Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Russian Revolution

On February 24, 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new Gregorian Calendar to the world. This calendar added an extra day every four years because… well, it takes longer than exactly 365 days to go around the sun. It takes about 365 and ¼ days. Well, when this calendar was introduced most countries decided to adopt the new calendar. Russia did not.

335 years later, to the day in 1917, Revolution broke out in Russia. I am currently taking a class titled Europe in Crisis, which covered the Russian Revolution. This means that instead of wading through websites, I can wade through my notes to discuss this particular event in history. Let us begin.

This initial Revolution is against the Tsar in Russia, in contrast to the second Revolution in October, which established the Bolsheviks as a power group in Russia.

Lets set up the situation: Russia is fighting in WWI with the Entente Powers. However, unlike the other Entente Powers, Russia has a very different situation because it was directly affected by the blockade Britain set up against Germany. Because of this, as well as the closing of the strait Black Sea by Turkey, Russia was hurting. Most of the needed supplies were being shipped in by the U.S. and then transferred in by the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

The war in the East wasn’t static, however it was still stuck. WWI was an in-between war; old techniques were being used while new industrial innovations were being used. The Russian Army was not performing well, so Tsar Nicolas decided to go out and lead the army, leaving the government in the hands of the Tsarina and the Duma, which was the Russian Parliament. Thus, there was severe strain on Russia’s Railroad system to get the necessary supplies to the front line, while also delivering food to the Russian population.

So, we have the perfect storm here. Food shortages through the country, and a foreign Princess (Alexandra was from Germany) ruling with the help of the infamous Rasputin, a Monk from Siberia who claimed to have mystical powers to help heal the sick prince.

An interesting side note about Rasputin is that I have heard of at least two differences in the way he died. Apparently his killers tried poison, shooting him, and finally had to drown him. What the true story is, I don’t know that anybody really knows. However, he is an interesting character in history, and he is always fun to talk about.

The population of Petrograd finally rioted over food shortages. So, the Russian government did what it has done in the past, and called out the Russian Army to put down the rioters. However, the men in the army became friends with the population, so instead of putting down the rebellion they joined in. Eventually the Tsar was forced to abdicate.

This event lead to a power void in Russia, since the Tsar was the sole ruler of Russia, and the only one who could make legislative decisions. The Russians had to scramble to reform the government, and do all of this while at war. The second Revolution would establist Lenin as the new political leader in Russia.

So, two things to address after these last couple of paragraphs: how does this relay to today, and why did I begin with the mentioning of the Gregorian Calendar?

Firstly, with the events that happened on February 24, 1917 the Bolshevik party was able to take control of power in Russia by gaining support. Lenin returned to Russia out of exile in Switzerland to gain the popularity of the people and eventually claim power in the second October Revolution. Russia became the first Communist nation in the world. Post WWII, the USSR and the USA would be in a power struggle lasting into the early 1990’s. Many of the effects of the animosity of the Cold War can still be seen today.

As to the calendar question, Russia did not adopt the Gregorian calendar like the rest of the world did. Thus, on February 24, 1917 in Russia, the date all this took place, the date of the rest of the world was actually March 8, 1917. They had fallen behind that much over the 335 years.

I was trying to decide when I would post this, the week of February 24, or the week of March 8. When I saw I hadn’t missed the Russian date I couldn’t help myself. So, time it seems is irrelevant, and despite how it changes, it still seems to go on.

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