The Feb Revolution and the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II

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The Feb Revolution and the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II

By the winter of 1917, the streets of Petrograd were tense with the pent-up frustations of the unemployed, the starving  and the desperate. In Jan, 150,000 workers demonstrated in Petrograd on the anniversary of 'Bloody Sunday' and by Feb 14th, there were 100,000 workers from 58 different factoriess on strike in Petrograd. The reassembled Duma heard speeches arguing that the Tsar had to go, but it was not to be the Duma, nor the disgruntled Army High Command that actually forced Nicholas's hand.

News that bread would be rationed from March 1st increased the long queue's at bakeries and the city's womenfolk waited around the clock to buy the black bread which was the staple sustenance of working families through the freezing winter. Taut nerves sometimes led to angry and violent exchanges, as the desperate jostled for the limited supplies and the police struggled to keep order were attacked. When, on February 22nd a further 20,000 workers from Putilov engineering works went on strike following an argument over pay, the situation deteriorated further.

Events turned particularly sour on International Women's Day, Thursday Feb 23rd, when the traditional march of women from Petrograd suburbs to the city centre turned increasingly political. Although women, including striking female textiles workers, took the lead the demonstration was joined by many different groups. These included Putilov strikers, militant student, other workers from other factories, 50 of which abandoned work in the course of the day, even some of the women from bread queues, who became caught up in the militant mood of the protestors.

The city fell into chaod as female drivers refused to drive the trams and deliberately left them to block the city streets, whilst some male drivers were forced to stop and had their keys taken away to prevent them re-starting their electric motors. It has been estimated that as many as 240,000 came out on the streets that day and order was only restored by a desperate police force in the early evening, although the day saw no loss of life.

Over the next three days, the crowds…

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