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The Decembrists and The Russian Intelligentsia

The history of Russia encompasses a vast range of revolutionary activity, aimed at the overthrow of the autocracy, from the unsuccessful uprising of Stenka Razin to the bloody upheaval of 1917. For the most part, the early revolts were provoked by the common folk who lacked functional knowledge of politics and economics to implement concrete reforms had they succeeded. In the early19th century, however, the tide changed direction as revolutionary ideas began to permeate the minds of young noblemen who, having witnessed the benefits delivered by the constitutional government to the countries of Western Europe, were prompted to release their motherland from the manacles of autocratic oppression. Appropriately named after the unsuccessful uprising of December 14, 1825, these men entered the pages of history as the Decembrists. Although the Decembrist insurrection completely failed, it was nonetheless the first attempt in modern Russian history to overthrow the absolutist regime whose leaders pursued specific political goals: reorganization of the government and abolition of serfdom. For the first time in the history of Russia, there existed an influential group of society that held conception of Russian state as distinct and separate from the ruler and administrative institutions. Intoxicated with the progressive ideas of Western Enlightenment, these young men undertook an onerous task of eradicating the absolutist regime and backwardness of their country.

Socially, nineteenth century Russia developed along the lines very different from those of Western Europe. General backwardness of the Russian society, particularly evident in the dominance of agriculture and enslavement of the peasantry, contrasts sharply with the rise of modern urban capitalistic state in the countries of Western Europe. The impact of the delayed progress was not as poignantly perceived until the War of 1812 and subsequent exposure to the Western culture saturated with sentiments of individual rights and freedoms and fashioned in the manner of a contemporary industrial state. During the victorious march of the troops across Europe, many of the latter-day Decembrists became acquainted with ideas of Enlightenment as well as a lifestyle devoid of autocratic repression and degrading institution of serfdom. Upon their return, however, they were thrust into the asphyxiatingly totalitarian Russia. A wave of indignation and humiliation billowed over the troops in response to the squelching treatment of the people at the hands of Alexander I, who earlier summoned his subjects to repulse “Napoleonic despotism yet imposed a regime more tyrannical than Napoleon had been.” [Zetlin 35] Mikhail Fonvizin reflects on the powerful impression produced by the Western culture on the minds of his cohorts and the successive desire to transform Russian into a liberal, progressive state: “During the campaigns through Germany and France our young men became acquainted with European civilization, which produced upon them the strongest impression. They were able to compare all that they had seen abroad with what confronted them at every step at home: slavery of the majority of Russians, cruel treatment of subordinates by superiors, all sorts of government abuses, and general tyranny. All this stirred intelligent Russians and provoked patriotic sentiment.” [Mazour 55]

Politically, Russia was pushed to the backfront due to its staunch adherence to autocratic government structure long abolished in the modernized, constitutional European countries. While the progressive ideas of Enlightenment were dramatically changing socio-political composition of European society, Russia remained firmly entrenched in the archaic principles of absolutism partly due to tradition and partly due to alienation of the intellectual strata from the state affairs. Under the traditionally domineering Russian monarchs, the nobles were victimized by the arbitrary display of monarchical power as much as the peasants since their socioeconomic well-being depends on the whimsical benevolence of the czar who controls the economic status of the nobility through regulation of their estates. As members of nobility began to claim their independence from the czar, a schism developed between the state and the aristocracy [Raeff, Origins 78]. Failure of the monarchy to take nobility into its confidence resulted in estrangement of the latter from state affairs producing an irremediable cleavage between the czar and the nobles. However, the widening gap between the monarchical and the aristocratic stratum allowed for the birth of a new social group within the Russian society known as intelligentsia. Comprised of the most intellectually advanced people of the time, intelligentsia issued its the first challenge to the absolutist authority in the form of the Decembrist uprising.

