One reason that the Bolsheviks won power from the government is because of the humiliation that Russia faced when it was defeated in the Russo-Japanese War. Starting from the late 1860s, after witnessing the devastation China faced at the hands of western powers, the Meiji government strived to change Japan with a series of innovations in technology and industry based on Western ideas. These changes were collectively known as the Meiji Restoration.
The Meiji Restoration was a success. Within a few years Japan grew from a minor Asian power into a country that could rival European nations in industry and education. With massive advancements in these respects, Japan wished to prove its independence and show that they were a developed nation equal to western states.
At the same time, The Russian Empire turned it's eyes eastward, at the rest of Asia. Already other western nations were stripping parts of China for colonies. Russia felt that, as a European superpower, it should begin doing the same.
The Russo-Japanese war was a conflict of interests between Russia and Japan over the control of Korea and Manchuria.
Japan considered Korea to be an important state for their empire in the north, and pushed for full control of the Korean peninsula. Russia wished to gain control of parts of the Korean peninsula to use as a warm water port. Russia was also obliged to defend China from the Japanese.
However, negotiations failed and Russia refused to relinquish control of Manchuria and N Korea.
Russia was confident that it would win the war, being a much larger nation with more military might than the small Asian island nation.
The Tsar believed their successful victory over Japan and the consolidation of control over northern Asia would help pacify the revolutions that were stirring in Russia.
On February 6 1904, Japan broke negotiations with Russia,
Two days later Japan attacked Port Arthur by surprise. There was no declaration of war, so the Russians weren't prepared for the sudden appearance of Japanese battleships near Port Arthur. The siege of Port Arthur began.
Japan seized control over Port Arthur on Jan 1905. This was a major defeat for Russia and an astonishing victory for Japan.
Japan victories to follow:
General Oyama successfully lead his troops to capture Shenyang from Feb-Mar 1905. The sub-provincial city Russia fled too having lost Port Arthur.
In May 1905 Admiral Togo and his naval fleet crushed the Russian Fleet lead by Rozhdestvenski at Tsushima.
It was only on December 1905 when peace was made with President Theodore Roosevelt acting as the mediator.
The defeat of the Russia brought great humiliation to the Tsar. They lost the land they held in the north, they lost their trust from China, and more importantly they lost their pride as the strong Mother Russia they once were.
The defeat, the deaths, and the destruction was were one of the causes of the Russian revolution in 1905.
The figures show the humiliation that Russia experienced.
The First World War
Russia had the largest army in the WORLD of 5 million. (only 4.6 million were supplied with rifles)
The War ministry was in the hands of General Sukhomlino
Through persuasion from the Tsar, his uncle, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, became Commander in Chief of the Russian army.
The most significant war that affected Russia was the battle of Tannenberg in August 1914
Russia's first offensive attack on Germany occurred in East Prussia.
The Russian 1st army would advance through East Prussia to counter the occupying German 8th army
After reaching Prussia, the Russian 2nd would move around the battle to cut of the German 8th army's retreat.
Once having consolidation over East Prussia the rest of Russia would invade Berlin.
The attack was a failure.
Eager to win, Russia's 1st and 2nd armies marched straight into the heart of Prussia with confidence and vigor.
The rush in the assault left the soldiers unsupplied as they outdistanced their own logistical support.
The war caused the defeat of the Russian 2nd army and the withdrawal of the Russian 1st army from Prussia.
By Russia's defeat in 1914 Tsar was urged, by Rasputin and others, to take control over the Russian forces, leaving the Monk Rasputin and his wife Tsarina in charge of Russia.
Since the Tsar moved to the frontlines, all actions were the result of the Tsar's decisions, and any defeat was to be blamed by the Tsar.
As a consequence of the war:
2,500,000 Russians killed
1,500,000 to 2,000,000 Russians wounded
4,000,000 Russian POWs
Britain, France, and Germany had 1.3 million POWs altogether
People were angered and disappointed by the Tsar for leading their grand country to great defeat. People began to question if the Tsar even had the ability to rule their mighty country.
Rasputin and Tsarina
If the Tsar was a bad ruler, but Rasputin and Tsarina are worst.
They were corrupt and did not take the benefit of the Russian ministers. Throughout the war these ministers were replaced with friends and fawning folk who were unqualified in governing the largest country in the world.
In addition, these ministers were changed frequently. This made the government very unorganized to solve the countries problems such as the fall in food and fuel.
People loathed Rasputin and Tsarina. They also blamed Tsar who appointed them in charge. As society grew weary of the Tsar's poor management and overconfidence in war, very few were willing to stand up for their own emperor in 1917.
Back at Home
Russia was doing poor in economic terms as well.
Russia had poor management in distributing the daily necessities amongst the people including food and fuel.
In addition there was a cut in raw materials, which inflated the economy. With the supply cut and 8,000,000,000 Rubles of war dept, Russia's gold reserves started to deplete and the countries welfare diminished.
Unable to afford employment with extremely low revenue, firms closed and thousands of factory workers were put out of work.
In the midst of the economic chaos, men from the countryside were still being conscripted to fight in a losing battle against the triple alliance. Many people were against this believing their son's lives were being put to waste.
People became wet, cold, hungry and tired.
Failure to make political reforms
The Tsar was confident to lead Russia on his own during the war. Despite his chance to make reforms, he continued to rule Russia in its monarchy way.
Tsar also dismissed the 'Progressive Bloc', which aimed to allow the public to make reforms for he country. However the Tsar wanted to rule Russia on his own and he would bear responsibility for the consequences.
This ended up into the people of Russia seizing power.
After the 1917 revolution many revolution parties aimed to seize power over Russia.
