Russian and French Revolution Essay

This essay has a total of 3583 words and 13 pages.

Russian and French Revolution



July 17, 1918, 1:30 a.m. You have just been awakened from a deep sleep after a normal day
(or as normal as a day can be in your situation), and you wonder what all this could
possibly be about. Unassuming, and hoping for the best you think, "This must be good news,
after all, what can be worse than what they've done to us already?" They've taken your
whole life away in a matter of months. Once a proud member of the imperial family, living
a life sheltered from all the evils of the world, now you live in a small house in
Ekaterinkburg, Siberia, with nothing more than the members of your family, a dog, a cook,
a doctor, and a maid. And of course, a houseful of drunken Bolshevik soldiers, watching
you every second, even when you need to use the lavatory. Even worse, night after night,
they put everyone in your family in one room, and rape you one at a time, and force
everyone to watch (Lovell 351). So when you are pulled out of bed and given half an hour
to dress and wash, you are strangely happy when you are given a reason for all this
mayhem. "Unrest in the city required that they immediately dress and prepare to be moved
to the safety of the sub-basement," is what was told to your doctor, Dr.Botkin, by the
soldier in charge, Yurovsky, and what Dr.Botkin relays to you (Lovell 53). When eventually
the whole family is in the basement, and you think all is well, Yurovsky says to you, "In
view of the fact that… [your]… relatives continued their offensive against Soviet Russia,
the Executive Committee of the Urals Soviet …[has]… decided to shoot… [you]…" (Lovell 55)
A Bolshevik firing squad enters the small room and reigns bullets on everyone.

Now put yourself in another situation. It is December 11, 1792. You have ruled a great
nation for many years, and have gone through many changes. On this particular day it is
made clear that you no longer rule your country, and that a great mass of people with
different ideas and political philosophies have taken over. Not only have they taken over,
they have the fate of your life resting in their hands. At your trial, although you have
an excellent lawyer, you end up being found guilty as charged of "conspiring against the
people of France and… [are]… sentenced to death by the guillotine." On that ill-fated day,
you are escorted to the guillotine, and arrive there at about 10:00 a.m. You try to defend
yourself, and say "I die innocent. I pardon my enemies and I hope that my blood will be
useful to the French, that it will appease God's anger…." (Louis XVI, as quoted in
Connelly and Hembree), and you are cut short as the drums roll and the shiny blade slices
your neck. (http://www.woodberry.org/acad/hist/FRWEB/TRIAL/event_trial.htm)

Were these two terrifying situations really necessary? Did the Romanov family have to be
put through such torture during the Russian Revolution in 1917-1918? And what about King
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution of 1789? Though there were
many reasons that both events occurred, was it absolutely necessary for the ruling
monarchs to be executed? Was the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, and the trial of Louis
XIV not enough, and they had to be murdered?

No, these two terrible occurrences were not necessary. Not to say that the actual
revolutions themselves were unnecessary, when in fact they were, but the deaths of the
former autocrats were not. They were not performed because the majority of the people in
the country felt it was the right thing to do. In Russia, the people had a long history of
political assassinations, and they began to become more of a common place activity than a
last resort like executions are normally thought of as being. Although times were not
peachy keen during the Russian Revolution, and there were many reasons for unhappiness, a
portion of the "logic" behind the death's of the Romanovs was based on false accusations
and unclear situations, such as Bloody Sunday, the personal lives of the members of the
imperial family (mostly Czarina Alexandra), and the so-called "Mad Monk" Rasputin. This
was also the case in the French Revolution, in which hatred of the monarch and his wife
were not based solely (though largely) on domestic problems, but on the personality of
Marie Antoinette. Also, a primary reason of the execution of Louis XIV was to instill fear
disguised as nationalism, and was used as a contest between revolutionaries to see who
would take over the country. Plus, afterwards, although there were many changes in both
countries, neither one was happy (in fact, some felt worse off), and the executions which
were supposed to solve everything, indeed solved nothing.

