Fall of autocracy in Russia due to February revolution

12 March 1917

“This is the revolution which had been talked about so much but which nobody planned to start”.

P. N. Milyukov


By the end of 1916 in Russia had reached a crisis point in economics, politics and society. Economic collapse generated by the war, the aggravation of poverty and distress of the masses, the growth of antiwar attitudes and general dissatisfaction with the autocracy, all of this led to a revolutionary uprising in February 1917.

February 17 (March 2) at Putilov factory in Petrograd due to shortage of grocery workers went on strike. February 23 (March 8) Petrograd women-workers started the demonstration demanding bread and end of war. A few days later the massive strike at the capital's factories had grown into a general political strike (joined by 305 000 people), which shifted from economic to political demands: "Down with autocracy!", "Down with war!".

February 26 (March 11) on the streets of Petrograd, broke out fighting with police, a lot of people were arrested. The troops, summoned to bring order, began to take the side with people. As a result, a comprehensive political strike turned into a spontaneous armed revolt.

February 27 (March 12) 1917 much of the army took the side with the revolution (about 67 000 people). Armed detachments of workers and soldiers captured all strategic points in the capital (bridges, train stations, government offices, etc.), which marked the victory of the February Revolution.

The same day, February 27 (12 March), was formed the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' Deputies, which elected its Executive Committee. Majority of the Soviet and the Executive Committee, which comprised 15 persons, belonged to the Mensheviks and Esers. Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Soviet was elected leader of the Menshevik faction of the Duma, N. S. Chkheidze, Vice-Chairmans – Eser A. F. Kerensky and Menshevik M. I. Skobelev. As to the Bolsheviks, the Soviet included A. G. Shlyapnikov, P. A. Zalutsky. The Petrograd Soviet began to operate as a body of revolutionary power, having taken a number of important decisions. The first concerned the confiscation of funds of imperial authority and control of them. Then, 1 (14) March, the Soviet issued the famous Order N 1, providing for the establishment of elective soldiers' committees in military units and giving over to them with all the weapons; according to this order,the Petrograd garrison was no longer subordinate to the previous command.

Simultaneously with the formation of the Petrograd Soviet, leaders of the bourgeois parties in the State Duma created the Interim Committee for the restoration of order and relations with individuals and institutions under the chairmanship of M. V. Rodzianko. The interim committee included representatives of all factions of the Duma: M. V. Rodzianko (Chairman of the State Duma, Zemstvo Octobrist), N. V. Nekrasov (Kadet), I. I. Dmitryukov (Secretary of the Duma, left Octobrist), V. A. Rzhevskii (progressionist), N. S. Chkheidze (also chairman of the executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers 'and Soldiers' Deputies, a Social Democrat), A. F. Kerensky (also deputy chairman of the Executive Committee Petrograd Soviet, SR), P. N. Milyukov (Kadet), A. I. Konovalov (progressionist), M. A. Karaulov (independent), S. I. Shidlovskii (Chairman of the Bureau of the Progressive Bloc, the head of the Left Octobrists), V. V. Shulgin (the leader of the “progressive Russian nationalists” in the Duma) and V. N. Lvov (chairman of the Duma Center faction), B. A. Engelhardt (commandant of the Petrograd garrison).

First, the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Committee of Duma operated independently of each other. 1 (14) March the Executive Committee of the Soviet and the Interim Committee of the State Duma started talks regarding the formation of the Provisional Government and 2 (15) March it was formed. Leading role in it played the representatives of the liberal-bourgeois parties - the Kadets, Octobrists and progressionists. Chairman of the Provisional Government and Minister of Internal Affairs was appointed a major landowner, Prince G. E. Lvov, a member of the Moscow Committee of progressionists. The Provisional Government included the leader of the Kadets P. N. Guchkov (Military and Navy Minister), SR A. F. Kerensky (Minister of Justice), P. N. Milyukov (Foreign Minister), A. I. Konovalov (Minister of Trade and industry), M. I. Tereshchenko (Minister of Finance).

Late in the evening 2 (15) March 1917 under the pressure of the revolutionary masses Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in favor of his brother Mikhail Alexandrovich, who gave up power, leaving the question of it at the discretion of the Constituent Assembly.

Thus, after the overthrow of autocracy in the February revolution in the country established a dual power. The first branch of government - the bourgeois-democratic, was represented by the Provisional Government, the second - the revolutionary-democratic – by the Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies.

The new power in Russia proclaimed political rights and freedoms (of speech, assembly, conscience, press, unions, demonstrations). Were abolished caste, ethnic and religious restrictions, capital punishment, court-martials, was declared a political amnesty, without prior arrangement an 8-hour workday was established.


Lit.: Алуф И. А. Февральская буржуазно-демократическая революция 1917 // Большая советская энциклопедия. Т. 27. М., 1977; Бурджалов Э. Н. Вторая русская революция. Восстание в Петрограде. М., 1967; Нефёдов С. А. Февраль 1917 года: власть, общество, хлеб и революция // Уральский исторический вестник. 2005. № 10-11. С. 112-123.


Based on the Presidential Library’s materials:

The February Revolution: [digital collection].