Masonic lodges served as a springboard for many Decembrists into a deeper pool of political action. Although many of them joined the lodges seeking a place to vent their liberalism, their interest in the establishments quickly soured as Masonry proved too narrow a field for the politically ambitious young men. Dissatisfied with philanthropic formulae of the Masons, Alexander Muraviev organized the Union of Welfare that attracted the most prominent figures of the movement–Pavel Pestel, Sergei Trubetskoi and Nikita Muraviev. Denial of freedom of speech as well as the perpetual suspicion with which the state viewed any efforts of nobility to consolidate necessitated establishment of the Union as a secret organization for whereas the government tolerated mild activities of the Masons, it would not permit an openly operating political party. The chief goals of the Union consisted of political reorganization of the government and abolition of serfdom. However, the difficulty to establish organizational and programmatic continuity within the Union resulted in cripplingly underdeveloped platforms that are rooted more in political theory than reality of Russian society and lead to the Union’s dissolution in 1820, followed by establishment of separate political camps in the North and in the South. Unlike, their French and English revolutionary counterparts, who basked in the political tradition of participation in the government through assemblies of the Estates General and Parliamentary meetings, the Decembrists were terribly removed from the political arena and thus lacked the practical knowledge of political campaigning to implement their proposals effectively. The Northern Society situated in St. Petersburg consisted of moderate reformists who lean toward establishment of the constitutional monarchy, modeled after the English version, and was headed by Sergei Trubetskoi and Nikita Muraviev. By contrast, the Southern Society instituted by Pavel Pestel in Tulchin gathered under its wings the more radical members of the movement who demanded complete eradication of the existing system and establishment of a republic upon its ruins. In terms of political development, the Northern Society followed the pattern of nineteenth century liberalism as its members sought to protect the person and property of individual citizens by imposing limitations on the hitherto arbitrary power of the monarch. As a reflection of the views of mild reformists desiring to preserve the traditional framework of the Russian society with monarch and aristocracy in tact, Trubetskoi and Muraviev’s Constitution rests on the principles of equality before law rather than equality among classes. Even though Muraviev designates people as “the source of sovereign power” [Schapiro 89], he does not imply a democratic composition of the society since in order to receive franchise, an individual has to satisfy eligibility requirements consisting of high property qualifications. Essentially, this proposal limits participation in the government to wealthy landowners as with aristocracy preserved, Russian peasant cannot hope to accrue the wealth required to subsidize his participation in the election process. Composed primarily of men of ancient noble origin, who rarely contacted with the populace, the members of the Northern Society were mostly concerned with the aristocratic elite and improvement of its social status hence neglecting the lower class, leaving it dependent on the wealthy proprietors as under the czarist regime. In its attempt to augment nobility’s influence in the affairs of the state, the Northern Society is striving to compress the gap of political alienation created by centuries of autocratic rule. Removed from the political arena for a significant portion of its existence, the nobility was now essaying to establish itself as the dominant ruling force consequently subjugating the monarch to its will, as it had previously been subordinated to his rule. The composition of the government outlined by Muraviev in the document is distinctly influenced by Montesquieu’s political theory of division of powers as it introduces the system of bicameral legislation and checks-and-balances [Agnew 223]. The sentiment of nobility’s dominance over the monarch is clearly established through the system of checks-and- balances whereby the veto of the executive power may be overridden by sufficient vote of the legislative branch. Reversal of the roles is unmistakable for nobility ceases to be a plaything of the whimsical ruler and assumes the domineering part itself stripping the monarch of his powers and reducing him to a game piece in the hands of victorious gentility. The blatant naivete of the Northerners is depicted in their sincere belief that the traditionally absolute monarch would willfully acquiesce to the limitations on his power introduced by the Constitution. Although the Northerners desired to eliminate autocracy, they nonetheless harbored a belief in the benevolence and broadmindness of their monarch. Muraviev, as did his adherents, sincerely credited Alexander with submission to constitutional government once he became acquainted with its enlightened principles.

