Author Topic: The Russian Revolutions  (Read 23103 times)

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Offline dorlev

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The Russian Revolutions
« on: December 15, 2011, 06:04:26 PM »
In the process of doing research for my third novel: THE LAST ROMANOV, I came to realize that it's somewhat misleading to say "The Russian Revolution" because there was not one, but a series of "revolutions" that led to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty.  The brewing discontent started years before the Great War and gathered speed with the Russo Japanese war.  In fact so many revolutionary factions came into play that a researcher has to be vigilant in understanding the timeline and the philosophies of the different factions.  
Please be in touch and let me know if you agree.

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2012, 08:33:54 PM »
While there were many uprisings, "The Russian Revolution" generally refers to the fall of the tsarist government in Feb/March 1917 and is also commonly known as "The February Revolution".

The uprisings in 1905 are generally referred to as "The Revolution of 1905". The second revolution of 1917, commonly referred to as "The October Revolution" was not strictly speaking a revolution at all. It was a coup d'etat which was effectively not overthrown itself until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

As an historian specializing in modern Russian history, I consider the Russian Republic to have started upon the publishing of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich's  1917 Manifesto which effectively ceded the power of Imperial Russia to the Provisional Government.

Offline edubs31

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2012, 11:03:00 PM »
Yeah I mean it probably wouldn't sound scholarly acceptable just to pluralize the phrase so it's sounds all encompassing. But if you simply cruise over to Wikipedia...which, face it, almost everybody uses these days...it clearly specifies the "Russian Revolution" as being the events that took place starting in 1917 in the first paragraph. It also separates that from, while providing a redirect link to, the "Revolution of 1905", so I think you're in the clear...

How's the writing coming along by the way?
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline TimM

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2012, 05:02:41 PM »
Probably a lot of people think the revolution was the whole time.  Lenin and his band of criminals could never have taken power without it.
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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2012, 09:42:23 AM »
My writing? Well, at least Will and I are writing. It's going okay.

I think the "Russian Revolution" singular sounds just fine, scholarly or not. You can distinguish it from the other events of the period by calling them "The Revolution of 1905" and "The Bolshevik coup" or something like that and be readily understood.

Offline edubs31

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2012, 10:52:31 AM »
My writing? Well, at least Will and I are writing. It's going okay.

I think the "Russian Revolution" singular sounds just fine, scholarly or not. You can distinguish it from the other events of the period by calling them "The Revolution of 1905" and "The Bolshevik coup" or something like that and be readily understood.

Lisa) Sorry I meant for that question to be directed to "dorlev" and how things were coming along. Actually I did check and it looks like things are pretty well complete at this point...? Says the publish date isn't until April but it appears a number of folks have already read, and overwhelmingly enjoyed, the story...
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2012, 12:14:45 PM »
No problem at all!

Offline Richard_Cullen

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 02:34:01 PM »
Having watched the History Channel programmes on the RUSSIAN REVOLUTION again I just have this overwhelming sense of sadness.  Sadness that so many people died for an ideology that in its original concept appeared to have much to offer.  But its corruption by the ambitions of Lenin and Stalin led to the death of so many innocents.
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all, but he, departed!
Refrain:
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain hath bound me,
Sad mem’ry brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thomas Moore 1815

Offline edubs31

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2012, 03:37:06 PM »
Having watched the History Channel programmes on the RUSSIAN REVOLUTION again I just have this overwhelming sense of sadness.  Sadness that so many people died for an ideology that in its original concept appeared to have much to offer.  But its corruption by the ambitions of Lenin and Stalin led to the death of so many innocents.

Well of course it failed. It was a flawed ideology to begin with...and although all systems of government have had their share of growing pains the Soviet Union rewrote the book.

What does it say about a political system essentially introducing itself through murder (as in the brutal murders of the previous regime's figurehead and his innocent family & servants), developed out of civil war (the Bolshevik vs. Whites struggle) sustained through violence (as in brutal genocide and political repression), saved by a global war (as in World War II coming along at the right time for communist movements losing popular support everywhere in the West), and ultimately vanquished by none of the above?
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 03:54:37 PM by edubs31 »
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2012, 06:26:30 PM »
Having watched the History Channel programmes on the RUSSIAN REVOLUTION again I just have this overwhelming sense of sadness.  Sadness that so many people died for an ideology that in its original concept appeared to have much to offer.  But its corruption by the ambitions of Lenin and Stalin led to the death of so many innocents.

