“Every social group, every nationality, every region, every town, every village, had its own revolution”, wrote Christopher Read and indeed, 1917 proved to be for Russia a year of turmoil and change. Traditionally, however, 1917 is known as a year of two revolutions, February Revolution and October Revolution . Yet, how different were they, in their nature and in their causes? On the surface two 1917 revolutions divided by eight months had nothing in common: the first was a rather spontaneous collapse of the tsardom from within, while the second was a seizure of power by the Bolsheviks from Provisional Government which had replaced the Tsar. The nature of two revolutions does seem rather dissimilar, especially in terms of preparation and scale; however the causation appears to be analogous at many points: many reasons that led to collapse of the tsardom, such as social and economic discontent, war, attitude of the armed forces and incompetence of the government, resemble reasons that led to destruction of the Provisional government. Yet, unlike rather spontaneous February revolution, October revolution was planned and carried out by a particular group – Bolsheviks, without participation of which the revolution would have not been possible.
[...] Lenin's arrival in April 1917 was marked with April Thesis that manifested unique and new position complete rejection of the Provisional government. Lenin combined the new ideas of his Thesis with some successful action: knowing about land seizures in the countryside he adjusted Marxist theory to present peasants as a revolutionary class thus initiating great afflux not only of peasantry to Bolshevik party but also of some of the left SRs, raising party membership sharply. The campaigning to win the support of workers and soldiers was also undertaken, and soon Bolsheviks gained a majority in Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. [...]
[...] Spreading rumours about Rasputin's extreme influence over Tsarina and the government, and about his vulgar relationship with Alexandra led to alienation of Russian nobles and professional classes from the court. Power vacuum was gradually forming; the base of the autocracy masses' belief in the divine right and infallibility of the Tsar, was being shaken. Even liberals and monarchists, potential supporters for the regime felt that the regime was on the verge of collapse, coming to believe that Tsar's abdication would prevent a revolution. [...]
[...] October revolution on the contrary, was Bolshevik seizure of power and as Trotsky said, I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October revolution would still have taken place on the condition that Lenin was present and in command” (Lynch, 98). Trotsky perhaps slightly exaggerated Lenin's influence on the revolution but he expressed the important difference between two revolutions: if one lacked any leadership, during the second leadership of Lenin and Bolsheviks was essential. B. Scale and spontaneity : from overthrow of a government to people's revolutions The spontaneity and swiftness of the February revolution also contrasts sharply the planning of the October revolution. [...]
[...] An ever-growing discontent of the masses: workers' and peasants' distress The attitude of peasants and workers preceding the two revolutions resembles in its radicalism, although pre-October attitude was by far worse. If before February peasants had enough to eat, only lacking other necessities and rising only when the rest of the country rose, before October they seized private land, sought equality, election of local officials by themselves and free education. Organising themselves into committees, at first many peasants waited patiently for a legal transfer of land. [...]
[...] After first two years of the war most officers were dead: the army was no longer the loyal one of 1914; the remains of loyal and trained troops were at the front line. New army consisted of peasants who were quick to loose their loyalty and patriotism. The oppositional mood spread even to the generals who came to see Nicholas as an obstacle to victory and a guarantee of revolution: in 1917 General Krymov told Rodzianko, the Chairman of Duma that army would welcome a coup d'état. [...]
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