The members of the Southern Society, led by the “Russian Jacobin” Pavel Pestel, perceived the political situation more clearly and less naively that their Northern counterparts. Composed primarily of impoverished nobility with the exclusion of Pestel and Muraviev-Apostol, the Southerners discarded the rose-tinted view of the benevolent czar, sheltered by Trubetskoi and Muraviev, pointing to the despotic rule of Alexander I as the source of wide spread decadence and misery. Therefore, Pestel’s constitution offers a less liberal and more radical method for eviction of autocratic rule–physical extermination of the royal family. Cooperation with the tyrant as well as the concept of constitutional monarchy appalled Pestel who insisted it to be a clever means to “deceive and lull people into obedience” [Zilliacus 112] through democratic masquerade of equality in the parliament. Pestel’s argument bears significant weight when considering Muraviev’s proposal for property franchise which would launch the wealthy elite on the path to becoming the ruling clique of the state, working exclusively toward its own social and economic betterment, while allowing the peasantry to remain in political obscurity. However, although Pestel extended universal male suffrage to all men exceeding age 21, there was no equality in Pestel’s Russia due to his intention to establish authoritarian government. Whereas Muraviev advocates government rule through people yet restricts franchise to the wealthy aristocracy, Pestel in extending unrestricted male suffrage proposes a government that governs in the name of the people but is not controlled by their votes. In actuality, both platforms fall considerably short of their high-soaring aspirations as notions of freedom and equality become nebulous and are transformed into a privilege or are obliterated altogether.

Locke’s theory of social contract, consisting of a pact between the government and the people, figures prominently in Pestel’s envisionment of the government structure and his division of society into two distinct groups: those who command and those who obey. Says Pestel in his testimony, “This distinction is unavoidable, for it is derived from human nature and consequently exists and should exist everywhere. The former is the government, the latter are people. Government’s role is to secure the welfare of people and for this reason it has the right to demand obedience from the people. People have the duty to obey the government and the right to demand it serves them without fail.” [Raeff, Decembrist Movement 125]

Furthermore, Pestel’s entire constitution is strongly permeated with socialistic spirit apparent in the proposals for a classless society, total annihilation of aristocracy and the merchant guilds as well as partial nationalization of land. According to Nechkina, Pestel’s political doctrine is somewhat reminiscent of Lenin’s political ideals and methods [Nechkina 175]. Both men exhibit a striking degree of similarity in the approach to reconstruction of the government through regicide, attainment of the equality in society by liquidation of the class system and subsequent establishment of a classless society and introduction of a dictatorial government that would insure a smooth transition from one political system into another. Whereas the naivete of the Northerners resided in their belief in a benevolent czar, the blindness of the Southerners is located in the conviction that dictatorship is capable of instituting equality in the society. Such political ambition proved to be of chimerical quality when in 1917 Lenin’s Provisional Government became the ruling clique of Russia and merely replaced one form of empire with another.

Lenin, however, takes into notice the cardinal miscue of Decembrists–failure to cooperate with the masses. Writes Lenin, “…we see three generations, three classes at work in the Russian revolution. First come the gentry and landowners, the Decembrists. The circle of these revolutionaries is narrow. They are terribly far from the people.” [Yarmolinsky 102]

The partial source of the Decembrists’ failure is to be located precisely in their removal from the populace whose alleviation they were campaigning. Although the Decembrists sincerely desired allayment of the yoke of serfdom from the necks of the peasantry, the idea of cooperation with the mob was repugnant even to the most liberal Decembrists. As they confined themselves to the intellectual circle, the Decembrists developed erroneous perceptions of what freedom means to the Russian peasant. Although they have lived side by side with the serfs from childhood, none of the Decembrists truly understands the mind of the peasant. Consequently, inability to identify with him, vividly illustrated by the emancipation projects, and involve him into the revolutionary process results in the absence of popular support to produce a successful large scale revolution.

Nurtured by the lofty ideals of natural freedom that deem any infringement on individual’s inalienable rights as degrading, Muraviev proposed emancipation from serfdom without allocation of land to the liberated peasants. Liberty itself is to be their greatest reward, according to Trubetskoi [Andreeva 110]. Lack of familiarity with the economic concepts and the traditional ties of Russian peasants to the land are clearly perceived in the ethereal foundation of this platform. Implementation of such proposal would yield mass pauperization as their was no industry in Russia large enough to absorb the excess rural population. Under the liberal laissez-faire economy, the emancipated peasants would either perish from famine or forced to hire themselves out on miserable wages to their former masters. In either circumstance, the economic condition of the peasant remains as impecunious as under the czarist regime. Furthermore, liberated without land, the peasants would inevitably revolted against the government that robbed them of their most precious attachment. Land represented a life elixir for the Russian peasant who was not able to picture himself apart from it and hence could not submit to the system that deprived him of it.

