Proposition 1 • The armed forces were loyal to Nicholas in 1905, but he had lost their support by 1917.
Proposition 1: Evidence • There was consistent loyalty in the army through the earlier years of the war, despite losses and hardships. • The troops shot down the Bloody Sunday demonstrators in January 1905. They went on to suppress the revolutions in St. Petersburg 1905–6 and Moscow. The put down revolts in Polish cities and supported the repression which followed 1905. • They shot strikers in the Lena goldfields 1912.
But by 1917... • At crucial times, the troops would not fire on the crowds in Petrograd during February 1917. • Soldiers joined Soviets. • The senior officers had expressed discontent. Officers were involved in the murder of Rasputin and in discussions with Nicholas at Pskov.
Potemkin • The Battleship Potemkin certainly mutinied in 1905, but this was not typical. • The hostility in 1917 did not mean that troops were opposed to the war. Also, the troops in the capital in 1905 were very different from the peasant soldiers who had been sent to the capital in 1916 and early 1917.
A wider context • Was it the First World War’s greater casualty rates and more sustained hardships and failures that changed the army’s attitudes? • Or was it the failure of the regime to change after 1905?
Proposition 2 • The opposition in 1905 was more divided. • Each element had its own agenda – the Kadets wanted a constitution. • Peasants wanted land. • Marxists wanted workers’ revolution. • Nationalists wanted to separate from the Empire. • Even the radical groups were too divided to cooperate properly.
This may explain why the Tsar survived in 1905 • The October Manifesto pleased the Kadets and the middle classes. • The peasants had little political consciousness and did not join with the workers. • There was insufficient leadership to unite the discontents. • Nationalist groups did not necessarily want political or social radicalism.
In the end • A more conciliatory and reformist Tsarist regime offered stability, tradition and order.
But in 1917 was there any more unity? • The Bolsheviks had split with the Mensheviks. • The strikes and demonstrations in Petrograd were not all calling for the same thing. • As soon as the Tsar abdicated, all the old disunity returned – even among the most disciplined groups.
In 1905 people still • Believed that Tsarism might change for the better, so were prepared to give the Tsar another chance.
By 1917 • The weak reforms, continuing police state. • The assertions of autocracy. • The massacre at Lena in 1912. • All showed that there was no point in giving the Tsar another chance. Hence he fell in 1917 but survived in 1905.
Far-fetched • Few expected the Tsar to fall by 1914. • There were signs of the continuing popularity of the monarchy in the celebrations of 1913 for the 300th anniversary of the Romanovs. • Troops fought loyally 1914, 1915, 1916.
So what had changed? • The attitude of the elites – by 1917 Nicholas had lost crucial support at the top. • The murder of Rasputin by people at the very top of Russian society was an indication. • When Tsars had failed in the past, they had been got rid of. • Nicholas had failed by March 1917 and the elites failed to support him. This had not be so true in 1905.
What were the immediate circumstances? • The very large crowds in February. • The very unreliable troops in the capital. • The isolation of the Tsar at Pskov. • The sudden firmness of Rodzianko in telling the Tsar he had lost the nation’s confidence. • The cooperation of leading Duma members, administrators and industrialists in running the war, and their willingness to take on government in 1917.
Consider • The abdication of the Tsar did not necessarily mean a humiliating peace, social revolution, a Marxist experiment – no one foresaw these things in March 1917. • Foreign powers were quick to give their support to the new regime. • The Marxists were much less to be the beneficiaries than the moderate socialists and liberals. • To meet the crisis Russia was in by 1917 it was the worth the risk of getting rid of the Tsar. In 1905 this was less of an option.
The usual reasons • The army was loyal in 1905 but not in 1917. • The Tsar still had credibility in 1905 as someone who could reform; this had been lost by 1917. • The war crisis was much more serious than in 1905. • The Tsar still had support among the elites in 1905, but less so in 1917. • In 1905 he was not personally blamed for defeat in war; in 1917 because he took command if the forces in 1915, he was.