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To What Extent Was The Impact Of The First World War Responsible For The Downfall Of Tsarism In March 1917?

1720 words - 7 pages

To what extent was the impact of the First World War responsible for the downfall of Tsarism in March 1917?

In March 1917, Nicholas II abdicated and brought Tsarist’s three hundred year reign to an end. The issue of the Tsar’s downfall divides historians with two different viewpoints. The first perspective is that Russia was making progress, however it was solely undermined by the First World War in which the war caused massive losses, poor leadership and unloyality of the troops. The alternative view is that long term social, economic and political factors already existed because of the challenges of modernising the country. Together these problems contributed to the Tsar’s inability to ...view middle of the document...

The loss of the army was a major factor as to the downfall of the Tsar; in 1905 they survived the revolution because they had the power of the armed forces behind them.
Another factor that contributed the downfall of the Tsar was the mistakes Nicholas II made in monarchy. In 1915 the Tsar made the fatal decision of becoming Commander in Chief of the army and leaving his wife Alexandria in charge of Russia. This led to more hatred for the Tsar because the more the war effort faltered, more and more blame was put on Alexandria, who being German, was accused of being in sympathy with the enemy. She was also hated because she was deemed to be having an affair with Rasputin. Between September 1915 and December 1916, there were constant ministerial changes, many of which were seen as influenced by Rasputin. The social and political issues led to a breakdown of law and order in Petrograd and Nicholas was out of touch with events. This can be shown by a letter the Tsarina sent to her husband on February 26th 1917 ‘Youngsters and girls are running around shouting they have no bread’. Consequently, society’s elite were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the way that the country was being run, posing a serious threat to the Tsarist’s regime.
The defection of the army also contributed to the downfall of Tsarism, as the strikes and demonstrations in Petrograd could be put down or even controlled. Tens of thousands of women took to the street to commemorate International Women’s Day on February 23th 1917 in which revolutionary banners and slogans started to appear, the focus now is on ending the war and overthrowing the autocracy than simply wanting to obtain food. These strikes only made the situation worse for the Tsar went more than half the workforce of Petrograd went on strike. At first the Tsar relied on the army to keep control, as in the 1905 Revolution, when the Tsarist dynasty has survived because of their support, yet their loyalty was to be short lived. On the 25th February 1917, the Cossack troops, who had traditionally been loyal to the Tsar refused to fire on the protesters. Therefore, the Tsar was beginning to lose control of the army, which placed the whole regime in danger: the Tsar would no longer be able to confide in the army to support the control of the empire. The mutiny was ultimately only worsened by the creation of the workers’ soviets. On 1st March 1917, the workers’ soviets that had begun forming the previous week joined forces to make the Petrograd Soviet; this was similar to the 1905 revolution, when the St. Petersburg was created. The Petrograd Soviet issued for an ‘Order Number One’ which demanded that all officers of the army be elected by their men. This, combined with the mutiny, increased the downfall of the Tsar’s authority and command over the army.
On the other hand, prior to the First World War some long term factors can contribute to the reasoning of the downfall of Tsarism. Firstly, there were social...

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