Revision Diary

The March Revolution and the Provisional Government


Government of Nicholas II in 1914; nature of Russian society in 1914;

      traditional loyalty; opposition groups. The role of Rasputin;

Impact of World War I on Russia; military defeat; food shortages and transport dislocation at home.

Political upheaval and Tsar’s abdication/ creation of the Russian republic;

Problems facing the Provisional Government and its failures, including military defeats and their effects at home.



Make sure you have detailed factual knowledge about AND HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT the following issues and topics:



1.  The nature of the Tsar's government.



2.  The role of Rasputin

3.  The impact of the First World War on Russia.

4.  (ie the causes of the March Revolution)

5.  The STORY of the March Revolution.



6.  the events of the Provisional Government

7.  The failure of the Provisional Government


and that you are able to explain:







The Nature of the Tsar's government

Take the relevant parts depending on the question...


•   An autocracy - Nicholas II insisted not only on making all the decisions, but on reading and signing every single order of govt.

•   After the 1905 revolution (and the 'October Manifesto'), there were four Dumas (parliaments), but the Tsars dismissed the 1st and 2nd Dumas when they didn't agree with him.

•   Chief Ministers: Witte (wrote the October Manifesto) and Stolypin (who increased the tsar's power using the Okhrana)

•   During the war, the home government was controlled by the Tsarina and Rasputin.

•   The govt used the Okhrana and the Cossacks (e.g. Bloody Sunday 1905) as a normal part of government.


•   Church - the headquarters of the Okhrana were in the St Petersburg Academy.  

•   The nobles.

•   The peasants - loved the Tsar (e.g. 300th anniversary of the dynasty in 1913) though this began to wane after Bloody Sunday 1905.

•   'The Rights' - deputies in the Duma who believed in the autocracy and supported Nicholas whatever he said.

•   'The Octobrists' - deputies in the Duma who supported the model of monarchy proposed in Witte's October Manifesto (1905).   Dominated the 3rd Duma (which Nicholas kept).


•   Kadets - middle class businessmen who wanted a constitutional government (like Britain's) - dominated the first Duma before Nicholas dismissed it.

•   Social Revolutionaries - wanted a peasant revolution - dominated the 2nd Duma before Nicholas dismissed it.  

•   Communists - split into the moderate Mensheviks and the extreme/violent Bolsheviks led by Lenin.








Role/importance of Rasputin

1.   From a religious sect called the Khlystis.   Wild life of drink, drugs and women.

2.   Gained influence over the Tsarina because of his ability to heal Alexis's haemophilia.

3.   Gained power when Nicholas went to the Front, leaving Tsarina in charge of the home government.


4.   Some power used harmlessly - e.g. getting prostitutes jobs as Opera singers.   But caused chaos by putting tramps and peasants into government jobs, dismissing ministers he disliked.   Nicholas warned Alexandra to be careful but she ignored him.

5.   Chief damage caused by destroying the reputation of the monarchy - propaganda leaflets suggested he was sleeping with the tsarina and her daughters/ that he held the Tsar in his hands like a puppet.

6.   Rasputin was murdered 30 December 1916 by two princes of the royal family - the fact that they were not condemned caused a damaging scandal, so Rasputin damaged the Tsar's government even in death!

7.   Probably NOT a major cause of the revolution (e.g. disgusted by Rasputin, General Kroymov DID plot to depose the tsar - but he eventually decided not to).   Rasputin's death did not stop the revolution



Impact of WWI

1.   Chaos in the countryside - 14 million men called up to the army/ half the household without a man - women left to run the farms/ take in the harvest = hardship.

2.   Trouble in the towns - food shortages (the army had taken over the railway system and food was not getting into the towns from the countryside) and inflation (the prices of some good rose 500%) led directly to the bread riots which started the February Revolution.   (Remember that the March revolution began with  bread riot on 8 March)

3.   Furore in the factories - the number of factory workers rose 30% (20,000 in the Putilov Munitions Factory), and they were poorly paid and worked in terrible conditions.   (Remember that the March Revolution began with a strike in the Putilov Munitions Factory on 4 March).

4.   War-weariness.   Disastrous defeats at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes.  

      2 million dead, 2 million PoWs, 1 million 'missing' PLUS Nicholas made himself Commander-in-Chief (and therefore responsible) = many turned against the government.   Key were:

•    The soldiers, whose defection to the mob on 12 March meant that the Tsar lost control.  (nb the VITAL importance of the half-a-million troops stationed in Petrograd, and the sailors in nearby Kronstadt).

•    The Duma, who opposed Nicholas's handling of the revolution and - when he then dismissed them - joined the revolt (13 March) and formed a Provisional Government.




