Italy, 1913 Hello. In 1913 a Russian philosopher
and writer of political essays Boris Valentinovitch Yakovenko
crossed the border of Italy. He was arrested for his
revolutionary activities in Russia and left his Motherland
for good after his release. In four years,
a revolution will take place in Petrograd. Boris Valentinovitch will fail to
witness the event he had been waiting for all his life. He was only reading
newspapers and collecting information about what was going on in Russia.
Years will pass, and he’ll write a book
based on those notes called “The History of the
Great Russian Revolution”. It’ll become one of the first
descriptions of the tragic events that shook not only the Russian
Empire but the entire world. The History of the Russian Revilution.
February. Episode One The beginning of the 20th century;
the Russian Empire. “Give us twenty peaceful years,
and you won’t recognize Russia”. These were the words of the
Prime-Minister Petr Stolypin who started large-scale
economic reforms in 1906. In September of 1911
Stolypin was murdered. However,
the transformations in Russia went on. Even Lenin acknowledged that if
Stolypin’s reforms had been successful the revolution wouldn’t be possible. The Russian Empire was undergoing
an unprecedented upsurge. Agriculture was then the main
branch of the Russian economy. It was bringing in 55,7%
of the state income. Almost all the agricultural
works were performed manually or with the help of the farm animals. Still, Russia remained the
leading world exporter of grain. Its share amounted to 40%
of the entire world export. As for the industrial production,
Russia occupied a humble fifth place. For example, the state yielded to the
USA in electricity production by 60%. However,
it was decreasing the gap step by step. The pace of growth of the
Russian economy exceeded that of the other countries and
amounted to 8% per annum. In 1913, the total price of
the goods exported from Russia constituted 1,052 billion rubles, while the import constituted
1,037 billion rubles. It meant constant increase of
the gold reserve of the state. The sales of the butter alone
were bringing Russia more money that gold mining even though
Russia was mining more gold than any other country of the world. The gold reserve secured the
paper money for over 100%. For example, at the same time in Germany the gold provided for no more
than 50% of the paper money. The quality of life in the
country was changing too. The average wages of a worker
amounted to about 20 rubles per month when a loaf of bread cost 3-5 kopeks,
1 kg of potatoes cost 1.5 kopeks, and 1 kg of beef – 30 kopeks. An 8-hour working day was a rarity
even at the West at those times. In Russia,
it was about 10.5 hours long on average. That limit was protected
by the legislation; however, it didn’t prevent some enterprises
from setting longer working hours. Still, some manufacturers limited the
working day to 9 and even 8 hours. They provided their workers with lodging,
medical care and vacations. There weren’t a lot of such enterprises but the quality of life of the
workers did improve year after year. In 1912, the social insurance for the
workers was introduced in Russia – earlier than at the West.
Although the conditions of life for ordinary workers were far from ideal,
the President of the USA William Taft said: “Your Emperor
created such a perfect labor legislation that none of the democratic
countries may yet boast”. New hospitals and schools
were opening in the country. It was planned to completely
overcome illiteracy by 1920. Cinema, arts and theatre were on the rise.
Russia was in fashion. It was impossible to get tickets for
Diaghilev’s ballet performances in Paris. The names of Serov, Bakst, Bilibin,
Vereschagin and other painters were known all over the world.
Europe read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and staged the plays by Chekhov.
In 1900 at the World Exhibition in Paris the Russian pavilion
received 1,589 awards, with 212 out of them
being of the highest rank. This is what newspaper “Liberte”
wrote on the impressions from the Russian pavilions:
“We’re still under the impression of surprise and admiration after the
visit to the Russian exhibition”. The social life in Russian was
booming like everywhere in the world. Europe had been ruled by
generations of monarchs, aristocrats and nobles for hundreds of years.
The lands and riches belonged to them. They wrote laws; they had the power. However, the times were moving on. The developing capitalism gave birth to
the new financial and industrial elite. By the start of the 20th century,
private companies and banks were controlling capitals
comparable to the budgets of their respective countries.
