Yet as I did some reading regarding the causes of the Revolution, it seems as if despite the high level of spirituality in Russia, somehow this did not trickle down to the peasants and create better living conditions for them. Seemingly, there was something lacking which caused the unrest that eventually caused the downfall of the Czar and was instrumental in establishing the next 80+ years of Communist terror.
Could some of you who have a better grasp of history in Russia -- both religious,secular, and philosophical -- help me to a better understand of these incredible events. Suggestions of links and books to read would be appreciated also.
Ed -- great sinner.
I'll try to answer your questions the best I can. I may be brief though as I've got places to be
As fas as the "upper level" spirituality trickling down to the peasants in the form of social change- Well, the fact is that 95% of the people were peasants(or before the 1860's, serfs). It's not as if the serfs were a minority, or even held a small majority. In reality, the peasant was Russia. Unfortunately, the peasants were, for the most part, treated pretty poorly. Sure, some land owners were kind to their serfs or treated them almost as equals, but the fact is that the system itself was corrupt by nature. Among the peasants of the 18th and 19th centuries strong religious belief was certainly prevalent, coupled with the idea that the Tsar or Tsaritsa, depending on the time period, truly cared for the Russian people. It was always thought by the peasansts that "if the Tsar only knew what was happening to us!" he would correct it immediately.
Would the Tsar have fixed the problems? Well, in the 18th and 19th centuries that would be close to impossible. What would be done? How could a feudal society be transformed into a modern one? Peter tried to modernize, but his policies mostly affected the top 5-10% of society while crippling the Church and its pastors. The abolition of the Patriarchate(not to be restored until right before the revolution), the confiscation of Church lands, and compulsory civil service and taxes on clergy(and several more reasons) made it difficult for clergy to unite and advocate for their rights. This lack of unity and strength in the Church as a result of Peter's reforms took away what could have been a roadblock to the revolution.
Other (text book) factors contributing to the revolution were the Russo-Japanese war in which Russia got slammed and the toll of WWI. The instability created by famine and a people worn out by a bloody war coupled with revolutionary fervor, led the Tsar to abdicate the throne for what he felt to be the good of Russia. Next came Kerensky's provisional government which remained in the war(against the wishes of most russians) and soon lost popular support. Keep in mind though that even if the people wanted the tsar gone(which is debatable...which people??? it's hard to say), Kerensky's government(or a form similar) which would have developed a constitution of some kind if they had not screwed up, is what the people really seemed to want. It was the Bolsheviks who, to paraphrase one historian ..."saw power on the street and picked it up". Bolshevism wasn't a popular movement. It was a successful coup, with high ranking members being Jews- nothing to do with anti-semitism, but it does show that these were, for the most part, not Russian Orthodox Christians. US Military reports from the period confirm this, as do writings from Winston Churchill, as well simply looking at a list of names. After the murder of the Tsar and his family, most Russian people, from what I've read, were disgusted.
Ok..there is so much more involved, but I've got to take off. Next we can talk about the intelligensia and the messianic origins of russian communism.