Why did the Tsar abdicate after the 1917 revolution

Russian kings called themselves ‘Tsar’, meaning emperor. Unlike the rulers of the other great powers, by 1900 the Tsar still ruled the country on his own, with help from ministers he chose, who answered only to him. The people in Russia had no right to vote and there was no parliament. Local government was in the hands of provincial governors appointed by the Tsar. The whole system depended a lot on the ability of the Tsar. If the Tsar was talented and a strong leader then the government might work well, despite the size of the country.

But in complete contrast if the Tsar was weak the country may slip back into anarchy. Therefore most of the Tsars were harsh and repressive in the way that they ruled. In many ways, Russia was still in the middle ages. Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918) was Russia’s last emperor, he was born on 18 May 1868 in Tsarskoe Selo. Nicholas succeeded his father’s throne, Alexander III, when his father died from liver disease on 20 October 1894. Nicholas was 26. The same year Nicholas married Princess Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt, the grand daughter of Queen Victoria.

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Alexandra played a huge part in convincing Nicholas to resist ever growing calls for increased democracy within Russia. Alexandra was a firm believer in the autocratic principle. Nicholas required little persuasion as a nationalist he condemned those who favored western style democracy. Nicholas and Alexandra had five children four daughters and one long awaited son who unfortunately had hemophilia. When Tsar Nicholas II came to the throne in 1894, he seemed to have much to offer. He was hard working, sincere and devoted to his family.

However he also had significant weaknesses. He was indecisive and found it hard to govern the country. Also he was not able to respond to the great pressures for change that were building up in Russian society. Instead he saw a Russia where he was the supreme ruler and he was unchallenged. At the time when Russia needed a flexible and imaginative ruler, it got a Tsar who saw any modernism as a threat to his position. The War played a big part in both revolutions, in 1905 and in 1914. In the 1905 the war was with the Japanese over Manchuria, an area of northern China.

People thought that the big heavy weight, Russia, would have little difficulty dealing with Japan. But the war revealed the weaknesses of the Tsar’s regime. As the fighting was in the far east of Russia it took the Tsar some to time to get his troops there which immediately gave Japan the upper hand. The Russian Baltic Fleet was ordered to sail half way round the world to take part in the fighting. When they finally arrived, they were defeated by the Japanese navy in a matter of hours. The Tsar was forced to ask the Japanese for peace.

The loss in the war actually turned out to be a good thing, as the troops were then able to return home still loyal to the Tsar and extinguish the protestors in the revolution. In 1914 the war was a whole lot different. This time the fighting was taking place on the western boarder of Russia. Again the people believed that the troops would be back in a short space of time, this time for Christmas (The First World War started in June), but this was WW1 it was never going to be over in just 6 months. The First World War had much more blood shed then the Russo-Japanese war and it lasted a lot longer.

Also the conditions were awful in WW1 and there were little supplies of everything. There was very little food and even though there were many soldiers fighting for Russia they were awfully equipped as there was only 1 rifle for every 2-3 soldiers. As the war was going terribly wrong the Tsar decided to take charge and control the army leaving his wife in charge of the political matters. This was an awful decision as from that point onwards he got all of the blame from the misfortunes of the war. The troops eventually started rebelling themselves and left the fighting to join the protestors.

The Tsar lost the soldiers trust unlike in the Russo-Japanese war where he kept the soldiers trust. Immediately you can see that the war was much worse in 1914-1917 than in 1905. This is because of the conditions of the wars. In 1905 the war was quick, they did lose but there wasn’t a huge death count. Whereas in WW1 there was a colossal death count. In the Russo-Japanese there were roughly 55,000 Russian deaths whereas in WW1 there were roughly 3,311,000 deaths, just under half of which were civilian. This shows the severity of WW1 and why it had a large effect on the Tsar abdicating.

One of the most significant influences on the Tsars abdication in 1917 and the fact that he didn’t in 1905 was the opposition to him. In 1905 and 1917 the Tsar had the same opposition but they just worked differently together. The opposition was, The Kadets who were mainly middle class, Social Revolutionaries (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) who were mainly peasants and The Social Democratic Party (Marxists) who were the main population, industrial workers. In 1905 they all wanted different things. The Kadets wanted two things, these were a constitution monarch and a republic.

The Bolsheviks wanted to seize power at the first opportunity where as the Mensheviks wanted to cooperate with the other groups to improve people’s lives. Finally the Social Democratic Party wanted to make everyone equal, they wanted communism. Also The Kadets refused to use violence which was a weakness as every other group was willing to use violence. In 1905 the Tsar made the very important decision of whether to give in or use force and he chose to give in. When he gave in he issued the October Manifesto. This promised a parliament or Duma elected by the people, civil rights e. . freedom of speech and uncensored newspapers. The People should certainy not have trusted the Tsar as he got rid of the October Manifesto and any one who rebelled was killed or exiled. In 1917 the opposition was much more effective. In 1917 the opposition worked together and instead of all wanting different things to come out of the rebellion/reform, they all wanted one thing, this was the abdication of the Tsar. Therefore because they worked together they had one strong rebellion instead of a few smaller ones like in 1905.

Also in 1917 there was no one to crush the rebellion because the soldiers were fighting in WW1 and the soldiers that weren’t fighting had rebelled as well and were helping the people. In 1905 the rebels/opposition didn’t work together so they were crushed by the force of the soldiers whereas in 1917 they rebels worked together to form one big rebellion. Also one of the key reasons the rebellion worked in 1917 and not 1905 was the fact that there was no soldiers available to crush the rebellion as they were either helping the rebellion or fighting the war.