Producers, traders and bankers demanded new rights,
new conditions and new laws from the government for the
development of their businesses. They bribed bureaucrats and lobbied
the appointment of “their” people to the state authorities to achieve
the adoption of the legal drafts in their favor.
They wanted to create the laws themselves, in other words,
to take the power into their own hands. Common folk was the
instrument of the fight between the old and the new money. Both sides were using the people
to defend their right to power. The government appealed to the
patriotic feelings of the subjects. The opposition promised the
citizens all the possible freedoms – the freedom of entrepreneurship,
freedom of speech, religion and ethics. These new ideas that were called
“liberal” were in essence inspiring people to only one thing –
the overthrow of the old regime. Do they think we’re fool?
We’re working and working… Russia was bursting with illegal
revolutionary literature. It was disseminated by the
groups of revolutionaries but published at the expense of the
large capitalists and industrialists. The brochures were sold among
the workers for high prices that generated good income for
the revolutionaries and their sponsors. In this way the Social-Democrats,
including the Bolsheviks, were getting huge profits from the sales
of the illegal political literature which was published abroad. Those sabotaging activities
and a row of provocations led to the revolution of 1905 in Russia, that started amidst the war with Japan. Barricades, street fights and
terrorist acts claimed the lives of over 9,000 people.
Those tragic events forced the Tsar to make the first concessions
to the opposition. In 1905, the Russian Emperor
permitted the activities of different political parties. Nicolay II saw that the
country couldn’t stand still. It did need the reforms. The newly formed parties mostly
represented the interests of capitalists, landowners and liberals.
Their goal remained the same – the seizing of the power. They still bet on the support
of the workers and peasants. Agitation,
dissemination of the illegal literature and establishment of illegal
political circles didn’t stop. However, it wasn’t the revolution
that shook the country. A catastrophe was looming
not only over Russia. On August 1, 1914 one of the most terrible
wars in the history of the mankind broke out. The war that will later
be called the First World War engulfed the entire Europe and
then almost all the continents. The world changed forever. Forty-four years had passed since
the German states united into one Empire – the German Reich.
Germany was pushing France and England out of the markets and winning over
new colonies in Asia and Africa. Its closest ally, the Austro-Hungarian
Empire was fighting over the control at the Balkans threatening the
Orthodox Serbia, Russia’s ally. The situation in the world
was becoming tenser and tenser. The states were arming themselves. France, Russia and Great Britain
established a military union called the “Entente”.
Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy established the so-called Triple Alliance.
In June of 1914, in Bosnia the heir to the Austrian
throne Franz Ferdinand was murdered. Austria accused the Serbian special
services of the assassination and declared a war with Serbia.
Russia claimed that it wouldn’t permit
the occupation of Serbia. The Russian Emperor Nicolay II sent
a telegram to the German Emperor Wilhelm II with an offer to discuss
that conflict at The Hague Conference and prevent the war.
Wilhelm didn’t answer. Mobilizations started in Europe. On August 1, 1914 Germany
declared the war with Russia, on August 3 – with France.
In three more days, Austro-Hungary declared
the war with Russia too. That was how Russia came
to be involved in the fight for division of power in
the world against its wish. However, it was too late to move out. Italy, 1914 The war… Germany’s aggression led to
an unprecedented upsurge of patriotism in Russia. The war was called the
Second Patriotic War by analogy with the war against Napoleon. A many-thousand strong
demonstration gathered by the Palace Square in St.-Petersburg. The exuberant crowd greeted the Tsar. The people united around the
Emperor like in the previous years when the enemy was approaching
the borders of the Russian state. Nicolay II, the Emperor of All Russia
from the House of the Romanovs. He was a relative to the
monarchs of Britain and Germany. In the course of his rule,
radical reforms of state organization, agriculture and manufacturing
were carried out. The population of the country increased
by at least 50 million of people. The state regime of the
country was still autocratic but with the elements of
the constitutional monarchy. The Emperor initiated the
convention of the first ever Hague Peace Conference in history, was the first to raise the issue of
all-round disarmament of the countries. Despite a wide-spread opinion, he wasn’t among the richest
people of the Empire. Until the end of his life, he remained
a deeply religious Orthodox Christian. The war became a common cause. Patriotic manifestations were
held everywhere, money was raised, the army was flooded with volunteers.
