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DownWithThe Eagle1

Rioters tear down the Imperial double-eagle off a building.

The February Revolution (sometimes called the March Revolution, due to discrepancies between the Russian and Western calendars) was a large protest against Czar Nicholas II of Russia in March 1917. It forced the czar to abdicate the throne and did not allow his heir, Alexis, to inherit it. A provisional government was established with Georgiy Lvov as the leader. The ineffective new government was later overthrown in the October Revolution, which installed the Bolshevik Party under V. I. Lenin.


Russia entered the Great War against the Central Powers. Successful advances were shortlived, as the war effort was being handled by incompetents. One of the few successful commanders, Grand Duke Nicolae, was removed and his position was personally assumed by the czar himself. Materiel was often in short supply and occasionally soldiers were sent into battle without guns.

On the homefront, things were equally bleak. The economy plummeted; crops failed; millions faced starvation.

None of this was helped that domestic and state affairs  were being handled by Empress Alexandra. Her German origins caused her to become a scapegoat for Russia's ills. The influence of the seedy Grigoriy Rasputin, a self-proclaimed faith-healer supposedly relieving the suffering of czarevich Alexis, was frowned upon by the aristocracy. Rasputin was murdered by a group of nobles in mid-December 1916 with the aims of preserving the honor of Russia and the Romanov dynasty.

However, they were too little, too late.

The Rioting

On March 8, food riots erupted in the streets of Petrograd, capitol and second-largest city in the Russian Empire. It began as a demonstration by factory workers and women against bread rationing. It mushroomed to over 50,000 strikers. Soldiers sent to break up the uprising refused to fire on the crowds and joined the uprising themselves. Protesters freed prisoners and burned down government offices. Officials took refuge in the Admiralty. Mikhail Rodzianko, head of the Russian Duma, sent a telegraph to the czar:

The situation is serious. The capital is in a state of anarchy. The Government is paralyzed. Transport service and the supply of food and fuel have become completely disrupted. General discontent is growing... There must be no delay. Any procrastination is tantamount to death.


March 15, 1917. Nicholas II abdicates.

Nicholas dismissed this warning. "Fat Rodzianko," he said "has sent me some nonsense which I shall not even bother to answer."

To restore order, Russia's legislature, the Duma, set up the Russian Provisional Government (RPG). Furthermore, chief military officers advised the czar to abdicate.

Nicholas left the front to return to the capitol in order to address the mutiny. His train was stopped by striking railroad workers at Pskov. Two deputies from the Duma met the czar, who immediately resigned.



Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin, exiled in neutral Switzerland, arrived in Petrograd from Zurich on April 16. He immediately set out to undermine the new government. His outline for a socialist revolution, the April Theses, were not immediately published by the newspaper Pravda. The editors were afraid of backlash from the Russian people over a seemingly pro-German agenda.

The Bolsheviks attempted to overthrow the RPG in July, but failed. However, it proved how vulnerable the new government was.

After General Kornilov 's failed revolt, the Bolsheviks gained tremendous popular support and overthrew the RPG on November 7. The overthrow would be a direct cause for the Russian Civil War .


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