The Tsar had the biggest effect on his own abdication, what were the things he did differently in 1905 than in 1917? In 1905 the decision that I believe saved him was the peace treaty with Japan as this enabled him to keep his troops trust and so he could bring them back and crush the rebellion. If he hadn’t of done this then he would not have had any protection and the rebellion would probably have spiraled out of his hands. In 1905 he also indirectly sparked of the rebellion, this was because of his troops opening fire on an unarmed group of protesters which had women and children in it.

He did not directly order it but all the people thought he did. Also in 1905 he made a decision that saved him but which also condemned him in 1917. This was the October Manifesto. This gave the protestors what they wanted and peace was restored. But later that year the Tsar got rid of the October Manifesto and exiled or imprisoned any one who argued. The reason this condemned him in 1917 was because after the Tsar got rid of the Manifesto the people didn’t trust him so therefore in 1917 he had no escape, they would only settle for his abdication.

In 1917 one of the awful decisions the Tsar made was to leave the Tsarina in charge of the country while he went to control the war. This was a very bad idea, as she had no political knowledge or experience. Also she was greatly influenced by Rasputin who was hated by parliament and the people of Russia. This shows that the Tsar obviously made bad decisions in 1917 which effected his abdication from the throne. Also it shows that some of the decisions he made 1905 eventually helped cause his abdication in 1917.

In both 1905 and 1917 the Army had a large influence on the out come of the rebellions but in different ways, also in both 1905 and 1917 Russia was fighting a war. In 1905 the troops suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Japanese but despite this they stayed loyal. One of the main reasons they stayed loyal was because the Tsar pulled the troops out when he knew they would lose anyway. This was a good move because he therefore kept the troops trust and saved them from being slaughtered by the Japanese.

In 1905 the troops were brought back from the war after the peace treaty. This was essential in the Tsar not abdicating in 1905. This was because when the troops came back he immediately destroyed any threat to him by force using the troops. In 1917 the war was much worse. There were very little supplies ranging from food to ammunition and the troops did not like this. Because the troops were in such bad conditions and were being killed in the thousands every day some started deserting the army and going home.

Then to top it off unlike in 1905 they didn’t go home and stop the rebellion they joined in and helped the protestors. This then meant that the Tsar had no one protecting him or his supreme power. This shows that in 1905 the Tsar saved himself by making the peace treaty with Japan and bringing the troops home because arguably if he hadn’t then he would have had no protection in 1905 and may have been forced to abdicate. Whereas in 1917 the troops were not brought home and were living in awful conditions so therefore rebelled and deserted the army.

And the Tsar then had no one to stop the rebels from getting what they wanted. I think the main reason why the troops stayed loyal in 1905 but deserted the army in 1917 was certainly because of the severity of World War 1. So many more people died in 1917 and the conditions were much worse than in 1905. In the 1900s in Russia there were numerous economic problems mainly because of the fact that the country was not moving forward or ‘evolving’. This was mainly because they had a Tsar that was afraid of modernization and he also saw it as a threat to his own position.

In 1905 there was little food for peasants but plenty for the middle-class and higher. Therefore in 1905 the peasants only ate what they could produce, which was very little considering they had very little money and were being paid very little. Also in 1905 in the towns and cities the workers had horrific working and living conditions. Many of the workers lived in the factories they worked in. They also had very little pay so could not afford to buy food. In complete contrast the middle and upper classes had easy lives as they could afford lots of food and luxuries.

When the October Manifesto was created the peasants were doing much better as they had rebelled against their lords and now owned more land and received more money. But the workers still had awful conditions so were still unhappy. In 1917 the peasants were repressed and were back to owning little land and had little money. The situation with the workers hadn’t changed and they still had little money. But they were more determined to get what they wanted in 1917 as they had already tried to talk to the Tsar and hundreds of workers were murdered by the Tsars soldiers.

On top of everything else, in 1917 everyone was in a much worse situation as lots of food was been sent to the soldiers fighting in the war. The factories in Russia were now making military things like ammunition and weapons instead of food so there was even less food. Some of these economic problems weren’t the Tsars fault but the people blamed it all on him. Also in 1917 everything was worse there was little food little money so the people were already annoyed and unhappy before the rebellion. I believe that there are a lot of reasons that the Tsar abdicated in 1917 and not in 1905 but there are a few very key reasons.

I believe that the two combined main reasons were the Tsar’s actions and the war. Firstly the Tsar created most of his own problems in the first place like creating the October Manifesto, it saved him in 1905 but arguably it lost him trust when he abolished it so the people didn’t trust him in 1917 and they wouldn’t settle for anything like the October Manifesto. The other main points were affected by the Tsar’s actions. This was the war. In 1905 the war saved the Tsar as it finished and he was able to bring his troops back to crush the opposition.

Whereas in 1917 the war made some soldiers desert and therefore the soldiers joined the rebellion instead of crushing it. Also in 1917 the war made economic problems worse because there were awful conditions everywhere and a huge shortage of food. So I believe that the war and the Tsar’s actions were the main reasons for the Tsar’s abdication in 1917 and not in 1905, were because they were much worse in 1917 and they had a completely different effect on the army the opposition and the economic problems in 1917 than in 1905.

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