Causes of Russ Rev

(Why Was There A Disaster)


1.   Weakness of Russia (weak autocracy forced to use the Cossacks and the Okhrana/ huge size/ many nationalities/ primitive farming economy - peasants/ growing towns = industrial proletariat/ growing middle class = desire for power/ lost 1904 war with Japan/ growing opposition - Kadets, Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks/ riots (e.g.1905) and assassinations (eg Stolypin)).

2.   World War One (remember the facts from above).

3.   Tsar Nicholas's mistakes (taking personal command of the army, leaving Tsarina and Rasputin in charge, failing to act at the start of the March revolution - nb Rodzianko's telegram).

4.   Army went over to the rebels (12 March - but nb background of military disasters)

5.   Duma went over to the revolution (13 March - but nb background of treatment of the Duma)




The February (March) Revolution


•   Background poverty and misery/ opposition to the Tsar's autocracy/ opposition to the war.

•   On Sun 4 March 1917 the workers at the Putilov factory went on strike, demanding a 50% pay increase to pay for food inflation.

•   On Wed 7 March other factories joined the strike (e.g. steelworkers).


•   On Thurs 8 March (International Women's Day) radical women organised their usual march for equality - but their march was joined by thousands of poor women who cried "Give us Bread!" - the march turned into bread riots.

•   From Fri 9 March, there were marches every day, joined by the strikers, who shouted 'Down with the war and the Romanovs'.

•   On Sat 10 March, the troops were ordered to fire on the crowds - some did, but most refused/ some refused to leave their barracks.

•   On Sun 11 March the Duma urged the Tsar to act; instead, the Tsar dissolved the Duma.  

•   On 12 March many soldiers in Petrograd, and the sailors in the Kronstadt naval base, shot their officers and joined the revolution.

•   On 13 March, the Duma formed a Provisional Government.   That same day, the workers and soldiers of Petrograd formed the Petrograd Soviet.


•   On 13 March, the Tsar tried to return to Petrograd, but his train was stopped by rebellious troops, and

•   On 15 March members of the Duma forced him to abdicate = wild excitement on the streets.







The Provisional Government


•   Background of March revolution

•   On 13 March 1917, the Duma formed a Provisional Government.  

•   On 15 March members of the Duma forced the Tsar to abdicate.

•   The Provisional Government was faced by massive problems (inflation, hunger, peasant riots, war, Bolshevik and Tsarist revolutionaries).


•   In March, the Petrograd Soviet issued Order No. 1 (= 'Dual Government')  

•   In April, the German government smuggled the Bolshevik leader Lenin back into Russia (= Bolshevik agitation).   Lenin published the ‘April Theses’ ('Peace, Bread, Land').  

•   In June, a military offensive against Austria failed.  

•   In July, there were Bolshevik riots – the 'July Days' – which were defeated.  

•   In August, there was a Tsarist revolt led by General Kornilov - it was only defeated by the Bolsheviks. 


•   In Sept, the Bolsheviks took over the Petrograd Soviet (Trotsky became its President).

•   On 6-7 November, the Bolsheviks seized power.




Failure of the Provisional Government

     To answer a question about what problems faced the Provisional Government, or how well it coped with its problems, or why it failed, you will need to remember the following grid (Government That's Pathetic Will Be Killed): 


Problems/ Weaknesses



The Petrograd Soviet built up a nation-wide network of Soviets which took their orders from it (nb Order No.1).

The Provisional Government did nothing to end the power of the Soviets.  

Terrible conditions

Inflation and hunger got worse because the war didn’t end.  

The Provisional Government couldn't end the food shortages or inflation.  


Started taking the nobles land.

The Provisional Government sent troops to take back the land = angry peasants.


The Provisional Government tried unsuccessfully to continue the war (nb failure of June offensive against Austria).   Soldiers deserted. There was a naval mutiny.

The Provisional Government set up ‘death squads’ to execute deserters. This made things worse – by October 1917, soldiers were deserting, going home, killing the landlords, and taking land.  


Lenin returned and published the April Thesis (‘Peace, Bread, Land’; ‘all power to the Soviets’; state ownership of factories and banks).    The Bolsheviks then tried to take over the government by rioting in the ‘July Days’.

The Provisional Government allowed freedom of speech and the press, and released political prisoners

After the July Days, the Provisional Government arrested the Bolsheviks' leaders, but let the Bolshevik Party continue.


Kornilov tried a right-wing/ pro-Tsar army coup in August 1917.


The Provisional Government had no control of the army and had to ask the Bolsheviks to help it.   This made the government seem weak AND made the Bolsheviks popular (they took control of the Soviets).



Revision Focus

This is a Paper 2 topic, so you need to have factual KNOWLEDGE IN DEPTH but also a degree of understanding which will allow you in the exam to write MULTI-CAUSAL EXPLANATIONS of the key issues.



   Hard copy of these revision notes


e-books on the Tsar's government , the March Revolution and the Provisional Government



HOW did the Causes cause revolution? - VITAL matching game



   Online revision sheet  


Essay on the Provisional Government