Pestel’s emancipation project is equally unbalanced as pays more heed to the economic status of the peasant than his social freedom While Pestel allocates a plot of land to the liberated serf, he at the same time traps him within the fences of a centralized economy whereby the farmer is subjected to the rigid rules of production and is prohibited from obtaining profit. Both these types of emancipation have one thing in common: neither gives the serf complete freedom One offers him personal freedom but limited means to procure living, the other seeks to secure his economic status but denies personal freedom.

Lack of agreement and coordination between the Northern Society and the Southern Society as well as paralyzing underdevelopment of the emancipation projects and governmental schemes revealed itself in the hopeless failure of the uprising on the December 14, 1825. Even though the political confusion within the Russian state, created by Alexander’s death and ensuing dispute pertaining to succession, generated a favorable atmosphere for a rebellion, the Decembrists were not able to seize the opportunity due to these very reasons. As a result the only regiment that lend its support to the insurgents was easily disbanded by a few shots from the Czarist troops followed by the arrest of the leaders. The revolt in the South, which took place two weeks later, is just as easily suppressed, its leaders being arrested as well.

The Decembrist revolt marked a turning point in the history of Russian revolutionary movement due to its introduction of influential and intellectually advanced individuals into the battle against autocracy. Unlike their predecessors, who lacked functional knowledge of politics and economics to implement concrete reforms upon victory, Decembrists devised definitive platforms outlining the future course of the Russian state. Although for the most part these platforms were underdeveloped and conflicting in content, their significance lies in their being first concrete political documents in Russian history proposing a specific form of government and composition of society. The failure of the uprising to eliminate absolutism, however, does not constitute withering of the revolutionary seed planted by the Decembrists. The Decembrists, in fact, came to be regarded as the forefathers of the Russian revolutionary movement by the future insurgents, including Herzen, Petraschevsky and Lenin who looked to the Decembrists as an inspiration in their fight against the autocracy. [Ulam 27]

The first of these events was “Bloody Sunday,” the catastrophe that initiated the Revolution of 1905. On the morning of Sunday, January 9, 1905, thousands of striking workers, including their wives and children, marched into the square to present a petition for relief to Nicholas II. They were met by soldiers, who began firing on the crowd almost immediately, killing hundreds (according to some accounts thousands) of the demonstrators. The causes of the massacre are disputed, particularly in light of the complicated political tensions in the government at the time. Some historians, for example, argue that both the demonstration and the military reaction were planned by the conservative secret police, who were alarmed by signs that the Tsar had decided upon reform. Whatever its cause, the effect of Bloody Sunday was clear–popular opposition to the Tsar was galvanized, and conservative reactionaries gained strength in the government.

In the wake of Bloody Sunday the country’s politics became increasingly divisive, and genuine compromise and reform unlikely. Civil unrest broke out all over the country, and, with the disaster of the Russo-Japanese War, the government was forced to accede to popular demands for reform. It soon became clear, however, that Nicholas and his government had no intention of making good on this agreement. Popular discontent and radical political movements were harshly repressed. While these policies were successful for a time, the government’s inept conduct during the First World War created an enormous surge of dissent. The critical turning point came in February of 1917, when the underfed, poorly led, and discontented army refused to act to put down strikes in Moscow and St. Petersburg and called for an end to the war. By March, Nicholas had no choice but to abdicate.

A provisional government assumed control under the leadership of the moderates, first Prince Lvov, then (in July) Aleksandr Kerensky. From its seat in the Winter Palace, the Kerensky government tried and failed to gain popular support and restore civil order. Among the socialist anti-government parties, the radical Bolshevik wing gradually gained strength among the increasingly impatient army and workers. Within a few months the Bolsheviks decided to assume power. On the night of October 26 they staged an armed coup d’etat, storming across the Palace Square and seizing the Provisional Government as it met within the Winter Palace. Although the storming of the Winter Palace was by no means the massive popular uprising that it was to become in the Bolshevik commemorations and in Sergei Eisenstein’s film October, it was certainly the moment of symbolic birth of the Soviet state.

