Bolshevik forces marching on the
8 – 16 March 1917
7 – 8 November 1917
The Russian Revolution was a pair of
A period of
The outbreak of
After the entry of the
The conditions during the war resulted in devastating loss of morale within the Russian army, as well as the general population. This was particularly apparent in the cities, owing to a lack of food in response to the disruption of agriculture. Food scarcity had become a considerable problem in Russia, but the cause of this did not lie in any failure of the
Liberal parties too had an increased platform to voice their complaints, as the initial fervor of the war had resulted in the Tsarist government creating a variety of political organizations. In July 1915, a Central War Industries Committee was established under the chairmanship of a prominent
All these factors had given rise to a sharp loss of confidence in the regime, even within the ruling class, growing throughout the war. Early in 1916,
Meanwhile, Socialist Revolutionary leaders in exile, many of them living in
It was these views of Martov that predominated in a manifesto drawn up by
An elementary theory of property, believed by many peasants, was that land should belong to those who work on it. At the same time, peasant life and culture was changing constantly. Change was facilitated by the physical movement of growing numbers of peasant villagers who migrated to and from industrial and urban environments, but also by the introduction of city culture into the village through material goods, the press, and word of mouth. [nb 1]
Workers also had good reasons for discontent: overcrowded housing with often deplorable sanitary conditions, long hours at work (on the eve of the war a 10-hour workday six days a week was the average and many were working 11–12 hours a day by 1916), constant risk of injury and death from poor safety and sanitary conditions, harsh discipline (not only rules and fines, but foremen's fists), and inadequate wages (made worse after 1914 by steep wartime increases in the cost of living). At the same time, urban industrial life was full of benefits, though these could be just as dangerous, from the point of view of social and political stability, as the hardships. There were many encouragements to expect more from life. Acquiring new skills gave many workers a sense of self-respect and confidence, heightening expectations and desires. Living in cities, workers encountered material goods such as they had never seen in villages. Most important, living in cities, they were exposed to new ideas about the social and political order. [nb 2]
The social causes of the Russian Revolution mainly came from centuries of oppression of the lower classes by the Tsarist regime, and Nicholas's failures in World War I. While rural agrarian peasants had been
The rapid industrialization of Russia also resulted in urban overcrowding and poor conditions for urban industrial workers (as mentioned above). Between 1890 and 1910, the population of the capital, Saint Petersburg, swelled from 1,033,600 to 1,905,600, with Moscow experiencing similar growth. This created a new 'proletariat' which, due to being crowded together in the cities, was much more likely to protest and go on strike than the peasantry had been in previous times. In one 1904 survey, it was found that an average of sixteen people shared each apartment in Saint Petersburg, with six people per room. There was also no running water, and piles of human waste were a threat to the health of the workers. The poor conditions only aggravated the situation, with the number of strikes and incidents of public disorder rapidly increasing in the years shortly before World War I. Because of late industrialization, Russia's workers were highly concentrated. By 1914, 40% of Russian workers were employed in factories of 1,000+ workers (32% in 1901). 42% worked in 100–1,000 worker enterprises, 18% in 1–100 worker businesses (in the US, 1914, the figures were 18, 47 and 35 respectively). 
|Years||Average annual strikes |
World War I added to the chaos. Conscription swept up the unwilling across Russia. The vast demand for factory production of war supplies and workers caused many more labor riots and strikes. Conscription stripped skilled workers from the cities, who had to be replaced with unskilled peasants, and then, when famine began to hit due to the poor railway system, workers abandoned the cities in droves seeking food. Finally, the soldiers themselves, who suffered from a lack of equipment and protection from the elements, began to turn against the Tsar. This was mainly because, as the war progressed, many of the officers who were loyal to the Tsar were killed, and were replaced by discontented conscripts from the major cities, who had little loyalty to the Tsar.
