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The Tsarist Downfall of February 1917

IB Extended Essay: The Tsarist Downfall of February 1917
Word Count: 3298

On 2 March, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in favour of his brother Michael(1). With the stepping down of the Tsar, the autocratic regime that had ruled since the inception of Russia many hundreds of years earlier came to a final end, replaced by a provisional government that was itself to be replaced shortly with communists that held power until 1991.

The downfall of the autocracy in Russia was undoubtably one of the most important events of the twentieth century. It is no surprise, then, that historians have tried to speculate on the causes of the revolution. One event that has captured the interest of historians in this matter is World War I. Alan Wood writes, "The nature of the relationship between Russia's involvement in the First World War and the 1917 Revolution is a topic which has been mulled over by historians ever since the events took place."(2) On one hand historians, such as Wood, take the stand that Russia was on the brink of collapse in July of 1914, and thus the war didn't matter as the Tsar would have fallen very soon in any case. Others, including eminent historian Richard Pipes believe in that the war accelerated the revolution, speeding up something that would have not have occurred for a while, or possibly not at all, had the war not occurred. Pipes' view is the one that is the most acceptable.

The economic and political situation before the war will be examined as well as the economic and political situation during the war.

Russia before the war was very close to collapsing. Many problems faced the country, including problems stemming from their economic situation and political problems. Together, they put the country and the autocracy in a very unstable situation that could tip over at any moment and take the Tsar with it.

Up until the First World War, Russia's economy had been doing well. Russia grew from "being one of the least economically developed countries in Europe to one of the world's leading industrial producers."(3) Russia began industrializing relatively late compared with other advanced nations. Its industrial output began to grow in earnest after 1890, the year that Pipes believes as the beginning of the "opening phase of the Industrial Revolution" in Russia.(4) During the 1890's, industrial output increased annually by 8%, and between 1907 and...

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