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World War I (1914–1919)

History SparkNotes

Russia Exits the War

The United States Enters the War

Russia Exits the War, page 2

page 1 of 3
March 8, 1917 Riots in Petrograd develop into the beginning of the February Revolution
March 15 Tsar Nicholas II abdicates
April 16 Lenin arrives in Petrograd from Germany
July 1 New Russian offensive opens on eastern front Antiwar riot in Petrograd
November 67 Bolshevik (October) Revolution
November 8 Lenin declares peace, though sporadic fighting continues
November 26 Bolsheviks call for end to hostilities on all fronts
December 15 Russian cease-fire declared

Note: All dates are according to the modern, Gregorian calendar instead of the Julian calendar that was used in Russia at the time.

Key People
Alexander Kerensky -  Russian minister of war who led the provisional government after the tsar’s abdication
Vladimir Lenin -  Bolshevik revolutionary who seized power in November 1917 and declared Russia to be at peace
Nicholas II -  Russian tsar who lost power in the revolutions of 1917

A Costly War for Russia

Over the first two and a half years of the war, Russia had experienced heavy defeats against Germany but at the same time had significant successes against Austria-Hungary. In any case, however, the war had become hugely unpopular at home. The Russian death toll was enormous, Russia was continuously losing territory, and the war had sparked food shortages throughout the country. Although there was a certain level of popular sympathy for Serbia, most Russians felt that the country had little to gain in the war and much to lose.

Popular confidence in Tsar Nicholas II was also at an all-time low. Not only was the tsar out of touch with the people, but many felt he had become a puppet, either of his German-born wife or of various special-interest groups. Although Russia was hardly a democracy, public opinion was still a powerful factor. Numerous underground organizations had sprung up over the previous few decades to oppose the tsar and his policies. More recently, labor strikes had begun wreaking havoc upon Russian industry.

The February Revolution

In early March 1917 (late February by the Julian calendar in use in Russia at the time), the tsar’s entire regime unexpectedly collapsed after a series of large demonstrations in the Russian capital of Petrograd. Under pressure from both the military and the parliament, Nicholas II abdicated on March 15 (modern calendar). The event became known as the February Revolution.

As the struggle for control of the country began, parts of the military continued to fight on the war front, others quit fighting altogether, and others even fought each other. Germany quickly recognized an opportunity and made arrangements to help Russian revolutionaries in Europe, including Vladimir Lenin, to get back to Russia in order to fuel the ensuing chaos there. Lenin arrived in Petrograd on April 16 on a train provided by Germany.

The Last Russian Offensive

After the developments of March 1917, participants on all sides watched Russia closely to see what it would do without a tsar. Although a new provisional government was officially in charge, the situation in Russia remained highly unstable, especially in the military. On July 1, Russian forces opened several new offensives along the eastern front—an action that Russian minister of war Alexander Kerensky ordered as part of an effort to boost morale in the army. On the same day, however, a huge antiwar rally clogged the streets of Petrograd.

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