How did World War I lead to the Russian Revolution?

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Russia was in a shaky situation when it entered World War I in 1914, just as it had been when defeated by the Japanese in 1905. At first, however, there was hope a victorious war effort could pull the country together.

Unfortunately, rather than victories, the Russians suffered setbacks on...

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Russia was in a shaky situation when it entered World War I in 1914, just as it had been when defeated by the Japanese in 1905. At first, however, there was hope a victorious war effort could pull the country together.

Unfortunately, rather than victories, the Russians suffered setbacks on the battlefield. In two defeats in 1914, at Tannenberg and the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes, Russia lost 250,000 troops: the equivalent of two entire armies. The German army then pushed the Russian army back farther and farther, taking all of the Russian section of Poland, Lithuania, and much of Latvia.

The problem was that the war threw the country, already economically weak, into economic turmoil, with shortages of food and basic necessities as the government focused on supplying the war effort. Further, people were upset about what seemed an endless and careless slaughter of Russian troops. The death toll reached 1.7 million, the troops were ill fed and supplied, and revolts began among the soldiers. Meanwhile, people on the domestic front had lost faith in the government, paving the way for a revolution that overthrew the royal family and instituted a communist regime.

If the war had not occurred, destabilizing an already shaky economy and political situation, it is very possible Russia could have solved its problems without as radical a solution as a communist revolution.

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World War I contributed to the Russian Revolution. The Russian economy, while showing improvement prior to the start of World War I, was still not strong enough to deal with the effects of a long war. By the end of 1916, the Russian economy was faltering. Food shortages were common in Russian cities. Inflation was very high. People weren’t happy.

Adding to the unhappiness of the Russian people was a general dissatisfaction with the government. Nicholas II ignored the needs of the people during difficult times. In January 1905, hungry workers were shot. Nicholas II did nothing. The same was true when striking miners were killed in Siberia in 1912. The Russian people were also not pleased with Russia’s defeat in the war with Japan in 1905. Nicholas II was also not prepared for World War I. He made some mistakes, including appointing his cousin as the leader of the army. His cousin had never led an army into war. The Russians lost some important battles, including the Battle of Tannenberg. Eventually, Nicholas II took control of the army, which made him fully accountable for all military actions.

These factors helped lead to the Russian Revolution in 1917.

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World War I was the direct catalyst for the Russian Revolution of 1917.  The poor performance of the Russian government in the Great War, along with the stress that the war put on the Russian society and economy, drove people who were already generally unhappy with the regime to rebel.

Russians had been unhappy for decades with the autocratic tsarist regime and the country’s economic backwardness.  This unhappiness had been exacerbated by the country’s loss in the war with Japan in 1905.  Less than ten years later, the country was at war again.  Once again, Russia suffered humiliating defeats.  This made people generally more unhappy with their government.   The unhappiness was deepened by the fact that about 1.7 million Russians were killed in the war and about 5 million wounded.

The Russians, then, were unhappy with the regime's ineptitude and also with its apparent lack of concern for huge casualty numbers.  They also came to be upset with the economic situation.  The Russian economy was never very strong and now its efforts were being used to fight the war.  This led to shortages for the civilian population and even more unrest. 

All of this unhappiness on the part of the Russian people helped to create a situation where the Russian Revolution could take place.

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