17 February y
Russia History Essay
How far do you agree that the main reason for the failure of the Provisional Government was the decision to continue fighting in the First World War?
Although there are several reasons that contribute towards the failure of the Provisional Government, such as the shared power with the soviets, the decision to continue fighting in the First World War was the most important because it led to the loss of support of the people and perhaps more importantly the army, who they desperately needed to keep hold of, as the army protected them. The First World War was the biggest problem the Provisional Government faced, having already lost territory in places such as Poland, and the morale of the armed forces was rapidly decreasing. By continuing in the First World War, the Provisional Government lost the support of the people. Russia owed a large amount of money to several countries who had loaned money to fund the war. The foreign banks were willing to continue to loan to Russia as long as they continued fighting, therefore it can be argued that the Provisional Government was inclined to continue the fighting in the First World War. Other reasons which contributed to the failure of the Provisional Governement was the inability to tackle the food problem, the poor handling of land reforms, the Kornilov Affair and the July Days.
In February 1917 the Provisional Governement shared political power with the soviets. This was a tricky situation, as any major areas of legislation and policy had to be agreed on by both powers. This was made even more complicated by the fact that the Provisional Governemtn was mainly liberal, whereas the soviets were dominated by left-wing groups, making it more or less impossible to agree on anything. The sovietsmanaged to pass ‘Order Number 1’, meaning any unpopular or enthusiastic officers were dismissed, and that any military orders of the Provisionla Governemnet would only be recognised if they were agreed by the soviet. The Soviet therefore had the upper hand on the Provisional Governemnt, as they effectively controlled the army, leading the Provisional Governement to ask the Bolsheviks for assistance. Asking the Bolsheviks for help displayed the Provisional Governemnt as weak and unpopular, on the contrary this boosted Bolshevik popularity and they took control of the soviets.
Another factor that led to the downfall of the Provisional Governement was their inability to deal with land and food. People in Russia began to demand goods, which led to rioting. In this case the Provisional Govenment’s power was fairly limited because the soviets controlled the food system. Also, the land had not been distributed evenly, so the peasants rebelled which slowed up the production of food from peasant farms and fuel. This had a knock-on effect on not just the starving people of Russia, but also the army, who were malnourished, which led to unrest and decreased morale. Inflation and hunger got worse because the war did not end and so the people stayed angry at the Provisioal Governemtn. The Provisional Governement failed to end the food shortages and inflation because it didn’t end the war, which drained their resources. The peasants, who started taking the Noble’s land, caused anarchy in the countryside. Again, the Provisional Government failed, after sending troops to recover the land, which made the peasants very angry with the Provisional Governemtn, decreasing their support further.
Two other issues that link together is the success of the July days coupled with the absolute failure of the Kornilov affair. In the July days the Bolshevik party was completely disgraced after it failed to lead a half-hearted coup on the government. The Government raced troops back from the front to deal with the protests in Petrograd - this showed the people that they had the power to deal with the Bolshevik trouble causers. Many leaders were arrested and Lenin fled