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The Overthrow of Tsarist Regime in Imperial Russia

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A workers’ revolt; a mutiny of peasant soldiers; a political revolution? Which of these best describes the February revolution, and why did the Tsarist system fall in February 1917?

The Russian revolution of February 1917 was a momentous event in the course of Russian history. Its causes, nature and effect are complex and critical in the analysis of twentieth century international history. The revolution began in Petrograd as a workers’ revolt in response to bread shortages, and was aimed at the Tsarist system because it was believed that the government was hoarding the bread in order to drive up prices. However a workers’ revolt, by itself, is very unlikely to result in the abdication of the Tsar, and a critical phase of the revolution was the mutiny of the Petrograd garrison, and the loss of control over Petrograd that the Tsar experienced. Marxist historians have grossly exaggerated the extent of political involvement in the revolution, and it would be fair to say that only at a very late stage of the revolution did socialist political parties become involved. The Tsarist system fell for many reasons: the war against Germany meant that troops could not be deployed in force against the revolutionaries; the Tsar underestimated the extent of the revolts in Petrograd until it was too late; and the Tsar was convinced by his generals that only the Duma could deal with the situation. All of these events were necessary to bring down an autocratic system centuries old, and deeply connected with the mentality of the Russian people.

The revolution began as a peaceful bread protest on International Womens’ Day. There was a bread shortage not because the harvest was low, (even though there had been a significant decline in the peasant population, this had been counter-balanced by exports rapidly decreasing due to the German naval blockade) but because the “railway system…...

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