Why did Tsarist rule fail?

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The End of Romanov Rule
Aleesha Hussain
How far was popular discontent over food shortages responsible for
the collapse of the Tsarist regime in 1917?
Preceding the October revolution of 1917, both the Tsar and Russian people had found
themselves in a period of great upheaval. World War one had come to Russia and brought with it
conscription, industrialisation, and an increasing food deficit. Both the industrial workers in the
cities and peasants suffered from the food shortages: whilst industrial workers couldn't eat,
inflation meant that the money peasants made from their wares was all but useless. So bad was
the situation that the leading slogan of the Bolsheviks later became `Peace, Bread, and Land.'
However, the war also brought other issues, the huge number of deaths only part of it. It was the
leadership of the Tsarina and her leading advisor Rasputin that alienated the nobility and it may
well have been this lack of support that led to the Tsar's abdication in 1917. However, the
revolution was largely led by industrial workers and it was food shortages that eventually pushed
these workers to revolt.
The February revolution of 1907 was set in motion by members of the working-class who
protested against the shortages of bread in the city. The revolution had initially gained support in
late 1916 with serious riots and disturbances being caused in the city in defiance of the food
shortages. The food shortages were a direct effect of the war; the army had conscripted 15 million
men from the farms and the food that was produced often didn't reach the cities. The army were
given precedence over the railway, but the severe winter further burdened the railways, and often
food could not reach the cities. The food that did arrive was severely inflated. An egg cost four
times what it had in 1914, butter five times as much. Furthermore, there had been rapid
population growth in the cities to boost industrial production. By 1917, only have the necessary
food supplies were reaching the main cities and towns, which caused mounting discontent with
the regime among Russia's urban population. On the 7th March 40,000 workers from the Putilov
engineering works went on strike for higher wages, on 8th March, International Women's Day,
thousands of women joined strikers in demonstrations all over the city. Food shortages had
caused secondary economic problems, such as inflation, which led to falling living standards and
rising social discontent in the cities. The workers had finally been catalysed into action.
Russia's poor military performance were another contributing factor in the collapse of the Tsarist
regime; the food shortages had already taught industrialists to resent the war and the military
disasters that followed did not inspire sympathy, but rebellion. Directly, the Russian army had
seen over 8 million deaths, and a desertion rate of over 25%. The Russian economy was not yet
effective enough to sustain such a large army and lack of basic equipment, transportation and
food coupled with the ineffective leadership by unfeeling officers led to a huge loss in morale. The
Tsar attempted to address this issue, taking personal command of the military in an attempt to
boost morale. However, the plan backfired and Nicholas' relocation to the front line only opened
him up to become a target for personal criticism in the event of defeat. The mismanagement and
failures of the war turned the soldiers against the Tsar, who they felt had involved Russia in a war
it didn't need to be in. The soldiers change in loyalty was instrumental in the success of the
revolution. Whilst some soldiers in Petrograd simply refused to fire on crowds others took more
active roles and whole regiments shot their officers and joined demonstrations. In 1917, the army
marched with the people against Tsar Nicholas, something that had never happened previously.
Nicholas' relocation to the front had also brought domestic issues: Alexandria, a previously
German and wholly unpopular princess, was declared regent in his absence. Between her
relationship with Rasputin, and her German background, Alexandria further condemned the
dynasty's reputation. Alexandria refused to work with the Duma, preferring the influence of

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The End of Romanov Rule
Aleesha Hussain
Rasputin, a Siberian monk she believed capable of healing her son's haemophilia. Rasputin
encouraged the frequent change of incompetent ministers, leaving nobody to organise food, fuel
and other supplies for the city. Able ministers were not treated better and were instead dismissed
in favour of obedient friends of Rasputin. For Russian industrialists who had wanted political
change as well as food and fuel, the Empress seemed to be dragging Russia backwards.…read more

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Aleesha Hussain…read more

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