The Russian revolution was caused by the continual breakdown of the governments in Russia and the incompetency and authoritarian views of it’s czars. Their failures as leaders included policies that neither pleased nor benefitted the people. By the end of the nineteenth century, Russia’s economy, government, military, and social organization was at an extreme decline. Russia had become the least advanced of the major European nations in terms of political and social development. There was no parliament, and no middle class. The Church, officers, and other important people and institutions were irmly against social progress.
The disastrous defeat of Russia in the Crimean War in 1855 and 1856 exposed weaknesses of Russia’s various organizations. For the first few decades of the 1800’s, Russia’s outlook was brighter under Alexander I, who was relatively liberal. He became more reactionary however, and following his death, a group of young army officers tried to overturn the Czardom. This was called the Decembrist Revolt. The next czar, Nicholas, was a die hard authoritarian. The Administrative system continued to decay regardless of his iron fisted rule. The gap between the rich and the poorer continued to widen.
Over five hundred peasant revolts took place during his reign. Alexander II, who took the throne in 1855 tried to avert revolt by attempting reform. In 1861 he freed the serfs and gave them expectations of free land allotments. But to their surprise, and anger, they were only given the opportunity to share it as members of a village commune(mir). In addition, the mir had to pay back the government for the land over a period of 49 years with interest. Alexander also formed a series of elected local councils that gave istricts restricted jurisdiction of certain aspects of life.
He too became more of a reactionary towards the end of his reign. The result was his assassination by a group of conspirators called the People’s Will movement. The next Czar, Alexander III, was yet another reactionary. He was active in silencing criticism of the government, exiling agitators, and stamping out revolutionary groups. Industrialization began to appear and with it an increase of dissatisfied workers. They were underpaid and forced to work in unfavourable conditions. The peasants farmers were doing fine on their arms but a famine in 1891 caused extensive suffering. Revolts again became fairly frequent.
Intellectual groups organized and continued the fight against serfdom and autocracy. At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian people were in the mood for revolution. The loss of the Russo Japanese war to Japan, and the resulting hardships, made concrete the opposition to the autocracy. In December of 1904, unrest surfaced in Baku. Strikes occurred in factories in the capital. Priest Father Gapon lead a peaceful march to petition the czar for a redress of grievances but it nded violently with the Czar’s troops firing on the crowd. In October of 1905 a general strike was declared that crippled the country.
On October 30th, Nicholas dispatched the historical October Manifesto which provided for a constitution under which civil liberties were granted and an elected state institution called the duma was formed. This broke the czar’s absolute power. However, the czar chose reactionary ministers to lead the duma and the secret police force was improved and strengthened. The first two were filled with radicals but quickly dissolved. The members of the third were conservative in outlook. Social conditions improved too slowly to reverse public opposition to the absolute monarchy.
Poor political and military leadership in the First World War led to widespread desertion of Russian soldiers. Their army suffered great casualties and a battered economy. It was the accumulation of discontent for governments, czar’s, and living conditions along with Russian defeats in various wars, including WWI, of the working class citizens in Russia that eventually boiled over and resulted in revolution. The public dissatisfaction continued to fill for over a decade like a powderkeg and eventually as set off and caused an explosion of great impact to the future of Russia.
They displayed their anger in various ways, but the authoritarian Czar’s which attained power did not react to the incoming tide. In fact, they resisted change at every avenue possible and proved to outrage certain people to such a point that Czar’s were assassinated. By 1917, the Russian people had had enough, and a public disturbance in Petrograd soon spread throughout the city and had become a widespread revolt. The resulting revolution proved to restructure the politics in Russia for years to come.