Emily Hawkins How far do you agree that Nicholas II’s downfall was caused by World War 1? 1914 was a devastating year for many countries of the world, as world war one began to take full effect. But as world war one shook the world; it began to question Nicholas II’s ability to rule Russia. In this essay i will discuss the extent of world war one’s responsibility in Nicholas II’s downfall, and the extent of other contributing factors. I will argue that Nicholas II’s own traits as a leader were the main reason for his downfall.
On the one hand, world war one had a huge impact on the Tsar and his country. Firstly, the cost of the war was placing a huge strain on Russia’s economy. Taxes increased hugely and the cost of living rose by 300%, so in order to try and help the economy through the struggling times of world war one, the government printed more money, making all money worthless. The people of Russia were now struggling even more than they were before the war had begun. Secondly, the Germans were forcing the Russians to retreat and they were therefore losing a lot of land.
The impact of the battle of Tannenburg, where 30,000 troops were killed and 95,000 captured had a huge impact on the army’s moral, and by the end of 1916, 2 million soldiers had left the army. The commander in chief shot himself because of how bad the country and the army were doing, and soon after, the Tsar himself took on the role of commander in chief, although he lacked ability and knowledge. Also, the military had a lack of resources, in each regiment in the army; there was one gun per three people; the Tsar was blamed for many of the military downfalls, and this was one of them.
The Russian transport system was also facing serious problems, and the ammunitions being made in the factories weren’t getting to the front line. Thirdly, world war one was causing huge food shortages; in Moscow in 1914, Russia was receiving 2200 wagons of grain and by Christmas 1916, the number of carts was down to just 300. This was because of distribution problems; nobody could sort the carts out properly. They were prioritized to the front line, so that the soldiers got the first carts.
But after the front line had been sent their grain, there was nobody sorting out the rest of it; there were carts found with bread rotting away, bread that the starving Russian people were missing out on. Although world war one was not the sole reason for Nicholas’ downfall, it did act as a catalyst. It increased the severity of the existing problems that Russia was facing. It also highlighted that the Tsar and the Romanov dynasty was no longer capable of ruling the country and that they didn’t have the support and determination to rule the country through a world war.
On the other hand, there were many other reasons that the Tsar’s downfall occurred. Firstly, the strikes and demonstrations in Moscow and Petrograd were causing huge disruption, and when the Tsar tried to return to Petrograd, his train was stopped and he realised that he couldn’t control the protestors; a major sign that he had no control of Russia and its people. Secondly, the revolutionary parties were spreading their radical ideas around the country, and also highlighting the weaknesses of the Romanov dynasty.
The Tsar’s downfall was prone because of the amount of opposition that he faced and his loss of support to the other political parties. Parties such as the Bolsheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Populists educated the peasants and working-class people on the need for a new type of leadership; this encouraged strikes and discontent. Many of the strikes were purely because of the appalling living and working conditions, and for a while, the people united together because of the war, but when the Russian people began to feel the true cost of the war, the protests began to re-occur and more support for the Tsar was lost.
Thirdly, because of the troops refusing to shoot at protestors on 25th of February, the army felt no longer obliged to be loyal to the Tsar. As long as the Tsar was not supported by the army, he had no chance of successfully running Russia. The Duma also refused orders to dissolve, and 12 of its members formed a committee that planned to take over Russia; the called themselves ‘The Provisional Government’. The soviets also issued ‘Order number 1’ which demanded that all officers in the army be elected by their men, proving that the Tsar had lost all of his power.
Therefore, there were many factors involved in the Tsar’s downfall, such as the political opposition, strikes and the disloyalty of the army and the Duma. Once people started to support the other political parties, they lost all loyalty for the ‘God appointed’ Tsar. The strikes highlighted the weaknesses of the Tsar’s leadership skills and proved that he couldn’t no longer control and rule Russia. The disloyalty of the army and the Duma completely removed all of his power, meaning that Nicholas could no longer be Tsar.
I personally believe that Nicholas II was responsible for his own downfall. Although there was definitely contributing factors, his naive attitude and inability to effectively rule a country caused his downfall. Nicholas failed to trust key advisors such as Witte and Stolypin and despite him issuing the October Manifesto; he preserved his own autocratic power through the fundamental laws, which the Russian people didn’t like. He failed to think and plan ahead to create a better future for Russia, he didn’t think like a leader should.
Even though the war was already a huge strain on Russia, and on Nicholas, he still felt it necessary to take over the role of commander in chief of the army; although he had no experience or knowledge of the role. He was blamed for many of the army’s failure, and people stopped believing in him. By Christmas 1916, the Russian army were struggling and with Nicholas II as an unqualified leader, poor communications and shortages of food and supplies led to problems and Nicholas was blamed for the 1. million soldiers who died, the 3. 9 million wounded and the 2. 4 million who were now prisoners. As Nicholas was busy trying to incapably run the army, he left his wife in charge of Russia, his wife that nobody liked. As she was German born, the Russian people thought that she was sympathetic to the enemy, and they deeply mistrusted her. The Russian people looked at their leadership and saw the ineffectiveness; they began to look for alternative leaders.
Also, people disliked the Tsar, as he took key advice from Rasputin, who was disliked by the population for making many ministerial changes, and they thought that he was having an affair with the Tsarina. Some radical parties began to plot the death of Rasputin as the Russian people looked for alternatives to the Romanov dynasty. Therefore Nicholas was responsible for his own downfall. People began to dislike him after he failed to listen to his key advisors and improve Russia. This was made worse by his inability to share power with the Dumas or any other political opposition.
Russian people also hated the fact that Nicholas had taken the role of commander in chief of the army. He was unable to run the country, let alone the army as well. He had almost run Russia into the ground, and then he left it in the hands of someone that none of the population liked or trusted, so that he could take up a role he knew nothing about; which he failed at miserably, letting the country and the army down. Therefore, i believe that Nicholas was responsible for his own downfall.
There were many other things to blame though, such as world war one, the disloyalty of the army, and his political opposition. As soon as world war one started, the Russian people began to see that Nicholas was incapable of running Russia and they looked towards the opposition for a way out of the autocratic state they had suffered so long. Once the loyalty of the army was lost, Nicholas had no chance of getting Russia back to how it was 100’s of years before. He knew that his time of autocracy, and the time of the Romanov dynasty was up.