The Russian Revolution

Kirsten's Thesis


'Kirsten's Thesis' appears on a family website as a VERY long - 32,000 words - four-page study of the coming of the Russian Revolution on.   Her account seems extensively- and carefully-researched, and certainly includes useful quotes by those involved in the March Revolution.


It would be too onerous to read and note Kirsten's Thesis in full, but - if you skim-read and cherry-pick - you will be able to get good 'colour' about the impact of key issues such as Bloody Sunday, Rasputin etc.



What is 'Kirsten's Thesis'?

At base, Kirsten blames Nicholas for the war; the Russian revolution and the succeeding events were, she concludes: 'a testament to the power of a single individual's personality in directing the course of events, as well as the possibility for calamity when that individual rules a nation'.


What is particularly useful about Kirsten's ideas is that she divides the causes of the revolution into two parts - the years 1896-1914, and the years 1914-1917.   On his accession in 1896, Nicholas was an autocrat, held in immense respect and even love by his millions of desperately poor and oppressed subjects.   So first the people had to lose their love, before they decided to chuck him out.   Kirsten entitles the years 1896-1914 as 'Separating the People from their Tsar'; for her, these are the years when the mass of the Russian people became disillusioned with their emperor, leaving him insecure on his throne.   Then, during the war years 1914-1917 (which Kirsten calls 'prelude to revolution' - years which revealed all of Nicholas's incompetence), they finally came round to the uprising which toppled Nicholas from power.


This sequence:


autocracy disillusion disastrous failure revolution


is an important insight about how Nicholas caused the revolution which destroyed him.



'Kirsten's Thesis'

Kirsten's These has four chapters:

  1. Foundations

    This chapter is all about Nicholas's background and upbringing, and how it made him essentially unfit to rule.   It finishes with Nicholas's 1896 message to the zemstvos (the local government councils) telling them that they would never have any say in the government.   Apart from this, you will not gain much by reading this chapter.


  2. Separating the People from their Tsar

    This is a vital chapter, and you will benefit from skim-reading it.   Just look at the first few words of every paragraph, and then read only those paragraphs which seem to be more useful.   The chapter is particularly useful for telling you the effects of the Russo-Japanese war, Bloody Sunday and Alexei's illness (and Rasputin).   Watch out particularly for a purple passage in the middle of the chapter which explains why Nicholas's incompetence was particularly disastrous.


  3. Prelude to Revolution

    This chapter concentrates on Nicholas's disastrous running of the war effort, most of which is of limited interest to you - except that it made him unpopular and illustrates his incompetence.   However, do a search for the paragraph beginning: 'From the time of Nicholas' accession, Alexandra had been involved...', which starts a smashing section on the disastrous effect Alexandra and Rasputin had on the government while Nicholas was away with the army.


  4. Revolution

    You could probably ignore this chapter altogether.   It is a detailed account of the events, concentrating firstly on Nicholas's failure to listen to those who were trying to save his government, and then on his pathetic acceptance of the revolution when it came - do a search for a purple passage about 'the first time in his entire life that Nicholas was unable to do what he wished'!




Did You Know

Kirsten B Lauber, from Philadelphia, is currently (2008) a PhD Sociologist at the University of Albany, US.    This paper was the final project for her honor's major in History from Union College, NY, from where she graduated in 1999.