The First World War, breaking out in summer 1914, sealed the fate of old Russia. Probably there would eventually have been a revolution. Having survived his ordeals of 1905–6, the emperor had tried to restore his autocratic powers and had been suspicious of his premier Petr Stolypin’s co-operation with the State Duma. Yet the imperial state had lost its ability to repress all opposition at will. The monarch’s truculence narrowed the ground for political compromise and evolution; it also made more likely the ultimate success of the more radical among his opponents. The nature of an anti-Romanov revolution would very probably have been different if Russia had not gone to war. In mid-1914, before the war, there was no economic crisis. Agricultural production and the trade in farm products had never been greater, and industrial output was expanding. Social conflicts were fierce but not uncontrollable. Thus the major catalysts for the Bolshevik party to advance to power, as it did in 1917, were weak. No doubt the Bolsheviks would have exerted much influence in the course of any conceivable revolution even in a Russia which was at peace and was economically buoyant; but they surely would not have become the monopolistic party of government. It is worth recalling that in 1914 they did not intend to initiate a socialist revolution, and that Lenin declared that the next stage in the country’s development would be bourgeois.
KeywordsPolitical Life Central Committee Socialist Party Socialist Revolution Foreign Organisation
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