Guide The Russian Revolution of February 1917

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The Tsar survives through being late to dinner. He is succeeded by his son, Alexander III, who enacts anti-terrorism measures that curb civil rights and freedom of the press. Pogroms against Jews spread across the Russian Empire, leading to mass emigration of the Jewish population. Lenin, future leader of the Bolsheviks, is arrested to be kept in solitary confinement for 13 months and then exiled to Siberia. This results in the deaths of over 1, people.

The two year period starting with Bloody Sunday and subsequent civil unrest, and ending with the Coup of June The liberal press blames Nicholas II. As a result, restrictions are implemented on the absolute power of the Russian monarch, and a de facto constitution the Fundamental Laws of is issued. A series of public protests begin in Petrograd, which last for eight days and eventually result in abolition of the monarchy in Russia.

The total number of killed and injured in clashes with the police and government troops in Petrograd is estimated around 1, people. Two days later, the strikes spread across Petrograd. A Provisional Government is formed to replace the tsarist government, with Prince Lvov becoming the leader. Lenin returns from exile, travelling to Petrograd in a sealed train from Switzerland via Germany and Finland.

The note is leaked, resulting in protests and increased support for the Bolsheviks. Following this, Milyukov resigns and members of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks join the Provisional Government. Russian minister of war Alexander Karensky launches an offensive against Austria-Hungary forces in Galicia. Although the Russian effort is initially successful, the soldiers soon refuse to leave their trenches and fight due to low morale caused by the Revolution. Many soldiers return home to take part in redistribution of land.

The July Days, a series of spontaneous armed anti-government demonstrations of industrial workers and soldiers, begin in Petrograd. Lvov resigns as leader of the Provisional Government, with Alexander Kerensky taking over and crushing the demonstrations. In the same month, the death penalty is reintroduced and women are granted the right to vote and hold office. Kerensky issues the arrest of Lenin, who goes into hiding.

The printing offices of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda — the headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee — are raided, with many Bolshevik leaders arrested.

The Russian Revolution 1917

This is seen by many as the point of no return for the peaceful development of the Revolution. The Kornilov affair: A failed coup by General Kornilov, commander of the Russian army, takes place, when he orders troops towards Petrograd to counter the threat of the Bolsheviks. Ariadna Tyrkova commented: "Prince Lvov had always held aloof from a purely political life. He belonged to no party, and as head of the Government could rise above party issues. Not till later did the four months of his premiership demonstrate the consequences of such aloofness even from that very narrow sphere of political life which in Tsarist Russia was limited to work in the Duma and party activity.

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Neither a clear, definite, manly programme, nor the ability for firmly and persistently realising certain political problems were to be found in Prince G. But these weak points of his character were generally unknown. Prince George Lvov allowed all political prisoners to return to their homes.

Joseph Stalin arrived at Nicholas Station in St. The three men had been in exile in Siberia. Stalin's biographer, Robert Service , has commented: "He was pinched-looking after the long train trip and had visibly aged over the four years in exile. Having gone away a young revolutionary, he was coming back a middle-aged political veteran. The exiles discussed what to do next. The Bolshevik organizations in Petrograd were controlled by a group of young men including Vyacheslav Molotov and Alexander Shlyapnikov who had recently made arrangements for the publication of Pravda , the official Bolshevik newspaper.

The young comrades were less than delighted to see these influential new arrivals. Molotov later recalled: "In Stalin and Kamenev cleverly shoved me off the Pravda editorial team. Without unnecessary fuss, quite delicately. The Petrograd Soviet recognized the authority of the Provisional Government in return for its willingness to carry out eight measures. This included the full and immediate amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles; freedom of speech, press, assembly, and strikes; the abolition of all class, group and religious restrictions; the election of a Constituent Assembly by universal secret ballot; the substitution of the police by a national militia; democratic elections of officials for municipalities and townships and the retention of the military units that had taken place in the revolution that had overthrown Nicholas II.

Soldiers dominated the Soviet. The workers had only one delegate for every thousand, whereas every company of soldiers might have one or even two delegates. Voting during this period showed that only about forty out of a total of 1,, were Bolsheviks. Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries were in the majority in the Soviet. The Provisional Government accepted most of these demands and introduced the eight-hour day, announced a political amnesty, abolished capital punishment and the exile of political prisoners, instituted trial by jury for all offences, put an end to discrimination based on religious, class or national criteria, created an independent judiciary, separated church and state, and committed itself to full liberty of conscience, the press, worship and association.

