How Far Has the Importance of Trotsky in Creating Political Change in Russia in 1917 Been Exaggerated?
How far has the importance of Trotsky in creating political change in Russia in 1917 been exaggerated? We know that Leon Trotsky was crucial in creating political change in Russia in 1917. We know that in the 1917 Revolution, his great orating skills helped further the Bolshevik cause. This is shown in Source 76 with use of “oratorical talent, his organising ability, first with the army and then with the railways… ” and this led to political change as his involvement sped up the Bolshevik take-over of Russia.
Evaluating the source, the fact that it is written by a Bolshevik could make it bias, as the follower will want to exaggerate Trotsky’s role as a great leader. Furthermore, Victor Serge wrote this in 1945, much after 1917, lowering the reliability of the Source. However, there were other faithful Russians that claimed that Trotsky’s influence was crucial to creating political change. An example of this is in Source 78, with the use of “He was the idol of mass meetings in Petrograd… Trotsky was one of the best orators of the Revolution.
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He spoke everywhere with amazing brilliance and had the ability to popularise even difficult ideas with great skill”, showing Trotsky’s influence over the whole country, leading to political change. Evaluation of the source shows that it was written in 1918, just a year after 1917, the year in question, giving it a high reliability compared to Source 76. A. P. Spunde even uses the words “Trotsky displayed his best qualities in 1917”, something that many sources suggest. The source will show some bias, as it is yet another Bolshevik writer, but it can be cross-referenced with Source 79.
The speech took place on the 22th October 1917 in Petrograd, and Trotsky’s own words were “The Soviet Government will give everything the country has to the poor and to the soldiers at the front… We will defend the cause of the workers and peasants to the last drop of blood”. This use of emotive language clearly shows us Trotsky’s oratorical skills, and it probably did sway the majority of Russia. It took place in 1917, the year in question, and clearly defined Trotsky’s immense role in creating political change.
It is also known that even Trotsky’s presence lightened the hearts of many Bolshevik soldiers, as shown by Source 89’s use of “Trotsky’s arrival meant that the city would not be abandoned… We were lifted by the energy he carried wherever a critical situation arose”. Evaluating the source, it was written after 1917, during the Civil War, so the reliability of Trotsky’s ability is reduced. Linking back to the question, Trotsky’s role has not been exaggerated, and he was very important in creating political change, especially in 1917.
This is because there are many Sources to back up all that Trotsky did to further the Revolution and extend the Bolshevik reach, including Source 79, his own speech to the Petrograd Soviet. That single sentence showed his determination to help bring the Bolsheviks into power, and to help the peasants and workers of Russia out of poverty. This information and evidence makes Trotsky one of the most influential and important figures in 1917, possibly the most important figure.
On the other hand, we also know that Trotsky’s role has been exaggerated, as many sources that speak of his greatness are Bolshevik supporters, and as such it is impossible to rule out bias. Sources 76, 78 and 79 are all from Bolshevik writers, with Source 79 being Trotsky himself. Although Source 79 has use of “We will defend the cause of the workers and peasants to the last drop of blood”, there are no sources from the workers or peasants in 1917, or any year in the first half of the 20th century.
If none of the sources are from the target group that the Bolsheviks are aiming to liberate, it is hard to see if Trotsky was really that crucial to the Bolshevik cause, or if his followers had exaggerated his role in 1917. Another fact we know is that Leon Trotsky was not the most prominent figure in prompting the Storming of the Winter Palace. We know that it was Lenin, who came all the way from Finland to Petrograd, spending a whole night in order to persuade the Bolshevik Central Committee to launch a revolution.
Trotsky was more of an organiser and orator then an event maker, as shown from Sources 76 and 78. In Source 52, Trotsky’s own use of “engine driver of the Revolution” while describing Lenin shows Trotsky’s admittance of Lenin and that the other sources were exaggerating his role. Evaluating the source, it is possible that Trotsky was merely praising Lenin for the benefit of the citizens of Russia, as Lenin was quoted to be the “great inspiration behind the Revolution” (Source 74), and Trotsky really wanted to keep up Lenin’s image as the Bolshevik saviour, even if Trotsky was more influential in the long run.
Another way that Trotsky was exaggerated was in the November Revolution, where Trotsky’s supporters exaggerated his role, when he was just taking orders from Lenin. Linking back to the question, Trotsky wasn’t the only contributor to political change in 1917, and he has been exaggerated in terms of his importance as a figure. This is because many sources are Bolshevik, with some of them even being close followers of Trotsky. As a result, there is too much bias for Trotsky’s importance to be reliable, and no sources from the workers or peasants to show Trotsky’s true influence.
Another key political figure that we knew played a large part in creating political change in Russia in 1917 was Vladimir Lenin. We know that he persuaded the Bolshevik Central Committee to launch the Revolution when they did, at a point where the Provisional Government was weak. This can be seen in Source 75, with Trotsky’s use of “the October Revolution would still have taken place – on the condition that Lenin was present and in command”. We know that Trotsky initially wanted the Revolution to take place at a later date, but this Source showed that he relied on Lenin’s leadership.
