Backgrounds to the Russian Revolution of 1917 Sources: Julius Lecture: “Whither Russia?” (1995) The Face of Russia (PBS) Russian History (Bucknell) Chronology of Russian History (Bucknell) . Table of Contents. Geography is Destiny Themes of Russian History Kievan Rus
the Russian Revolution
Julius Lecture: “Whither Russia?” (1995)
The Face of Russia (PBS)
Russian History (Bucknell)
Chronology of Russian History (Bucknell)
Geography is Destiny
Themes of Russian History
Conversion to Christianity
Mongol Conquest (1247)
Rise of the Tsars
Time of Troubles (1584-1613)
Peter the Great (1689-1725)
Catherine the Great (1762-1792)
Victory over Napoleon (1812)
19th Century Economic Structure
The Role of Writers
World Physical Map (pdf.)
Great Northern War: Peter captures the Baltic States and establishes St. Petersburg as the new capitol.
To compete with the Western (European) Powers, Peter needs to tighten up the state, and make it more efficient.
E. Falconet. "The Bronze Horseman." Bronze statue. 1782. St. Petersburg
Gogol picks up on the fantastic aspects of Pushkin’s fiction and spins utterly original visions of a decidedly irrational reality. Russia has contracted a spiritual disease from contact with Western capitalism. In his St. Petersburg the Devil lures bureaucrats mad for status and money into a spectral anteroom to hell.
The Inspector General
“The Nose”, “The Overcoat”, and other Ukrainian Puppet tales
Dead Souls, part one
Dead Souls, part two
(Gogol starved himself to death in despair over failing to conceptualize a way for Russia to achieve her unique destiny.)
The first in a great line of Russian writer/activists, Belinsky edited a literary magazine which introduced to the Russian reading public many of the greatest writers of the century: Gogol, Turgenev, and Doestoevsky to name a few.
Belinsky was a child of the Enlightenment who, like Voltaire, believed that Russia could only overcome backwardness and achieve social justice by adopting Western liberalism: a constitutional government and free market capitalism.
Belinsky insisted upon strict empiricism in his political philosophy. He believed that the Russian ruling class maintained its hold on power by confounding the masses with religious belief.
Belinsky, Letter to Gogol (1847)
Alexander Herzen (1812-70) was a social thinker who became known as the "father of Russian socialism." Under the influence of utopian socialists like Charles Fourier, Herzen envisioned a loose federation of self-governing communes. That ideal society would be a free association of individuals which provided for the full flowering of each individual.
After the failed liberal revolutions of 1848, Herzen argued that socialism would actually come first to Russia because communal institutions such as the peasant commune (the mir) survived and bourgeois attitudes hadn't yet emerged. This sense of the advantages of Russian "backwardness" was influential among the Populists in the 1870s.
Herzen has been called a "gentry revolutionary." The revolution he envisioned was for the people but would be led by the intelligentsia; however, he was not a Marxist: his socialism was a national destiny rather than a class one; also he promoted the value of individualism in collectivist form--in other words, the full flowering of the individual could best be realized in a socialist order.
See Spartacus: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUSherzen.htm
1847 statue. 1782. St. PetersburgHerzen leaves Russia forever; Belinsky's “Letter to Gogol”
1849 Dostoevsky sentenced to forced labor in Siberia
1852 Turgenev's Hunting Sketches
1853-1856 Crimean War
1855 Death of Nicholas I
1855-1881 ALEXANDER IIROMANOV
1861 Feb 19 statue. 1782. St. PetersburgEmancipation of the serfs
1862 Turgenev's Fathers and Sons
1863 Chernyshevsky's What Is To Be Done?
1866 Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is published
1869 Tolstoy's War and Peace is published.
1870 April 22 Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) is born
1872 Russian translation of Marx's Capital
1873 Beginning of the movement To the People (V narod)
1878 Tolstoy'sAnna Karenina
1879 People's Will Party and Black Partition established
1880 Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov
1881 March 1 Assassination of Alexander II
A nobleman who lived most of his life in self imposed exile in the European West, Turgenev also endorsed liberalism. However, his literary art was of such high quality that he clearly foresaw the coming generation’s abandonment of liberal ideals for revolutionary nihilism in the wake of the failed revolutions of 1848.
Hunting Sketches: A moving collection of sketches of peasants and owners that was so popular that it helped push the tsar to finally emancipate the serfs.
