Progress Through Poetry

“We Grow out of Iron” by Alexei Gastev and “The Iron Messiah” by Vladimir Kirillov both display discontent with the “old world” and seek to show a newer vision of society.  The future that they write about does not respect the divine rights of monarchs.  According to Kirillov, “he [the worker] destroys the thrones and prisons” (1).  One characteristic of modernity is a lack of respect for the monarchy.  Instead of a single leader deciding the fate of a country, many revolutionaries, including the proletarian Kirillov, sought to inspire revolution against the morals of the “old world.” They felt that Russia was an antiquated society.

Both of these poems respect the worker, specifically machines, for their efficiency, while decrying anything from the past. These poems were written during turbulent times in Russia.  “We Grow out of Iron” was written in 1914, while “The Iron Messiah” was written in 1918.  These poems were written at the time that Russian revolutionaries were plotting coups and fomenting violence to rid Russia of Tsar Nicholas II, who represented the more conservative, traditional Russia.  Russia’s attempt to become a modern state included more than just violence in the streets, however, it also included poetry.  By writing these poems, both Gastev and Kirillov were part of the revolution to end what they saw as antiquated practices in Russia (the monarchy).  Their works champion the Russian laborer, who is seen as unremarkable by Russians up until the revolutionary radicals adopted pro-worker platforms.  Up until the 20th century in Russia, worker’s rights were ignored.  These two poems represent the change in attitude that sought to make Russia a modern state.

1: Kirillov, Vladimir.  “The Iron Messiah.”

Russia in Reform: Will the Duma Do it?

March 15 & 16 1917 marked a monumental day for the Russian people, the decision to abdicate the crown was made by Tsar Nikolai the second. Nikolai handed the crown to his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich whom reflecting the feelings of the nation passed on all power to the Provisional Government more popularly referred to as the Duma.

In the Duma’s address to the Russian populace they start with a declaration of victory over the “dark forces of the old regime” informing the people that they now have the power to re-organize the executive power of the nation. They then transition in to a list of the new cabinet positions created and who have been appointed to them at their political alignment. These men were chosen based off of their past political and public service so the public had relations with these men so they could understand that decisions will be made by the citizens. The next step for reassuring the public were the list of principles which this new government and its members will hold themselves to. The list contains the basis for a more liberal society with items such as: forgiveness for previous victims of the law, basic freedoms, equality between all citizens, suffrage, a more public police. The most questionable law being the lack of restrictions on active duty soldiers, which most likely is in response to the war Russia was fighting at the time. The Duma concludes that this war will not delay these reforms which Russia needed.

When thinking in terms to how the Duma addresses its people is this piece successful? Could they have added anything else? What’s your interpretation for the last principle regarding active duty soldiers?

Aims For a New Future

After 300 years of Tsarist rule in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to renounce his thrown because of his inability to modernize the Russian autocracy. Therefore the duma, an elected body of legislators, was given an inordinate amount of power over the aims of the First Provisional Government.

First, the Duma aspired to represent the Russian public through the selection of ministers for the new cabinet. The Duma wanted to assure the masses of the First Provisional Governments aim to distance themselves from the oppressive rule of past Tsars. On March 1917, the Izvesttia, a long running newspaper in Russia released the goals of the cabinet. The cabinet members of the New Provisional Government wanted to ensure: freedom of speech, fair elections based on direct suffrage, freedom of the press, a unified police and, the elimination of constraints based on class (( . Furthermore, the cabinet articulated that it did not want to use military force to carrying out the New Provisional Government’s principles.

In an effort to disassociate the New Provisional Government with the oppressive rule of past Tsars, the cabinet’s goals highlighted socialist ideals. How did the New Provisional Government influence Soviet Russia’s political, social, and economic thought in the twentieth century? In what ways did the duma succeed in their aims to instill unity in the public through the creation of the New Provisional Government?

The Beginning of a Tsar-less Russia

Following the abdication of Nicholas II and Grand Duke Michael turning down the crown which his brother left him, the Duma found themselves with much more power than ever before. With this newfound power the Duma published its goals in Isvestia, a Soviet newspaper at the time, to make clear the plans they had for Russia under the new First Provisional Government.

