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To what extent was the Great War responsible for the collapse of the Provisional Government in 1917?

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Introduction

To what extent was the Great War responsible for the collapse of the Provisional Government in 1917? ALEEM KHAN The Provisional Government assumed control of Russia following the abdication of the Tsar Nicholas II. It only had a brief period in power lasting about seven months. Historians have disputed the main cause for its failure, Marxist historians, such as John Reed; have rewarded it to the Bolshevik's effective propaganda machine, whilst more revisionist historians, such as Christopher Read, take a more encompassing position on the issue. They lay blame at a range of factors such as the First World War and the dual authority in relation to the Petrograd Soviet. Revisionist historians have also benefited from the post-glasnost era and hence have both greater access to more sources as well as the advantage of hindsight. To understand the reasons for the collapse of the Provisional Government it is crucial to be aware of the events leading up to the October Revolution and the atmosphere politically and socio-economically at the time. The year 1917 was a turbulent year of strikes, bad harvests and inflation. 'Week by week food became scarcer'1 and any that was available usually went to the soldiers. Russian agriculture was primitive and machinery was rarely used hence production was not efficient. ...read more.

Middle

The collapse of the Provisional Government is also partly due to its ineffectiveness and reliance upon the Soviet for approval. The Petrograd Soviet was a representative body of the workers and soldiers alike. On it sat elected members, something the Provisional Government lacked, from specific groups of workers and soldiers. Though it was set up prior to the Provisional Government, it was illegal until its existence. Morgan Philips Price helps understand why the Soviet did not assume power itself, 'The Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries believed that at that stage of the Revolution the workers and soldiers of the Army were unable to run the country alone and needed the cooperation of the middle-class Liberals.'5 Hence, the existence of the power sharing structure between the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet was formed. However, over time the Provisional Government only became weaker whilst the Soviet gained greater strength. Crucial amongst all the changes that occurred in relation to power between the Soviet and the government was the edict Soviet Order No.1. This gave the Soviet control of the Army because it controlled the soldiers' support. The government without the backing of Army was toothless and would now have to rely on approval of its policies from the Soviet. The importance of the Soviet having such power would be limited had it not been for the First World War, which made soldiers a vital part of the system. ...read more.

Conclusion

The February Revolution was indeed important in the War; America's joining would not have occurred had it not been for the change of regime, since it did not want to support an anti-democratic autocracy. Therefore, the Provisional Government was crucial to the war and had it not been for the joining of the USA, the Germans might not have been as willing to sign a peace deal, following the October Revolution, helping to consolidate Bolshevik power. In conclusion, the Provisional Government lacked both authority and legitimacy, which were both characteristics of the Petrograd Soviet. Elections or some sort of approval was needed to give the government these features. The issue of land reform needed addressing and historians have seen this as an important factor in the government's loss of popularity. Furthermore, the propaganda from opposition groups, in particular the Bolsheviks, was effective in destroying any respect for the Provisional Government. Their liberal policies enabled this, which were unavailable to democratic countries during times of war. Kerensky was initially popular but the war damaged his image. The Great War created a situation of chaos and anarchy in Russia and government policy at the time did nothing to aid the situation. Its collapse was a result of a variety of factors and reasons but the far-reaching effects of the war were to have devastating results in both social and economic quarters. Moreover, the war only helped increase the opposition to the government and led to their downfall in October 1917. ...read more.

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