The February/March Revolution evolution that overthrew the Russian monarchy

The February/March Revolution How far would you agree that the February/March revolution that overthrew the Russian monarchy was a “spontaneous uprising”? Answer this question and develop a deep analysis. The second revolution in Russia at the time of World War One, following the first revolt in 1905, took place in February (March for the rest of Europe) of the year 1917. At the time, the conditions of the nation were strained under almost every aspect.

The decision of the Tsar Nicholas II to appoint himself as supreme commander of the military forces had lead to a series of serious military defeats, and the number of casualties was extremely high. While Russia was occupied in the fighting, in the attempt to organize its forces, the population was suffering from severe food shortages, and a high inflation and unemployment rate, which had lead to workers demanding better living standards and peasants land redistribution through multiple strikes and demonstrations. Although some were still in support of the war, the public dissent indicated that most demanded the end of the conflict.

The February Revolution began officially on February 23 (March 8) when various incidents took place in the same few days. Rioters, in particular numerous women from working class families in occasion of the socialist’s International Women’s Day, had taken to the streets as a sign of protest for the high bread prices and shortage. They were then joined by thousand of factory workers who had been locked out of the Putilov Iron Works factory for demanding a higher salary and had gone on strike. The combined forces of many other industrial workers and people in the streets of Petrograd, the capital (St.

Petersburg), gained momentum as the dissenters marched towards the center. The Tsar ordered the police units and the regiments to disperse the protesting masses, however most of the military garrison mutinied and joined the demonstrators. The troops did kill 40 unarmed people, yet they were unable to suppress the mobs. The ex-military units seized police stations and weapon arsenals, arresting ministers and liberating prisoners. Although the Duma did advise Nicholas II to establish a constitutional monarchy, the Tar’s reply was to order more troops to the streets.

On February 27 the revolution reached its climax, meanwhile the State Duma had established a Provisional Committee which would negotiate with the Soviet’s newly formed Executive Committee, and a few days later the Duma nominated a Provisional Government. When even the High Command of the Russian Army suggested that Nicholas II renounce his position, the Tsar was forced to abdicate in favor of his brother the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, who unexpectedly refused- thus marking the collapse of the dynasty of the Romanov on March 2.

As the monarchy came to an abrupt end, the Provisional Government was left in power, primarily composed by a coalition of socialists- Social Revolutionaries and Social Democrats (specifically Mensheviks). The question as to whether the February Revolution was a spontaneous uprising or an organized event has often been at the center of debate and controversy. It has been argued that the conspiracy amongst the elite of society did constitute a decisive factor for the outcome, and that these forces acted together to push the Tsar to abdicate in order to prevent the possibility of a real mass revolution from taking place.

In such case, the revolution from “above” would have centrally involved only the Duma members, nobles and generals, taking into less consideration the masses who invaded the streets of St. Petersburg and who enabled the military units to mutiny and abandon their role, attributing to them only a secondary position. However, it was the movement of the people which represented almost a threat for the elite, threw it into panic and forced it to take further steps. Without the presence of the demonstrators, the higher ranks of society had no need to act immediately.

Although it is plausible that a revolution was in the same period being elaborated for a later time, and both the plan of the Bolsheviks for a grand demonstration in the occasion of May Day and that of the liberals (such as industrialist, workers and financiers) to perform a coup d’etat which would have enabled the war to continue have been acknowledged, the escalation of the protests and the eruption of the popular revolution took everyone by surprise and most people accepted the events as they unraveled.

The February events have indeed often been defined as “sudden and unexpected” or “spontaneous and anonymous”. The fact that the thousands of dissenters which marched throughout the capital were civilian citizens- workers, peasants, women and industrialists, and that the number of people continued to grow day after days as more joined the throngs and mobs, may serve as the most evident confirmation that the revolt came from “below” and perhaps even anticipated the plans of other groups.

When assuming that the February Revolution was indeed spontaneous as in a revolt born from the proletariat and the masses, the role of the Bolsheviks in the succession of events has also been questioned when considering the definition of spontaneous as unorganized and unstructured. On one hand, the prevalence of Soviet historians argue that the role of the Bolsheviks was vital in leading the revolution through strikes and demonstrations.

