Why the situation in Petrograd began to get out of hand in late February 1917

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Last updated: November 14, 2019

The situation in Petrograd began to get out of hand in late February 1917 for a number of reasons, such as the ongoing strikes, the absence of the Tsar in Russia and the naive Tsarina who failed to realize the seriousness of the situation, so was unable to prevent things from getting out of hand. One of the factors which contributed to the situation getting out of hand was the huge number of workers who were on strike, which we are told about in Source E, written by a leading revolutionary at the time the events were taking place.

He says “they begin processions towards the centre of the city” which shows that the people protest, as they are not happy with the situation of Petrograd. Trotsky tells us the situation is out of hand, and in Source F although the Tsarina also admits that there is trouble in her letter written on 24 February 1917, she thinks the problems will be resolved soon and are not out of hand.They both tell us there are problems, but the Tsarina says that young people run and shout that there is no bread simply to create excitement, along with workers who prevent others from working, which shows she misunderstood the situation as there was really a food shortage in 1917 and Trotsky understood the reality of the situation better than she did. The Tsarina tries to manipulate the Tsar into turning against the Duma as she says “All this will pass and become calm if only the Duma will behave itself” in her letter.By saying this she is blaming the Duma for the events and tries to tell the Tsar that Rodzianko’s warnings to him about the anarchy was unnecessary as she misunderstood the situation and couldn’t see how serious it was, whereas Trotsky knew what was actually happening and how seriously the situation was beginning to get out of hand. The absence of the Tsar in Petrograd also contributed to the situation of the city getting out of hand, as he left his wife, Alexandra in charge.

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The Tsar had made himself Commander in Chief and appointed himself in charge of the war effort, so was away at the war front, leaving quite foolishly, his wife in charge, rather than any of the experienced ministers or the government. The people would not have been happy with this decision as the Tsarina was very unpopular, and was suspected to have been a spy as she was German, so would have faced opposition from a lot of people as Russia were opponents of war with Germany.She was inexperienced and relied on Rasputin’s advice for the decisions which she made, such as changing ministers repeatedly, regardless of their ability or experience, causing further chaos and disruption amongst the people in Petrograd.

She failed to realize the seriousness of her decisions and the problems in Petrograd, and didn’t inform the Tsar about them, so he was unaware of the exact situation there.He relied on others for information about Petrograd, and believed the Tsarina’s version of events over the Duma’s, which were very different as the Tsarina informed him of small problems while the Duma informed him of huge chaos and unrest in the city. The situation in Petrograd began to get out of hand in late February 1917 due to the city not having a suitable leader during the time. Instead they had the inexperienced, unpopular Tsarina, while the Tsar was away at the war front.

The Russian people were unhappy; they were hungry as food couldn’t be transported to them, didn’t want to work and held strikes which showed they were not happy. The army was also facing problems as some of the troops sympathized with the workers, which was beginning to cause mutiny in the army and the rapidly increasing numbers of strikers showed that the situation was just getting worse in Petrograd in late February 1917.

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