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The March 1917 Revolution in Russia

In March 1917, the situation for the Russians had become desperate and the workers wanted political changes as well as food and fuel. In Petrograd (as St.Petersburg had been renamed to avoid any German connection), 40,000 workers went on strike for higher wages and the people and troops overthrew the Tsar. The Rominov dynasty was to end after 304 years, bought down by the March 1917 revolution. So what were the long and short term causes that led to this milestone in history? Firstly we have to ask ourselves, what is a long-term cause and what is a short-term cause. I consider a long-term cause to be something that happened more than one year before the event, in the case of the Russian revolution, before 1916. A short-term cause therefore is something that happened a year or less before the event, 1916 till 1917. This is usually the final spark, triggering the inevitable – the Russian revolution. Now I am going to examine the various long-term causes that led to the Russian revolution.

The Tsars autocracy was very badly organised and caused many conflicts between the people and the Russian government. It had been like this for a long time and needed a complete change. The Tsarist system meant that the Tsar had complete power and authority. He was the head of the state and had control over the Russian Orthodox Church. All the important decisions were made in St.Petersburg, without asking the people of Russia what their views were – decisions that were made were announced by 1000’s of officials and bureaucrats. This angered the people as they felt the Tsar was ignoring them and did not care about their opinions. Nearly 90% of people were peasants and most were poverty stricken. They worked with the most basic tools. Half the farming land belonged to 300,000 landowners but the other half was shared with 15 million peasant families. In the cities and countryside the government and bureaucrats and secret police appeared to be in control, but underneath Russia was seething with discontent.

From this discontent, various opposition parties were active throughout the country, even though they were usually executed, imprisoned or sent to Siberia. The main group was the Socialist Revolutionaries; they had a lot of support from peasants. Another was the Russian Social Democratic party, founded in 1898, it appealed to many town workers but then split in 1903 to the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. These two groups followed the teachings of Karl Marx. The Bolsheviks allowed only fully committed members to join in with opposing the Tsarist system. The Mensheviks were more cooperative and stood in elections for duma parties and issued propaganda and organized strikes against the Tsar. Then there was the problem of the wide range of nationalities in Russia. Less than half the Tsars subjects were Russian, invaded nations like the Poles from Poland and the Finns from Finland were anxious to overthrow the Tsar. Only up until the outbreak of the First World War did these groups cause real trouble and damage the Tsar’s reputation and ability to rule; this was a long-term problem that could not be avoided. But in July 1914 Russia entered the First World War on the side of France and Britain, fighting Germany and Austria-Hungary.

This outbreak of war at first helped the Tsar. All the classes rallied together and initially wanted to help the Tsar and looked at him for leadership, but then after their first defeat at Tannenburg, everything changed after the Tsar made some fatal mistakes.

In August 1915, the Tsar left Petrograd to command the Russian army. He therefore received the blame personally for all their defeats and lost control of his troops as he left Rasputin and the Tsarina to rule Russia. His army also consisted of millions of poor, starving peasants with bad equipment, poor supplies of rifles and ammunition. In 1916, two million soldiers were killed or seriously wounded, and one third of a million taken prisoners, and the civilian population were horrified. They considered the Tsar irresponsible for taking over the army and held him responsible for everything; as a result more conflicts between the people were started.

Gregory Rasputin, as mentioned earlier, was another figure that played a significant part in causing the Russian revolution. He was a monk in the Russian Orthodox Church and had increasing importance and influence on the Tsar as he helped cure Alexei of haemophilia. He made a mockery of the Royal Family and the people of Russia despised him for his rebellious background and the rumours surrounding him. The Tsar was so taken in by him; he left Rasputin and the Tsarina to rule Russia during the First World War. The people did not trust either of them, as the Tsarina was Russian and thought she would deliberately rule Russia badly so Russia would lose the war and Germany win. Even though this chaotic situation would have challenged the best of leaders, the Tsarina and Rasputin made it worse. They dismissed able ministers, replacing them with hopeless ones and wild rumours began to spread about Tsarina and Rasputin being lovers – the situation was on the verge of breaking point and had almost spelt the end of the Tsarist regime.