Strikes stopped. In the State Duma, the supports of
the Tsar and the oppositional parties finally came to terms and
both chose the side of Russia. That was what people were
talking about in the streets, what was written in the newspapers which Boris Yakovenko was
reading in the far-away Italy. Italy, 1916 From the book of Boris Yakovenko “The History of the Great
Russian Revolution”: “The meeting of the State Duma held
on July 26 was the most expressive. The representatives of the Germans,
Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Tatars and Jews all expressed
the feeling of national unity that filled them up to the brim”. However, the war campaign of 1914
started for the Russian troops with a tragedy. The First and the
Second Armies entered the territory of Germany.
At first, the assault was a success. But soon, the Second Army was defeated and dozens of thousand
soldiers ended up prisoners. At the same time, the Russian troops
continued their active assault against Austro-Hungary.
Lvov was seized; the impregnable fortress
of Peremyshl fell. However, in May of 1915
the enemy broke the front line by the town of Gorlitsa.
Under the threat of encirclement, the Russian troops were
forced to leave Poland behind. The so-called Great Retreat
of the Russian army began. After Poland, the troops lost
significant territories in Belarus and the Baltic states. Before the First World war, none of the war conflicts
had ever been so protracted. The leaders of all the states were certain that the war wouldn’t last for
more than a couple of months. They weren’t ready for a catastrophe
of that magnitude. New types of weapons,
colossal artillery guns, machine guns, armored trains, dirigibles, airplanes
were bringing the part of a human in that war to a naught. Attacks of
infantry and cavalry were cut short by the fire of cannons and machine guns. It seemed that the horror of that
war would never come to an end. Prolonged battles led to enormous
overexpenditure of the ammunition in the Russian army.
The troops lacked shells and rifles. The industry couldn’t cope
with all the military orders. The state planned to get the ammunition,
weapons and military equipment from abroad. However, the shells and weapons Russia
paid for were confiscated by the allies. They lacked the ammunition
no less than the Russians. To overcome the crisis, the government
retorted to titanic efforts. New equipment was bought,
new plants were constructed. In a year, the number of shells
manufactured reached 1 million per month. It was a colossal achievement –
in comparison with 1914, the manufacturing of shells
was increased 90-fold. However, the renewed supply system
didn’t start working at once. The crisis was overcome only in 1916. News from the front were plunging
the country into depression. The state lost the Western provinces
with great economic potential. Millions of refugees were
following the retreating troops; they were to be provided with lodgings,
food and medical care. Inflation was growing and
the prices of the goods rose. Food became in short supply. The government attempted to fix
the prices to prevent speculation. The result turned out to be the opposite. The goods were disappearing from the
shop shelves to be sold on the sly. The speculation was only growing.
Some were ready to hold on and to work until the complete victory.
Some found the guilty at once and started blaming the Tsar and
his government – first of all, the liberal politicians.
They set the tone in the mass media, and the foreign diplomats were
inclined to listen to them. They were influencing the government.
Since October of 1905, a state regime called “constitutional
monarchy” was established in Russia. The Emperor presided over the foreign
affairs and the military forces, headed the executive and the
judicial branches of power. The Council of Ministers
was its highest body; its composition was
defined by the Emperor. The Emperor executed the legislative
power together with the parliament. The State Council consisting
of the Tsar’s bureaucrats was the upper chamber of the parliament. The lower chamber was the State Duma
that consisted of the elected deputies. The legislative initiatives and the budget
were developed by the Duma, transferred for the discussion
to the State Council and then approved by the Emperor.
After the revolution of 1905, different political parties
were legalized in the country which started meeting in the Duma.
The majority of them were in opposition to the authorities, and that influenced the
decisions taken by the Duma. The deputies constantly criticized
the government and the ministers. During the war, those internal
struggles didn’t help the efforts of the government and the army.
