WWI and the revolutions of 1917

The collapse of tsardom and the revolution of Febrary/March 1917

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Nicholas II's wartime leadership 1915-1917

  • Negative
  • Huge manpower, but didn't perform well - bad troop morale
  • Uniforms, rifles and shells were in short supply (did improve in 1916)
  • Lacked coherent command structure
  • Industry and agriculture could not meet military and civilian needs (1917 -food shortages in main towns)
  • Government unable to cope, 4 prime ministers and 3 ministers of war, Duma was critical, income tax introduced too late
  • September 1915 Nicholas II made himself commander and chief of the army - he was now identified directly with all failures and he left Alexandra his German wife (and Rasputin) in control


  • Not completely overwhelmed by Germans - stood their ground - 1916 Brusilov Offensive
  • Managed to mobilize >14 mil. men
  • More Democracy in Russia during war (Nicholas didn't really have a choice)
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April Theses (April 1917)

  • Lenin demanded that-
  • power should be transferred to soviets
  • the war should end immediately
  • all land should be taken over by the state and re-allocated to the peasants

Reaction was mixed-

  • Bolsheviks only had 26,000 members
  • Bolsheviks didn't know whether to co-operate with provisional government
  • Some Bolsheviks started to doubt Lenin
  • Mensheviks feared Lenin would undermine them and provoke a right-winf reaction

However Lenin gradually won support with his speeches-

  • Lenin claimed credit for peasants seizing land
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Nicholas II Abdication

  • Impact of first World War
  • Soldiers became increasingly reluctant to fight - Desertion because of casualties, No prospect of winning - Low morale, Discontent at tsar making himself commander and chief of army
  • Rasputin & Alexandra - possible affair, German in charge, bad reputation
  • Nicholas' government incompitent- Joined the war, Military defeats, Bread rations
  • Tired of autocracy- Duma turned on WW1 formed 'Progressive Bloc.'

Institutional Crisis

  • Talk of abdication -Duma refusial to dissolve, Petrograd ground to halt, Economy failing
  • Generals no longer support tsar- Troops joined crowds, 40,000 troops desert in Petrograd

February Revolution

  • Putilov workers, people in bread queues, women on march, troops defy orders and join crowds, 240,000 people on streets
  • Nicholas forced to abdicate
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Why more revolutions?

  • Kornilov Affair- Attempt to occupy Petrograd and dissolve the Soviet, Kerensky pulled out and declared Kornilov a rebel, Bolsheviks were given a boost because of the affair,Kerensky was left personally discredited
  • 9 September - Bolshevik majority in Petrograd Soviet
  • 15 September- Lenin, 'History will not forgive us if we do not assume power now' - rejected
  • 7 October- Lenin returns to Petrograd and by 10th Bolsheviks are ready to seize power
  • 24-25 October- Red Guard seized key points in city
  • 25-26 October- Provisional Government ministers arrested: Bolsheviks seized power

26-27 October- Sovnarkom decrees-

  • Maximum eight-hour day for workers
  • Social Insurance introduced
  • Opposition press banned
  • Decree on Peace
  • Decree on Land
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