To what extent was Nicholas II responsible for the outbreak of revolution in Feb/March 1917
The October Manifesto was a very key event to the outbreak of Revolution. It was issued as a response to the 1905 revolution which was triggered by events such as Bloody Sunday and massacre at the Lena Goldfields. Both events had several innocent casualties through the hands of the Russian Tsarist Army who were assigned in those sites. Despite being peaceful and legal protests, both Bloody Sunday and the Lena Goldmines strikes resulted as mass massacres.
The Tsar had to take responsibility for these massacres as his army had carried them out and despite this he had agreed to go against the October Manifesto even though he agreed to make some changes. He still held his position as the ruler of the kingdom and he still had immense power. Therefore, the motive of the revolution was not fulfilled which led to a second revolution that would continue until the Tsar was dethroned and abdicated. On the other hand, it can be argued that the massacres were not directly the faults of the Tsar even though his army carried them out.
He was not present in the events of the site of the events and he had not issued direct orders to open fire on the protestors. His status as a Tsar was definitely damaged by these events and retaliation increased because of them. Nicholas II did make some reforms and changes in response to the October Manifesto such as land reforms which enabled Serfs to own and grow their own lands, liberal freedoms such as freedom of speech, association, trade unions and political parties, establishment of primary schools, national insurance and healthcare, banned redemption payments and most importantly established the dumas.
Therefore, it can be put forth that Nicholas II had agreed to make changes and provide some needs and requests of the Manifesto. In a way, he had made efforts to satisfy those who revolted against him. Even though Nicholas II had agreed to allow a parliament and establishments of dumas, he had carried them out and several reforms under his fundamental laws which enabled him resilient control and free will. He had even dissolved them if they were not functioning to his contentment and influence. He carried out franchised voting and decisions were made under his influence.
The nation remained under the stronghold of his autocracy and it seemed as if nothing had changed at all in terms of power and revolution. It was if the Tsar had not only disregarded the revolution but made a mockery out of it through his position as the Tsar. Tsarism was an out-dated concept during the early 20th century. While the rest of the modern world including the superpowers, had gotten rid of any form of autocratic, monarchic and imperial governments that reigned as a sole power and ruler of a nation, Russia was still under a very traditional, central and timeworn Tsarist system.
International politics and relations were reliant on modern politicians and governments and Russia needed such a system to keep up with the rest of the world. Change was necessary as Tsarism was not capable of coping with modern politics and it can be argued that the system was bound of be changed no matter what Nicholas II did/was. Russia had also been suffering from various long term problems such as industrialisation, agriculture, famine, class division and social disorder. Despite several efforts by previous Tsar’s and Nicholas II Russia was not stable and viable under their control.
Therefore, it could be stated that revolution and the end of Tsarism was inevitable. Nicholas II made several decisions during his reign that could have triggered the 1917 Revolution. Firstly, he had decided to take Russia into war. Even though, Russia did well during the early stages, they suffered greatly resulting in the greatest number casualties of the Great War. As the war was progressing, Nicholas II decided to go to the frontlines and take control of the strategy and warfare in his hands.
Although, Russia was failing to achieve much success in the war, after his involvement all the blame went on to him as he had taken responsibility of the war. Along with this, he left Russia in the hands of the Tsarina (of German blood) and Rasputin (a peasant occultist and womaniser). Both of them were evidently not considered to be in the best interests of the Russian people. This caused further unrest and dissatisfaction among Russia regarding the Tsar and his “accomplices” who were ruling them for that time period. Nicholas also got rid of Witte, the minister who had made grave positive changes to the system that helped strengthen Russia.
This undermined his credibility as a considerate leader. The leaders of the revolution such as the Bolsheviks were very organised and determined to attain and achieve the revolution. The uprising had levitated for several years and there was very little the Tsarist government could do to silence these revolutionaries. Their cause was further strengthened by events such as Bloody Sunday and Russia’s failures in the Great War. There was also a rise in syndicalism and the government could not get involved heavily following Bloody Sunday and Lena Goldfields.
The Tsarist regime had never really gotten rid of such individuals and parties even though they had used innumerable methods to punish and stop them (executions, exile, and forced labour). The rise in assassinations of political leaders (Stolypin) further held opposition on a stronger position to Tsardom. To conclude, Nicholas II had his role on contributing to the 1917 revolution but revolution was also impending. It is true that the determination and desire for revolution remained strong until it was accomplished but Nicholas’ actions only ignited a fire that was already set alight.