A hundred years on, two Russian revolutions offer many lessons in history

By Oleg Ivanov Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/1 19:33:39

This year marks the 100th anniversary of two Russian Revolutions of February and October 1917. These revolutions played a crucial role in the fate of Russia and many other European and Asian countries.

Despite the fact that these significant events are an integral part of Russian history, heated debates rage among policymakers, historians, political scientists and the public on the character and pace of the October Revolution. Historians are not one on which revolution was more important for Russia. Some argue that the civil war ended in 1921, others believe it lasted until the late 1920s.

At the grass-roots level, attitude to the October Revolution varies. According to an opinion poll conducted in 1990, 36 percent believed that the October Revolution expressed the will of nations within the Russian Empire while 37 percent disagreed with this statement. And 27 percent did not have an opinion.

Another opinion poll this October posed the question, "Who was interested in the October revolution?" 46 percent of respondents are sure that the larger society or a majority was interested in the revolution. 46 percent believe that it was conducted in the interest of the minority or a small group. What can we conclude from these surveys? The Russian society is still split over assessment of the October Revolution.

Today we can identify several groups of people. The first are monarchists. They hold that the toppling of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II in February of 1917 was disastrous for Russia. They also believe that the best and the right way for the prosperity of Russia is a monarchy and its restoration is a prerequisite for successful development.

The second group consists of the liberals who believe that the February Revolution opened the way to the democratic development of Russia. All citizens including women received the right to vote, and freedom of speech, religion and the right to assembly was enshrined. Basically, all formal democratic standards of the time were introduced. The October Revolution put an end to democratic evolution of the country as the Bolshevik party established the proletariat's dictatorship over the rest of society. This had nothing to do with liberal democracy. The third group shares the views and assessments of the Communist Party. They think that the October Revolution paved the way to real freedom of the majority in Russia, freeing them of capitalist exploitation. It brought an end to the Russian participation in World War I as the Bolsheviks signed the peace treaty with Germany and gave land to peasants. Despite different assessments and positions on both revolutions in Russian society, today it is crucial to draw some lessons for current Russia and which probably could be useful for other countries.

First, today Russia should avoid a revolutionary shake-up. The best way for the country's development is an evolutionary one. Russian society suffered a lot during the social and economic reforms of the 1990s. Any radical revolutionary steps will give rise to tensions in the country.

Second, during Russian revolutions violence became normal; it was considered inevitable and even desirable to take on the former ruling class. Today, violence should be excluded as a tool to deal with the tasks and problems the country faces. Only peaceful means should be available and used for further development of the country. Violence may breed more violence in society.

Third, we should avoid a split between various social layers and ethnic groups in Russia. It is a federal state with a complex composition. Besides, it is a multi-ethnic country, which also has various denominations.

Fourth, it is necessary to maintain the unity of the nation. All internal disagreements should give way to the preservation of Russian unity. We should seek and find a compromise. One cannot develop a country without reaching mutual understanding and consensus on policy-making. Outstanding Russian historian Kluchevsky wrote that history does not teach anything but punishes severely for unlearned lessons. We should learn our lessons if we do not want history to repeat itself.

The author is chair of the Political Science Department at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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