Nicholas II fell from power in February 1917, there are many reasons for the collapse of Tsarism but to what extent was World War 1 the most important reason? World War 1 seems to be the most contributing factor to why Tsarism collapsed in 1917; the huge effects and problems that the War had on Tsarism was able to overturn the monarchy, that before then, had never died. This is due to the impact of War on Russia’s Political state. In 1915 Nicholas II as Tsar toke power of the Russian army, this had a huge effect on the outcome of World War 1 on Russia. Despite this, the collapse of Tsarism could be blamed on different factors of Russia, such as the civilians; the percentage of peasantry in Russia was extremely high, not only the percentage but also the conditions of peasants was awful.
When war was declared in 1914, much of the Russian population rallied behind the Tsar and the monarchy in a wave of patriotism. However, the war weariness in the face of 'Total War' soon gripped the country, as the war exacerbated the domestic difficulties of Russia and highlighted the governments structural issues. Losses such as the 'Brusilov offensive' demoralised the army, which in turn weakened the standing of the Tsar and the faith the public placed in him. Poor organisation lead to major casualties, as by Christmas of 1916, 1.6 million soldiers were dead and 3.9 million were wounded with 2.4 million taken prisoner. This lack of organisation also lead to food shortages and issues with transport.
Prior to 1917, Russia was run by a Tsar, and its system of government was based on autocracy. There was much dissatisfaction with the Tsar during World War One, which led to his abdication – the March revolution. The provisional government took charge of Russia, whose authority and power was taken over by Lenin’s Bolsheviks in the second revolution in October. The Romanov family had been ruling Russia since 1613, but in March 1917, Nicholas Romanov II was forced to abdicate. Nicholas was a sensitive man with high pride and always preferred to be with his family rather than to involve himself in the running of his nation.
Historians such as Steven Main argue, “WWI had given birth to the USSR1”. Which is what the Bolsheviks and Lenin would later turn Russia into. Like most wars, the First World War had a massive impact on Russia as a country and its people. The war like most took a toll on the economy and due to the fact that Russia was less industrially developed than its allies, France and Britain, this meant that they had to work harder to keep up with ammunition production as well as normal amenities such as food. As there was a shortage of supplies, standard “supply and demand” went up and inflation occurred and because 80% of Russian people were peasants and already poor this meant that many people went without causing famine.
Poor harvests, famine, a lack of freedom and repressive policies meant that Russia was a country that was teetering on the brink of revolution long before dissatisfied factory workers marched on the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. Some of the causes of the 1905 revolution were due to poor working and living conditions. For instance, up to 15 people would share one room to live in, because of this demonstrations such as the one outside the Winter Palace commonly known as Bloody Sunday took place. 100’s were killed due to horrific misunderstanding by the Russian army. In many ways this helped fuel Russian Revolt.
A large number of Russia’s problems were caused by pre-existing conditions such as poor distribution of food supplies, transportation, and inflation. There are a number of other conditions that contributed to Russia’s war problems; however these are arguably the most important factors. Firstly, the requisitioning of horses and fertilisers by the military for the war effort made it difficult to sustain agricultural output, since farmers still used medieval farming techniques horses were needed to produce a harvest, this resulted in a huge decline in food production and threw the lower class into starvation. Furthermore, the army had first rights on the limited amount of food being produced and they had priority in the use of various transport systems, they also commandeered the railways and roads with the result that the food supplies that were available could not be distributed easily to the rest of the nation. This was terribly inconsiderate of the military as the other 82% of the nation was left to starve as the military was the government’s top priority.
Another long-term cause of the 1905 Revolution was the general disappointment with which many Russian people viewed the reforms of the previous decades. The emancipation had promised much but delivered little. The reign of Alexander II had produced a number of similar reforms. Changes to local government and the legal system were both limited and led to the call for more liberal reform. The reactionary reign of Alexander III led to a tightening of government control and the persecution of minority groups, such as Jews, within the Empire.
Agriculture in Russia was far behind other great powers and peasants were suffering greatly through the repeated famines in 1902 and 1905. Sergei Witte had done nothing to improve agriculture only focusing on the economy of Russia. This led to subsistence agriculture. Grain was being exported and there wasn’t enough for the peasants. This also meant that the land was not used to it full potential, all these factors lead to the famines and causing peasants to up rise using violence against government officials.
Not only was it the population of the Russian empire that turned against the Tsars, but the Army too. They were many revolts in the countryside; of which were suppressed by the army. This caused problems as the army was mainly structured of peasants. This meant mutinies were to come into play – 200 from October to December. In addition to this, troops within the far-East wanted deployment as they disagreed with the rules after the Manifesto.
How Accurate is it to Say that the Growth of Reformist Groups in the Years from 1881 was the Main Cause for the 1905 Revolution? Following Alexander II’s assassination in 1881, Russia was faced with their worst nightmare which was faced with their worst nightmare which was a truly repressive Tsar, Alexander III. His unpopularity was caused by his extremely backwards ideology that left the Russian population dissatisfied without their ‘Tsar Liberator.’ Alexander III found himself battling with millions of people who wanted their previous freedom restored and autocracy destroyed. I personally feel that the main cause for the 1905 revolution was Alexander III himself in the long term. Alexander was hopelessly out of touch with the emerging realities of a modern Russia.