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12.1 Causes of the Russian Revolution

Various factors and forces led to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The economic factors were the main factors contributing to the Revolution, as they resulted in poverty, misery and exploitation of the masses by the nobility.

Russia was mainly a highly backward agricultural country before the revolution. The royal family, the nobility and the clergy owned most of the agricultural land. Only between three and ten acres of land was owned by 70% of the peasants. Many of them had to earn their livelihood only 2˝ acres land or even less. In addition they had to use primitive tools, implements and methods of cultivation, which were not very productive.

Further, the poor peasants became poorer as they had to pay huge sums of rent and tributes to their landlords every year. This created great discontent among the farmers who were ready to revolt against the Czarist government, in order to end this economic and social system.

In the industrial sphere too, Russia was backward and depended only on foreign capital. The workers and laborers had to endure miserable working conditions. They received extremely low wages and worked for 12 to 14 hours a day. They had to go without any medical relief in case of an accident while on duty. They did not even have a weekly holiday. It was considered a crime to form trade unions.

Moreover, the government did not attempt to improve these conditions. Instead, the Russian villages and cities suffered from poverty, dirt and disease caused by the exorbitant land revenue and the unbearably high taxes and levies.

There was an imbalance in the social structure, owing to the above economic factors. As a result 70% of the Russian population was illiterate. The social structure of Russia was completely devoid of education, medical relief and public health. The masses being poor, hungry, diseased and ignorant were highly addicted to vodka, a very powerful intoxicant. Above all the system of flogging that prevailed in the whole of Russia made Russian social life, highly miserable, inhuman and wretched.

Political factors also formed an important cause of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The masses had no legal means of improving the social structure. A strike was considered to be a mutiny. The people had no press to ventilate their grievances.

The Czarist government was ruthless, absolute and repressive. On January 15, 1905, a peaceful demonstration led by Father Gapon at St. Petersburg was fired upon by the Czarist troops. The Duma (parliament) had limited powers. Franchise was not given to women, laborers and the common people.

The growing discontent among the masses manifested itself in all aspects of national life. The working class became highly receptive to Marxist ideas infiltrating into Russia. In 1893, the Social Democratic Party was founded and in 1903, this party was split into two; the Bolsheviks led by Nikolai Lenin and the Mensheviks led by Martov. While the former was revolutionary and supported by Stalin, the latter was evolutionary and was supported by Trotsky.

Exhibit 12.1
Russian leader Lenin at a communist rally


Index

12.0 - Introduction
12.1 Causes of theRussian Revolution
12.2 The Course of the Russian Revolution
12.3 Consequences and Significance of the Russian Revolution
12.4 Dates & Events
12.5 Points to Remember

Chapter 13





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