In 1914, Russia became involved in World War I. Czar Nicholas II made the disastrous decision to oversee the war effort, a role for which he was wholly incompetent. Soldiers were sent out to fight without the proper clothing or equipment, sometimes not even having such basics as shoes or a gun. Supply lines, which are crucial to winning a war, were not maintained. Casualties, not surprisingly, were very high, topping two million, which amounted to more Russian troops than had ever been lost in any war. This led to deep unrest, as did widespread hunger, which was not caused by a lack of food but by corruption and mismanagement in food distribution.
By early 1917, it was glaringly obvious to virtually everyone that the czar's government was incapable of running the war effort or the government in any competent way. Even political centrists wanted to see the czar gone. Finally, workers staged a strike in St. Petersburg over lack of food. On March 8, hungry demonstrators took to the streets of St. Petersburg, and by March 10, a general strike had spread throughout the city. Angry protesters destroyed police stations. The czar ordered his troops to restore order. However, they joined the protesters. At this point, the czar's government collapsed, and he was forced to abdicate, opening the way for Lenin to return from exile and take control by October.