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Why is there a revolution?

They exist on many levels and in different contexts: revolutions. At the start of the exhibition “1917. Revolution. Russia and Europe "on October 18, 2017, we would like to pursue the question together with bloggers:" Why is there a revolution? "

Today we are starting a blog parade and cordially invite you to deal with the political, social, historical, economic or personal revolutions and their effects, consequences and legacies. The range of topics offered is huge: the political upheavals at the beginning of the 20th century, the effects of the Internet on society, the emergence of “vegan” diets or even the move away from physically available money towards crypto currency - The word “revolution” often comes quickly from our lips today, and it often applies. New developments are turning existing conditions upside down, creating modified structures and changing the rules of the game. So if you look closely, “revolution” is hidden in a lot of things.

As an example, we want to shed light on the topic in this article using the Russian Revolution in 1917. Further information on the blog parade can be found at the end of the text. But now let's dive into the events in the tsarist empire at the beginning of the last century.

The Russian Revolution

A breakthrough in all parts of society - that was what the Russian Revolution initially brought about in terms of mentality and cultural history: It led to new forms of economy, education and culture, promoted national, political and social liberation movements, and inspired artists and cultural workers. From the beginning, however, terror, violence and repression were also part of building the new society.

But there was not “the one revolution”, but rather different, staggered or parallel, sometimes contradicting revolutionary processes in which social, political and national groups tried to achieve their different goals.

Russia before the revolution

At the beginning there was a mistake. Because, contrary to all the predictions of Marxist ideology, the revolution did not break out in one of the highly developed industrial countries, but in the Russian Empire, which was characterized by agriculture and village structures. Around 1900 the population was around 125 million, between 85 and 90 percent of them were farmers and lived in the countryside. Their lives were marked by poverty and hunger, which were due to high taxes, famine and poor harvests. The situation of the people was also made more difficult by a rapid increase in population, as a result of which less and less land was available for each individual to cultivate. It also became increasingly difficult for the nobles to cultivate the land profitably. The high nobility in particular stuck to their dissolute lifestyle. At the center of the aristocracy, which was made up of the old, hereditary and the acquired, personal nobility, stood the court of the tsar. In addition, the officer corps of the army and the Russian Orthodox Church were among the pillars of the state. With the modernization efforts under Alexander II in the 1860s, economic and social changes had started. As a result of the economic boom, a heterogeneous bourgeois class arose - albeit numerically very small - which included entrepreneurs, merchants, petty bourgeois and artisans as well as trading and commercial farmers. The workforce also increased significantly as a result of industrialization and the influx of farmers into cities and production centers. Intellectual and political activists, the so-called intelligentsia, denounced grievances and a lack of participation, which exposed them to repression and persecution. Most of them could only operate underground or in exile, so that no broad protest movement could arise. Ultimately, therefore, it was also a small group of professional revolutionaries around Vladimir I. Lenin who, contrary to Marx’s teaching, brought about the proletarian revolution in a pre-industrial state.

The February Revolution: The Overthrow of the Tsar

At the beginning of 1917, in the middle of the First World War, hunger riots and mass strikes overthrew the tsarist autocracy in the Russian capital St. Petersburg, which had called itself Petrograd since the beginning of the war in 1914. The Romanov dynasty, which a few years earlier had brilliantly celebrated its 300th anniversary to the throne and ruled over a multi-ethnic empire that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific, from the North Sea to the Black Sea and Central Asia, abdicated. A provisional government backed by the majority of the Duma, the parliamentarians, took over the conduct of state affairs. It proclaimed basic civil rights and civil liberties and promised to convene a constituent assembly on the basis of free, equal and secret elections. But the new government, although reformed several times, was unable to get a grip on what was happening on the streets and out in the country; chaos grew with impatience.

From the October Revolution to the World Revolution

In the autumn of 1917 the Bolsheviks, the radical supporters of Lenin, took advantage of the spreading anarchy. In an armed uprising they overthrew the Provisional Government and proclaimed a socialist Soviet republic: now the banks were to be nationalized, the land of the nobility, the church and the crown nationalized, extensive workers' control introduced in the factories and factories, and peace made immediately. All state power was to be transferred to the "councils" (Russian: sovety, German: soviets), which based themselves democratically on the representatives of the interests of workers and soldiers who needed neither a standing army nor a professional civil service and would abolish the old police and judicial apparatus . In a flood of decrees, the new leadership tried to implement this immediate program.

Russia was still a country of peasants, the industrial workers a small minority. But the new leadership insisted that the “sparks” of the revolution would jump from Russia to the more advanced states of Western Europe (Germany, Great Britain, France), that things would be corrected “on a world scale” and that a proletarian “world revolution” would be triggered. In this respect, the Bolshevik Revolution was also a declaration of war on the governments of the capitalist states of the West, which were predicted to be doomed. With this political objective in mind, a “Communist International” was brought into being in Moscow in March 1919, a worldwide union of all communist parties.
Even if the expected “world revolution” did not materialize for the time being - and as it turned out: permanently: Bolshevik politics drove the country into a bloody civil war in which counter-governments were formed, foreign powers (Great Britain, Germany, France, Japan and the USA) ) intervened in which "reds" fought against "whites", city against country, periphery against center, terror was answered with terror and many regions were overrun by changing fronts, marauding soldiers harassed and massacred the civilian population, hundreds of thousands perished in anti-Jewish pogroms , more than a million people have been killed by disease and epidemics. The basic weakness of the opponents was that they never formed a political unit; on several occasions they brought the Bolsheviks to the brink of defeat, but ultimately the Red Army prevailed. The victory was followed by a famine, which again killed millions of people.

The revolution - started in the middle of the world war - was not just an inner-Russian project from the start. Not only because the Provisional Government, which was put into office in February 1917, continued the war on the side of the Western Allies, the Bolsheviks made peace at almost any price after the October Uprising and both sides intervened in the civil war that followed. Lenin and his partisans wanted more than just an overthrow of the situation in Russia, they declared war on the “world capitalist system”, they wanted the European, the world revolution. How did the governments of neighboring European countries react to the events, their challenges, their threats and promises? What about their populations, after this murderous war with millions of dead, after all the hardships, disappointed expectations and unprecedented material and mental devastation? Like the soldiers, workers and intellectuals that revolutionary propaganda was particularly aimed at? As multifaceted as the events, as diverse as the images and messages of the revolution, the reactions and answers in the European states were just as completely different. The conclusion, however, remains: The events described here changed Russia and Europe for decades, with consequences that continue to the present day.

The blog parade "Why is there a revolution?"

We are happy when bloggers with the most varied of thematic backgrounds take on the topic of "revolution". The personal focus and an individual approach creates a variety of topics that inspire both the participants and the readers.

If you blog on the topic, you should link this blog post so that everyone can see the link to their own post in the comments. Of course, you are welcome to link the post with a personal note directly here in the comments and share it via your own social media channels. We will also link each post here and make it public via our various accounts (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook).

Dates: The blog parade starts on September 25th. and ends on October 18, 2017

Hashtag: #DHMRevolution

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We look forward to many, diverse and interesting contributions!