The Russian Revolution, c.1894-1917

The Russian Revolution, c.1894-1917

Tsar Nicholas II and Prelude to Revolution (1894-1914)

  • The reign of Tsar Nicholas II started in 1894, marked by strict maintenance of autocracy and disregard of growing demands for political reform.
  • Industrialization and urbanization from 1894 to 1914 led to the rise of a discontented proletariat, working in harsh conditions with little political representation.
  • The disastrous effects of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) exposed Russia’s military and administrative shortcoming and led to social and political unrest.
  • Bloody Sunday in Jan 1905, when peaceful demonstrators gathered at the Winter Palace were shot down by the Imperial Guard, turned popular opinion against the Tsar.
  • The subsequent, widespread revolt forced Nicholas to issue the October Manifesto, granting civil liberties and introducing legislative assembly, the Duma.

First World War and February Revolution (1914-1917)

  • Military disasters in World War I and food shortages at home led to further discontent and suffering.
  • Nicholas II took personal charge of the war in 1915, increasing his unpopularity as defeats continued.
  • The February Revolution in 1917 was triggered by ongoing food shortages and military failures. Demonstrations and strikes in Petrograd forced Nicholas II to abdicate.
  • The Provisional Government, led first by Prince Georgy Lvov and then by Alexander Kerensky, was formed but it struggled to maintain order and continue fighting the war.

Bolshevik Revolution (October 1917)

  • Seizing the state of chaos, Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik Party successfully took control in the October Revolution.
  • The Bolsheviks seized power from the Provisional Government, heralding the start of a new political regime in Russia.
  • With ‘land, peace and bread’ as their slogan, they managed to end Russia’s participation in World War I with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This saw Russia ceding large territories to Germany.
  • By the end of 1917, Russia was on the path to becoming a communist state, setting the stage for a civil war that would intensify in 1918.