In 1915, there were 442 deputies in the State Duma, including: 120 representatives of the
National-Patriotic Forces; 98 deputies of the Union of
the 17th of October Party which was representing large landowners;
65 – right monarchists; 59 – of the Constitutional-Democratic
Party, “cadets” for short, which included traders, bankers,
clerks, doctors and teachers; 48 – the so-called Party of
Progress consisting of manufacturers and representatives of the business;
21 from the national minorities – the Polish, Lithuanian and
Belorussian group, the Polish Circle, the Muslim Group; 14 – Social-Democrats
(Bolsheviks and Mensheviks); 10 – deputies of the Labor Group which
claimed to represent the interests of the working population;
7 deputies didn’t belong to any party. The majority of those parties
(October Party, cadets, Party of Progress,
Labor Group, Social-Democrats) were in opposition to the government,
the Tsar and the very idea of the
monarchical state regime. In the circumstances of a difficult war,
that played a fateful part. Hold here! ”Everything for the war!” That was the slogan that
united the Russian society. However,
it took time to reorganize old enterprises and open new ones. Criticizing the government
for its mistakes and inflexibility,
the opposition announced that it would take the
affairs into its own hands. One of the prominent
politicians from the opposition Prince Georgiy Lvov headed that movement. Georgiy Lvov, Prince,
a descendant of the Rurik kin, member of different
oppositional movements. He headed the All-Russian Provincial Union which was rendering charity assistance
to the families of soldiers, sick and wounded. He enjoyed
reputation of an unselfish person. On the basis of the
All-Russian Provincial Union, a “Zemgor” was established –
the main joined committee of the provincial and city unions
for the supply of the army. Zemgor announced that it could
redistribute a part of the military orders among the cottage industries.
At first, the plan was to raise money for that from private people.
The government passed to the Zemgor a right to re-distribute a part of the military
orders among petty entrepreneurs. However, the coordinated works failed. The Zemgor soon became a place when one could hide from the mobilization
and avoid the trenches. The authorized representatives
of the Zemgor were wearing a close-to-military uniform
but stayed in the rear. The so-called “military-industrial
committees” appeared in the country. These organizations of the
manufacturers were re-distributing the orders from the government
to the large enterprises. In other words, they became intermediaries between the state and
large industrialists. All the local committees were to report to the Central Military and Industrial
Committee headed by Alexander Guchkov, the leader of the October Party. Alexander Ivanovitch Guchkov came
from a Moscow trader’s family and was the chairman of the Central
Committee of the October Party. He supported Stolypin’s reforms but
later stopped supporting his government. He participated in duels many times
and earned reputation of a fighter. The Emperor liked Guchkov;
he appreciated his sharp mind and capabilities until
Guchkov passed the details of their private
conversation to mass media. The Tsar justly perceived it
as an act of betrayal and changed his attitude towards Guchkov.
Guchkov got offended and was ready for any actions
to overthrow the Emperor. Nicolay II called him ”Yan Shi-Kai”
after the Chinese revolutionary dictator and considered him to
be his personal enemy. People had different views on
the activities of the Zemgor and military and industrial committees.
On one hand, new military plants were constructed,
hospitals were built, the army was getting supplies.
On the other hand, corruption was on the rise.
Private funds were quickly exhausted, leading to the use of the state money. In 1916,
the Zemgor was functioning almost fully at the expense of the state treasury; the committees, therefore, became
the sources of great illegal profits. Prince Lvov was fighting the corruption
in his establishment as ardently as he could,
though without any success. The police reported that despite
the growth of the prices, the sales were booming in the shops
selling pearls, diamonds, furs and silk. But the main thing was that
the zemgors soon transformed into organizations where the future
of the revolution was brewing. Their connections to the large capitalists,
foreign diplomats, bureaucratic elite as well as
the mass media allowed them to set the largest-scale goals.
