Reasons for the Russian Revolution


The Russian Revolution of 1917 was an inevitable result of peasant dissatisfaction, poor leadership, an unpopular monarchy, political movements, and war.

Examining how separate factors joined forces to usher in the Russian Revolution of 1917 would require a book (and books have, in fact, been written on this subject), so the following are some of the reasons behind the Russian Revolution explained as separate events. Each one, individually, was a problem that was not addressed adequately by governing officials or Tsar Nicholas, but taken together, they point down an inevitable road of political and social unrest that led to revolution.

Reasons for the Russian Revolution – Tsar Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II, a man who came to the Russian throne before he was ready or willing, showed little expertise at handling affairs of state. In fact, it may be said that he made poor judgements from the beginning of his reign until the end. Not only did he refuse to relax his grip on tsarist autonomy, which he felt was his divine right to bear as ruler of Russia, but he refused to recognize progress in government, was hopeless as a leader (either while behind a desk or on the war front), and was stubborn when it came to listening to advice from his aides.

Reasons for the Russian Revolution – World War I

World War I was an unpopular war in Russia. Huge loss of life, few real victories, and low morale plagued the Russian military forces. Few soldiers who fought in the war even understood why it was they were fighting; the uneducated peasantry could make little connection between the death of Duke Ferdinand in Serbia with fighting a war, when jobs and families were of primary importance to those who could say little about geography or politics. While it was clear that Nicholas was still their leader, his unwillingness to look out for their well being was resented.

Reasons for the Russian Revolution – Economy

Russia faced famine in the years leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Hungry peasants were unhappy peasants, and even Lenin recognized that this would encourage mass support for overthrow of the monarchy. An unpopular war reversed the economic boom that had entered at the beginning of the century, and starving peasants resorted to crime and revolt. Promises from political parties to enact change encouraged many to jump on the revolutionary bandwagon.

Reasons for the Russian Revolution – Rasputin

While it may seem surprising to place so much emphasis on a character who has entered the popular consciousness as a dirty trickster, Rasputin had unfortunate influence over the tsaritsa, tsar, and the tsar’s decisions. Rasputin convinced Nicholas and Alexandra to instate incompetent or inexperienced officials on whims, advised Nicholas wrongly on war strategies, and was deeply mistrusted by both Russian nobility and the peasants.

Reasons for the Russian Revolution – Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna

Because Russia was at war with Germany, and Alexandra was generally disliked, there were many who said that the former Alix of Hesse was in league with the Germans. This added to growing enmity towards the Russian royal family.

Reasons for the Russian Revolution – Changing Social and Political Expectations

Both urban and rural workers began to expect more freedoms and observations of human rights by employers and the government. Bolshevik and other political party members stirred up social unrest and gave it political spin. The Duma, or Russian government, was established and dissolved without any real consideration from the tsar. This made apparent to the people that Tsar Nicholas did not take the Duma seriously and would not give in to peasant demands.