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Was the February Revolution more a collapse from within?

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Introduction

Examine the view that the February Revolution of 1917 was not 'an overthrow from without, but a collapse from within' In February 1917 300 years of Romanov rule in Russia came to an end with Nicholas II abdicating his throne. In contrast with the Soviet view of these events that emphasise the role of revolutionary groups, namely the Bolsheviks, in ending the regime, it must be remembered that the long term weaknesses evident in the regime had made it incredibly vulnerable to the additional strains imposed by the First World War. As such the collapse from within could have occurred, but the overthrow may have been delayed without the pressures of WWI. As had been seen in the attempts at revolution in 1905, Russia had a number of inherent weaknesses that could have resulted in a collapse from within. Firstly, any man would have had difficulty in ruling a country of 126 million people, of over 20 different nationalities. With over 6000 miles in the Empire, St Petersburg was actually closer to New York than the South Eastern city of Vladivostock and this made communication and feelings of unity very difficult to achieve. ...read more.

Middle

At this point the Tsar's concessions in the form of the October Manifesto enabled him and the regime to survive - the collapse from within was not apparent at this stage. Although Liberal historians emphasise the impact of WWI, it would be wrong to agree as they do, that Russia had been making solid progress from the beginning of the twentieth century. The Dumas, although a clear step forward that pleased some Liberals, in comparison with the previous Imperial Council, did lead to some feeling betrayed with the publication of the Fundamental Laws. To support the Liberal view that reforms were introduced pre WWI; peasants were permitted to leave the land and could try new agricultural techniques; trade unions had been legalised and educational reform was introduced. However, Nicholas was deeply suspicious of the policies introduced by Stolypin. Some had been far too liberal for the reactionary Tsar and following Stolypin's assassination, Nicholas reasserted his overall control. A situation that all opposition groups were unhappy with. This dissatisfaction could have resulted in all groups being thrown together, all be it reluctantly, as they had done before in 1905. ...read more.

Conclusion

At least half of the Petrograd soldiers made a conscious decision for political change. This class had provided most of the army officers and had suffered directly from the military failures. Their landed estates were dropping in value and they had been given no role in running the country. Any reasons they had for supporting the regime had disappeared. WWI placed significant strain on the government, forcing all potential opposition groups together. Although the pressure from without was significant the responsibility must also be placed on Nicholas' shoulders. In agreement with the Liberal school of thought much of the blame for the collapse of the regime must lie with him. He had been urged on many occasions to make compromises with the Duma long before 1917 and if he had appointed a government acceptable to moderate opinion, the regime could have been saved, in the short term, at least. His firm belief in Russian autocracy made any compromise impossible and perhaps a more flexible man could have amended his principles in the given circumstances. For Nicholas II, 300 years of history, his upbringing and personality prevented him from making that imaginative leap and thus prompted a collapse from within. ...read more.

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