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This Week in History: 27 February 1917 The February Russian Revolution

ByBea Bray

Feb 27, 2018

The February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution, also known as the February Revolution, was the first of two revolutions which took place in Russia in 1917. On February 23, 1917, mass protests against food rationing took place near the then Russian capital of Petrograd, now known as St Petersburg. The protests lasted around eight days and led to violence between police, the people, and the forces of the Russian monarchy. Iconically, on 27 February, the Russian army forces sided with the revolutionaries, resulting in the ultimate abdication of Nicholas II three days later. The throne was left to his brother, Michael, who refused the crown leaving Russia in the hands of a provisional government, led by the minister of war Alexander Kerensky.

Rabinowitch, an expert in Russian history, attributes the February Revolution to “pre-war political and economic instability, technological backwardness, and fundamental social divisions, coupled with gross mismanagement of the war effort, continuing military defeats, domestic economic dislocation, and outrageous scandals surrounding the monarchy”. Evidently, there is no single cause to which the Russian Revolution can be pinned; rather it was resultant of a culmination of factors, outlined briefly by Rabinowitch.

However, arguably the most immediate cause of discontent among the Russian people was the effect of the country’s participation in the First World War. Although they were initially successful against Austria and Hungary, they were defeated multiple times by the Germans, and this, combined with the economic crisis and repressive government, led to the workers’ demonstrations and ultimately even the Russian army siding with the revolutionaries.

Unfortunately, over 1,300 people were killed in the protests, with some estimating that this number actually reached around 1,500. Initially, the demonstrators were fired upon by the troops of the Petrograd garrison. However, many troops became hesitant when given orders to fire, and within 24 hours, the entire Petrograd garrison, around 150,000 men, had joined the Revolution, leading it to triumph.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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