A paradoxical situation occurred – the government struggled with solving
the simplest issues in the country while the coalition of the
liberals opposing the government was making people believe that they
were the real saviors of the nation. They were appropriating all the
successes of the government. At that time,
the people were in turmoil for reasons that had nothing to do
with parliamentarianism. In May of 1915,
Moscow was shaken by the German pogrom. The pre-revolutionary Russia
was connected to Germany with extremely strong ties. By 1914, 2.5 million Germans were
living in the country. While preparing for the war,
Germany was paying close attention to them. Spies, agents of influence and common
Russophobes appeared among them. Their numbers, though, were comtemtible, while in Russia an
anti-German campaign started. People wouldn’t speak
German in public places; St.-Petersburg was renamed
into Petrograd; many Germans even changed their surnames. The defeat of the Russian troops
in spring and summer of 1915 added fuel to the fire.
The Great Retreat was explained with the ”Great Treason” at the very top, where a lot of generals and
high-ranking officials were Germans. Many commoners didn’t like the
German origins of the Emperor’s wife Alexandra Fedorovna,
born Alix Viktoria Helene Luise Beatrix of Hesse-Darmstadt.
The Empress was loyal to Russia until the end of her life.
However, the rumors about her treason were circulating around the country,
and some believed in them. Open up! Your time is up! Closed Get out, German swine! Is somebody in? One of the reason for Moscow
pogroms was a stupid rumor that the Germans intentionally infected
the workers of one of the factories with dysentery. The police didn’t
react to the first manifestations, and they soon turned into mass unrest. The anger of the
participants of the pogroms turned to all foreigners indiscriminately. The Russians who got in their
way in the heat of the moment suffered the most. The people were
ruining shops and wine cellars; fires started in Moscow. What, German sausage? Wine Trade. Herr Krause To restore order,
troops had to be called in. The soldiers opened fire,
and only after that the pogroms stopped. It’s unknown how many people died but the damages inflicted by the pogroms
amounted to 40 million rubles. It’s the amount needed for the
construction of a dreadnought, a huge military shop equipped
with the most modern armament. At the same time, a wave of workers’
uprisings engulfed the country. In the middle of the assault,
the most important military plant in Petrograd – “Putilovsk” –
went on a strike. The strikers demanded to get
rid of the spies at the top and to raise the wages.
The arrests were numerous; troops were sent to the plants. It was impossible to avoid those
harsh measures during the war. However, the authorities
were clearly losing the trust they had gained at the
beginning of the war. Italy, 1915 From the book of Boris Yakovenko: “The History of the Great
Russian Revolution”: “Under the influence of all the facts,
events, phenomena, rumors and worries the Russian society
plunged into the state of alarm filled with the darkest suspicions and mixed with the feeling
of the deepest protest”. Since the first days of the war,
the position of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army was occupied by
the Great Duke Nicolay Nicolayevitch. Nicolay Nicolayevitch (Junior),
the Grand Duke, the grandson of the Emperor Nicolay I, a participant of the Russian-Turkish
war of 1877-1878, a cavalry general. He was very popular at the army.
He was nicknamed “Sly” for his excessive love to power
and disposition towards intrigues. However, as they say,
“victory has a hundred fathers while a defeat is always an orphan”.
In Russia, the first person is accountable for
everything, especially for the failures. After the Great Retreat,
the Tsar didn’t lay the blame for that on the Grand Duke. On August 23, 1915
Emperor Nicolay II took the position of the Commander-in-Chief.
“At such a critical moment, the highest chief of the army shall
head it”. It was a brave decision. The Tsar considered it to
be his duty to lead the army at that difficult time.
The Grand Duke Nicolay Nicolayevitch wasn’t a prominent war leader.
