This Week In History: March 8-12


History is made every day. Whether it occurs five centuries ago or five minutes ago, it all tells the great story of human civilization. This week in history, we will focus on two events, one from the distant past and one all too familiar to those living in the 21st century. So let’s dive in! 

On March 8, 1917, 104 years ago, the February Revolution began in Russia, ending the nearly 500 years of tsarist rule. 

For starters, I’m sure you are wondering why a revolution taking place in March would be referred to as the “February Revolution.” It should be noted that prior to 1918, Russia followed the Julian calendar, which is about 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar we follow, so the February Revolution began on Feb. 22 in Russia but Mar. 8 in the U.S. Same day, just a different label (confusing, right?). 

The February Revolution was actually one of two revolutions to occur in Russia during 1917. Russians took to the streets under the banner of the Bolshevik Party (renamed a year later as the Communist Party) in defiance of the absolute monarchy of Tsar Nicholas II. 

While Americans tend to have a negative view toward communism, it should be noted that the original members of the Bolshevik Party had legitimate grievances with their government, and communism took a much different path than its framers had originally envisioned. 

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Russia was largely agrarian, with land being controlled by aristocrats and worked on by peasants. While a middle class was forming in the rest of the Western world, Russia was very behind, and the tsar was the only person who could make any political decisions since Russia had no elected government officials with any power.  

While anti-tsarist sentiments had been growing, World War I was the major tipping point that pushed even moderate Russians to support the Bolshevik Party. 

Since the Russian Empire had not industrialized, the Russians proved no match for the well-equipped German and Austro-Hungarian armies. The Russian army suffered tremendous casualties, the most of any country during World War I.  

Despite the fact that the husbands, fathers and sons of his people were dying, Nicholas II continued on, trying to boost morale by leading the troops himself. Nicholas proved to be a terrible military leader, and to make matters worse, the nation was left to his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, who made decisions under the guidance of a mystical sorcerer named Grigori Rasputin. 

Russians were dying on the battlefield and dying of starvation at home, so those who remained took to the streets and rioted until the tsar abdicated his throne. The Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) was established in December of 1922, and thus, both Russian history and world history were forever changed. 

On March 11, 2020, one year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. 

Though it may be hard to believe, the COVID-19 pandemic has reached its first birthday, having wreaked havoc on the world for an entire year. While its name marks the first trace of the coronavirus disease discovered in 2019, the pandemic dominated 2020 and continues to impact our lives in 2021.  

Days after the WHO reclassified COVID-19 from a public health emergency to a pandemic, the United States declared a national emergency and imposed a travel ban on all non-U.S. citizens traveling from Europe. In a matter of weeks, states imposed stay-at-home orders and venues shuttered their doors to the public. I will spare the nitty-gritty historical details of March 2020, however, as the entirety of my column’s readership have lived through it, and do not need to relive the dreadful experience. 

Since then, the U.S. has reported more than 28 million COVID-19 cases and more than 500,000 deaths. While Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States accounts for approximately 25% of the more than 116 million COVID-19 cases worldwide, and more than 20% of its approximate 2.5 million global deaths. All statistics are cited from the online databases of the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

My only hope is that one year from now I will be able to write about the pandemic as an event of the past, rather than an event of the present. Until then, mask up, wash your hands and stay healthy my friends! If the past has taught us anything it is that history is only told by those who survive it. 

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