Social
4. Leadership


1. Political

The Tsar, Nicholas II, had all the power; an autocratic ruler.
                                This meant that all decisions were in his hands, and so was the responsibility for these decisions.
                Peoples anger towards his bad decisions was reflected in Bloody Sunday event, which would lead to the people’s faith in the Tsar being shattered.
Only the top elite (5% population), those close to the Tsar could influence policies.
Didn’t want change, the monarchy had been in power for hundreds of years.
                  After introduction of Duma, constantly dissolved it to get his own way.
As time went on, distance between Tsar and the people increased.
                  Particularly after Bloody Sunday, used force to crush opposition.

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2. Economic

Russia was in a state of backwardness
By 1900’s Russia had only just begun to industrialize; extremely late in contrast to other countries.
               Proletariat rapidly expanded as peasants gave up countryside and moved to cities to work in factories
                 Dwelt in new overcrowded, unhygienic industrial centres.
                 Living and working conditions harsh, low wages and often forced to be paid in goods.
  Means of production in hands of landlords and factory owners – all the money with them and workers were exploited.
          Workers had no State protection against exploitation – no right to strike or to form trade unions
                After Bloody Sunday workers elected councils called Soviets to organise strikes and run towns, however these strikes were quickly crushed by the government.
This situation forms an immediate background to the growth of Marxism, and the workers role in revolution.
WARS – accentuated Russia’s backwardness, need of industrialization.
Economy constantly geared towards war
              1905 Russo-Japan War
                   Russia’s backwardness allowed them to be slaughtered; weaponry weak
                             At home: taxes increased, food shortages and longer work hours for people
                                    Complete waste of time
               1914 WW1
                      Russia’s backwardness again lead to humiliating defeats.
                                Huge loss of soldiers, led to soldier desertion
                                            these soldiers would join revolutionaries, if Tsar remained in power
                                              would be killed
                                At home, rail system so pathetic that food could not be distributed to cities
                                       Lead to food shortages, starvation.
                       Inflation, made goods more expensive
Proletariat unhappy, wanting change
Large peasantry not owning land and wanting change

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3. Social

Lower class people became sick of being controlled by the unsympathetic landlords and their oppressive government.
By escaping Serfdom in 1861, they had simply traded one set of masters – the landlords- for another, the bureaucratic state.
               Peasantry who wished to own land were forced to pay huge taxes, more than they could afford.
Largest part of the population poor and starving – wanting change
People constantly forced to bear the grunt of war
             In particular the rapidly increasing proletariat living in the cities suffered immensely, as they could not produce their own food which resulted in starvation.
The people’s faith in the Tsar was gone, and lost again in Provisional government as nothing changed
              War continued on, and in turn so did the people’s resentment towards the government.
     This social injustice and lack of faith in leadership encouraged the people to listen to revolutionary ideas.

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4. Leadership

A successful revolution must have leadership
         February, July “revolutions” were spontaneous; no proper planning or leadership
         October Revolution well planned, carried out under leadership of Trotsky and Lenin.
Philosophies – people won’t support unless they know they will get something better in return
The preconditions period developed many competing political ideologies within Russia
           Mensheviks
                  Worked to achieve Marxist society
                  Party of mass organization
                  Eventually proletariat revolution would be carried out by mass uprisings
            Bolsheviks
                   Worked to achieve Marxist society
                   Revolution would be carried out by a small, tightly disciplined party
                   Professional revolutionaries would seize power
                   Strong leadership
                   Independent of proletariat, instead on their behalf
A Marxist society would be characterized by:
        A classless society
        The withering of State apparatus
        Communal control of means of production
        The dictatorship of the proletariat
Post revolutionary society does not always reflect these ideologies
        A classless society was never achieved.
        The Bolsheviks did not give up power to workers, instead Communist party dictated.
          Communal control over means of production never achieved. State controlled key industry and infrastructure.
         Withering of State apparatus never occurred, government became too powerful.
Lenin “Peace, Land and Bread”. Land never delivered, became state controlled.



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