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In the early 20th century in Russia, there were many underlying issues about Russia and how they had previously conducted themselves, such as the Russo Japanese war which led to a poor economy, and the fact it was so difficult to govern. After the revolution in 1905, issues with the autocracy and ruling had started to build. There were changes happening in the cities and the countryside and World War One started. Here are the reasons why World War One was the most important reason for the abdication of the Tsar and why not.
Firstly, there were already issues within Russia, the size of the country had grown 50% over the last 100 years and the way the country was ruled – from within Moscow and St Petersburg – made life very difficult for those in the south and east. Russia’s systems for agricultural production influenced the attitudes of peasants and other social groups to reform against the government and promote social changes. At the beginning of the twentieth century, agriculture was the single largest sector of the Russian economy, producing one-half of the national income and employing two-thirds of Russia’s population. This shows the huge role peasants played.
At the end of the 19th century, Russian agriculture as a whole was the worst in Europe. The Russian system of agriculture lacked investment and technological advancement. Both the crop and livestock system failed to be adequate to withstand the Russian winters and the harsh summers in Central Asia. Along with the agricultural failures, Russia had a rapid population growth, railroads expanded across farmland, and inflation attacked the price of food. Agricultural difficulties, completely different climates, and massively increasing inflation all lead to the start of the Bolshevik regime.
Next, issues in the city can also be related towards the abdication of the Tsar. Between 1905 and 1914, industrial production increased by 100% yet workers didn’t get a better working condition, a better pay or a better life. Moscow was a densely populated city meaning that if one person was unhappy or shared their views against the Tsar with someone else it could make a huge impact very quickly and the Bolsheviks capitalised on that very quickly making noise creating concerns that the unhappy public started blaming the Tsar for. This could be argued as the main reason for the Tsar to abdicate because of the pressure the public created for the Tsar to abdicate and it doesn’t matter if you lose the countryside’s faith because word will take years to get around as there was no media or mobile phones.
For instance, there was a strike in Siberia, 1912, and the protesters clashed with troops losing 170 workers and 373 injured however they gained nothing, no one heard about this apart from personal stories as the Tsar controlled the media and didn’t want this news to get out. In football, for example, if the manager loses the player’s confidence in them, their position becomes untenable and therefore are immediately sacked. That can also be applicable here, if the Tsar loses the confidence of his ‘players’ – public in Moscow and St Petersburg – it is the honourable and respectable idea to abdicate, which he then did.
Also, changes in the countryside meant that the newly appointed Prime Minister Stolypin tried to allow peasants to work in agriculture and factories. He allowed them to purchase land from nobles and grow food from within. They borrowed money from a peasant’s bank to buy the land and those that did were labelled as Kulaks – the idea was that the Tsar would get continued support from the peasants if he allowed them to come out of poverty. However, the 15% of peasants who borrowed from the peasants bank inevitably became poorer as they couldn’t pay off their loan, had to sell their land and scour the countryside for work.
Some travelled to the cities trying to get jobs and passing on their stories criticising the Tsar. This made them feel angry as they felt misled and betrayed by the government because they were now worse off than before. On the other hand, there was a record harvest later that year and lower prices for food. This can be seen as the main reason for the abdication of the Tsar because if Russia’s largest industry collapses because of angriness towards the Tsar then issues are sure to increase and pressure on his rule.
World War One is seen by most as the main reason for the abdication of the Tsar. Firstly, an important reason for the abdication of the Tsar is because of the food shortages created by priority for the soldiers to receive food and lack of communication about the distribution of it all. The seizure of horses for soldiers made it hard for the peasants to maintain enough agricultural output and this therefore led to a decrease in food production.
However, it was the lack of communication in the transport system that was the major course of the shortages Russia faced during the war. By 1916, Petrograd and Moscow were only receiving a third of their food and fuel requirements and there was a decrease in the amount of grain received. There was not enough food to feed the Russian people and this, therefore, led to many people showing anger towards the government as their inferiority was highlighted. This ultimately led to further strikes and the spread of anger in throughout the city of Petrograd.
In my opinion I fully agree that the First World War was the main reason for the abdication of the Tsar. Yes, changes in the city and countryside had a huge impact on the state of Russia and the Tsar, however even though there are a lot of ifs and buts, had it not been for the First World War, there wouldn’t have been food shortages and a defecting army. These factors lead to social unrest and strikes against the Tsar, this made Russia impossible to govern. This led to the abdication of the Tsar.