National Geographic : 1917 Aug
RUSSIA FROM. WITHIN of the Tsar, as well as his personal popu larity, unshakable. If ever a man missed the chance of being called "The Great," it is the unfortunate Nicholas. But while the wish of the people to continue the war was steadily growing up throughout Russia, the government itself was sowing the seeds of its own undoing. Every one has been amazed at the sud denness of the collapse of the old regime; but such a collapse was logical and inev itable sooner or later. The Emperor's government was undermined by the com plete incompetence of its administration. In time of peace it might have gone on in the same hit-and-miss way for years and the peasants would have taken but a meager interest, as few would have felt directly the results of mismanagement in any greater measure than normally. Wide-spread revolutions in Russia have been difficult, because it has been impossible to reach all of the people at the same time on the same issue. The war, however, did reach all the people at the same time. After a year or two nearly every individual in Russia had been directly or indirectly touched in some way. The soldiers at the front knew that they had no ammunition and few rifles in 1915, and they knew that this shortage was due to the bad manage ment of the government. The people knew that the railroads were not operat ing properly, and that, as a result, many of them were obliged to go without food and fuel during the winter months. This, too, was charged to the government of the Tsar. The scandals in regard to the monk Rasputin became common prop erty, and by the fall of 1916 all of Rus sia, save the bureaucracy, favored mem bers of the autocracy, and the pro-Ger mans, was of the fixed conviction that the people's troubles were due to this in competence. THE MOST REMARKABLE REVOLUTION IN HISTORY Step by step this universal opinion had developed in Russia until it had become practically unanimous in cities, in the country, and in the army. There was no wide-spread cry for revolution, no de mand for a new Tsar, nor any national demand for the cessation of the war. All the people wanted was a decent govern ment, which would continue the war effi ciently and in the interim enable them to live somehow or other. There has never been such a remark able revolution in history. It has not rep resented plot and intrigue and ambitions of individuals. It represented merely the united desire of 18o,ooo,ooo people to carry on a war in which they believed, with the minimum of misery and with the maximum of competence. Through stu pidity in some quarters and intrigue and treachery in others, the Tsar steadfastly refused to make the concessions required to conduct the war and permit the people to live. Pressure in the Duma became acute. The Emperor ordered it dis solved. It refused to dissolve. Troops were called out to restore order in Petro grad, where bread riots had started a chaotic situation. The troops, being but boys three or four months in uniform, were of the people in opinion and de clined to shoot. Authority ceased, and the Emperor, having nothing behind him, accepted the ultimatum that he abdicate. Practically, without any serious con vulsion, the Empire disappeared. I sup pose one must call it revolution, but it came so easily that it is hard to believe it such. The change came like a ripe apple falling from a tree. A few days of kill ing and hunting down policemen who were loyal to the government marked the end of any serious disorders in Petro grad. The rest of Russia quietly ac cepted what Petrograd had done. The old order had disappeared overnight. Now let us consider what remained. When the bread riots started there was apparently no party or class in Russia that was planning for the immediate overthrow of the Tsar; all that any one wanted was a more liberal and efficient government. Even the leaders of the Duma did not dream that the change could be brought about without any ef fective resistance on the part of the old regime. It all came in a day or two, and the Provisional Government and its com mittee of twelve suddenly found itself in control of the destinies of the former Empire.