Fathers and Sons: Central Character: Bazarov, the first in the line of revolutionary nihilists that would culminate in the real life figure of Lenin.
Discovered by Belinsky after writing a harrowing and realistic depiction of poverty, Dostoevsky broke with his mentor in his Gogol inspired psychological novel The Double.
Dostoevsky was imprisoned for belonging to a reading club which professed Utopian Socialist beliefs. He spent 10 years imprisoned at hard labor in Siberia.
When he returned to St. Petersburg in 1860, Dostoevsky embarked on a twenty year burst of creativity, writing completely modern novels which examine the irresolvable paradoxes of human nature and the impossibility of creating a utopian state.
Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, The Idiot, and finally the great The Brothers Karamazov.
Tolstoy pursued a grand vision of reconstructing Russian along unique lines which would pursue a class system based on merit and use Western science to modernize the nation’s agricultural system.
Tolstoy is best know for the unmatched skill with which he brings complicated and fully rounded characters to life. When you read a novel like Anna Karenina, you encounter characters so artfully that they seem to exist in real time. This may be the ultimate liberal accomplishment.
War and Peace
1881-1894 statue. 1782. St. PetersburgALEXANDER IIIROMANOV
1884 Reactionary regulations for universities
1891 Beginning of the Trans-Siberian railway
1891-1893 Making of the Franco-Russian alliance
1892-1903 Witte as minister of communications, finance and commerce
1896 production of Chekhov's The Seagull in St. Petersburg
1897 Jan 28 First all-Russian census counts 128,907,692 people
1898 Moscow Art Theater founded, Chekhov's Sea Gull
1st Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party (Minsk)
The son of a peasant, Chekhov used his writing ability to pay his way through medical school. Chekhov fought cholera epidemics among the peasants, like the Turgenev hero Bazarov, and he conducted a ground breaking study of the scandalous conditions in the Russian prison system.
Chekhov’s short stories and plays are regarded by many as the greatest in their genres. He observes human nature with the rigor of a scientist and concludes that no plan exists which can satisfy our ideals of social justice. The problems of society and human nature are just too complex and ever changing. Many of his educated, passionate, and hopeful characters seem doomed to utterly superfluous lives. Despite his skepticism, Chekhov depicts humanity with enormous compassion and he celebrates the richness of our moments together: evanescent, fragile, beautiful. Plays: Ivanov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, and The Three Sisters.
1906 April statue. 1782. St. Petersburg4th Party Congress First DumaFirst Constitution (Fundamental Law)
1906-1911 The Stolypin | Land Reforms
1907 Second Duma 5th Party Congress Emergence of Triple Entente (France, Britain, Russia) against Triple Alliance (Germany, Austro-Hungary, Italy) Third Duma
1908 Trotsky becomes editor of Pravda in Vienna
1910 November 7 Igor Stravinsky's Firebird scandalizes Paris
1912 April 4 Fourth Duma Lena gold field massacre (from which Lenin took his pseudonym)
1913 Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring
1914 World War I begins
The brother of a man executed for participating in the plot to assassinate Alexander III, Lenin is the epitome of the modern revolutionary. In a lifetime of political agitation and argument, Lenin formed the party which would successfully bring the first socialist government in European history into being
The Bolshevik (minority) wing of the Marxist Social Revolutionary Party broke with the Mensheviks (Majority) over their interpretation of Marx’s “dialectical materialism.” Marx had argued that built into capitalism were the inevitable seeds of its own downfall. A highly developed capitalist economy must eventually collapse and bring into being a revolutionary worker’s state.
The Mensheviks believed that Russia would have to go through a stage of industrial capitalism before the revolution could take place.
Lenin disagreed. He was not willing to wait.
Lenin believed that a revolutionary vanguard, a small group of ruthless and utterly committed revolutionaries, could topple the Tsar and institute a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.’
These absolute rulers would then drive Russia quickly through the bourgeois stage of industrial development, consciously and quickly remaking the state into a socialist economy.
The state would command all economic decisions: setting commodity prices, wages and production goals for all industries and business. The state would collectivize all agricultural enterprise, manage labor and divide production among the people.
Lenin’s goal was to export revolution as well. In formulating an alternate model for modernization to capitalist imperialism, Lenin’s brand of Marxism became popular among countries throughout the 3rd World during the 20th century.