I share your sadness, Richard. It will take many years to repair the damage.

Offline TimM

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2012, 04:32:45 PM »
Hopefully Russia, and the world, will learn from the folly of Karl Marx's flawed ideology.
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Offline Rodney_G.

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2012, 05:10:16 PM »
While there were many uprisings, "The Russian Revolution" generally refers to the fall of the tsarist government in Feb/March 1917 and is also commonly known as "The February Revolution".

The uprisings in 1905 are generally referred to as "The Revolution of 1905". The second revolution of 1917, commonly referred to as "The October Revolution" was not strictly speaking a revolution at all. It was a coup d'etat which was effectively not overthrown itself until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

As an historian specializing in modern Russian history, I consider the Russian Republic to have started upon the publishing of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich's  1917 Manifesto which effectively ceded the power of Imperial Russia to the Provisional Government.


Rodney_G writes :
 The difference in the terms for the governmental overthrows of 1917 is  actually very important. There is all the difference in the world between a genuine, spontaneous revolution and a coup d'etat. The events of February were a classic revolution. What took place in October was a classic seizure of power , a power grab, if you will.  It involved premeditation and plotting and conspiracy. Whereas the February revolution was quickly seen by many to represent the will of the people and thus represented some degree of legitimacy, the Bolshevik seizure of power didn't have mass support and was effectively rejected in the voting for the Constituent Assembly of November.

Because the Bolsheviks were very sensitive to "making history" in true Marxist fashion, and were all too aware of their illegitimacy, they made special efforts to call their coup a revolution,moving to establish a Museum Of The Revolution in Moscow within a year. They made a virtual fetish of some of the artifacts of their "revolution", and soon, From the cruiser Aurora to looted Imperial palace goodies, to  Nicholas and Alexandra's diaries to tours of Ipatiev House cellar , the Bolsheviks strove to invest a large scale , but really a simple grubby power grab with the mantle of authenticity and legitimacy often associated with the term 'revolution'. It's too bad their contemporaries and a simplistic historical phrasing have allowed that false distinction to prevail.

Please note the change from Lisa's quote to mine, RG
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 04:48:15 PM by Alixz »
Rodney G.

Offline MarshallHowell

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #12 on: February 29, 2012, 08:42:22 PM »
A bit off topic but same subject, I had to write a riddle for my 12th grade lit class a few months ago and chose the Russian revolution. No one could guess it though. Tell me what you think! :)

For three hundred seasons I have stood firm,
But in October my leaves will turn
To dangerous shades of red.
From a prosperous gold did they change
And as a result they fell.
Now what fate awaits me?
A tree without leaves of prosperity,
Surely I will die
As they are scattered by the wind.
I stand as but a corpse
Since the day the eagles,
Who resided within my branches,
Were shot.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2012, 02:27:47 PM »
I know that Orlando Figes has hit a rough reputational patch in recent years, particularly with his bizarre behavior on the UK Amazon site a while back.  And, as with any author who canvasses at length vast areas of activity, occasional minor errors can be found in his work.  But he nevertheless is an Oxford history professor for a reason.

Anyone who truly wants to grasp the long build-up to the events of 1917 and the incredible complexity of the conflicting ideologies, political agendas, and organizing efforts of a vast array of fledgling political parties in the final quarter century of tsarism really should read his book A People's Tragedy.

At the most generalized level, Figes sees two overarching trends that culminated to bring tsarism crashing down in 1917.  The first was the growing atrophy of the tsarist system as the broadening of Russia's economic base and the increase of education levels to support the technology needs of industrialization began to exceed the reach of an 18th-century governmental structure to control and administer to the evolving needs of the populace.  This was brought into sharp focus when the famine of the early 1890's found Alexander III's government sitting on the sidelines due to poor information flow, bureaucratic incompetence, and insufficient administrative apparatus in the countryside as the population resorted to various forms of self-help to deal with the widespread crisis.  (Figes makes a very interesting point that, contrary to common assumptions that autocratic Russia was over-governed, quite the opposite was true.  As a percentage of population, imperial Russia had significantly fewer government officials than any other European country.  In fact, Figes paints a compelling view of Russian autocracy as actually just a thin veneer of central government used in the countryside primarily to keep in check an enormous rural population that was otherwise largely untouched by and not understood by government.)

