There are many reasons that could have been considered to be the cause if for the outbreak of revolution in February 1917. The many effects of the war proved to lead towards the revolution because it demonstrated how hopeless the Tsar and his government were in dealing with all the problems Russia faced. Also the ministers within the government also had a part to play in the events leading up to the revolution as many of them advised the Tsar to resign.
The war is an event that is widely considered to be a cause of the outbreak of the February 1917 revolution, despite in 1914 it appearing as though the Tsars’ power and authority had increased. This is because after Russia losing the First World War, many problems had been worsened such as Russia’s economy. The war lasted 3 years and proved to be a great strain on the Russian economy. Russia had never been economically advanced and the efforts of the ‘Great Spurt’ in the 1890s and State Capitalism had not been able to support Russia throughout the war.
What is more is that other efforts to stabilize Russia’s economy had been destroyed as a result of the war, as the policies Witte introduced such as increasing taxes at home and negotiating large loans from abroad had not been able to support the cost of the war although it did help slightly. Furthermore, the rouble being placed on the gold standard had been abandoned because it allowed Russia’s government to print off more money.
However, this was only good for the short term as it did eventually lead to inflation in Russia, but since they were desperate the government found no other way but to put more notes into circulation. Printing more money off allowed the government to continue to pay the workers’ wages but considering the long term effects the rouble had the potential of becoming worthless and unfortunately for Russia at that critical stage it became a reality and consequently Russia was left in severe inflation.
Inflation meant that the price of foods had increased dramatically and trading was unbeneficial for the people trading as they could not make a profit therefore the majority of the peasants began to hoard their food supplies in fear. What made it worse was that Russia suffered serious food shortages especially during the war. This could have been a reason to the outbreak of the revolution in 1917. However, in spite of all this it could be argued that this was not a cause of the revolution for the reason that between 1912 and 1914, Russia’s grain yield was at the highest it’s ever been during the first two years of the war.
This suggested that it was not until 1916 that the food problems began to occur. Likewise, it is a known fact that the military had priority not only on the limited food supplies but also on the transport system. This suggested that the outbreak of the revolution may have been because of this, since the peasants whom consumed over 80% of Russia’s population were on the verge of starvation because the food supplies could not be transported to the civilian areas easily as the military took over the transport system.
The transport system proved to be inadequate in wartime and may have been another reason to why the revolution occurred in 1917 because the fact that the Russian Railway system practically collapsed by 1916, added to the other disasters Russia was experiencing at that time. Moreover, it was unrealistic to expect the unfinished railway to be able to withstand the pressure of transporting food, war ammunitions and soldiers efficiently. The army was one of the reasons why Russia lost the war and could well have been a reason to why there was a revolution in 1917.
In comparison to Germany and France, Russia had only put less than half their troops into the war. Their total number still seemed to be a mighty force but they were at a disadvantage because of the lack of equipment, perhaps as a result of the failed transport system. During the first two years of the First World War morale in Russia had been high because food shortages, inflation and the collapse of the transport system had not begun and there were occasional military successes. Therefore, morale in Russia was not a reason why there was an outbreak of revolution in 1917.
Nevertheless, the few military successes could not make up for the shocking casualty list revealed later on in wartime. Also, when the economic and military problems arose they could have been tolerable for the general public if they were encouraged by the people at the top such as the Tsar but no leadership was shown. Though this was a problem in Russia the morale in Russia was not too bad although people did begin to focus more on taking care of themselves because of the effects of the war on everyday life.
On the other hand, the fact that central leadership was not being provided to the Russian public, criticisms began to be pointed directly at the Tsar. Nicholas failed in being commander-in-chief of the Russian armed services. He did not encourage war effort and did not prove to be the appropriate representative for the Russian people. In addition, the fact that he took on this important role meant that he was responsible for the wars consequences and the survival of Tsardom depended on military success.
Due to the lack of success, Nicholas II was blamed and not his generals. This was a reason for the revolution in February 1917 to happen as it appeared to the citizens of Russia that they did not have a strong leader, also the tsarist system’s claim to the loyalty of the Russian people had been forfeited thus foreshadowing the revolution. It was believed by many historians that the Tsarist system collapsed due to Russian institutions not being able to cope with the problems it faced during and after the war which led to the revolution in February 1917.
The doubters argued the outburst of the revolution in February 1917 was purely the last stage in the collapse of the old imperial Russia. They thought because of Russia’s political and economic backwardness, the tsarist system was beyond recovery and any attempts of improvement to catch up with the advanced nations would make no difference. What is more, Russia’s agricultural problems made it impossible for them to advance economically which was important for imperial Russia to become a modern state.