It first set out to appease the masses by listing off members of its ministers. In doing so they hoped to show that they had trustworthy men leading the country who would not continue down the path that Tsar Nicholas II created. The First Provisional Government then goes on to list what it actually hopes to accomplish with the power they have. A list is formed which includes new socialist ideas such as freedom of speech, the ability to unionize, elimination of the hierarchy that has restricted the rights of peasants, suffrage, and a more unified government police which is held accountable by elections. Besides adopting all of these ideas socialist ideas, there are also goals on the list that show the First Provisional Government’s desire to wipe the slate clean for past political revolutionaries. Its first initiative is immediate amnesty to all people who are involved in various forms of revolution, including violent acts. They want a unified and progressive Russia. Ultimately, the First Provisional Government acts as the first step to the Russia that becomes run completely by the Soviets.


The Last Tsar

March 15, 1917 signifies the end of the Russian Tsarist autocracy. After continued pressure from Russian citizens demanding change and a grim international and domestic environment, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his throne. A series of events and proven inadequacies of the Tsar made the end of his rule inevitable. The Dumas, or representative assemblies, attempted to coerce Nicholas II into allowing them greater responsibility in managing the war effort, to which Nicholas II replied, “I shall maintain the principle of autocracy just as firmly and unflinchingly as it was preserved by my dead father.” ((Revolt)) It was only a short time before he proved he was not unflinching, and failed the autocracy miserably – by ending it.

Conditions in Russia at this time reflected a severe food shortage caused by the war. With many people coalescing in cities and becoming vagrants, the strain placed on food production only increased tensions between the government and Russians.

Ultimately, it was the revolt in Petrograd which forced the Tsar out of government. Violence and anger echoed the streets until Nicholas II had no choice but to abdicate. Supposedly not wishing to separate from his son, Nicholas II transferred his power to his younger brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, who, one day later, transferred power yet again to a Provisional Government. (( It was from this moment on that a new form of government would rule Russia.

A question is raised about the nature of autocracy: was an end to tsarist autocracy inevitable or was Nicholas II simply unfit to rule Russia during this era of strife? If Nicholas II had been able to successfully manage the conditions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is it possible Russia could be a Tsarist autocracy today?

The End of an Era

On March 25th, 1917 the Russian monarchy waved a final white flag when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated his throne. He was given little choice; revolutionary mobs were practically on his doorstep, and with a war going on abroad lasting civil unrest at home would have made victory impossible. Therefore, Nicholas declared his reasoning to the people, stating “we have thought that we owed to our people the close union and organization of all its forces for the realization of a rapid victory”.

He states that he did not wish to be away from his son, probably at least in part due to Tsarevich Alexei’s young age and haemophilia. Instead, he chose to pass the weight of the crown on to his brother Mikhail, who in turn was convinced to give the power over to a provisional government rather than taking up the throne.

So, who is to blame for the end of the Romanov house, which had ruled Russia for over 200 years? Did the fault lie with Nicholas II alone? Was it the result of a series of choices made over many decades and generations of rulers? Or was it an inevitable shift that happened in the population of Russia, which no Tsar, no matter how wise or powerful, could have stood against?

The Abdication of Nicholas II

The Emperor of Russia, Nikolai II and the Imperial Duma agreed that in order to reach a rapid victory against the central powers, Nikolai needed to resign which he did on March 15, 1917. The Duma and Nikolai believed that his abdication would create a more unified Russia who at the time was undergoing internal civil unrest because people were looking for change within the government and were unhappy. Therefore, Nikolai believed that by stepping down from the throne, he would abolish the threat that the civil unrest had on the progression of the war. In Nikolai’s eyes, his resignation would not only benefit the outcome of the war, but protect the welfare of the people and serve in their best interest as well. Additionally, his son originally was next to capture the throne, but because Nikolai did not want to be separated from his son, he abdicated for him and instead, had his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich succeed him. On March 16, 1917, Mikhail accepted his brother’s decision to have him become the next Supreme Power under the condition that the Russian people truly wanted this and would accept the duty of picking their form of government and law system for a new Russian state. Until this happens though, he establishes a Provisional Government in which he expects everyone to follow.