Most people, or should I say, most Americans (because in some countries, such as Japan,
suicide is often seen as an honorable and acceptable way to solve problems when you feel
you are at the end of your rope), view people who commit suicides as cowards. Very rarely
are they looked at as victims of a cruel world, because they are totally in control of
themselves, and could have used a multitude of different ways to solve their problem. This
is similar to someone killing an important person in their country because they don’t want
to try other ways of resolving disputes, or they feel the problem is just to great, and
the only way to fix it is to start from scratch (the Nihilist view), and not because they
absolutely have to. Over the course of Russian history, one begins to see the execution of
political figures happening more and more frequently (and unsuccessful assassination
attempts even more often), and can only logically conclude that they were done less and
less out of necessity and more and more because they seemed like the easy way out. The
trend of political assassination in Russia began in 1878, when a revolutionary was jailed
and "flogged", and a Nihilist girl was offended and "decided to avenge this insult and
ambushed the general in his anteroom. When he appeared, she took a revolver out of her
muff and fired but only wounded him." (Hingley 31). This incident sparked a new theory of
"if you kill enough people, the whole system will go under." The People's Will emerged
from this theory, and it dedicated itself to executing the czar. Their leader, A.I.
Zhelyabov, speaking on the goal of the radical group, was quoted as saying, "It is our
task to free the nation from the yoke of the existing government, to carry out political
revolution, and to hand over supreme power to the people." (De Wilde 1). This statement
sounds like logical thinking when one is feeling oppressed, however the only way they
reached for their goal was to assassinate the czar, Alexander II. In 1879, they planted
explosives along the track on which his train was supposed to be traveling, and none of
the bombs fulfilled their purpose (Hingley 31). They tried again, a year later, this time
placing the bomb in the Czar's palace, and their attempt, once again, failed (Hingley 31).
On March, 1, 1881, they finally 'succeeded', and Czar Alexander II was no more, although
success was only bittersweet because his son, Alexander III only ended up abolishing all
his father's reforms, and "quickly stamped out any revolutionary groups, including the
People's Will." (De Wilde 2) Twenty years later, in 1901, the Minister of Education was
shot and killed, and only three years later, two Ministers of the Interior were also
assassinated. After the revolution of 1905, the trend of assassination grew stronger. In
1906-1907 alone, over 4,000 people of all ranks of government were murdered by terrorists
(Hingley 55). This way of ridding the country of people who stood in someone's way was not
limited to revolutionaries, illustrated by Prince Felix Yusupov and others in their
attempt, and eventual success of murdering the not-so-willing-to-die Rasputin.

Unclear situations and events, the personal lives of the Romanov's, and the controversial
role of Gregory Rasputin, all led to the death of the imperial family. Although each of
these things when taken at a glance seem to give good reason for the distrust and hatred
of the Romanov's, but when examined more closely, it is evident that most of the "reasons"
were rumors and lies, or simply misunderstood, and are absolutely no reason for disliking
someone, and definitely no reason for murdering them. One situation that led to many
revolts, and intense dislike for the Czar was one in which he had little to no control
over. In 1904, the Russian police had given Father Gregory Gapon money and permission to
begin an organization called the "Assembly of Russian Factory Workers." When members of
the Assembly were fired from the Putilov factory in December, 1904 without explanation,
the result was a "city-wide general strike in January 1905", and the decision for the
Assembly of Russian Factory Workers to "organize a mass march on the Winter Palace with a
petition for Czar Nicholas." (Zelnik 214) This "petition included a demand for a
constitution, but its style was humble, and the general mood of the march…[when it
occurred on January 9, 1905]… was more suitable for a picnic than for a revolution. They
had their wives and children with them, and carried portraits of the Tsar and icons as a
sign that they were still loyal to Nicholas and to the Church." (Hingley 49) The peaceful
procession ended up failing because protesters did not stay behind police barriers when
ordered to do so, and the troops in the area open fired on the crowd, killing over 100
people. It was the responsibility of the Minister of the Interior and the police to
control the masses of people, and they had failed to do so. The Czar had no involvement in
the events of that day, which came to be called Bloody Sunday, seeing as that he was not
at the palace at the time and had no way of communicating with those in charge.
Nevertheless, "it was the mild and well-meaning Nicholas himself who received most of the
blame and even the nickname Nicholas the Bloody." (Hingley 51). The people's feelings
towards Czarina Alexandra were those of unfamiliarity, scorn, and dislike because of her
personal life, which very few people knew about. The Czarina had been a German princess,
which already started her off on the wrong foot with the Russian civilians. Her pronounced
interest in mystics and the like were looked at as tying her even more closely to her
German heritage. Her mother-in-law, Dowager Empress Marie, hated her, and refused to hand
over the customary things that go along with being Czarina, such as attendance at society
functions, special jewelry, etc., and made Alexandra self-conscious. The treatment she
received made her want to spend more time with herself and her children than making public
appearances, and thus she was looked upon as being unfeeling and unconcerned with the
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