All these long-term causes were ongoing, and Russia almost had a complete revolution in 1905. This was caused by Russia’s defeat by Japan and this almost overthrew the Tsar and he was forced to introduce a Duma. This was a supposed ‘parliament’ that could only give advice to the Tsar and this was ignored – members who opposed the Tsar were executed/imprisoned. The Tsar still kept the majority of political power but it did weaken his authority. After the 1905 revolution and the Duma being introduced, they did introduce some reforms such as opening schools and giving efficient peasants more land, but still little for town workers

The Russian economy was also a major long-term problem that helped contribute to this Russian revolution. Nearly 90% of people were peasants and most were poverty stricken. They worked with the most basic tools. Half the farming land belonged to 300,000 landowners but the other half was shared with 15 million peasant families. The outraged the people and the economy was in tatters; Russia needed a quick change. Industry was also a big failure; there were large numbers of poor landless peasants who worked long hours with low wages and lived in appalling slums. Karl Marx wrote in ‘The Communist Manifesto’ in 1848: ‘they have nothing to lose but their chains’. This was a very accurate but sad way of describing the peasant’s lives; the Tsar did not seem to have any concern for them and seemed to focus on the higher-class people. This system of governing Russia was severely unfair and had been so, since Nicholas II took over position of the Tsar.

It was however considerably hard to organise and look out for these peasants and people of Russia, due to Russia’s geography. It stretches from East to West over 4,000 miles with a very inadequate transport system. It took over a week to travel across Russia consequently news and messages took a long time to get across to different people in Russia. For example at the end of a conference it could take days for the result to be broadcasted around Russia! In addition, people starved, not because of shortage of food, but the fact that most of it was left to rot on the railway track or in the trains during transit. There were severe food shortages in the year leading up to the 1917 Revolution, and there were lots of strikes too. This was because of the ridiculously low wages and long hours the working peasants had to endure. The conditions were disgraceful and something had to be done. The situation was approaching breaking point.

Then in 1917 the inevitable happened. Russia was plunged into revolution. This had been expected for a long time. Event after event in history triggered conflicts and more discontent. All the long term causes over the years included opposition to the Tsar, the social structure of the Royal Family, economic and industrial hardship and so on. These triggered events nearer to 1917 such as the various strikes and food shortages that were short-term causes. This proves that you always need long term and short term causes for something major to happen. The revolution was a milestone in the history of Russia and constituted of a much-needed change in the daily lives and conditions of the working classes.

Causes of the 1917 Russian Revolution: The Impact of the First World War

There are many long term and short term causes of the 1917 Russian Revolution including the opposition to the Tsar, the abdication of the Tsar, Russia’s shattered economy and industry, the First World War, the social structure of the Russian government, Russia’s geography and so on. There is one cause that I think inevitably helped cause or did cause the others: The outbreak of the First World War in 1914. This was a long-term cause and lasted from 1914 to 1918, and triggered chaos in Russia.

Initially, this outbreak of war helped the Tsar as the classes looked to the ‘Little Father’ as Nicholas was known by, for help and leadership – they thought this would be a time when Russia would ‘pull together’. At first the Russian armies did well but war enthusiasm did not last. However, at Tannenburg in August, there was a heavy defeat of one of two main Russian armies by Germans. Then in September 1914, the second Russian army was driven out of East Germany. The Russian armies then reformed and counter attacked Galacia, the army was in full retreat and had lost over one million men. However the Russians did have a victory over the Austrians on the Galician front. From 1915, large parts of the Russian empire fell into enemy hands.

In August 1915, Nicholas II left Petrograd to take over the Russian army. This was a fatal mistake as he received the blame personally for Russia’s defeats and he lost control of his troops. It also meant leaving his German wife, Tsarina Alexandra and her adviser, Gregory Rasputin better known as Rasputin to rule Russia. The people were losing trust in the Tsarina, as she was German. Rasputin was introduced to the Royal Family in 1905 and had increasing importance and influence over them, especially after he cured Alexei (the Tsars son) of haemophilia. The people of Russia did not trust this mysterious new figure due to his rebellious background and the disturbing rumours regarding his social life that surrounded him. They considered the Tsar very nave to leave Rasputin and the Tsarina to rule Russia after he had gone toe command the Russian armies.

