Why did Russia withdraw from World War I?

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First, be aware that the Russian Revolution itself was closely tied with the experience of World War I. Russia was suffering deeply in the experience of the war. According to one historian's statistical record, out of approximately 18 million troops mobilized, Russia faced over fifty per-cent casualties, with 1.8 million dead, almost 5 million wounded, and over 2 1/2 million either taken prisoner or gone missing (statistics courtesy of John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, 3rd edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), p. 924. Merriman himself cites another historian, J. M. Winter). At the same time, the experience of the war was creating severe food shortages at home.

This resulted in the Russian Revolution, with Tsar Nicholas II abdicating and a new provisional government set in place. However, the provisional government made the decision to continue the war, which helped the Bolsheviks launch a second revolution against the Provisional Government. After the Bolsheviks took over the government, they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, pulling Russia out of the First World War.

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Russia withdrew from World War I because the Bolsheviks, who had promised the Russian people "peace, land, and bread," came to power after overthrowing the provisional government. This provisional government, headed by moderates, had seized power from Tsar Nicholas, forcing him to abdicate in March of 1917. But the provisional government failed to remove Russia from the war, angering many, especially workers in Petrograd, the imperial capital. Led by Vladimir Lenin, the radical Bolsheviks launched a revolution in late 1917 that overthrew the provisional government, giving power to revolutionary committees known as soviets, and withdrawing Russia from the war. With a civil war between the Bolsheviks and a coalition of their enemies raging, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk formalized Russia's exit from the war in 1918. The treaty was later negated by Germany's surrender later in that year, but the Russians, whose civil war dragged out until 1921, did not participate directly in the peace process that followed.

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