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  • The Bolshevik

    Posted on September 15th, 2014 katiewells9 No comments



    What was the relative importance of immediate events, long-term social and economic developments, the crisis in political authority, and the stresses of the war to the revolutions of February and October, 1917?

    Weak and changing political authority combined with growing unrest in citizens and a war to fight, is enough to topple any state or nation. Russia was no different. In 1917, citizens of Russia were continuing to display their distrust and overall unrest with the government. Much of this came from the fact that the tsar was continuing to take more power for himself and ignoring the wishes of the people.

    This growing unrest led to strikes in January and February of 1917, “the majority of the strikes linked economic grievances to political concerns and agendas. On International Women’s Day (February 23), women textile workers protested shortages while standing in line for bread, instigating a wave of riots and demonstrations that soon engulfed the capital.” (Did the War Cause the Revolution?) Propertied classes saw the autocracy’s ineptitude and began to worry about their future in the postwar world, while the lower levels of society continued to see their grievances ignored and their tolerance was running out.

    After the February Revolution, people had difference expectations of life in Russia from that point on (and in the end, no one was very happy). This led to the rise of the Bolsheviks. Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, returned to Russia and ran the party with a very clear and consistent message: “peace, bread, and land.”

    The continued unrest and disappointment played a direct role in the October Revolution, as well as Lenin’s power hunger. The Bolsheviks created the Military Revolutonary Committee (MRC) and proceeded the storm the Winter Palace on October 24.

    I chose to highlight the photo above because it really stood out to me as a powerful representation of what was occurring at the time in Russia. According to the Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, the Bolsheviks’ main focus was soley on gaining power. This statement is what I see depicted in the image. There are thousands upon thousands of people storming the streets led by The Bolshevik.

    Another area that the photo brought to my attention was the conflict of culture and its place in Russian society. The idea that “cultural production should be subordinate to the state, was unthinkable to the revolutionaries of October, and the most compelling claims to a cultural revolution were staked by independent artists.” (Culture and Revolution)

    These events and others are what led directly to both of the revolutions of 1917. I believe that had all of the events leading up to the revolutions, as well as the economic standing and social unrest of the time, not occurred or been the case, the revolutions would not have happened. History has a way of repeating itself and Russia saw that from 1905 to 1917. Every issue played a role in the revolutions in some way or another, especially their involvement in WWI.





    Russia a History.



    2 responses to “The Bolshevik” RSS icon

    • I have always liked that image of the Bolshevik! I agree that it is a good representation of what was happening in Russia during the 1917 Revolution. Thanks to the “peace, bread, and land” campaign and the political and economic forces that made the revolution possible, the Bolsheviks were able to take control and lead the people into a new era of Russian history.

    • Kustodiev’s painting is really evocative! The interplay between culture and politics will be a key theme going forward in the course, and I’m intrigued by the quote you chose from 17 moments. What is “revolutionary culture”? And which is “more revolutionary,” the work of avant-garde artists, or art created by the newly liberated workers and peasants?

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