War or Autocracy - The Fall of the Russian Empire. Essay Example

Published: 2023-01-26
War or Autocracy - The Fall of the Russian Empire. Essay Example
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Politics Government World World War 1
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1889 words
16 min read

One of the most explosive political events of the twentieth century across the globe was the Russian Revolution of 1917, which led to the fall of the Russian Empire. For hundreds of years prior to this event, a relatively powerful and wealthy Czarist regime ruled over the majority of Russian communities which were composed mainly of peasants. The regime had its roots when the Russian elite class sought a new bloodline for its monarchy under Michael Romanov. Although the Romanovs were elected at a young age and considered weak, they became popular tsars due to their good reputation, especially among the peasants. However, their practice of yielding power to favorites who exercised personal influence over the tsars and the peasants led to popular dissatisfaction. This was followed by a violent revolution across Russia which brought the end of the Romanov bloodline as well as centuries of Russian imperial rule. During this period, two revolutions occurred in Russia, setting the stage for social and political changes which had been simmering for ages. Ideally, the two Russian revolutions in 1917 were not only caused by the incompetent Tsarist regime, but also by other factors such as social inequality, economic depression, and hopelessness of veterans and civilians alike.

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The Tsarist Autocracy

The Reign of the Romanov Dynasty

The Russian monarchy, particularly the Romanov dynasty, was far-reaching and was considered unlimited. In fact, at the time, there was no significant resistance, either economic or legal, against the arbitrary power of the tsars. Even so, their power and influence over their domination were significantly limited by the administrative factors, the country's size, and the non-modern ideas about politics. According to Boterbloem, Usitalo, and Whisenhunt (2013), the tsars during the genesis of the Russian empire were feeble and young. This is because the Russian nobility at the time only elected young Romanovs below 18 years of age. For this reason, they were much under the influence of the favorites; a group of individuals who exerted their personal influence and agendas over the weak tsars. For example, the first tsar, Michael Romanov, was crowned at the age of 17 and had to be guided by his biological father until he became of age (Boterbloem, Usitalo, & Whisenhunt, 2013). Nevertheless, they were influential individuals and had left behind a good reputation because the people loved them. The people's popular dissatisfaction which led to two separate revolutions is often believed to have been against the favorites who ruled alongside tsars. The reign of the Romanov dynasty, as well as the century of imperial rule all, came to a sudden end during the February Revolution of 1917. Essentially, the revolution was followed by a series of social transformations and political upheavals, which later lead to the formation of the communist party of the Soviet Union.

Poor Leadership in the Russo-Japanese War

The Russo-Japanese war between the years 1904 and 1905 is still remarkable since it was the first time an Asian power overcame a European power in modern times. This caused a lot of uproar among the Russian citizens who claimed poor leadership and great humiliation, particularly to the Tsar's regime. According to Wood (2003), Russian and Japan shared a common interest over the control of strategic land and territories in China and Korea. Russia and China had the pact to unite against the advances of the Japanese army into the Chinese territories. Russian Tsar at the time also believed that the country's expansion in the Far East and the national victory would quell the growing opposition against the centuries of imperial rule in Russia. It was a unique opportunity the Tsar had to restore patriotism and the country's national pride.

However, the Japanese had a different plan, and Tsar Nicholas II's intentions were squashed even before the war began. By January 1904, the Japanese forces had already captured both the Russian Pacific Fleet and the Russian naval base, Port Arthur (Jukes, 2014). As a result, the surviving Russian troops became stranded without any support or significant supplies. The poor strategy also resulted in heavy losses during the battle at Mukden and on the Yalu River. In the end, Tsar Nicholas II succumbed to a humiliating peace treaty which further added to the strain between the Russian peasants and the monarchy. They believed that the Tsarist government was unworthy and incompetent after conceding a humiliating defeat to an Asiatic power. Moreover, the people also argued that the war had exhausted the available resources leaving them in a tight economic situation.

The Influence of Rasputin

The conduct and influence of Rasputin was one of the major factors that saw to the downfall of the centuries of Tsar's imperial rule in Russia. According to Paterson (2018), Rasputin was a promiscuous peasant monk who presented himself as a holy man. During the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, Rasputin became a friend and a special confidant to the crown. His healing talents, in particular, brought him close to both Tsar and Tsarina who had an ailing son, and the heir to the throne. The ruling family had finally had a son they wanted after years of failure; unfortunately, he had suffered from hemophilia, which they believed only the monk could cure. Rasputin's influence with the royal family grew after the prince recovered; however, his promiscuous sexual behavior brought a rift between Tsar Nicholas II and his people. It was rumored that the monk had a number of affairs with aristocratic women in the court which convinced many powerful people within Russia that he was a disgraced member of the court and therefore should be banished. Even more, his reputation among the member of the court completely dipped when he was accused of having an affair with Tsar's wife.

