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How and why did the Bolsheviks seize power in 1917?

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Introduction

How and why did the Bolsheviks seize power in 1917? There are many factors that help explain how and why the Bolsheviks managed to seize power in 1917. It was a combination of long and short term causes that together, created a revolution. The political system itself was long overdue for reform, but with a weak Tsar, the economic and social conditions became worse and worse. In 23 years, Nicholas II dropped from the glorious 'Little Father of Russia' to prisoners of his own country, hatred and despised by the majority, for the suffering and unhappiness he had helped create. There were many long-term causes that gradually led up to the revolution in 1917. The political system installed in Russia under the Tsar was long overdue for reform. Russia was a vast empire rather than a single country, and as the Tsar believed in 'divine right' he was its supreme ruler, which even with a great, strong charactered ruler, is still a huge task. Nicholas believed in absolute autocracy, and by doing this he did not manage the country well. He could appoint or sack ministers or make any other decisions without consulting anyone else. Unlike most other countries that had at least given them some freedom to say how their country was run, the Tsar was dedicated with the idea of autocracy, and seemed to be obsessed with the great past of his family. This could be the cause of Nicholas' behaviour; wanting to live up to the name of his predecessors, and keeping the way the country was run the same. Yet he took no advice, often appointing people not capable of doing their job, just because they were personal friends or family. Nicholas was a weak-charactered ruler who felt threatened by able and talented ministers such as Witte and Stolypin; he was not able, not at all forceful and tended to avoid making decisions. ...read more.

Middle

Industrialists were concerned by the way in which the Tsar preferred to appoint loyal but unimaginative ministers such as Goremykin. Other supporters were alarmed by the influence of Rasputin. Rasputin's influence is another large significant factor to how and why the Bolsheviks managed to take control. Rasputin was an aid, using hypnosis to help control the Tsar's son, Alexis' haemophilia. He was respected as a miracle worker by the Tsarina, and began to give advice to both of them on how to run the country. The Russian people however were suspicious of Rasputin as he was a known drinker and a womaniser. Opponents seized on Rasputin as an example of the Tsar's weakness and incapability to rule Russia. This demonstrated how out of touch the Tsar was with his country, as he either didn't notice their concern, or worse, didn't care. More medium term causes involved are the effects of the First World War. In August 1914 Russia entered the First World War. People united as Russians and became surprisingly patriotic. Tension disappeared and the strikes stopped. The Tsar's action was applauded as workers, peasants and aristocrats all joined in enthusiastically to support the Tsar. This good feeling and patriotism however was short-lived. As the war gradually continued, the support lessened. The Russian soldiers had to do their best with major shortages of equipment and artillery, many not even with boots, no first aid, and despite fighting bravely, they were no match for the German army. The peasant soldiers were led and treated appallingly by aristocrat officers. The Tsar took personal control of the army in September 1915. He was not however an able commander, so people used this to hold him personally responsible for the defeats and blunders. In 1916 they suffered immense losses and large-scale defeats. By 1917 there was deep discontent throughout the army, and many soldiers supported the Bolsheviks. Beforehand, it was the support of the loyal army to the Tsar that had helped Nicholas overcome the 1905 revolution. ...read more.

Conclusion

Through the day, with little or no opposition they took over other important targets. That evening they stormed the Winter Palace and arrested the ministers of the Provisional Government. Kerensky escaped and tried to rally loyal troops, but this failed and so he fled into exile. On 8th November an announcement was made to the Russian people, "the provisional government has been overthrown... the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the end of land owners' rights, workers; control over production, the creation of a Soviet government. Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers and peasants!" And so it was the combination of causes and events, both long and short term, that brought about the Bolsheviks' seizure of power in 1917. They managed to do this even though they did not have the support of the majority of Russians. It was initially the dislike for the Tsar and his way of ruling Russia, and the unpopularity of the Provisional Government, which was the critical factor, and allowed them to do so. The Bolsheviks to the end, were the only party that wanted to pull out of the War, and had many supporters in the right places. At least half of the army supported them, as did the sailors at the important naval base at Kronstadt near Petrograd. The Bolsheviks were also a disciplined party dedicated to revolution, with some outstanding personalities such as Lenin and Trotsky. There were around 800,000 members, helped by having the major industrial centres, near the Moscow and Petrograd soviets especially, that were all pro-Bolshevik. The Bolsheviks offered an effective solution to the squalor and starvation the people had suffered under the Tsar, upholding a political system already long overdue for reform. All the events leading up to this radical uprising of the Bolsheviks, helped create the October-Novemeber revolution. This made Russia a democratic country with an elected government working for it's people, it's workers, it's soldiers, and the peasants. Tsarist Russia was now history, but for Bolshevik Russia, this was just the beginning. ...read more.

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