This Source can be cross-referenced with Source 52, where Trotsky calls Lenin “the engine driver of the Revolution”. Evaluating the source, we know it may be bias because Trotsky may want to make Lenin to appear as the important one, purely to further the Bolshevik cause. However, both the Sources in conjunction suggest that Trotsky himself truly believed that Lenin surpassed him in leadership. Further use of “If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution” in Source 75 shows Trotsky’s trust that Lenin was vital to the Revolution of 1917.
Another reason why Lenin was crucial to creating political change in Russia in 1917 was his great orating skill and effect on the workers and peasants of Russia. We know that it was Lenin who coined the Bolshevik policy of “Bread, Peace and Land”, and who the peasants and workers looked up to. We also know that at times of Bolshevik need he delivered speeches, which were greeted by cheers all around. This can be seen in Source 60, with use of “his whole genius consists in his ability to say what these people want to say, but do not know how to say”. Evaluating the source, this event took place in 1917, which is the target year.
Looking at the historiography of the source though, Serge was a Bolshevik supporter at the time, and so would carry a Soviet view, showing bias in Lenin’s favour, commonly giving him a key role as the leader who directed the party and had the insight to make crucial decisions. Thus, the source can be interpreted in different ways, lowering its reliability. Linking back to the question, Vladimir Lenin was important in creating political change in Russia in 1917. This is because Lenin was seen as the public leader of the Bolshevik Party, and he was the main reason why the Revolution was carried out when it was.
However, this does not necessarily mean he was the most important figure in 1917. Another factor that caused political change in 1917 was the effects of the First World War. We know that failure against Germany in World War 1 caused people to get angry at the Tsar, from the poorest of peasants to the aristocrats in the Duma. The soldiers also got angry at the Tsar, which can be seen in Source 8’s use of “Everywhere one meets thousands of deserters, carrying out crimes and offering violence to the civilian population”, showing angry soldiers due to the war.
Evaluating the source, the fact that it was a police report in 1916 suggests allegiance to the Tsar, which can be interpreted as bias against the army. However, this source can be cross-referenced with Source 4, which shows the Grand Duke Nicholas with bloodied hands, suggesting that the incompetence of the Tsar’s generals (it is known that he put relatives and autocrats into power) led to the death of many soldiers. Evaluating the source, it is a German cartoon, which will be bias against the Tsar and the rest of Russia due to the obvious war.
We know that the peasant were angry at the Tsar because of rising food prices, as shown in Source 9, with use of “the wildest excess of a hunger riot”. Evaluating the source, it holds some reliability as it is in the target year of 1917, but was filed by Okhrana, the Tsar’s secret police, which can be interpreted as showing bias. The Tsar was not the only one that caused political change and an angry mass of workers. We know that Rasputin irritated the aristocrats in the Tsar’s court, as he kept flirting with the women, and he got his power through the Tsarina’s affection.
This is clearly shown in Source 15, which is a photograph of Rasputin surrounded by ladies of the aristocracy. Evaluating the source, it was published in Europe and America, showing clear bias against Russia, and the Tsar’s leadership. This can be cross-referenced with Source 13, which shows “Rasputin’s hold on Russia as well as his physical holding of the Empress”. Evaluating the source it was circulated in Petrograd in 1917, increasing reliability due to it being the target year. The use of pornographic material suggests bias, possibly with a Bolshevik view, looking at the historiography.
Linking back to the question, World War 1 and Rasputin also had an effect in creating political change in Russia in 1917. This is because the heavy losses in the First World War caused the public to get angry at the Tsar, increasing the odds of revolution; hence increasing the odds of political change. Rasputin also contributed, irritating the aristocrats, causing them to believe that the Tsar had a weak leadership, sparking revolution. In conclusion, all of these factors were very important towards creating political change in Russia in 1917.
However, the most important figure by far was Lenin. This is because he was the voice of the people, and all the peasants and workers looked up to him. Lenin’s influence on the Bolshevik Central Committee furthered the Revolution, causing political change. Lenin’s speeches also had more of a lasting impact on the public, granted due to him being exaggerated by the likes of Trotsky and other Bolshevik leaders. The Tsar and Rasputin didn’t have much to do with 1917, as most of their faults happened before 1917, with political change being created by Bolshevik activists such as Lenin and Trotsky.
Trotsky wasn’t really exaggerated, but he just wasn’t as important as Lenin. It is true that he was a good orator, and organised well, but Lenin’s courage to launch the Revolution at that point showed ability to create political change. Linking back to the question, Trotsky’s importance in creating political change wasn’t exaggerated (even Stalin recognized him as a potential threat and had him assassinated). The simple fact is that Leon Trotsky was not the most important figure in creating political change.