February Revolution — causes, events and effects

February Revolution — causes, events and effects

Background to the February Revolution

  • Tsar Nicholas II ruled autocratically over the Russian Empire in 1917, maintaining a firm grip on power despite continued political unrest.
  • By 1917, the Russian Empire was embroiled in World War 1, exasperating the economic and political tensions in the country.
  • Severe food shortages, caused in part by the war effort and problems with transportation of goods, were prevalent, heightening both rural and urban discontent.

Causes of the February Revolution

  • The strain of war caused widespread economic hardship, including food and fuel shortages, inflation and unemployment, which intensified the dissatisfaction with the Tsar’s rule.
  • Tsar’s poor leadership in the war and Rasputin’s interference in governance while Nicholas was at the front, discredited the monarchy.
  • Workers and peasants were particularly affected by Russia’s participation in the war. The long working hours, poor conditions, and scant wages stirred growing unrest amongst the industrial working class who began to strike and protest against the government.

Events of the February Revolution

  • The February Revolution began with a strike on International Women’s Day (23 February Old Style) when women textile workers in Petrograd (now St.Petersburg) walked out of their factories protesting against food shortages and demanding an end to the war.
  • By 25th February, nearly 200,000 people were on strike and shops started to close. The riots and looting became evident and law and order were breaking down.
  • Tsar Nicholas ordered military action but many regiments mutinied (refused to obey orders) and joined the protesters instead.
  • On 27th February, The Duma declared a Provisional Committee as the official government of Russia. The Petrograd Soviet also formed, giving a voice to workers, soldiers, and peasants.
  • Nicholas II, powerless and without the support of the army, abdicated the throne on 2nd March, ending 300 years of Romanov rule.

Effects of the February Revolution

  • The February Revolution led to the end of the Romanov dynasty and the autocracy, heralding an era of more democratic governance.
  • The Provisional Government was established with Prince Lvov as its head. It shared power with the Petrograd Soviet, creating a Dual Power structure.
  • The Provisional Government decided to continue the war, which further angered the people and the soldiers. This decision eased the path for the Bolsheviks to lead a second revolution later in October, culminating in a communist government.
  • The date of the revolution (23 - 27 February) refers to the Julian Calendar used in Russia at the time. The corresponding Gregorian Calendar dates are 8- 12 March, hence sometimes referred to as the March Revolution.

Studying the causes, events, and impacts of the February Revolution is paramount in understanding the socio-political changes that occurred in Russia in the 20th Century. The revolution not only derailed the autocracy, but it set the stage for Lenin and the Bolsheviks, which led to the establishment of a communist state.