How far do you agree that WW1 was mainly responsible for the February Revolution of 1917?

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Angus Gavan McHarg

How far do you agree that WW1 was mainly responsible for the February Revolution of 1917?

World War 1 contributed greatly towards the February Revolution of 1917, but was not solely responsible for the revolution or the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty. Poor military tactics, organisation and a loss of faith in authority were the main wartime causes of the revolution. The Tsars incompetent and indecisive nature easily helped the Russian people and opposition groups to question his leadership. There were strikes over food shortages, poor working conditions, and wages. The lack of social and political reform as promised in 1905 provoked further demonstrations that spiralled out of the governments control by 1917. World War 1, along with these other factors, seemed to be the extra weight that would doom Russian autocracy.

Russia’s contribution to the First World War displayed how backwards their military organisation, tactics and leadership was. Nicholas II’s poor leadership skills lead him to make one of his most disastrous decisions, to take control of the army. By the end of 1915 the Russian army had experienced some crushing defeats at the hands of the Germans. The battle of Tannenberg, 26-30th August 1914, resulted in 35,000 Russians being killed or wounded and just under 100,000 troops being captured by the German army. In just four days the Germans had managed to completely dismantle a large proportion of the Russian army. This was due to poor tactics on the part of the Russian commanders and superior communication technology that the Germans used to intercept Russian messages; this illustrated how backwards the Russian army was in terms of organisation and technology compared to their enemy. At the end of 1915 the Russians had been driven out of Poland, this lead to Nicholas taking personal control of the army. He believed that his presence on the front would be enough to inspire his men to victory, when in fact his decision caused way more problems than it solved. From June to August 1916, after moving to the Eastern front, the Tsar launched his last major offensive which was met with initial success but ended in a mass retreat of Russian forces. The Tsar was then blamed for the failure of the offensive because he had vowed to take personal responsibility for military operations (thinking that the operations under his command would be a success). Nicholas II saw himself as a strong military leader however in reality he was painfully unqualified to lead a vast army.  

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The military failures and shortage of equipment displayed, especially to the Russian soldiers, how poor the Tsars leadership skills were. The huge death toll and military failures also undermined domestic support for the war, this lead to a lack of supplies on the front line which encouraged mass desertion within the army by Christmas 1916. The faith that the Russian soldiers lost in the Tsar was a major element of the February Revolution because the government was not able to call on the army to suppress an inevitable uprising. Without the disastrous First World War that undermined the country’s ...

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