To what extent was the First World War a cause of the Russian Revolution? Essay

A diverse group of factors sparked the fire of the Russian Revolution. Each of these problems gradually over time built up and caused what would be a major event in Russia’s history. The First World War was a substantial failure for Russia which massively lowered the Tsar’s popularity and authority. The Russian people began to question themselves whether or not they could put their trust in the Tsar. Furthermore, as well as the appalling conditions at the front line, some levels of the Russian society were already dissatisfied with the poor conditions back at home.

They were being harshly treated and affected by mass food shortages which also showed just how much the Tsar could not cope under such circumstances like the First World War. The following factors will show how they worked together to bring about the fall of the Russian Monarchy. The First World War affected everyone in Russia including the Army, workers, middle classes and the aristocracy. The army were made up of the peasantry and probably hit the most due to the fact that they were poorly supported by the industries.

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They weren’t producing enough rifles, ammunition, artillery shells or boots and if they were, the basic rail network could not support the deliveries to the front line. At the end of 1914, there were 6,500,000 men in the army but they only had 4,600,000 rifles. In September 1915, when the Tsar took control of the Russian Army from his uncle Grand Duke Nicholas – even though the Tsar had no experience in battlefield warfare – he tried to lead Russia into victory.

However, the German opposition, the best army at the time in the world, were better equipped and experienced which lead to defeat after defeat over the Russian army. These defeats were blamed on the Tsar which led to many soldiers, by 1917, supporting the Tsar’s opponents the ‘Bolshevik Party’. The war created an extra 3. 5million jobs in 1914-1916 but the workers back in Russia were made up of the little surviving peasantry who weren’t conscripted in the war. It was their duties to keep the home front going and supplying the troops fighting.

With the war taking great numbers of casualties on peasants and workers – in 1916 it was counted that the village of Grushevka had lost 13% of its population – it was hard to do so. With food shortages everywhere in Russia, and the government forced to spend more money than it took in taxes, creating inflation, industrialisation hit an all time low. Of what food that was being produced could not be transported to the cities due to the basic rail network that couldn’t cope with the needs of the army and cities.

Workers had fixed wages and peasants received fixed prices for their produce, so they quickly became poorer. As well as not being paid much, they were also living in appalling, dirty conditions. This led to many revolts by the workers including the revolt in Asian Russia where the Tsar tried to conscript Muslims into the army. The Middle classes were upset by the defeats and shortages at the Front. By the end of 1916, the ‘Zemstra’ were appalled at how bad the army were being treated so they set up medical organisations and joined war committees to send other supplies to the troops.

In 1916, the industries who were badly coping with the numbers of supplies needed, were struggling to fulfil war contracts due to the shortage of important raw materials such as metals and fuels. The dismissal of the Duma by the Tsar also raised eyebrows within the Middle Classes because the Progressive Bloc wanted to work with the Duma politicians to help unite the people of Russia. However, the refusal by the Tsar meant that the people had no representation. This made the Middle classes and other people even angrier because they were not being listened to. The Aristocracy didn’t approve of the war either.

They thought that the situation had got so bad that by late 1916, the Council of the United Nobility were calling the Tsar to step down. The future classes had been abolished due to most junior officers in the war had died – all under the Tsar’s leadership. They were also appalled at how the Tsar had left St. Petursburg and let the Tsarina under the influence of Rasputin, control the country in his departure. The fact that the Tsarina was a German and the rumours that she was a spy also having an affair with Rasputin, lowered her popularity within the aristocracy greatly.

The conscription of 13 million peasants also affected the Aristocracy as they had no workers for their estates. Prince Yusapov, a member of the Aristocracy, murdered Rasputin in December 1916 but the situation did not improve. The long term affects of the 1905 Revolution haunted the Tsar. The revolt had mainly been down to the terrible conditions the workers had to live and work in, as it had been a problem for Russia for the past 350 years. Even through the war this was still the case and the Tsar was doing nothing to stop it.

Other long term affects that caused problems were the fact that there was a lack of raw materials and the Tsar took all the money in taxes whilst the peasants and middle classes were left with none. These problems led to opposition groups that believed in Marxism which meant that they believed in Karl Marx’s revolutionary ideas. It had spread rapidly through the working and middle classes. The rise of industrialisation in Russia affected the home front as well as the front line.

The lack of raw materials such as metals and fuels made the economy of the country fall as money was unavailable. This led to the poor rail network as there was no metal to extend or develop the system which meant that supplies could not be transported to the troops or even the people in the cities. As you can see, the above factors sparked the Russian Revolution with the Tsar being behind nearly all of them. Clearly then, the Tsar was the main cause behind all the problems leading to the collapse of the Russian Monarchy in 1917.

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