The presence of “Bolshevik agitators” during the protests and marches indeed cannot be denied nor discredited, as activists from Russia’s revolutionary underground did include these amongst others. In addition the Bolsheviks, guided by an anti-war attitude, had intended for the people to be mobilized against the autocratic regime during the demonstrations on May Day- proving that they were involved to a certain point.

On the other hand however, the revolution has been said to not have been directed “by any organized political group” and similarly the activists among the demonstrators supposedly were not affiliated to any of these either. The most widely accepted theory states that the people protesting were motivated by economic issues rather than by political concerns, demanding higher wages, more land and better, more decent living standards instead.

It must also be said that political awareness in general was extremely strong during that period for what concerns the majority of the population. Other sources claim as well that although the Bolsheviks attempted to be recognized some merit for the revolution, in reality most of the party’s leadership was absent from Russia and St. Petersburg at the time, due to imprisonment or exile, and those members present did not belong to any of the higher ranks.

It must be stated that the role of the Bolsheviks is certain once the government was formed, as they were one of the underground revolutionary parties which successively called upon the population to elect the soviets, and dominated these, creating a duality of power and authority with the Provisional Government. What is therefore certain, with hindsight, is that in any case the February Revolution and the weaknesses of the Provisional Government facilitated the Bolshevik’s successive rise to power during the following October/November

Revolution. The question as to whether the February Revolution was a spontaneous uprising or an organized event has often been at the center of debate and controversy. It has been argued that the conspiracy amongst the elite of society did constitute a decisive factor for the outcome, and that these forces acted together to push the Tsar to abdicate in order to prevent the possibility of a real mass revolution from taking place.

In such case, the revolution from “above” would have centrally involved only the Duma members, nobles and generals, taking into less consideration the masses who invaded the streets of St. Petersburg and who enabled the military units to mutiny and abandon their role, attributing to them only a secondary position. However, it was the movement of the people which represented almost a threat for the elite, threw it into panic and forced it to take further steps. Without the presence of the demonstrators, the higher ranks of society had no need to act immediately.

Although it is plausible that a revolution was in the same period being elaborated for a later time, and both the plan of the Bolsheviks for a grand demonstration in the occasion of May Day and that of the liberals (such as industrialist, workers and financiers) to perform a coup d’etat which would have enabled the war to continue have been acknowledged, the escalation of the protests and the eruption of the popular revolution took everyone by surprise and most people accepted the events as they unraveled.

The February events have indeed often been defined as “sudden and unexpected” or “spontaneous and anonymous”. The fact that the thousands of dissenters which marched throughout the capital were civilian citizens- workers, peasants, women and industrialists, and that the number of people continued to grow day after days as more joined the throngs and mobs, may serve as the most evident confirmation that the revolt came from “below” and perhaps even anticipated the plans of other groups.

When assuming that the February Revolution was indeed spontaneous as in a revolt born from the proletariat and the masses, the role of the Bolsheviks in the succession of events has also been questioned when considering the definition of spontaneous as unorganized and unstructured. On one hand, the prevalence of Soviet historians argue that the role of the Bolsheviks was vital in leading the revolution through strikes and demonstrations.

The presence of “Bolshevik agitators” during the protests and marches indeed cannot be denied nor discredited, as activists from Russia’s revolutionary underground did include these amongst others. In addition the Bolsheviks, guided by an anti-war attitude, had intended for the people to be mobilized against the autocratic regime during the demonstrations on May Day- proving that they were involved to a certain point.

On the other hand however, the revolution has been said to not have been directed “by any organized political group” and similarly the activists among the demonstrators supposedly were not affiliated to any of these either. The most widely accepted theory states that the people protesting were motivated by economic issues rather than by political concerns, demanding higher wages, more land and better, more decent living standards instead.

It must also be said that political awareness in general was extremely strong during that period for what concerns the majority of the population. Other sources claim as well that although the Bolsheviks attempted to be recognized some merit for the revolution, in reality most of the party’s leadership was absent from Russia and St. Petersburg at the time, due to imprisonment or exile, and those members present did not belong to any of the higher ranks.

It must be stated that the role of the Bolsheviks is certain once the government was formed, as they were one of the underground revolutionary parties which successively called upon the population to elect the soviets, and dominated these, creating a duality of power and authority with the Provisional Government. What is therefore certain, with hindsight, is that in any case the February Revolution and the weaknesses of the Provisional Government facilitated the Bolshevik’s successive rise to power during the following October/November Revolution.