The Russian army consisted of millions of peasants but they had bad equipment to fight with. By December 1915, more than one third of all men of the working age had been recruited into the army of fifteen million troops. By 1916, peasants were being asked to bring pitchforks with them when they were called up for their service. Not surprisingly, Russian casualties were very high. In 1916, two million soldiers were killed or seriously wounded and one third were taken prisoner. Soldiers saw their comrades as they were being slaughtered in a futile manner – officers were blamed and it was severely disturbing and unjust. Consequently, when these people were being recruited to fight in the war, the unemployment rate in the cities increased and factories were desperate for workers. Wages got lower and lower so the factory owners could afford to employ them and more and more strikes broke out. In December 1916, workers in Petrograd starved due to lack of workers – Russia was in chaos. Not only the soldiers but also the civilian population became angry.

In January 1917, Russian armies were driven out of Poland and Romania. The Tsar was ignoring the Duma’s advice regarding Russia’s demand for a change in government so consequently more strikes broke out. The Russians blamed the Tsar and did not support him anymore, which contributed to the Tsars abdication from the throne in 1917. On March the 7th, 1917, a food riot in St.Petersburg broke out, 40,000 workers went on strike for higher wages. Women joined the strike due to extreme hunger. When the Tsar ordered the army to stop these riots, the army instead joined in with them and did not stop the protesters! The Tsar could not operate!

From this account on the events of the First World War we can see that because of this War, the strikes broke out and people starved due to lack of money or workers. Without this war, the opposition parties would have not had such a great impact on Russia and the Tsar, the Tsar would not of made those fatal mistakes he made, even though the economic and industrial situation was not great before the war, after the revolution things changed for the better. It helped all the people realise what was needed a complete reform in the practises and lives of the Russians. Conditions before the war had not improved at all as well. Prices of good were constantly rising but wages were not going up at all. Families were in a mess, workers asked for more hours to make end meet. Peasants were constricted into the army, which meant fewer workers that caused food shortages and a drop in the living standards of the peasants. Without the war, these things would have carried on getting more and more out of control because the main trigger of the Russian 1917 revolution was the strikes and Nicholas’s behaviour in War.

I therefore consider this long-term cause of the First World War to be the main cause that contributed to all the others – without this main cause the Revolution may not have happened at all. That would have caused immense chaos and uproar because eventually the situation would have reached breaking point.

Floods

St. Petersburg is often threatened by floods as most of its downtown territory is located just several feet above sea level. The founder of the city, Peter the Great, had chosen a very low-lying area on which to build St. Petersburg and from its very foundation, floods were a major problem. In August 1703, three months after the city was founded, the waters of the Neva River rose 6 feet above normal levels and washed away construction materials for the Peter and Paul Fortress. The city has experienced over 270 major floods since then.

The largest flood occurred on November 19 1824, when the river reached 13.5 feet (410 centimeters) over the usual level. On that day most of the city was flooded, between 208 and 569 people were drowned and 462 houses were destroyed. The second severest flood (over 12 feet high) was in 1924. In some areas of the city the water flowed to a height of 7-8 feet and many of the ships in the port were washed ashore.

Interestingly and rather surprisingly, St. Petersburg’s flooding patterns are closely connected with the movement of low-pressure air masses over the Atlantic. Low- pressure air moves in from the West, creating so-called “long waves” that bring extra water into the Gulf of Finland and the mouth of the Neva River. Strong Westerly winds then effectively block the flow of water from the mighty Neva into the Gulf of Finland, and the river level is forced to rise and spill the excess water over its banks and onto the city.

Most of the floods take place in the fall and early winter when all the above negative factors combine. Since the 18th century the level of the city’s streets has been increased significantly, but some of the areas close to the rivers and canals can still be seriously damaged during major floods. In the 1970s the decision was taken to build a long dam across the Gulf of Finland (west of St. Petersburg), which would protect the city from the affects of the floods. However, the project was not completed due to a huge environmental controversy and a lack of funding. Meanwhile, the problem is far from solved and the city awaits the next major flood with a distinct air of apprehension.


 
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