How did World War I lead to the Russian Revolution?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.