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How Far Was the First World War the Main Cause of the Fall of the Romanovs in 1917?

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How far was the First World War the main cause of the fall of the Romanovs in 1917?

I think that overall the main cause for the fall of the Romanovs was the First World War. Whilst there were other important causes like the defection of the army and Rasputin and Tsarina the reality is that without the First World War these problems would have either simply not have happened, or not been nearly as problematic. The First World War highlighted the problems of the Tsar and his autocracy which in turn led to his downfall.

The First World War contributed to the downfall of the Romanovs In several ways. The first being that that Russia experienced great national/military humiliation throughout the First World War. One of the main humiliations was the Battle of Tannenberg in which 30,000 Russian's died and 95,000 were captured, whereas the Germans only suffered fewer than 20,000 casualties. This huge humiliation and loss of life would have enraged the ordinary people of Russia and highlighted the Tsar's incompetency which would have lead to the demonstrations that caused the Romanovs downfall. The military humiliations only increased when in september 1915 the Tsar dismissed his Uncle Nikolas -the commander-in-chief and took on the position himself. Due to the Tsar’s ineptitude in military dealings and the lack of military equipment more military failures were inevitable. This is shown by the Brusilov Offensive in June - August in 1916 which failed miserably. With the Tsar as the head of the military, he could no longer hide behind other’s mistake. It showed the masses what he truly was, a weak inept leader who had caused the deaths of thousands. The Brusilov Offensive destroyed any moral the soldiers and people had left. These national humiliations made Russia seem weak, and seeing as Russia was an autocracy it meant that the only people to blame were the Tsar and Tsarina. If Russia was weak it was down to the rulers and if Russia was going to become the great power that the people wanted then the Tsar had to go. The national humiliation of the war fueled the belief in the masses that the Tsar and his family were no longer able to rule effectively, which in turn would have caused the mass protests and strikes that lead to the abdication of the Tsar and his son.

The First World War also contributed to the downfall of the Romanovs, in the fact that it crippled Russia economically and led to mass food shortages. From the years of 1906 -1914 Russia had been flourishing economically, however the introduction of the war ravaged Russia’s economy. The majority of Russia’s money went into the production of weapons and 9% of the population were at war meaning they had less workers and less money to go back into helping Russia’s economy. To keep up with the demands of the war the Government printed more money, leading to major inflation, prices rose over 200%. Which meant suddenly ordinary people could no longer afford to buy basic necessities. This was a huge cause of resentment towards the Tsar and the Tsarina, ordinary people were struggling to get by and no attempts were made to help them. Giving the image that the Tsar was uncaring and too busy fighting an ever-losing war. On top of this there were vast food shortages throughout the country, due to the loss of agricultural workers and horses and the fact transportation had been taken over by military. Moscow for example went from 2200 railway wagons of grain per month to 300 wagons in 1916. These were extreme food shortages, the war was not just devastating soldiers, but seriously affecting ordinary people too. Ordinary people were now dying for a pointless war, this fueled people’s already deep set resentment for the Tsar and his family. It caused vast numbers of people to strike like on the 14th February were 100,000 workers went on strike due to food shortages. These strikes eventually lead to the beginning of a political revolution when the army began deserting the government and the provisional government were formed. Without the First World War its unlikely Russia’s economy would be bad enough to prompt mass striking, due to its flourishing in previous flourishing and without strikes it is unlikely The Romanov dynasty would have been toppled.
The First World War also caused political problems, which highlighted the problems and the inadequacy of the Romanov, it proved the Tsar and the government to be an outdated system for a country desperate to modernise itself. These political problems arised from the organisations created to help with the war effort like the Union of Zemstva which provided medical facilities. The success of these organisations highlighted the incompetence of not only the government but the Tsar himself, which is further backed up by the fact that the government failed to use these organisations officially. This contributed to the fall of the Romanovs as it showed that other institutions could look after the people and Russia better than the Tsar or the Duma could. Which in turn would have made people more likely to strike and rebel against the Tsar as he was no longer the best nor most beneficial option for the population of Russia. The war also brought about a lot of political conflict, mainly due to the Tsar’s dealing with the Progressive Bloc which consisted of 236 member from the Duma. The Tsar refused the Progressive Bloc’s requests for change and most of the ministers who campaigned for reform were dismissed when the Tsar went to the front in September 1915. The Tsar’s repressive stance in a Russia that was desperate for reform caused deep resentment and demonstrated to the people that the Tsar and the government were too backwards and it was starting to take a serious toll on Russia. This would have inspired people to protest and revolt against the Tsar which would lead to the eventual abdication of the Tsar and the end of the Romanov rule.

