Russia: Tsarist and Communist

By Anatole G. Mazour | Go to book overview

28
The March 1917 Revolution

ON THE EVE

THE NEW YEAR of 1917 in Russia was celebrated amid mixed feelings of hope and fear for pending events. Few wanted a social upheaval; none knew how to forestall it, and many inadvertently speeded its arrival. Desperate last-minute plans were tried, but all efforts seemed puny in proportion to the crisis which the nation had finally reached. The removal of Rasputin from the national scene left things much the same as before. The tsarina, panic-stricken by the loss of the 'Holy Man', tried to hold on to the monarchy like a sinking woman to a raft. The Cabinet continued to include members who favored a separate peace with Germany. Whereas formerly everything was ascribed to the evil influence of Rasputin, now all blame was placed directly upon the government, and as Rodzianko feared, upon the emperor. Moral disintegration kept creeping even higher throughout the nation, while the government was helplessly drifting toward revolution.

The emperor himself, as if doomed by fate, remained indifferent to all frantic appeals. At an audience late in February, Rodzianko warned Nicholas of an oncoming 'state of anarchy which no one will be able to control'. The tsar showed no sign of alarm, manifested impatience and urged Rodzianko to make his report brief. 'Couldn't you get through with it quicker? The Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich is expecting me to tea', the emperor added, in irritation. Rodzianko hurriedly finished, allowing his sovereign to attend to his social functions, but with hardly any sense of national urgency. Rodzianko's requests for more determined action usually annoyed Nicholas and almost on the eve of the revolution all Nicholas could say as he read his pleas was: 'Again that fat-bellied Rodzianko has written me a lot of nonsense, which I don't even bother to answer'.

There were increasing rumors of a palace revolution which would replace Nicholas by his young heir under the regency of Grand Duke Nicholas. The plan seems to have had sympathetic followers among members of the Duma and among military leaders such as General Krymov. But if higher circles dreamed of a shift in government with little or no political disturbance, the yearning for a political change regardless of consequences was more pronounced elsewhere. There were many signs of

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