.. held for the rest of Russia. On March 15, Czar Nicholas II abdicated his Empire to the emissaries of the Duma. Socially, Russia was in just about as much of as mess as they were politically. In 1900, the Czar and his government had not decided how to treat its peasants.
It kept all the peasants legally and socially segregated from the other social groups. There were essentially two sides to Russian society at this time. On one side stood the peasants, the “dark people.
” On the other was “privilege Russia,” including nobles, bureaucrats, the run of educated Russians, and even the merchants, who often had risen from the peasants. “Privilege Russia” look down upon the “dark people” with much contempt. Chekhov described the peasants in a story that he published in 1897: .
. .these people lived worse than cattle, and it was terrible to be with them; they were coarse, dishonest, dirty, and drunken; they did not live at peace with one another but quarreled continually, because they feared, suspected, and despised each other . . . The most insignificant little clerk or official treated the peasants as though they were tramps, and addressed even the village elders and church wardens as inferiors, and as though he had a right to do so.
The peasants were the bulk of Russian citizenry, and acted as the soldiers of the 1917 revolution. While “privilege Russia,” worked reluctantly to make themselves more western, the “dark people” had remained the same over the years.Most were, until this time, politically unaware. The only Russia that they knew existed within a five-mile radius of their shanty. In the bottom of the peasant’s heart, he or she carried a deep, imbedded bitterness and hatred for the “upper crust.” All moves toward industrialization and westernization had been done without regard to him or even at his expense.
The peasant was simply apathetic and harbored a sense of personal worthlessness to his country. Ultimately, he rejected it, and was not a Russian, but identified himself as merely from his local area.As pathetic as the peasant’s situation might be, it was finally them who started the revolution and them who slowly came politically aware.
As visionaries believed in the power of the people, the peasants’ resilience and drive encouraged them. “Privilege Russia,” although markedly better-off than the peasantry, was not having a picnic either. As much as it tried to westernize itself, it did not enjoy the equal citizenship of a European democracy. It was divided into state-supervised organizations: the nobility, the bureaucracy, the priesthood, the merchant community, and the “lower middle class.” If a citizen had graduated from a school which was considered “higher education,” the citizen became known as an “honorary citizen,” which granted enough more privileges to appear somewhat like a western citizen.The Balkans had ethnic groups numbering in double-digits, and they weren’t worth the bones of a Pomeranian grenadier. Greater Russia had groups numbering in triple- digits.
There were hundreds of different ethnicities, languages, cultures, and many different religions, ranging from sects of Judeo- Christian to Islam to even Buddhism. Getting along with one another was not easy for these groups, and especially so under Russia’s policy of forced assimilation. Most Russians were dissatisfied with their country’s “cultural barrier” between Russia and Europe. They had an inferiority complex, thinking of themselves as less civilized, backwards, “Asiatic,” and in doing so created a lack of respect among Russia’s European counterparts.During World War I, when the Allies bullied Russia to get back into the war after their first retreat, they seemed to think of Russia as “stupid cowards.” Germany made Russia soon to sign a treaty with Germany, after their army embarrassingly enough ran away from strong German defenses. If losing a war isn’t enough to give people of a nation an inferiority complex, nothing is. The Russian people unconsciously accepted the flood of western standards into Russia between 1890 and 1914.
Not surprisingly, the Russians with their extra-long- sleeved shirts were complacent to this infuse of foreign culture, wanting to do anything to feel equal to Europeans. The years of revolution between 1907 and 1914 were not particularly bad ones for the peasants. Stolypin’s reformation plan had given more land to the peasants (who already owned most of the land in the first place). Though taxes had increased un expectantly under Witte’s system, Stolypin quickly lowered the rates and eased the tax burden on the peasants.Rural goods-cooperatives had expanded and even introduced technolical advancements. The literacy rate had risen as the government put more emphasis on elementary education.
Even under the political restrictions imposed by Stolypin and his successors, with the creation of the Duma and political parties, people felt freer. Educational planners predicted that there would be schools for every child in Russia built by 1922. Russia’s contacts with western Europe grew, as they even began contributing to the fashions in art, literature, and philosophy.Not looking at these years from a pessimistic, intellectually political point of view, these were Russia’s version of our “roaring twenties.” By 1916, all of this had changed. Peasants were forced into the army as punishment for striking.
Much of the army was made up of peasants, and hundreds of thousands of men died. No one believed the war was a noble cause to fight for. At the beginning of 1917, an estimated 1.5 million people deserted the Russian army.All of this amounted to one thing everyone knew for sure; they were in for another storm of revolution.
With the first aborted revolution attempt of 1905, the people were like half a splinter removed; there was a momentary relief, but later the pain returned with an infection. All of Russia knew something had to be done by 1917, and up until that point no one could decide upon what should take place. Russia had been torn apart politically by a weak Emperor, festering with indecision, and socio- economically with World War I, class wars, and the increasing state of industrialization’s unrest and bread lines. It was a time for change, and in 1917, Russia was clearly “overripe” for revolution.