Many sections of the country had reason to be dissatisfied with the existing autocracy. Nicholas II was a deeply conservative ruler and maintained a strict authoritarian system. Individuals and society in general were expected to show self-restraint, devotion to community, deference to the social hierarchy and a sense of duty to the country. Religious faith helped bind all of these tenets together as a source of comfort and reassurance in the face of difficult conditions and as a means of political authority exercised through the clergy. Perhaps more than any other modern monarch, Nicholas II attached his fate and the future of his dynasty to the notion of the ruler as a saintly and infallible father to his people. [nb 3]
This idealized vision of the Romanov monarchy blinded him to the actual state of his country. With a firm belief that his power to rule was granted by
Despite constant oppression, the desire of the people for democratic participation in government decisions was strong. Since the
Dissatisfaction with Russian autocracy culminated in the huge national upheaval that followed the
One of the Tsar’s principal rationales for risking war in 1914 was his desire to restore the prestige that Russia had lost amid the debacles of the
The outbreak of war in August 1914 initially served to quiet the prevalent social and political protests, focusing hostilities against a common external enemy, but this patriotic unity did not last long. As the war dragged on inconclusively, war-weariness gradually took its toll. More important, though, was a deeper fragility: although many ordinary Russians joined anti-German demonstrations in the first few weeks of the war, the most widespread reaction appears to have been skepticism and fatalism. Hostility toward the Kaiser and the desire to defend their land and their lives did not necessarily translate into enthusiasm for the Tsar or the government.   
Russia's first major battle of the war was a disaster: in the 1914
In 1915, things took a critical turn for the worse when Germany shifted its focus of attack to the Eastern front. The superior German army – better led, better trained and better supplied – was terrifyingly effective against the ill-equipped Russian forces, driving the Russians out of Galicia, as well as Russian Poland, during the
These staggering losses played a definite role in the mutinies and revolts that began to occur. In 1916, reports of fraternizing with the enemy started to circulate. Soldiers went hungry, and lacked shoes, munitions, and even weapons. Rampant discontent lowered morale, which was further undermined by a series of military defeats.
Casualty rates were the most vivid sign of this disaster. Already, by the end of 1914, only five months into the war, around 390,000 Russian men had lost their lives and nearly 1,000,000 were injured. Far sooner than expected, barely trained recruits had to be called up for active duty, a process repeated throughout the war as staggering losses continued to mount. The officer class also saw remarkable changes, especially within the lower echelons, which were quickly filled with soldiers rising up through the ranks. These men, usually of peasant or working-class backgrounds, were to play a large role in the politicization of the troops in 1917.
The huge losses on the battlefields were not limited to men. The army quickly ran short of rifles and ammunition (as well as uniforms and food), and, by mid-1915, men were being sent to the front bearing no arms. It was hoped that they could equip themselves with the arms that they recovered from fallen soldiers, of both sides, on the battlefields. The soldiers did not feel that they were being treated as valuable soldiers, or even as human beings, but rather as raw materials to be squandered for the purposes of the rich and powerful.
By the spring of 1915, the army was in steady retreat, which was not always orderly; desertion, plunder and chaotic flight were not uncommon. By 1916, however, the situation had improved in many respects. Russian troops stopped retreating, and there were even some modest successes in the offensives that were staged that year, albeit at great loss of life. Also, the problem of shortages was largely solved by a major effort to increase domestic production. Nevertheless, by the end of 1916, morale among soldiers was even worse than it had been during the
The war devastated not only soldiers. By the end of 1915, there were manifold signs that the economy was breaking down under the heightened strain of wartime demand. The main problems were food shortages and rising prices. Inflation dragged incomes down at an alarmingly rapid rate, and shortages made it difficult to buy even what one could afford. These shortages were a problem especially in the capital,
Not surprisingly, strikes increased steadily from the middle of 1915, and so did crime; but, for the most part, people suffered and endured, scouring the city for food. Working class women in St. Petersburg reportedly spent about forty hours a week in food lines, begging, turning to prostitution or crime, tearing down wooden fences to keep stoves heated for warmth, grumbling about the rich, and wondering when and how this would all come to an end.
Government officials responsible for public order worried about how long people's patience would last. A report by the St. Petersburg branch of the security police, the
Nicholas was blamed for all of these crises, and what little support he had left began to crumble. As discontent grew, the