However, for many it was he who personified the chief
of the fighting army. His impressive height and loud
voice created an attractive image among the troops. Even the Great Retreat which was entirely his fault
didn’t damage the popularity of Nicolay Nicolayevitch. Still,
the Emperor discharged him from his post and sent to head the Caucasian Front. The soldiers disapproved of the news. Many believed that the enemy
was stopped in its tracks specifically thanks to the Grand Duke. On hearing on the Tsar’s
decision to head the army many people asked with surprise:
“Why did he go to fight on his own?” The direct influence of the Emperor
on the course of the war was minimal. In reality,
it was the head of the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, a talented
war leader Mikhail Vasilyevitch Alexeyev. However, it was Nicolay II,
the ruler of all Russia, who was held responsible for everything
before his country and his people. In 1905, he signed the manifesto
on establishing of a parliament what meant the end of autocracy as
the unlimited power of the monarch. However, he never forgot about
his personal responsibility before the state and the people. All the Russian Tsars were
responsible for that before the God; being a deeply religious man,
Nicolay remembered about it until the last minutes of his life.
By that time, the liberal ideas became popular even
in the family circle of the Tsar’s house. Some of the Grand Dukes believed that
if not the abolition of the monarchy then at least limiting
the role of the Emperor in the management of the
country would be for the best. However, Nicolay II,
like his father Emperor Alexander III, was sure that it was monarchy that
created the historical individuality of the state. “If the monarchy falls,
Russia will follow”. The Emperor was right. In those difficult days,
the State Duma concentrated not on strengthening the country
but on opposing the Tsar and his government.
During the Great Retreat, the opposition formed the
so-called Progressive Block. Its members had the closest
ties with Lvov’s Zemgor and the military and industrial
committees of Guchkov. The deputies of that block
demanded a lot from the Tsar, first of all to establish
“the government of trust”. In other words, they wanted to appoint new
ministers out of the candidates proposed by the Duma instead of old ones. The Zemgor even threatened
with direct sabotage promising to stop the work of
all the communal establishments servicing the army.
However, in September of 1915 the Duma was disbanded for a vacation. The Tsar and his government managed
to fight off the first attack of the liberal opposition. Amidst the defeats and the Great Retreat another political crisis started.
In the course of just a few war years under the pressure from the State Duma the state went through
four Prime-Ministers, six Ministers of Internal Affairs,
and three military Ministers. The things weren’t much better
in the other ministries. By those appointments, the Emperor
was trying to reach a compromise in the relations with the Duma. However, the opposition wanted not
so much to strengthen the government but to criticize the authorities.
Under such circumstances, the relocations only
exacerbated the situation. By changing the ministers,
the authorities hoped to soften the tension of political struggles.
However, the society was bewildered. The newspapers were writing about
some “irresponsible influences” ruining Russia. The Empress
Alexandra Fedorovna was blamed for that or, more often – Grigoriy Rasputin who
became one of the most mysterious and contradictory personalities
in the history of Russia. Grigoriy Efimovitch Rasputin was a peasant
from the village of Pokrovskoye of the province of Tobolsk.
He came to Petersburg in 1903. In some circles
close to the Emperor’s family, he enjoyed reputation of the Tsar’s friend,
visionary and healer. Rasputin had a mysterious gift –
he could stop the bleeding without any medicines or bandages.
The only son of the Emperor, Prince Alexei, was sick with hemophilia. This dicease makes the blood
coagulation inadequate, and any internal bleeding or an
accidental trauma may lead to death. Rasputin provided the Prince with
urgent care on a few occasions and as a result of that
became close with the Tsar’s family. A circle of high-society ladies
quickly formed around him; they were wives of different
traders and career-makers who hoped to achieve their goals
through the old man. The measure of Rasputin’s
influence on the Tsar’s house still remains unknown. Still,
silly rumors about an illiterate peasant manipulating the Tsar were gradually
spreading around Petersburg and the entire country. Guchkov was personally responsible
for making public the alleged letters of the Empress and the Grand
Duchecess to Rasputin; they were probably faked.
