Saturday, July 16, 2011

Monarch Profile: Tsar Nicholas II, Part IV -The Revolution

The Russian war effort took their enemies by surprise. The Germans had expected much more time to conclude combat in the west before Russia moved against them in the east but the Russian offensive came almost immediately. There were early successes against the Austro-Hungarians but terrible defeats at the hands of the Germans and this pattern was to repeat itself again and again. The days when the great mass of Russian manpower could prevail against any enemy against whom it was brought to bear was over. Industrial warfare meant that technology was more powerful than bravery and the Germans had more machine guns, better artillery, a vastly superior system of logistics and a greater industrial base to support their war effort. Russian troops were cut down in the hundreds of thousands, provisions were scarce, medical care scarcer still and many men went into battle without rifles. The strain of the conflict and inefficient management also brought privation on the home front and by 1915 opposition was mounting. Nicholas had to act.

The Tsar sacked a number of ministers and his army commander and decided to take command of the war effort himself. His wife and daughters worked as nurses and civilians formed organizations to help sustain and support the troops. Leftists gained more power in government and the Tsar dissolved the Duma, not out of any desire for oppression, but to put aside political squabbling to devote the entire strength of the nation to winning the war. He had nothing but pride in his brave soldiers, knowing what difficulties and deficiencies they had to overcome and Nicholas was nothing if not a loyal friend and ally. Even when things were going very badly for Russia he refused any suggestion of a separate peace. After all his army and people had suffered he was committed to fighting on and to settle for nothing less than total victory over the Central Powers. However, even as the situation at the front grew worse and worse with German forces overrunning Poland and the Austrians retaking the territory lost to them earlier on, the “progressive” leftist elements in Russia continued to put their own ambition ahead of the nation.

Nicholas II was plagued with a constant string of messages telling of defeats at the front, shortages of every kind and an increasingly hostile political class back in Petrograd (as St Petersburg had been renamed in a wave of anti-German sentiment). As conditions grew worse for the home front many then and now, as always, blamed Nicholas, this time for being at the front rather than personally overseeing political issues. Again, however, this is unfair. There really was not much more the Tsar could have done in person that he could not do from General Headquarters. Even had he been in Petrograd, there is only so much one man could do. At some point the bureaucrats had to carry out the duties assigned to them. There was also the fact that any leader depends on the loyalty and ability of those who must carry out his wishes and the bureaucrats and political class in general failed the Tsar miserably. The real culprit, however, and the one most overlooked each and every time, were the treasonous revolutionaries. This is important and deserves some attention -this point is almost NEVER made but must be considered.

The revolutionaries did not care about the war effort, the people, the country or anything else but taking power for themselves. They had assassinated anyone who showed the slightest promise in making Russia more efficient and productive, their control of the labor unions enabled them, on several occasions, to carry out general strikes that brought virtually all industry in Russia to an absolute stand-still. Think about how that had to effect the country as a whole going forward. The Tsar had even given in to demand after demand but they always wanted more, because what they wanted was total power and whenever they did not get their way they held another strike and what little industry and infrastructure Russia had came to a dead stop. Considering all of this, it is really a wonder Russia held out as long as she did. Even while the war was raging and there were defeats at the front and privation at home the leftists continued to bog down the government by their efforts to take power until the Duma was again prorogued.

The spark that set off the February Revolution was food riots. The food shortage was caused not so much by a total lack of food but a lack of efficient transportation to get the food where it was needed -a problem not helped by things like railroad strikes. When things began to get more out of hand, Nicholas felt he had no choice but to use military force to restore law and order. However, the Bolsheviks had, from the very beginning of the war been infiltrating the Russian army, undermining morale, spreading discontent and treasonous sentiments. Units began to mutiny, officers were killed or intimidated into joining the rebellion. The leftists in the government refused to take action until the Tsar gave them all power. In response, Nicholas ordered the Duma dissolved but disorder spread. More units mutinied and Petrograd fell into anarchy. Anxious over the safety of his family, Nicholas tried to rush to them but his train was blocked by revolutionary soldiers. Disloyal elements of the government met with the Soviets to form a provisional government which then put pressure on the military commanders to demand that the Tsar abdicate.

To be concluded in Part V

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...