The political system was regarded as incompetent and the Nicholas was heavily criticized about his poor performance in his role and he was considered to be a weak Tsar who lacked understanding of his nation’s real needs. Witte and Stolypin, both only carried out reform policies and in the end it indicated that the Tsarist system was unwilling to make the appropriate adjustments needed for Russia’s problems. Overall this is one of the reasons why a revolution occurred, people genuinely didn’t believe that their institutions were suitable for their ongoing social and economic changes.
The people who were optimistic were called the believers. They believed that Russia had the potential to overcome its political, economic and social problems and become a modern state. Russia had rich natural resources, such as oil and could have earned them huge revenues and profits if they traded internationally and if they fully exploited them. Moreover the formation of the duma was a step towards a democratic Russia which made Russia appear to have advance politically as it was their first representative parliament in Russian history.
Although the duma was not a reason why there was a revolution in 1917, the fact that in all four dumas the people and parties did not have total freedom may have been a cause of the revolution, as the people didn’t think they could fully voice their concerns which was limited by the Tsar’s supreme autocratic powers. Rasputin was a holy man who had been invited to meet the Tsar and his wife, Alexandra in hope for him to find a cure for her son who suffered from hemophilia. His job was to find a cure, but instead he discovered how to ease the condition considerably, after he examined what was the problem.
The Empress Alexandra was extremely grateful and made him her confidant, which raised some suspicion between the two. Since the Empress was German she made extra efforts to fit in however after the war her enemies began to label her as a German agent. This did not bode well with the Tsar’s popularity, his government and he’s reputation declined further increasing their opposition. The outbreak of the revolution in February 1917 was due to the growing opposition to Tsardom. Nicholas II caving into the pressure of recalling another duma by the military showed his authority was decreasing.
Furthermore, from another perspective it is obvious that the Tsar and his ministers had mistakenly chosen not to cooperate with the Union of Zemstva and the Union Municipal Councils (non-government organisations) whom were fully supportive and willing to work with the government in the national war effort. As a result of the Tsar not wanting to work with them, they decided to form a joint organization called Zemgor, which was intended to help the wounded soldiers in the war. Their success suggested that there were other options to Tsardom which led to the 1917 revolution.
Another reason to the outbreak of the revolution was when city wide strikes occurred on International Women’s day at the Putilov factory. The women crowed the streets demanding for food because of the food shortages and an end to the war. Police were in charge of disbanding the strikers because that was little instructions from the top which again shows how inefficient the Tsar and his government were in dealing with problems Russia faced. It is a known fact that the Tsar dismissed most of his loyal supporters of Tsardom.
Witte for example was dismissed because the Tsar did not feel like he could trust him. In addition, Nicholas dismissing the duma’s demand of replacing his existing ministry with members from duma to restore national confidence meant that the support of the politically progressive parties would be lost, as they were frustrated with the Tsar’s unwillingness to take a chance. Thus, the ‘Progressive Bloc’ was formed consisting of 236 out of the 422 duma deputies with the purpose of preventing a revolution.
The Bloc did not intend to threaten the Tsar’s authority but instead attempt to encourage the Tsar to make concessions however it proved to be ineffective as the Tsar did not take any notice and chose to ignore their demands. The Tsar’s stubbornness resulted in the duma’s president, Rodzianko informing him about how all the loyal people had even been dismissed or have left, which meant that Tsardom was under serious threat. During the critical stage, the Tsar chose not to be present in Petrograd but instead 400 miles away. He left General Khabalov (commander of the Petrograd garrison) in charge to report back to him and to restore order.
Due to the absence of the Tsar, Alexander Kerensky a SR member of the duma, called for the Tsar to resign or face the fact of being overthrown. The Tsar was left no choice but to abdicate mainly because the remaining ministers that supported the Tsar were not prepared to defend him and he was advised by Rodsianko again to resign his position in order to save the Russian Monarchy as well as by the representatives of the old duma. Nicholas signed the decree of abdication on 2 March and nominated his brother, Duke Michael to be the new Tsar.
However under these circumstances Michael refused the Tsar’s position therefore the Provisional Committee (Provisional Government) took over by default and was in control for governing Russia. The day after the decree was signed, the newly formed government announced to the world that a revolution had taken place and Nicholas’s abdication was publically announced. In conclusion, February Revolution was a result of incompetence from within the Tsardom despite the outside forces. This is because, in the end it was the people within Tsardom who suggested and advised the Tsar to abdicate not his opposition.