The Revolutionary Masses
liberal opposition, Russia’s heavy defeats of 1915 had clearly
demonstrated that the autocratic regime was incapable of bringing
the war to a victorious end. The realization that a lost war would
inevitably lead to a revolutionary explosion galvanized the Kadets,
Octobrists and other liberal and moderate conservative groupings in
the State Duma to form a broad parliamentary alliance in opposition
to the government.
Members of the alliance, which was called the
‘Progressive Bloc’, harshly
criticized the tsarist ministers for the incompetence with which the
government led the war effort, called on the Tsar to sack his
obviously inept administration and even openly accused the
government, the Tsar and the Empress of treason. Above all, the
‘Progressive Bloc’ demanded a competent set of ministers, a cabinet
which would enjoy ‘the confidence of the nation’. As the military
situation continued to deteriorate, the ‘Progressive Bloc’ hardened
its demands, calling for a Western-style government with a limited
monarchy and a ministry responsible to a majority in the Duma.
however, flatly refused to satisfy the demands of the Duma
opposition. Nicholas had never really accepted the dilution of
autocracy brought about by the introduction of the Duma. When the
war started, he seized on the military emergency to rule almost
without convening the Duma, and thus also without trying to enlist
the support that the liberal opposition offered for the war effort.
This policy, together with the ascendancy of Rasputin and his
influence over Empress Alexandra, who in effect governed while
Nicholas was away at the front, looked to the opposition in the Duma
like a coup d’état
against the constitutional order. In the face of the Tsar’s
unwillingness to make any concessions to the opposition, the
liberals began to plot the overthrow of Nicholas II.