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Tsar abdicates as Russia revolts
The early days of revolution. A crowd of protesters disperses on the Nevsky Prospect in Petrograd after shots were fired from a window. Taken on 10 March 1917. Photo: © IWM (Q 69401)

Tsar abdicates as Russia revolts

Petrograd, 16 March 1917 - A revolution is taking place in Russia.

Latest news from the country confirms that the Tsar, Nicholas II, has abdicated his throne and a new Provisional Government has been established.

That government has issued a statement that the Duma (the Russian parliament), with the support of the people, had triumphed over the old regime. It will now appoint a cabinet whose past political and public activity assures them the confidence of the country.

The government has published a manifesto which emphasises freedom of speech and workers’ rights. The manifesto also promises to abolish the police, who are to be replaced by a national militia.

The revolution has been based in Petrograd, the capital of Russia. Workers’ councils – Soviets – are reported to be springing up around the city and beyond. It is not clear where power in Russia currently lies, with both Soviets and the Provisional Government attempting to exert control.

A series of cartoons from around the world about the Russian Revolution. Left: from the American Puck magazine, entitled 'A Place in the Sun', Russia is seen to be basking in its new freedom. Top right: Austrian satirical weekly Kikeriki depicts the unrest on the streets in the lead-up to the revolution. Bottom right: again from Puck, the people of Russia discard the Tsar like rubbish. (Images: Puck, 31 March 1917 & Kikeriki, 18 March 1917, via Austrian National Library)

The backdrop to the revolution is the immense difficulties that have been experienced across Russia since the beginning of the Great War in 1914.

The war has led to enormous and developing food scarcities, while defeats suffered to Germany has led to widespread disaffection with the Tsar and his already deeply unpopular regime.

A series of strikes and other demonstrations by workers in Petrograd brought every industry in the city to a standstill. When the Tsar ordered the army to break up the protests, the soldiers declined. This mutinous spirit spread, ultimately leading to the Nicholas II’s abdication. The Tsar is reported to now be under house arrest.

It was this unique cocktail of economic distress, scarcity of food, loss of political legitimacy and military defeat which created the conditions for revolution.

Dr Judith Devlin tells the story of the revolution that broke out in Russia in February 1917

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.