Through several years of famine-relief activity that pulled noblemen and peasants alike into concerted activity, all levels of society began to develop a knack for organizing themselves to fill a government void.  In fact, it was in these years that some Russians, such as Prince Lvov, first acquired the administrative skills that were going to launch them into national prominence twenty-five years later.  The upshot of the extended famine and the widespread turning out of the population to assist with relief was that Russians began to look upon the tsarist government as less and less relevant to the real needs of the country.  Quite a few of the popular organizations that formed in these years became the kernels of a myriad of later political parties and even quasi-governmental organizations that sprung up during World War I to help maintain arms production in the face of government paralysis much the way their predecessors had restored food supplies in the 1890's.

(Sorry . . . this is a long post.  Continued below.)

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: The Russian Revolutions
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2012, 02:28:31 PM »
(Continued from above.)

The second critical factor Figes tags as a cause of revolution was personal to Nicholas II himself.  Figes speaks of two different concepts of autocracy.  The first was the Petrine concept, which relied on the tools of bureaucracy to govern.  By this model, the tsar was sort of "Bureaucrat-in-Chief".  And, indeed, that is the form of government that Peter the Great sought to institutionalize in Russia.  His regulations requiring the education of the nobility, his instituting promotion by merit in the military and civilian services, and his (largely failed) attempts to root out corruption were all directed at giving Russia the kind of fair, regularized government according to principles of law, equity, and predictability that he so admired in western Europe.

The countervailing concept of autocracy was the Muscovite concept of personal rule of the tsar as fief holder of the Russian soil.  Nicholas II consciously sought to look back beyond Peter the Great and to restore the concept of a personal connection between the ruler and the peasantry (a concept he highly romanticized and grossly misunderstood).  This desire was manifested by Nicholas' naming of Tsar Alexis as his most admired predecessor and by both Nicholas' and Alexandra's constant harping to all and sundry about how the peasants loved them and were loyal to them in ways a cynical and too-sophisticated nobility never could be.

The implication of this view was that Nicholas regarded his own bureaucracy as an unnatural impediment to the true lines of autocratic authority between the ruler and the land.  And this showed up most disastrously in two ways:  in Nicholas' preference for "yes men" in his ministerial appointments (a preference which became completely unshackled by Stolypin's death and in the almost insane turnover of personnel after Alexandra and Rasputin asserted themselves into the void Nicholas left by removing himself to Stavka in 1915); and in Nicholas' preference for asserting his authority in the countryside through the notoriously brutish and corrupt Land Captains rather than through the bureaucratic apparatus.  In fact, much of the final stages of paralysis that overwhelmed the government during the war years was brought on by Nicholas' setting loose his dogs on his own bureaucracy.

But why was Nicholas so hostile to his own bureaucracy?  The real reason lay in the nature of bureaucracy itself.  Bureaucrats like rules.  They like certainty about what they are supposed to be doing.  They like precedent to which they can turn to broker conflicting demands.  And they like some way to detect and measure success.  As the people employed by the central government who were on the front lines to get the results the government wanted in industrial production, economic development, land management, military reform they found themselves cheek to jowl with the conflicts between competing interests of employer and worker, landlord and peasant, soldier and commander, student and professor.

As a result, it was the bureaucrats of late imperial Russia who -- far more than the tsars and their land captains -- came to understand the real needs and capacities of the Russian people at all levels of society.  Consequently, the bureaucracy found itself inexorably evolving to favor compromises between competing interests and as a result to harken to many of the demands of the populace to which the court circles around the tsars were implacably hostile.

Peter the Great and Catherine the Great were able to leverage the nature of bureaucracy to strengthen their grips on power at all levels of society.  Alexander III and Nicholas II did not have that ability.  Consequently both -- and especially Nicholas -- relied on posturing, assertions of personal rights and authority without the ability to deliver good government, and a brittleness of attitude that when confronted with crisis would either hold or snap . . . but never bend.  It held under Alexander III.  It snapped under Nicholas II.

The anti-tsarist parties of Russia did not bring on a revolution.  They had one dumped in their laps.  In fact, most of 1917 was spent with all the political parties (including the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks) congregated in the Tauride Palace trying to pass off power and responsibility like a hot potato.  Not until Lenin got his wind later that summer did any prospect for actually governing Russia emerge.

And that, in part, is why Figes speaks of "a people's tragedy".
« Last Edit: June 16, 2012, 03:01:10 PM by Tsarfan »