All these circumstances and the unreasonable decisions the ruling family made during the time of Rasputin angered many people and turned the peasants against their Tsar. Although he committed atrocities among members of the court, Tsar's confidence towards the healer seemed unshaken. He continued to seek for the monk's blessings whenever he departed for the front line after staying home for a while. This angered many who believed that Rasputin was an opportunist rather than a man of God. Rasputin also predicted the fall of Russia, which was considered a bad omen, especially during a time of war. Consequently, people lost confidence in their Tsar at the time of grave crisis and started a plot to eliminate the monk. As a matter of fact, the revolutionary ideas that had become history in Russia for over half a century resurface. In the end, Rasputin was killed by a man named Yusupov and his co-conspirators in a revolution that eventually swept away Nicholas and centuries of imperial rule forever.

The Impact of World War I

Tsar Nicholas II was drawn into entering World War I based on pride, follies, and errors of judgment. He had too much confidence in his military prowess and had foolishly placed unreasonable trust on the concept of alliances. Indeed, unlike her European counterparts, Russia entered the war at a disadvantage since it majorly relied on foreign investments. Also, her industrial sector, compared to countries such as Britain and France, was relatively small. Prior to the war, everything seemed in favor of Tsar Nicholas II. The majority of the Russian population were outraged at Germany, which was one of the major economic powerhouses in Europe at the time. The idea of attacking Germany and the expansion of the Russian empire appeared to help Nicholas II since it brought out the patriotic side of his people. They were ready to unite behind their ruler and his dwindling autocratic system. Even so, everything quickly started to fall apart.

The Economic Decline

According to Wood (2003), World War I caused significant economic problems in Russia, including a shortage of fuel and starvation, which encouraged many peasants to start protesting against the falling regime. Although Russia had rich reserves of raw materials and fuel needed in the industrial sector to enable industrial output, its economy highly depended on the railway networks which were used for transporting troops at the time. This meant that raw materials and fuel could not be efficiently transported to keep the country's manufacturing industry supplied. As a result, Russia's overall economic output began to decline, causing economic recession throughout its territories. Similarly, since Russia heavily depended on loans and printing of money to finance the war, its indebtedness seriously increased over time as the country sort for more loans to keep its war efforts alive. This led to increased inflation in the country, which negatively impacted the peasants compared to the middle class. Many people back at home, the majority who were these peasants became incredibly outraged, which further pushed them to rise against the autocratic regime and its noble rulers.

Kowalski (2005) also, claimed that lack of food and the severe famine was brought about by a lack of able-bodied individuals in the country. The army had taken millions of peasants to fight in the war at the expense of food production. There was an overall shortage of people who could produce food since only women, children, and the elderly were left out of the war. The government also took the majority of the skilled labors from the manufacturing sector into the war, and the remaining factory workers were too weak and stressed to affect any change in the manufacturing sector. The famine was also caused by lack of transportation since the railway network was mainly used in war operations; in moving military equipment and troops, instead of focusing on availing food products and fuel to the people. In addition, even though the women outnumbered men by more than two limiting food production, the main reason food supply problem arose was that the government prioritized the military and ensured they were fed first at the expense of those back at home. Consequently, people started to demand bread which got out of control and in the end, riots followed.

Social Injustices

As the Russian empire became engulfed in World War I in support for the Serbs and the French as well as their British allies, everything turned disastrous back at home due to the social injustices that befell the people, especially the peasants. The army took more than fifteen million people who not only left a shortage of workers but also left many families stranded (Koustova, 2014). Many families were left in hardships since only women were left to toil for their children and to keep them safe. At the factories, the remaining lower-class workers were suffering as they were subjected to over 14 hours of work on a daily basis with limited or no health and safety provisions. The wages also kept falling, which affected their morale towards work, and in the end, resulted in labor riots across the country. All these injustices occurred as the government prioritized the army both in terms of food supply and financial support.

Things were equally unbearable back in the villages and on the farms. For decades, the imperial rule of the Tsars allowed the minority landowners and nobles to control the peasant farmers who were the majority. These peasants were bound by indenture to the landowners, which meant that they were tied to one particular farm and could work for meager payments without questions. It was a washed system which kept the majority of peasants at the lowest level of society.

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