1917 saw the February revolution, the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the end of 300 years of Romanov rule and centuries of a Tsarist regime ruling Russia. The reasons why Nicholas II was forced to abdicate can be explained in terms of beliefs, such as Nicholas II belief in autocracy, circumstances, such as world war one, and actions, such as Nicholas’ decision to take direct control of the armed forces. In this essay I will be arguing that circumstances were the most important factor in causing the Tsar to abdicate.
World war one caused many problems for the Tsar and the people of Russia, despite the initial support for the Tsar and mother Russia. Loss of life was a major issue. At Tannenberg and the first battle of the Masurian Lakes in 1914 Russia lost two entire armies, over 250,000 men. The war also exacerbated Russia’s domestic issues. Inflation meant that food was not affordable, gold standard was abandoned and more money was printed meaning it eventually became worthless. Between 1914 and 1916 average earnings doubled but food and fuel price quadrupled. Food was also in short supply due to the war. Inflation meant that it was more worthwhile for peasants to keep their grain than to sell it. By 1917 the people of Petrograd were receiving less than a quarter of the bread that had been available in 1914. By 1916 the railway system in Russia had virtually collapsed meaning that vital supplies could not be brought to the cities such as food. The war also lead to poor morale. Because the war caused so many problems I believe it should therefore be seen as the most important factor in causing the Tsar to abdicate.
However there are many other factors that contributed to Nichols II’s abdication. Another circumstance was a loss of support for the Tsar from the nobility and armed forces. The revolution of 1905 arguably failed because the Tsar still had the support of these groups. The nobility now believed that the Tsar was an incompetent leader, were angry at the loss of their sons due to the war and were having economic issues as they could no longer rely on the peasants to work on their land as they too were fighting in the war. They also disliked the Tsarina, who they suspected was pro-German and hated the influence Rasputin had. The armed forces could no longer be relied on to restore order and crush rebellions because of their hatred of the war and the loss of life it caused. Although a loss of support for the Tsar is a key factor in his abdication it was the war that lead to this circumstance as it was this that caused the Tsar to leave Rasputin and Alexandra in control and the loss of life, which is why the war should be seen as a more important factor in this case.
The emergence of alternatives to Tsarism also contributed to the abdication of Nicholas II as people could see that there were be people to take over from the Tsar who would be representative and hopefully rule Russia in a democratic way. When Nicholas ordered the Duma to close down 12 members refused to do so and formed the provisional committee. This was the first open act of defiance by a government body towards the Tsar and offered one alternative to Tsarism. On the 27th the Petrograd soviet held its first meeting offering another alternative body to lead Russia if the Tsar was to be overthrown.
There were also short term circumstances that lead to the Tsars abdication. The 23rd of February was national women’s day and 128,000 women were out demonstrating. They were joined by strikers from the Putilov factory, who numbered 20,000. The factory workers were on strike due to poor working conditions and wages. The streets of Petrograd were in anarchy and the Tsar could not rely on the armed forces to stop it. On the 27th a general strike began. An estimated 200,000 workers were now on strike. Anarchy in the capital that could net be stopped, left the Tsar with little choice. If he did not abdicate voluntarily…