The Revolutionary Masses
In 1911 Stolypin was
assassinated under mysterious circumstances. But even before the prime
minister’s death, it became clear that his policies, which had had some
stabilizing effect on the situation in the country, were unlikely to prevent a
new revolutionary upheaval. In 1910 the workers’ strike movement revived and
continued to rise throughout 1911. The discontent was fermenting again among
university students and members of the democratically-minded intelligentsia.
Revolutionary attitudes were particularly heightened
in 1912, after the tragic events at Lena goldfields in Eastern
Siberia, where a peaceful march of the workers to present their
demands to the bosses was gunned down by the troops and the police.
and seventy miners were massacred. Like the ‘Bloody Sunday’ incident
of 1905, the Lena shooting provoked a huge wave of sympathy strikes
across Russia involving over three hundred thousand people. In
the same year the unrest spread to the army and the navy.
revolutionary mood in the country continued to rise unabated up to
the outbreak of the Great War. In 1913 and the first half of 1914
the number of striking workers in manufacturing industry grew to two
million people. In Russia’s outlying regions movements for national
independence gained momentum, especially in Transcaucasia, the
Baltic region and the Polish Kingdom. As in 1905, a general crisis
was beginning to engulf the empire, and the specter of a new
revolution was rearing its head. With her domestic affairs in such a
perilous state, Russia, in August 1914, entered
First World War.
often comment on the fact that wars have precipitated major
turning-points in Russian history. Many have been particularly
fascinated with the question about Russia’s involvement in
First World War and its relationship to the 1917 revolution. Put
simply, the question boils down to this: did the war generate the
domestic crisis which brought about the collapse of the tsarist
regime; or was the crisis of Russia’s sociopolitical system already
of such a refractory nature as to make revolution in any case
inevitable? Was imperial Russia ruined by the war or would it have
disintegrated because of its own pressures and contradictions, war
or no war?