On 100th anniversary, lecturer reflects on Russian 1917 revolutions

“I’m not fit to be czar. I know nothing of the business of ruling.” So said Nicholas II, the last Russian czar, in 1894.
In a matter of months in 1917, the centuries-old Romanov dynasty toppled. It began with women.
Hundreds of women took to the streets in St. Petersburg on International Women’s Day, 1904. They protested food shortages and bad living conditions.
That same year, Russia lost its war with Japan. After, in 1905, Father Gapon led thousands in the Petersburg streets with his manifesto. In it, the people pleaded with the czar to give them more rights and treat them as humans.
Bloody Sunday’s events, in which palace guards fired on protesters, fanned the flames.
Eventually, Russia entered World War I in 1914. Many historians blame involvement in the war, and eventual loss, for triggering the rapid events of the revolution.
In February 1917, the czar abdicated his spot as crown authority of Russia. In October, the Bolsheviks took power behind a man named Lenin.
This is an abridged summary of the revolution with which Raleigh provided listeners at Monday night’s Cadenhead-Settle Memorial Lecture. Raleigh also highlighted key polarizations in Russian society.The first: between the educated and the bureaucracy. This strife led to the furor forcing the czar to leave office.The second: between the educated and the commoner. This conflict allowed the popularity of Bolshevism to rise.
Raleigh drew parallels between the 1960s in America and the Revolutionary Era in Russia. Both times saw a populace fraught with anger, desiring change and new direction.
He claimed that without the Russian Revolution showing the western world how easy society could fall, America would not have had the New Deal.
The revolution, Raleigh told the audience, also led to the proliferation of decolonization by Western countries, as movements elsewhere saw the success of a program that claimed “power to the people”.
Of course, the revolution also led to the Cold War between the United States and Russia, a war that lasted over half of the 20th century.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. During the 90s, many Russians looked to the past with reverence. In such troubled times, the imperial years of the czars felt like the glory days.
Russia today is not sure how to observe the anniversary. Putin has told reporters numerous times that “Russia has overfilled its quota of revolutions”.
His government does not want to glorify the events of 1917. But it does not want to ignore them either. Their impact on the country is too large.
Most scholars agree that the Russian Revolution is one of most significant events of the 20th century. The numbers alone prove the point.
Russia’s death toll by war sends shivers down the spine. WWI: 9.1 million. Russian civil war (following revolution): 8 million. The famine of 1923: 5 million.
These numbers don’t include the millions who lost their lives under Stalin’s purges or during Lenin’s “Red Terror” campaigns of the early 1920s.
To be sure, the revolution impacted millions, both in Russia and around the globe.

Post Author: Alex Garoffolo