That correspondence was copied at the hectograph and disseminating as
agitation materials against the Tsar. On finding out, Nicolay II entrusted
the Military Minister Sukhomlinov with telling Guchkov
that he was a bastard. I know. By 1915, a real hysteric
was brewing around Rasputin. The newspapers were choking with
hatred and mixed truth with open lies. Rasputin was suspected of espionage; they called him a “behind-the-scenes
ruler of the Empire”, “an evil genius of the poor Russia”. Both common folk and the society that
considered itself to be progressive were heeding that hysteric. The Grand
Dukes demanded Rasputin to be sent away; however, the Tsar was standing his ground. Rasputin remained with the Court. In 1916 the position of Russia improved. The “shell hunger” was over.
General Alexeyev was ruling the army with a capable hand.
The Caucasian army of General Yudenitch successfully stormed an impregnable
Turkish fortress of Erzurum and in May,
the famous Brusilov’s Breakthrough started. The troops of the South-Western Front
under the head of General Brusilov broke through the defenses
of the Austro-Hungarian army at the front 550 km long and moved
150 km further causing it great losses. The assault wasn’t supported
by the other fronts and couldn’t continue. That blow mitigated the
troubles of the allies and even saved the
Italian army from demise. The situation at the war was reversing
in the favor of Russia and the Entente. Russia’s spirits lifted.
The victory was close. The war at the two fronts
was exhausting Germany. However,
while losing the initiative at the front the enemy attempted to
win the war in the rear. The German government
set the task to revolutionize Russia by any means possible. Huge money was
allotted for the provocative propaganda. Alexander Lvovitch Parvus was one
of the organizers of that mission, a trader and a former Social-Democrat
who had wide connections with the Russian opposition
abroad and personally knew Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin.
To realize his plan, he asked for five million golden marks from the German Ministry
for Foreign Affairs and received two million on spot. There are data suggesting that
huge amounts were transferred to Lenin’s Bolsheviks’ Party
through set-up banks and companies. Lenin himself was an active supporter
of Russia’s defeat in the war. He appealed for that war to be
transformed into the civil war since the day it had started. The internal politics of Russia was
getting more and more complicated and contradictory. The Emperor tried
to overcome the crisis in the country by making good appointments.
But the appointment of Boris Shturmer for the position of the Prime-Minister
enraged the liberals again. Boris Vladimirovicth Shturmer,
a descendant of the Russified Germans, a member of the State Council.
After becoming the chairman of the Council of Ministers,
he took the posts of the Minister of Internal Affairs
and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Being the head of the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, he made the allies agree to all Russia’s
demands in case they win the war. Namely, the Russian Empire was to control
the Black Sea Straits and Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. The representatives
of the allies came to hate Shturmer for his rigid position and started
a real harassment campaign. In September of 1916, at Shturmer’s
initiative the “Russkoye Slovo” newspaper made public the
information that the Zemgor and the military and industrial
committees were functioning solely at the expense of the state treasury. Out of 562 million of rubles spent by those organizations they
only raised 9 million themselves. The rest was allotted
from the state budget. The Zemgor that received orders for
the amount of 242 million of rubles from the Military Ministry
fulfilled them only for 80 million. The military and industrial committees
received the orders for the amount of 400 million of rubles but fulfilled
less than a half of the works. At the meeting of the Council
of Ministers Shturmer raised an issue of disbanding the Zemgor and the
military and industrial committees and of transferring their
functions to the state bodies. It’s not surprising that the
opposition hated Shturmer’s guts. The embassies of the allied countries
joined the fight against him. They didn’t like Shturmer for
his rigidity during negotiations. The German spy network that
was operating in Russia was supplemented by the spies
from France and England. The Embassy of England and its special
services did everything they could to ensure that the Tsar’s government
was replaced with the liberals. Everybody would gain from
that except for Russia. On feeling the support of the allies,
the opposition intensified its efforts in a fight with the Tsar’s
government threefold. The liberals were courting the
proletariat trying to enlist its support. As a result of that,
during the entire 1916 Russia was feverish with strikes and conspiracies. The people
protesting against the authorities were talking about saving the country
from some “dark forces” allegedly possessing Russia.
But in reality, they were only pushing both
the weakened authorities and the country itself into the abyss. Different conspiracies arose
around Nicolay Nicolayevitch and the other Grand Dukes.
