Abdication and The Provisional Government

By 1917, the Russian war effort was categorized as a disaster.  Food shortages, terrible army living conditions, and trouble at home away from the front left the people of Russia desperately searching for a scapegoat.  The citizens found the perfect scapegoat in their Tsar Nikolai II. Once the Russian army began to crumble under German forces, Tsar Nikolai II was named commander in chief of the army, and began The Great Retreat. As Russian morale dissipated, Tsar Nikolai II stepped down and named his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail, the new Tsar.  In the article, “The Abdication of Nikolai II”, the explanation of his abdication was filled with glorified speech about their powerful nation and it’s heroic victory. The people of Russia were told it was time to “abdicate the Crown of the Russian state and lay down the Supreme Power.”  Unfortunately rather than take on a new form of government, a second Tsar, the brother of the former, was placed in power. With an “elected” legislative body, the Duma, at his side, there was an appearance of representation of the people. The Abdication was a call upon the nation to govern themselves through the representatives in the Duma. The people of Russia did not have as much of a say in the operations of their country as they believed.  The Tsar himself selected the representatives. The Duma was given a set of eight principles to follow, ranging from amnesty to military rights.  The closing sentence of “The First Provisional Government” is a strange ending to a declaration of trust, “[The Duma] has no intention whatsoever of taking advantage of the military situation to delay in any way the carrying through of the reforms and the measures outlined above.”  While the Duma declares it has no intention of halting the measures to replace the Tsar, it is clear that they are willing and able to use the military for whatever is necessary.  While setting up the Duma and filling it with representatives gave the people of Russia a sense of control, the elected body was a facade for the Tsar to hide behind.  By selecting a preferred cabinet, did the Tsar take away power from the population?

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