The parties that were included were:
The Socialist Revolutionaries
Provisional Government was established on 2 March 1917
The Kadets of the Liberalist party mostly dominated the Provisional Government.
The key to the Bolsheviks success also came from the failures of the Provisional Government.
For one the Kadets were not united.
Some Kadets moved right to the Octobrists and believed that the Provisional Government would be Russia's actual permanent government. They wished to establish a firm foundation for constitution and democratically elected government in a controlled state.
In conflict with the Right Kadets, the left winged Kadets desired more reform and wanted to continue the revolution. They believed in more social reform in addition to enabling the local people in decision making, whilst giving authority to local centers and regions.
The Liberals Policies
War-They supported the war cause on the side of Britain and France. They wanted to appeal towards the western nations in order to obtain foreign support for their democratic government. They also wished to express their nation's international importance.
Milyukov the PG's war minister wanted to make territorial gains during the war including Constantinople, and the straights of the Black Sea.
Summer 1917 PG decide to launch a major attack on the Germans.
Starting on 16 June the invasion lasted for three days. After those three days the invasion deteriorated. Many troops deserted their posts and mutinied against forceful officers. Many thousands of soldiers died and the Russians even lost some of their land to the Germans.
Another humiliating defeat from the Germans contributed to the success of the Bolshevik revolution and the downfall of the PG
Land issue- Land distribution to be sorted out by elected constituent assembly.
However there was much turmoil in the countryside. They desired land of their own and always believed it was their right to have it. With not authority to prevent them from taking land, it was very difficult for the peasants not to. However they wanted the permission of the PG first to confirm their actions to be justified.
However the Liberals were unwilling to distribute land amongst the peasants right away. Before land distribution they wanted it to be done under the framework and authority of the Constituent Assembly. They also desired landowners, who were their main group of supporters).
Thus in the summer began to illegally grab land, tools, livestock, crop, and timber from private owners for their own benefit.
National minorities- they respected the union of the old empire and the integrity of Russia's inhabitants. They wanted the whole of Russia including her non-Russian provinces to be controlled entirely by the PG. This was a very unpopular policy especially to the Ukrainians who desired self-government. The Finns and the Polish people also demanded independence after the fall of the Tsar.
Economy- In terms of economics the liberals did poorly as well. There were food shortages, unemployment and rise in average prices. Such economic problems occurred before the February revolution but did not diminish afterwards leaving the PG with huge problem once fresh in office.
Feb-July 668 Factories closed
Feb-July 100,000 workers unemployed
The Socialists Policies
Co Operation- They were willing to work with the PG as well as making sure the people had their say and needs satisfied.
War- Did not seek territorial gain and wished to only fight to defend Russia from invading Germans.
Land issue- Like the Liberals they wished to leave this in the hands of the Constituent Assembly. The Socialists however were desperate to initiate land reform to redistribute land ASAP.
National Minorities- Wanted Russians to rule Russian land with self-government from the locals. They did not mind national governments for the non-Russian people and were willing to accept self Government in Ukraine.
The Return of Lenin
The return of Lenin in April changed the current Socialist views on Russia's provisional government. It stimulated the Soviets to take power over Russia from the grasp of the provisional Government.
Since February 1917 Lenin was in Switzerland. News of the Russian revolution was not expected by Lenin and as he arrived in the Finland Station at Petrograd.
Lenin made a welcome speech denying Chkheidze the Chairman of the Soviets wishes that co-operation with the PG is necessary and that the revolution is over.
Lenin stated the need for Russia to:
Achieve world wide socialist revolution
End to the war
No co-operation with the Provisional Government
Soviets take power
Land distribution amongst peasants.
These demands henceforth were named the 'April Theses'. Both the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks believed the theses to be "the ravings of a madman" and denying Marxist theory
However Lenin justified his theses
Bourgeoisie could not bring democracy to Russia.
Poorer peasants should be the main force for revolution and to be treated as proletarians. (They knew their position in the Russian hierarchy and they were a very keen revolutionary class."
With Trotsky they defied Marxists view on a worldwide socialist revolution starting in a fully industrialized society. They believed worldwide revolution would sprout from a society that is backward and new into the system of capitalism. This assumed that the relationship between the working class and the wealthy class is weak and that this conflict would be the start of a world wide socialist movement.
In other words they believed Russia to be the prime example and that World War I helped this conflict within capitalism to arise starting the socialist revolution.
They predicted that Germany would find itself in a revolution. As a result the capitalist nations would seek Russian aid to ease their critical conditions by introducing socialism.
"â€¦ all it gave was war, hunger and land lords. But what you need is peace, bread and land." - Lenin
With the Russian society sick of the provisional governments failures, they supported the Soviets. From May to June Russian workers and soldiers in Moscow and Petrograd began to demonstrate against the PG and the support for Bolshevik leadership.
A major protest in Petrograd was the July Days. The crowd demanded that power be transferred to the Bolsheviks. With the lack of leadership the radicals could not waltz into to the government building and over throw the PG. The provisional government taking this to their advantage fired on the demonstrators from rooftops.
With the end of the revolution the PG claimed that they had documents to prove that Lenin is a German spy and a traitor to Russia. Lenin goes into hiding.
The PG on august 12th frantically tried to unite Russia with an all-party meeting in order find a solution to Russia's ordeal. The Bolsheviks however boycotted the meeting claiming the PG was not truly representing the people.
General Kornilov (new commander in chief) wanted to end the soviet traitors through military action. As his amour advanced to St. Peters he did not expect the Bolsheviks 25,000 strong militia later to be known as the Red Guard in the October revolution. Kornilov's army was defeated and the Bolsheviks were victorious.
Trotsky free from imprisonment in September became president of the Soviets in St Petersburg. The Bolsheviks gained much support in Moscow and St Petersburg.