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Revolution breaks out in Russia (March 8, 1917)

From March 8 to 13, 1917 (February 23 to 28 according to the Julian calendar) the Russian tsarist regime and the Romanov dynasty, in power for 3 centuries, will be won by a revolution whose consequences will be felt throughout the twentieth century. The First World War was a real disaster for Russia. Due to its weak industrialization and its technical backwardness the country was not able to withstand the test of a long and modern war. At the beginning of 1917 the largely defeated Russian army was undermined by desertions, hunger and seditions. As for the people, they too suffer from precarious living conditions. Strikes and revolts are increasing.

At the head of the state the tsar Nicholas ii proves incapable of containing the crisis or proposing satisfactory reforms. February saw the start of an important and spontaneous movement of strikes in Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire) whose slogans quickly became very radical and republican. We demand peace and bread.

The army which has been ordered to suppress the movement will eventually go over to the insurgents. The events follow one another quickly. As during the revolution of 1905, a soviet (council) appears to supervise the revolution and give it a semblance of coherence. Faced with popular unrest, the parliamentary opposition is also organizing itself and forming a provisional committee to restore order.

These two institutions will negotiate the outcome of the crisis, while Tsar Nicolas is gradually sidelined from power. However, two conceptions of the future Russia are already in conflict. If the parliamentarians envisage the establishment of a classical parliamentary and liberal democracy, the soviet movement leans towards direct democracy and socialism.

Whatever the case, in the face of a situation that has gotten out of hand, the army manages to convince the Tsar to abdicate. While a temporary government is being set up, Russia will have to learn about political freedom. An apprenticeship which, as the events of the following autumn will prove, will end with a new authoritarianism, socialist this time.

Video: Russian Revolution 1917 Quick Summary (September 2021).