However, the defection of the army was a vital part to the fall of the Romanovs as well, as the strikes in Petrograd could not be put down or controlled without loyal support of the army. On the 25th of February in the midst of strikes Cossack troops refused to fire on the demonstrators, the next day the elite Pavlovsky Life Guards also refused to carry out orders. This ended up being the clear turning point during the February revolution, as the army began to desert the government and join the demonstrators the downfall of the Romanovs became inevitable. Without the control of the army the Tsar’s regime was in real danger unlike the revolution of 1905 the Tsar no longer had any authority over the army which ended up resulting in his abdication. The ordinary people and provisional government had now essentially inherited the army which allowed them to reinforce their strikes and put pressure on the Tsar to abdicate. Which is shown when the Tsar’s train is stopped by anti-government soldiers and then he is ‘asked’ to abdicate. In reality without the authority and control the backing of the army offered, the Tsar had no choice but to abdicate himself and his son and put an end to the Romanovs ruling. The defection of the army is vital in the downfall of Romanovs as it made the downfall of the Romanovs imminent, it turned some unplanned demonstrations into a force to be reckoned with. However, without the national humiliations of First World War resulting in a lack of moral and faith in the Tsar it is unlikely the army would have deserted the government as they would have still seen the Tsar as generally a competent powerful leader, as opposed to the weak incapable leader the First World War shows him to be.
The power of Rasputin and the Tsarina also contributed to the fall of the Romanovs.They had immense influence when it came to the runnings of Russia, yet were distrusted by the masses, which in turn led people to distrust the authority of the Tsar and make them more likely to revolt. When the Tsar went to the front in 1915 the Tsarina was left in charge and people believed Rasputin to now have a greater field of influence. This idea was backed up by the fact that during September 1915 - December 1916 there were constant ministerial changes, which again was believed to be influenced by Rasputin, these constant changes questioned the Tsar’s authority and as the Russian war effort faltered the blame was heaped on to the Tsarina. The Tsarina was distrusted by the people due to the fact that she was German this distrust could be argued to have also affected the Tsar’s own authority and popularity. Ultimately, it was Rasputin’s death that contributed most to the fall of the Romanovs. Up until his assassination in December in 1917 the majority of Russia’s failures particularly in war efforts and government matters were blamed on Rasputin’s influence. However, after he died these problems still persisted and the only people to blame were the Tsar and the Tsarina. Rasputin’s death highlighted Tsar incompetency at ruling, which again made people more like to revolt and attempt to overthrow Russia. However, without the First World War the Tsarina and Rasputin would never have been given such a huge influence over the running of the country, therefore people wouldn’t have been as distrusting of the Tsar.

Overall, the First World War was the pivotal cause of the fall of the Romanovs in 1917. Before the war Russia was beginning to become a stable and more economically efficient country, it was the furthest the country had been from imminent revolution in a long time. Whilst the Tsar himself was a weak, repressive leader. The simple fact is that the Tsar incompetence and weakness isn’t highlighted until the First World War with the Tsar’s military failures. The First World War crippled Russia economically, caused political conflict and made Russia seem weak, it radically changed Russia and gave the Russia the conditions it needed for a radical change. With the Tsar being the leader of Russia he was obviously seen as the person at fault. None of the other factors changed Russia as radically and for something like a Tsar which is an integral part of Russia’s culture it needed a drastic change to get rid of the Romanov dynasty. The First World War offered that, it brought all the problems to Russia to light in a way that no one could ignore after it occurred a change was inevitable.…...

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