The circles of conspirators intertwined to fashion out plans and
put down memorandums. Those memorandums ended up on the
Tsar’s table but he didn’t react. The State Duma was shaken by
one scandal after another. Yes, act according to the plan. On November 1, 1916, a leader of the Party
of the Constitutional Democrats Pavel Milyukov ascended the
chair of the State Duma. Pavel Nicolayevitch Milyukov,
a son of an architect, a descendant of an ancient noble family.
A deputy of the State Duma who was engaged in the
activities of the opposition for what he had spent a
couple of months in prison. He had close ties with
the British diplomats. Vasilyev,
Director of the police department wrote: “If the English Ministry for Foreign
Affairs at some point permits the publication of the
documents from its archives, it would shed a new and not pleasant
light at Milyukov’s “patriotism”. Milyukov’s speech was clearly
prepared jointly by the opposition and the embassies of France
and England with a sole goal – to get rid of Shturmer by any means.
To achieve that, the most terrible and silly accusation
of all was chosen – the state treason. By mixing facts and fantasies,
Milyukov accused the head of the government together with the Empress of
preparation of a separatist peace treaty with Germany.
At the end of his speech he exclaimed: “What is it? Foolishness or treason?” Italy, 1916 “That speech gave a decisive push
to the political and social process that in four months was
fated to burst in the deepest and most exciting revolution”. Living in emigration, Milyukov will
write about that speech of his: “We took the decision to use
the war to overthrow the power soon after the outbreak of the war.
We couldn’t wait any longer for we knew that at the end of
April or at the beginning of May our army was to start the assault
the outcomes of which would stop any hints at discontent
at once and would give rise to an explosion of partiotism
and excitement in the country”. Still, Shturmer was forced to resign
and Milyukov remained the deputy of the State Duma. The country made
another step towards a catastrophe. The next Prime-Minister
Alexander Fedorovitch Trepov lasted for only one month and
was replaced by Prince Golitsin who lacked serious
experience of ministry work. The appointment of Alexander Protopopov
as the Minister of the Internal Affairs turned out to be even more controversial. He used to be the deputy
chairman of the State Duma and was considered to be one of
the liberals. By appointing him to a key position, the authorities
wanted to please the opposition. However,
they achieved the opposite result. The liberals called Protopopov
“a traitor” and came to hate him. Besides, the minister seemed to
be not entirely in his right mind, and his mental disorder became more and
more apparent with each passing day. The Emperor knew that Protopopov
wasn’t the best candidature. He often said: “It’s risky to leave
the ministry in the hands of such a person in such times”. However,
the Chairman of the State Duma Rodzyanko and the Minister for the Foreign
Affairs Sazonov recommended him. That’s why the Tsar
didn’t make him resign. Soon the capital was shaken
by a new piece of news. In December of 1916,
Rasputin was murdered in Petrograd. From the book of Boris Yakovenko “The History of the Great
Russian Revolution”: “The news of Rasputin’s
death and the circumstances under which it had happened
impressed the society, and the mass media talked of nothing
else but rumors regarding that event”. The entire Petersburg seemed to know
the circumstances of Rasputin’s murder. The newspapers named the
conspirators almost openly, including the member of the Emperor’s
family Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovitch. Still, not all the secrets
of that mysterious murder have been revealed to this day.
It looks like the investigation was deliberately thrown
off the right track. Prison 1916 was nearing its end. The newspapers were full
of terrible rumors. The embassies of England
and France were scheming. The front was preparing
for a decisive advance and the rear was preparing
for conspiracies and unrest. The Tsar knew of all those problems. However, during the war he
believed that his main task was to save the country from
the aggression. He said: “I’ll sort the internal affairs
out when we drive the German away”. These words became the so-called slogan,
a spell the Emperor was clinging to. In times of the war, the internal policy
held second-rate importance for him. It’s possible that this political mistake
sealed the fate of the Russian Emperor. On the last day of the year,
Nicolay II wrote in his diary: “We prayed passionately to God
to have mercy for Russia.” The year 1917 was on the threshold.