Explain how the effects of the First World War caused the collapse of the Tsarist regime

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Leigh Sangan                                        Year 11 Russian Coursework                                     28th October 2003

1) Explain how the effects of the First World War caused the collapse of the Tsarist regime (8 marks)

        There were many causes of the collapse of the Tsarist regime. One of the biggest causes, however, was the First World War, as it had many effects on everyone in Russia, who all blamed the Tsar. The Tsar abdicated in 1917 because he had no control over anyone in Russia. He had no support. This was because everyone in Russia blamed the Tsar for something. They layed all the blame at his feet because he was in charge and was the only person who could change things.

        One of the main reasons why the 1905 revolution failed was because the Tsar had the support and control of the military. By the time the 1917 revolution had started, the Tsar had lost this support and control. He had no protection. This happened because of the war. Firstly, the army was very poorly equipped, as some men didn’t have any boots and only a third of men had rifles. The army also had very incompetent leaders. There is evidence of this in the battles at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. In both of these, the ‘huge Russian armies’ (Brooman 1994) were wiped out when they should have easily beaten a single German army. The poor leadership combined with the poorly equipped army made Russia suffer many defeats in the war. By 1917, 0.8 million Russian troops had been killed, 4.6 million wounded and 3.3 million captured. The fact that the war was very long also linked with the defeats to cause the soldiers to have very low morale. The shortage of medical supplies was exacerbated by the continuance of the war. This meant that the soldiers were poorly looked after and this led to the army losing their loyalty to Tsar Nicholas II. The army blamed the Tsar for all their problems, and they got even more chance to blame the Tsar in 1915, when he decided to go to the war front and run the army himself. The army could now blame the Tsar for everything bad in the military. They blamed him for all their defeats in the war. The low morale and loyalty eventually led to the army defecting and joining the revolutionaries. The spirit of the army was falling and General Krymov felt that ‘A revolution is imminent’. The Tsar had no way of protecting himself, and now, he had lost the reason why the last revolution had failed. This, in turn, ended up with the collapse of the Tsarist regime.

        Even without the army’s support, the Tsarist government would not have collapsed without the revolutionaries. The revolutionaries were mostly workers back at the home front. They had many problems themselves because of the war, and again, blamed the Tsar. The workers’ problems were bad enough, but the First World War was the catalyst that pushed them over the edge. Before the war, there were worker protests about wages and working hours. The peasants were also already annoyed at the Tsar because of the land problems. They had to make redemption payments each year because they didn’t own the land they were growing things on. They wanted their own land. There were many shortages on the home front due to the war. The most important shortages were that of food and fuel. Many peasants were called to the army to fight. This factor is inextricably linked with the army defecting as many peasants fled the army to get home so that they got their fair share of land when they rebelled. This also meant that there were less farmers, and as a result of this, less food being produced. At the same time, this food was being transported to the army. The fuel shortage also meant that people were cold. The winter of 1916/17 worsened this by making conditions even colder for the Russian population. Temperatures went as low as 35°C below zero. Supplies of grain, coal, wood and oil dwindled to nothing. The shortage of fuel also led to many factories closing, causing many workers to become unemployed. As a consequence of this, people fell into poverty. This was exacerbated by the inflation that had started. All of this resulted in the workers and peasants protesting and going on strike. In 1917, there were 1330 strikes with 676,286 strikers, compared to 61 strikes with 31,907 strikers in 1914, before the war. These poor conditions were, again, blamed on the Tsar, as he was the only person capable of changing or dealing with these things, as it was an autocracy. The Tsar had no support or control, and the workers and peasants started a revolution. The Tsar could do nothing, as it was now passed the point of no return, and the Tsarist regime collapsed.

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        Lastly, the Tsarist government collapsed due to the First World War because of its own actions. When the Tsar left for Petrograd in 1915 to run the war, he left the wartime government in the hands of the Tsarina, Alexandra, and Rasputin. This was a mistake, as the Russian population disliked both Alexandra and Rasputin. They didn’t like the Tsarina because she was German and they thought she was a spy for the war. They didn’t like Rasputin because of his character. ‘Rasputin’ meant ‘the disreputable one’. He drank heavily and had many affairs. He took part in wild orgies ...

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This is a high quality, well written response overall that displays plenty of knowledge and understanding of Russia's predicament in 1917. At times, the understanding of what happens in October is a little simplistic and the final response lacked a conclusion. Always leave time for this. 4 out of 5 stars.