In the next few days, it will be the hundredth anniversary of the abdication Nicholas II as the last Tsar of Russia, after almost 300 years of the Romanov dynasty in the Russian throne. It was done in a haste in a train that should have taken the Tsar back to Petrograd, but was diverted to Pskov. This abdication and the creation of a provisional government that could put an end to the massive strikes and protests in Petrograd would have created, so it was hoped, a more modern Russian Republic that would have joined the path of other former European empires in their progressive social and economical updating. It probably would have happened if Lenin, who certainly invented the rhetoric of “no means no”, had not been so stubborn, or so interested in his own party. Unfortunately, Nicholas had also lost the favour of his people when, 12 years before, in 1905, a peaceful demonstration led by the Orthodox Pope Gapon, had ended in a blood bath in front of the Winter Palace, the Russian Bloody Sunday.
The February Revolution of 1917 (in our calendar, the March Revolution, really) should have sufficed to change not only the government, but also the state, and would have spared the life of millions of Russians who fell victims to the subsequent October Revolution, the Civil War, and all the purges, first by Lenin, then by Stalin.
Almost seventy years later, in 1983, President Boris Yeltsin also had the possibility in his hands of granting Russia a proper constitution and a solvent parliamentary system in order to create, again, a new Russia, one that could leave definitely behind decades of terror and misgovernment. He chose to use the Army’s tanks to bombard the Duma, instead, and to create one of the most powerful presidential systems in the planet, where the president has almost unlimited power in all spheres of government. For the third time in the same century, Russia’s leaders lacked the sense of state and future vision to make out of their country a better place. None of them, nor the Tsar, nor Lenin, nor Yeltsin took the opportunity that History put in front of them for doing the right thing. Between themselves and their people, they chose themselves; between autocracy and Russia, they chose autocracy.
People often ask nowadays how is it possible that people in Russia like President Putin. The answer is quite simple, really: they have been brutally educated for it for more than a century, and, as the saying goes “spare the rod and spoil the child”.