It also drew up plans for the election of a Constituent Assembly based on adult universal suffrage and announced this would take place in the autumn of It appeared to be the most progressive government in history.

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I went on to say that there was now a barrier between him and his people, and that if Russia was still united as a nation it was in opposing his present policy. The people, who have rallied so splendidly round their Sovereign on the outbreak of war, had seen how hundreds of thousands of lives had been sacrificed on account of the lack of rifles and munitions; how, owing to the incompetence of the administration, there had been a severe food crisis, and - much to my surprise, the Emperor himself added, "a breakdown of the railways".

All that they wanted was a Government that would carry on the war to a victorious finish.

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The Duma, I had reason to know, would be satisfied if His Majesty would but appoint as President of the Council a man whom both he and the nation could have confidence, and would allow him to choose his own colleagues. I next called His Majesty's attention to the attempts being made by the Germans, not only to create dissension between the Allies, but to estrange him from his people. The Emperor once more drew himself up and said: "I choose my Ministers myself, and do not allow anyone to influence my choice.

The unrest grows; even the monarchist principle is beginning to totter; and those who defend the idea that Russia cannot exist without a Tsar lose the ground under their feet, since the facts of disorganization and lawlessness are manifest. There are people who assert that the Ministers are at fault.


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Not so. The country now realizes that the Ministers are but fleeting shadows. The country can clearly see who sends them here. To prevent a catastrophe the Tsar himself must be removed, by force if there is no other way. The strikers and rioters in the city are now in a more defiant mood than ever. The disturbances are created by hoodlums. Youngsters and girls are running around shouting they have no bread; they do this just to create some excitement. If the weather were cold they would all probably be staying at home.

But the thing will pass and quiet down, providing the Duma behaves. The worst of the speeches are not reported in the papers, but I think that for speaking against the dynasty there should be immediate and severe punishment. The whole trouble comes from these idlers, well-dressed people, wounded soldiers, high-school girls, etc. Lily spoke to some cab-drivers to find out things. They told her that the students came to them and told them if they appeared in the streets in the morning, they should be shot to death. What corrupt minds! Of course the cabdrivers and the motormen are now on strike.

But they say that it is all different from , because they all worship you and only want bread. The situation is serious. The capital is in a state of anarchy. The government is paralyzed; the transport service has broken down; the food and fuel supplies are completely disorganized. Discontent is general and on the increase. There is wild shooting in the streets; troops are firing at each other.

It is urgent that someone enjoying the confidence of the country be entrusted with the formation of a new government. There must be no delay. Hesitation is fatal. The situation is growing worse. Measures should be taken immediately as tomorrow will be too late. The last hour has struck, when the fate of the country and dynasty is being decided.

The government is powerless to stop the disorders. The troops of the garrison cannot be relied upon. The reserve battalions of the Guard regiments are in the grips of rebellion, their officers are being killed. Having joined the mobs and the revolt of the people, they are marching on the offices of the Ministry of the Interior and the Imperial Duma.

Your Majesty, do not delay. Should the agitation reach the Army, Germany will triumph and the destruction of Russian along with the dynasty is inevitable. All attention here is concentrated on the food question, which for the moment has become unintelligible. But, on the whole, the crowds are remarkably good-tempered and presently cheer the troops, who are patrolling the streets. Revolution in Moscow. Great scenes in front of Duma. Workmen and Socialists take the upper hand and encamp in Duma.

Troops all come over. No bloodshed and the crowd on the whole very orderly. No news from Petrograd. The fine weather brought everybody out of doors, and as the bridges and approaches to the great thoroughfare were for some unaccountable reason left open, crowds of all ages and conditions made their way to the Nevsky, till the miles separating the Admiralty from the Moscow Station were black with people.

Warnings not to assemble were disregarded. No Cossacks were visible.

Russian Revolution: The February Revolution of 1917

Platoons of Guardsmen were drawn up here and there in courtyards and side streets. The crowd was fairly good-humoured, cheering the soldiers, and showing themselves ugly only towards the few visible police. Shortly after 3 p. A company of Guards took up their station near the Sadovaya and fired several volleys in the direction of the Anichkov Palace.

