Causes of the Russian Revolution of March 1917

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Last updated: November 8, 2019

Before the war started, economically, Russia started to improve. In the late nineteenth century Russia experienced a great spurt in industrial production, as the government feared that Russia would no longer be a great power in the world if they let their industry slide. Coal Production in Russia rose from 3. 2 million tons to 35. 4 million tons between 1880 and 1913.

This growth in industry created many jobs, and the unemployed now looked to the big cities in search for work, where they could be taken on board and become a factory worker.Stolypin was one of the main figures behind the plans for a more industrious Russia, and one of his main strategies was to reform agriculture. In 1906 he allowed peasants to leave the mir (the village commune), he hoped that if peasants left the mir they would buy land around the mir and create modern farms which would produce far more food per acre, creating a more efficient way of producing money and food. However Stolypin and the government’s plans for a prosperous Russia had its negative effects.

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In towns and cities the factory workers living conditions were extremely poor; almost 40% of houses had no running water or sewerage systems and workers were crammed in by the dozen into very confined dormitories. Employers did not care for the safety of their workers either; there were was an average of 15 accidents per month in one factory in St Petersburg. Factory workers worked very long hours for very little pay. In the countryside social life was also very poor.

Not until 1961 was serfdom abolished and even after that life didn’t greatly improve.Peasants had to pay redemption charges and had to pay the majority of taxes whilst the rich paid very little tax; this left the peasants extremely poor. Peasants also lived in poor housing, normally a whole family sharing a single room. Poor social life for the peasants and the workers increased friction between them and the Tsar and his government. Politically, the country was run very poorly by the Tsar. He suffered a humiliating defeat to the Japanese and was forced to give back Port Arthur to Japan.The defeat highlighted the necessity for change and it showed that the Tsar and his ministers were leading the country to disaster.

When the Tsar introduced the Duma via the October Manifesto he gave them limited power and the lower class’s views could not be expressed to the government as they had no one to represent them. The lack of communication between the Tsar and his people increases tension as did the poor running of the country. The 1st World War had great effects on various people. The people of Russia suffered a dreadful time during the war.Because 15 million men got called up to the army, there was only a very small amount of people to work in the factories and on the farms, so there became shortages of raw materials. In 1914 there were 22 000 wagons of grain reaching Moscow in 1913, by 1917 in the middle of the war only 700 wagons were reaching the capital. Railways were being used to transport military equipment so the transportation of food was not a priority and many people started to starve. Inflation started to occur around Russia and the people of Russia had to face a few very tough years.

The Russian army that was gathered together for the war was very poorly trained and to make matters worse it was commanded by officers chosen to lead the army not because that they were good soldiers but because they were nobles. The professional army of Germany steamrolled through the Russians even though it was predicted that the Russians should have dominated the war because of their great numbers. Many Russians were killed needlessly, when people back in Russia found out of the thousands killed, many of them turned against the Tsar’s policies.The Tsar made several mistakes during the war; each mistake increased the likeliness of a revolution. In August 1915, the Tsar took personal command of the army; this meant that every failure of the army would have been blamed on him. As the new personal commander lived in army headquarters the government was left in the hands of the Tsarina; big mistake.

The Tsarina was a German and many people became disloyal to her and turned against her and the government as they believed they were in the hands of the enemy as she was German.Many people believed she was under the influence of Rasputin, of who was also very unpopular and he influenced the Tsarina to rule in an opposite way to which her husband would do. The Tsar also rejected the help of ZEMGOR, these were a group of people who helped casualties from the war and made sure the army was well supplied. The Tsar wanted to be independent and the decision to reject help bewildered many people.

With a severe winter, food shortages and rising prices, the war was going badly; the Tsar and his government were under severe pressure and by March 1917 the government lost control.Workers started to demand more money for fewer hours and there was a strike at the Putilov engineering works in Petrograd on the 4th of March. A couple of days later 40 000 workers were on strike and the factory eventually closed down.

More and more strikes started to occur around Russia and there were clashes breaking out between the workers and the army. On the 12th of March Soldiers in Petrograd refused to fire on the peasants and joined them instead! This was a very decisive move by the soldiers because the Tsar and the government had no one to fight for them now and the Tsar abdicated and then got arrested.If the soldiers would have kept loyal things may have turned out different for the Tsar. I believe that the War was the final straw for the Tsar; his humiliating struggles during the war highlighted his weaknesses as the leader of Russia and led to his downfall.

However I believe that if the war had not occurred then there may have still been a revolution because tension was at such a peak, tension was caused by a series of mistakes made by the Tsar (such as the decision to become personal commander etc. ) and I believe the war sparked off a chain of events which eventually led to the revolution.

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