Russia’s involvement in WW1 was the main reason for the March 1917 revolution – Do you agree/disagree with this statement? Essay

One of the main results of the March 1917 revolution was the abdication of Tsar Nicolas II; nevertheless the reasons for the revolution were not brought upon immediately but years before. It was a mixture of both long and short term causes which finally brought Russia to the state of a revolution. Along with the abdication of the Tsar the setting up of the provisional government came into place, it was this that would rule the country until the next elections.

Tsar Nicolas II lived in St. Petersburg and as of this had a hard job governing such a large country. It was his role to govern the whole of Russia including the many towns and villages that he had never even seen. Transport around the country was limited, there was no air transportation and main travelling roads were in bad condition. The peasants and farmers never had enough land to grow crops and only 5% of the land was suitable for farming.

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In fact an enormous 84% of the population of Russia were peasants, they had many grievances and complaints; they had poor farming conditions and had to survive on the little food that they were able to grow. The peasants of Russia only had a small area of land and were constantly being refused any larger farming estates they required. They believed that the Tsar was their G-D and for them it was a privilege to just see the Tsar let alone anything else. They also believed Tsar Nicolas was the answer to all their problems and he would help to solve them. Little did they know that Tsar Nicolas was somewhat like ‘the man behind the iron mask’ He made an impression on the peasants that he would help them no matter what and that he cared greatly for them, but behind the mask he was a different man. It was on 21st January 1905 (bloody Sunday) when the peasants realised that Tsar Nicolas was not the man they thought he was. Hundreds of people died and many more were injured and from that day the Tsar lost the affection of the Russian people indubitably.

Russia needed to develop it’s industries in order to change from the backward agricultural country into a modern industrialised one and at the same time maintain their important military power. The government invested an enormous amount of money of which a huge percentage came from the Russian people. The peasants found it hard to survive whilst paying their heavy taxes on grain, at the same time everyday items such as alcohol and salt prices were raised and all workers wages decreased.

For a while industry grew and things went according to plan, but in 1902 there was an industrial slump. Workers lost their jobs, strikes and demonstrations broke out and peasants were now at the point of starvation. However, between 1906 and 1914 there was an industrial boom. Industrial production increased by 100% but the workers did not benefit. The working conditions improved but were still poor and all prices were raised to the extent that people couldn’t even afford a loaf of bread.

One of the other problems of this industrial boom was the arrival of the two new classes of people; the Bourgeoisie like the middle classes they were not concerned for the urban workers and wanted to see an electoral reform.

The Proletariat; were the workers and just added to the percentage of people who had poor work and living conditions.

A minuscule 10% of the population were what we know as the rich, they owned the majority of the land. There were some peasants who worked for the wealthy receiving a small wage. The other peasants had to struggle with their small amount of land and were again refused land from the rich. The affluent did not care for the lower classes and dwelled in their wealth and power. The rich were not a problem of the Tsar’s unlike the proletariat and peasants.

Tsar Nicolas II was a weak leader he had more affection for his family than his country and for a man in his position there were foreseeable problems.

He never received the education he needed to be a good leader and made many wrong decisions. He was disliked by many people as well as the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks which included city workers and students. The Mensheviks were led by Martoz and the Bolsheviks were led by Lenin. Both groups were social democrats and their aims were to overthrow the Tsar but each using different tactics. Tsar Nicolas was an autocrat meaning he believed in divine right and that he was chosen by G-D giving him complete absolute power.

He used the Church to get to the Russian people they were brainwashed into thinking Tsar Nicolas was G-D.

‘He was incompetent and refused to understand the need to change his autocratic style of government to meet the demands of an industrial country’

In 1905 there was a threat for a Revolution due to the industrial slump and the Japanese defeat. Tsar Nicolas stopped this from happening he set up the Duma which pleased the middle classes but crushed the peasants and workers. The Duma was elected by the people but still they lacked power against the Tsar. He could dissolve them at any time he wanted. All the Duma’s ideas were overseen by the Tsar and were either changed or simply ignored. The people wanted a Duma so that their views could be heard and maybe there would be something done about them, but this wasn’t the case. Even though the Tsar agreed to a Duma he was still a strong believer in dictatorship. It took four Dumas until the Tsar was satisfied that he could carry on ruling the country in the way that he wished to do so.