Something like people were killed or wounded. On the scene of the shooting hundreds of empty cartridge cases were littered in the snow, which was plentifully sprinkled with blood. After the volleys the thoroughfare was cleared, but the crowd remained on the sidewalks.

Reading Guide: The February Revolution

No animosity was shown towards the soldiers. You had to do your duty. I was talking to friends there in the corridor on the first floor, outside the office of General Manikovsky, the Chief of the Department, when General Hypatiev, the chemical expert, and M. Tereshchenko arrived with the news that the depot troops of the garrison had mutinied and were coming down the street.

I heard for the first time that a company of the Pavlovsky Regiment had fired on the police on the previous evening and had been disarmed and confined in the Preobrazhensky barracks. The Preobrazhensky and Volynsky Regiments had now mutinied. We went to the window and waited. Outside there was evident excitement, but no sound came to us through the thick double windows.

Groups were standing at the corners gesticulating and pointing down the street. Officers were hurrying away, and motorcars, my own amongst the number, were taking refuse in the courtyards of neighbouring houses. It seemed that we waited at least ten minutes before the mutineers arrived.

Craning our necks, we first saw two soldiers - a sort of advanced guard - who strode along the middle of the street, pointing their rifles at loiterers to clear the road. One of them fired two shots at an unfortunate chauffeur. Then came a great disorderly mass of soldiery, stretching right across the wide street and both pavements. They were led by a diminutive but immensely dignified student. There were no officers. All were armed, and many had red flags fastened to their bayonets.

They came slowly and finally gathered up in a compact mass in front of the Department. Soon we heard the windows and doors on the ground floor being broken in, and the sound of shots reached us. The telephone rang and Manikovsky took up the receiver. They are shooting at the Chief Artillery Department too! An excited orderly rushed in: "Your High Excellency! They are forcing their way into the building. Shall we barricade your door?


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  • Open all doors. Why should we hinder them? In a short time the whole of the city was aglow with the glare from the burning buildings which, in addition to the heavy firing, made the situation appear far worse than it actually was, and had the effect of clearing the streets of the more serious-minded and nervous citizens. The mobs presented a strange, almost grotesque appearance. Soldiers, workmen, students, hooligans and freed criminals wandered aimlessly about in detached companies, all armed, but with a strange variety of weapons.

    A student with two rifles and a belt of machine-gun bullets round his waist was walking with another with a bayonet tied to the end of a stick. A drunken soldier had only the barrel of a rifle remaining, the stock having been broken off in forcing an entry into some shop. A steady, quiet-looking business man grasped a large rifle and a formidable belt of cartridges.

    The crowds commenced to commandeer every automobile in the city, no matter to whom it might belong. These automobiles they filled with armed men, with at least two soldiers lying on the mudguards with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets. These formidable units then rushed all over the city shooting wildly, but with the chief object of hunting down the police, especially those in the outlying districts who had not yet become aware of the true state of affairs in the city.

    When all the speakers were hoarse and weary, it was certain that the whole Petrograd garrison of , men had gone over to the revolution. But the officers were not with them. Uncertain of their duty, unwilling to break their oath of allegiance, they held back - all but a very few - and passed the day in deep depression while Petrograd was rejoicing. There is no sacrifice that I would not be willing to make for the welfare and salvation of Mother Russia. Therefore I am ready to abdicate in favour of my son, under the regency of my brother Mikhail Alexandrovich, with the understanding that my son is to remain with me until he becomes of age.

    The Tsar entered the hall. After bowing to everybody, he made a short speech. He said that the welfare of his country, the necessity for putting an end to the Revolution and preventing the horrors of civil war, and of directing all the efforts of the State to the continuation of the struggle with the foe at the front, had determined him to abdicate in favour of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich.

    The astounding, and to the stranger unacquainted with the Russian character almost uncanny, orderliness and good nature of the crowds of soldiers and civilians throughout the city are perhaps the most striking features of the great Russian Revolution. At the Taurida Palace yesterday it was wonderful to see the way in which the huge gathering of soldiers and civilians managed to avoid collision.

    Inside the building the work of the various Parliamentary Committees went on day and night with unflagging intensity. Probably the predominant impression that an American received from the events of the day was the self-restraint and order of the soldiers, as well as the workingmen.