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In the years which led to the revolution in November 1917, the First World War had left Russia in a disastrous state, where there was much discontent among the peasants and the industrial working class, as they suffered from low wages, poor housing and many accidents. In February of 1917, after the collapse of the Tsars government, Russia was convulsed by two major seizures of power – the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government. These replaced the Tsars of Russia and coexisted as two governments, one mainly liberal, one socialist. The Petrograd Soviets role in the collapse of the Provisional Government in November 1917 is significant as they held most of the power, had many supporters and followers, and encouraged and inspired the growth of other similar soviet bodies which played a significant factor in the Provisional Governments demise. The Petrograd Soviet played an important role in the collapse of the Provisional government because they held and controlled most of the actual levers of power, such as the troops, railways and telegraph service, instead of the provisional government.
Around the time, the Provisional Government sought to continue Russia’s participation in the European war, The Petrograd soviet proved that it had greater authority and power when in March of 1917, the Petrograd Soviet issued Order No. 1, which directed the military to obey only the orders of the Soviet and not the orders of the Provisional Government. The provisional government were helpless against the act and it crippled their control over the military, and would eventually lead to the final breakdown of the army. This act made by the Petrograd Soviet, and many others such as issuing orders for which it had no legal authority, affected the Provisional Government’s effectiveness and ultimately led to their collapse due to their lack of power. The Petrograd soviet also had many supporters and followers which was important in the weakening of the Provisional Government.
The Soviet had over 3,000 members and contained delegates from almost every factory, workplace and military unit. This was where the strength of the Soviet came from – the workers which rallied behind them. This is also where their power came from. Without waiting for the government to work out the legislation necessary to provide for civil liberties, On 1 March (14 March) the soviet decreed the end of censorship. The announcement was illegal, but it was effective, and would pave the way for the development of the revolution. The Soviet was favoured over the Provisional government as they appealed to the working class rather than the provisional government who chiefly represented the propertied classes. This gave the Soviet more power and control as more people rallied behind them. This weakened the provisional government and they slowly crumbled from lack of power and support. The Petrograd Soviets rapid gain of support, success and power was noticed. This led to the inspiration and encouragement of the growth of existing and new establishments similar to that of the Petrograd soviet, and thus the Provisional Government deteriorated further. In all, nearly fifty soviets of workers deputies, several peasant soviets, and a number of short-lived military soviets came into being in the fall of 1905.
The Moscow soviet, formed in November which represented eighty thousand workers, was next in importance to that of the Petrograd Soviet. Soon, ties were established between these establishments, with the Petrograd soviet acting as the chief source of leadership and energy. The growth and widespread of soviets that the Petrograd Soviet inspired was key in the collapse of the provisional government. While the Petrograd Soviet exercised more power over the masses than the Provisional Government members , it was unsure of its authority. It lacked the skill the command a unified military force. The power of the Petrograd Soviet rested in the people who rallied behind it, and Soviet leaders feared if they decide to become the government, the violence and strength of the masses would turn against them – like the Tsars and Provisional Government. In conclusion, both these parties came nowhere close to cooperation, but to what was known as the regime of dual power. The Petrograd soviet relentlessly encroached upon the functions and prerogatives of the Provisional Government, undermined their power, rallied up the people and became their rivals.
Without the Petrograd Soviets power, many supporters and followers, and their inspiration which lead to the growth of other kindred organizations, the Provisional Government would not have fallen. Although the Petrograd Soviets role in the downfall of the provisional government was not as conspicuous as those of the Bolshevik party, their coexistence as another governing body which rivalled the provisional government was the tipping point of their inevitable collapse. This period of their uneasy coexistence, economic chaos, the breakdown of the army and social unrest, inexorably led to the control of power by the extreme and ruthless Bolshevik Party led by Lenin.
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