This then meant that the ruling of the country would still be as poor as ever, especially with the Tsar like the man he was running it

The Tsar was not prepared to share his power with anyone he still believed in his autocratic ruling that he had been chosen by G-D and he was the one to rule Russia only him. Any changes enforced on Russia were failed and the workers remained dissatisfied.

This was all very well until the First World War, and then the major problems arose. Firstly the problems for the people of Russia, mainly being the peasants and workers. Things were going well for the workers. They all had jobs and in some ways were happy for the facts that they could some what support their families. But then the War came. Money was cut because it was needed to pay for supplies for the army and transport of fighters and weapons. Because of this factories closed down meaning a shortage of goods including food and coal. The fact that the pay for the workers wasn’t exactly large now meant that there was no money coming in at all and people lost their jobs. Also the land that the peasants or Kulaks as they were known owned was taken from them or used as battle fields causing them to loose out on money sources that they may have had before the war.

Another fall was that quite a large number of workers were sent to fight in the war. Two downfalls of this were that they were (a) badly equipped and (b) badly lead. By August 1914 they lost an army of 90’000 who were either killed or taken prisoner and by March 1917 they had lost over 8 million (8’000’000) people. Those who fought became defeatist. Another problem was that because all money was mainly used for transport during the war it showed again that the Tsar had made the wrong decision.

Because of the faults that were found going on during the war, the

Tsar took over the ruling of the army and left Rasputin and the Tsarina in control. This was a bad and foolish mistake. Firstly news from the front said that conditions were getting worse and the only person blamed was Nicholas. It also doesn’t help that during the winter of 1916 the weather conditions were getting worse by the day. The railway lines had frozen so there was very little food getting into Petrograd. Huge queues formed just to get a small amount of bread, and hunger and coldness took over and by March 1917 there were serious moods of discontent. Because of the poor running of the army over 36’000 workers went on strike as well as a warning from the Duma, and yet the Tsar ignored both and because of this made the situation worse.

In the same way that the Tsar wasn’t making progress at the war front nor was Rasputin and the Tsarina making progress in Russia. Because of the downfalls of the army and how the Tsar was leading it, the people of Russia lost trust and hope for him, as well as the Tsarina. It didn’t help that the people were appalled with the Tsar for letting a man like Rasputin have such an influence in the ruling of Russia, and it didn’t help that they had very little respect for the Tsarina as she was German and that is who the Russians were at war with, and of course they blamed the Tsar for all of this which made him increasingly unpopular.

Now we move onto the revolution of March 1917. By this time the situation in Russia had become desperate. The workers wanted political changes as well as more food and fuel (coal). On 7th March in Petrograd 40’000 workers from the giant Putilov engineering workers went on strike for higher wages. The next day was International Women’s Day and thousands of women joined the strikers in demonstrations all over the city, shouting ‘Down with Hunger!’, ‘Bread for the workers!’ In the two days that followed thousands of workers, both men and women, joined in demanding food, coal and better living conditions as well as a new government. Because of this the Tsar ordered that the demonstrations were to be put down by force.

The 12th of March was a very decisive day. It changed the whole layout of the riots. The soldiers in Petrograd who were ordered to fire upon the strikers actually joined them and in some cases the regiments actually shot their officers as well. They had decided that they had had enough of the war and the way that they had been treated. The soldiers joined the strikers and the women in the streets, and marched to the Duma, and then demanded that it take control of the government. Tsar Nicholas II heard of this and tried to get back to Petrograd but it was too late. On the 15th of March the Tsar decided to abdicate.

With all the evidence that is here I can not come to a decision on whether it was the war that was the main cause of the 1917 Revolution. If I had to come to a finalised conclusion though, I would more than likely say that the core of the cause of the 1917 Revolution was more than likely the war but I don’t think the revolution would have come about without the extra little hiccups along the way. Also if the Tsar had been a stronger and more reliable and intelligent leader it would never, in my opinion, have come about in the first place.

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