To what extent does the impact of World War I explain the outbreak of the two revolutions in 1917 ? To a certain extent, the First World War was a major contributing factor to the two revolutions that took place in 1917, the February and October Revolution. The war worsened the issues that already existed in Russia and also highlighted the lack of leadership shown by the Tsar and the Provisional Government set up after the February Revolution and also the Tsars military command over the army during the war.
However, World War One was not the only reason for the revolutions taking place and acted as a tipping factor from the already undergoing social, political and economical problems plaguing Russia which led to the fall of the Tsar and the Provisional Government. The war was a massive mistake for Russia, it gained success support at first from the Russian public until they started to lose battles.
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After defeats in 1915 the poor attempt at retreating and the number of those wounded the high command and the Tsar were blamed which led to Nicholas II making one of his biggest mistakes ever whilst in his reign, Tsar Nicholas II took the advice of Grigori Rasputin, a peasant who was friends with the royal family from trying to heal their son of haemophilia, and went and led the Russian war effort. The tsar had a slender knowledge about war which led to him putting himself in a vulnerable position as he would now have to make all correct decisions or would be blamed by the people back home for any wrong decisions.
Joe Gaucci, a historian, backs up this claim and states that the Tsars decision “proved disastrous as the government became increasingly chaotic”. Over 200,000 men were lost in the war and with 15 million peasants pulled from the farms the food shortage became a larger problem. The army started to lose faith in the Tsar, this was a vital for the revolution as they stopped shooting on the rioters and leading to the revolution continuing.
The war also led to the downfall of the provisional government. After the Tsar leaving his role, the public called for peace and for Russia to leave the war. The provisional government tried to regain the support of the army and the Russian public by making the army launch the June offensive, with the July offensive in the first two weeks being able to exploit the poor morale of the Austrian Army were then pushed back because of soldiers refusing to obey order thus overriding the early success.
After the Germans counter-attacked leaving thousands of soldiers deserted the army suffered a collapse. Not only did this show how poorly the Russian army was organised, equipped and mentally able to win the war but it also showed the Provisional Governments disregard of listening to the publics cries to stop the war. During the first revolution the political issues were a large factor for it to happen. With the Tsar leaving the country to command the army, the Tsarina was left in charge.
This was a poor decision at first because the Tsarina was German and many people saw her as either a spy for Germany or having split allegiances so would make poor decisions and not consider what was best for Russia. The government became very unstable with the Tsarina in charge as she continually kept changing the ministers especially if they did not want to make decisions directed by the ‘Man of God’.
On top of this the Tsarina took advice from a peasant called Rasputin, who was first Tsars Nicholas II’s sons doctor to try and cure his haemophilia. Rasputin was a advisor to the Tsarina and many speculated having an affair with her, while Tsarina was firing ministers he persuaded her to induct ministers, who were corrupt, into the high court. For the second revolution and the Provisional Government it was Lenin and the Bolsheviks who were the main political issue.
Lenin knew the government was weak and published his ‘April theses’ which highlighted two areas ‘All power to the Soviets’ and ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ which also follows the saying ‘Bread and Circuses’ which is the common metaphor to explain the needs to keep the public of a country happy. After this in July the Bolsheviks supposedly were the brains behind the ‘July Days’ which almost lead to a revolution, instead it lead to the Provisional Government arresting main leaders of the Bolsheviks such as Trotsky, however the bolsheivik party was still allowed to run.
The biggest provisional government mistake was during the Kornilov affair in which the bolsheivks were released from prison, given guns and told to fight, in the end they were not needed but were seen as the heroes of the day. The provisional Governments poor handling of the Bolsheiviks could also lead to someone believing that politics was the reason for the Revolutions. Both of the political factors for the revolutions breaking out could be attributed to World War I Economic Problems During both revolutions Russia was struggling with economic problems.
The three main factors which affected the economy of Russia was the Inflation, Food shortages and the affect of industrialization in the cities. Inflation occurred mainly because of the Governments spending which increased by 400% between August 1914 and March 1917, this would have occurred because of the war but affected the people of Russia as inflation increased as they kept printing more money, taxes then slumped as sale of alcohol was banned which contributed a large sum of taxes as the government possessed a monopoly on the sale of vodka.
When the war started in 1914 15 million peasants were called up to aid the war effort, this resulted in the agriculture sector becoming affected and eventually food shortages started in 1916, this affected the cities a considerable amount as transport was mainly used for supplying the army and everything they needed. With industrialization happening at the same time as the war, Petrograd and Moscow’s populations increased and resulted in overcrowding.
Factories were hiring more people than they were before the war and many people were affected by the food shortages, the first signs of a revolution started in 1916 when one million workers went on strike. These economic problems can all be attributed to World War I breaking out. Why the war wasn’t a factor Some could argue that the World War was not the cause of the two revolutions.
The Tsar had gained alot of support from the war at first and many believe they should work together to win the war but all of this came undone when he removed himself from Russia to join the army in the front line. It could also be argued that even though the war contributed to the Revolution the problems for the revolutions was there before the war and anything could have triggered the revolution. But its just so happened that poor decisions during the war lead to the revolution occurring.
The first revolution could be the result of the poor political set up in Russia. With a Duma being granted by the Tsar after the 1905 Revolution. With the Duma being set up after the October manifesto it was useless as it had no power with the Tsar still being the main controller of the Duma. It could not do anything against the Tsar otherwise risking being shut down and even though it supposedly gave more power to the people in matter of fact the Tsar had the majority of control. conclusion
In conclusion, even though there were factors such as social, economic and political within the country which varied between short and long term as well as foolish decisions made by Tsar Nicholas II and Kerensky leader of the provisional government. The world war was the cause of most of the problems and also was the cataylyst of tese problems making them worse. Because of this reasoning the World War should be considered as a large cause and factor for both October and February revolution of Russia in 1917.