Both revolutions started out with moderate regimes that kept one or more of the old regimes’ policies to maintain the look of continuity and legitimacy. In France, that government was the National Assembly, which kept the king as a figurehead and honored the royal debt. In Russia, it was the Duma, which kept Russia in World War I. In both cases these policies just worsened the situation, leading to more unrest. Further aggravating both situations was the fact that replacing an old system with a completely different one (whether in politics, business, or sports) typically sees things deteriorate further before they improve. Unfortunately, the high expectations for rapid improvement did not give the new regimes the time they needed to turn things around.
Note that the French and Russian revolutions (A and B) may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.
Moreover, Harold had the sense that he had been trained to react in all sorts of stupid ways. He had been trained, as a guy, to be self-contained and smart and rational, and to avoid sentimentality. Yet maybe sentiments were at the core of everything. He’d been taught to think vertically, moving ever upward, whereas maybe the most productive connections were horizontal, with peers. He’d been taught that intelligence was the most important trait. There weren’t even words for the traits that matter most—having a sense of the contours of reality, being aware of how things flow, having the ability to read situations the way a master seaman reads the rhythm of the ocean. Harold concluded that it might be time for a revolution in his own consciousness—time to take the proto-conversations that had been shoved to the periphery of life and put them back in the center. Maybe it was time to use this science to cultivate an entirely different viewpoint.
During the question-and-answer period, though, a woman asked the neuroscientist how his studies had changed the way he lived. He paused for a second, and then starting talking about a group he had joined called the Russian-American Folk Dance Company. It was odd, given how hard and scientific he had sounded. “I guess I used to think of myself as a lone agent, who made certain choices and established certain alliances with colleagues and friends,” he said. “Now, though, I see things differently. I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.
One of Harold’s key skills in school was his ability to bond with teachers. We’ve spent a generation trying to reorganize schools to make them better, but the truth is that people learn from the people they love. In eleventh grade, Harold developed a crush on his history teacher, Ms. Taylor. What mattered most was not the substance of the course so much as the way she thought, the style of learning she fostered. For instance, Ms. Taylor constantly told the class how little she knew. Human beings are overconfidence machines. Paul J. H. Schoemaker and J. Edward Russo gave questionnaires to more than two thousand executives in order to measure how much they knew about their industries. Managers in the advertising industry gave answers that they were ninety-per-cent confident were correct. In fact, their answers were wrong sixty-one per cent of the time. People in the computer industry gave answers they thought had a ninety-five per cent chance of being right; in fact, eighty per cent of them were wrong. Ninety-nine per cent of the respondents overestimated their success.
Both countries shared three elements that helped lead to war:
1) Both regimes were burdened by heavy debts incurred from wars. In France’s case, this was the debt incurred by its support of the American Revolution. For Russia, this was the even higher cost in lives and money suffered during the first three years of World War I.
2) In each country, there was a growing gap between economic progress and social and political stagnation. For the French this was the continued prominence and privileges of the noble class as opposed to the more liberal ideas and progressive economic practices of the middle class. For Russia, this largely came from the peasantry, whose economic progress from Peter Stolypin’s agrarian reforms contrasted with the repressive rights and privileges of the nobles. In each case new political ideas aggravated these frustrations. In France these were the ideas of Enlightenment philosophes such as Rousseau and Voltaire. In Russia it was Marxism.
3) Both countries had weak leaders who let events get quickly out of control. In France and Russia respectively, these were Louis XVI and Nicholas II.
As indicated in the discussion of the French Revolution, there is a logical and long-range pattern that revolutions follow. Therefore, understanding the pattern of past revolutions can help us anticipate events in current revolutions, more specifically the final stages of the process now taking place in Russia and China. One word of caution, however: these are likely trends, not absolute certainties. Outside events (e.g., a major war) and other historical forces unique to Russia and China respectively, could divert events in a very different direction from what is indicated here. Still, this pattern generally holds up and should serve as a guide in how we deal with nations still undergoing this process. That being said, following is a comparison of the French Revolution, which after 82 years finally reached a stable democratic form of government by 1871, and the Russian Revolution, which after 92 years is presumably in its final stage of evolution toward democracy.
Faced with growing unrest at home and military defeats abroad (the French having rashly declared war on Austria and Prussia in 1792), the moderate governments in France and Russia saw the rise of more radical factions supported by the urban working classes, which alarmed foreign powers and spurred them to intervene before the respective revolutions got out of control. Such intervention (by the First Coalition in France’s case and Russia’ erstwhile allies in World War I) in the short run just destabilized France and Russia further, which led to more military defeats, more support for the radicals, and so on.
Therefore, Russia has taken longer in its evolution toward democracy than France did, because it took another thirty-five years for Russia to finally collapse beneath the weight of the Stalinist system. Despite, this, Russia has continued to follow a path similar to France’s. After Napoleon France would undergo two more revolutions (in 1830 and 1848) and abortive attempts at democracy that would lead to a second dictatorship, this time under Bonaparte’s nephew, Napoleon III. Unlike his uncle, Napoleon III was much less aggressive in his foreign policy, focusing on France’s economic and industrial development. As a result, when Napoleon III fell from power in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, he left behind a strong economy and politically active and savvy middle class that ensured the stability of France’s Third Republic.