The February 1917 revolution … grew out of prewar political and economic instability, technological backwardness, and fundamental social divisions, coupled with gross mismanagement of the war effort, continuing military defeats, domestic economic dislocation, and outrageous scandals surrounding the monarchy. 1
By 1917, many Russian has lost faith in the Tsar and his regime. Corruption was rife, and Nicholas II had disregarded the Imperial Duma. The first major protest of the February Revolution occurred on 3 March 1917 (O.S 18 February 1917) when workers of the Putilov Factory went on strike to demonstrate against the government. Strikes would continue for several days, and due to heavy snowstorms, several freight trains loaded with bread and fuel were stuck on the tracks. Despite the strikes, Nicholas II left for the front on 7 March (O.S. 22 February). The Putilov Factory workers were joined on 8 March (O.S 23 February) by those celebrating International Woman’s Day and those protesting against the food rationing. Rumours of foot shortages began to circulate, and riots erupted in Petrograd. Men and women joined together to show their dissatisfaction. They demanded an end to the food shortages, the end of the First World War and the end of autocracy.
By 9 March (O.S. 24 February) around 200,000 protesters were on the streets, demanding that the Tsar be replaced. The next day, nearly all industry in Petrograd had shut down due to the protests. Almost 250,000 people were now on strike. On 10 March (O.S. 25 February) the Tsar wired a message to General Sergey Semyonovich Khabalov, ordering him to disperse the crowds with rifle fire and to suppress the riots by force. The next day, the city centre was fenced off. That same day, the first open mutiny in the Petrograd garrison took place. On 11 March (O.S. 26 February) Nicholas received a telegram, which he did not take seriously. He considered it to be an over-reaction.
The situation is serious. The capital is in a state of anarchy. The Government is paralyzed. Transport service and the supply of food and fuel have become completely disrupted. General discontent is growing … There must be no delay. Any procrastination is tantamount to death. 2
On 12 March (O.S. 27 February) some delegates of the Duma formed a Provisional Committee of the State Duma, which ordered the arrest of all the ex-ministers and senior officials. The city of Petrograd was now in total chaos. The Duma had been left with little authority to act, and a Provisional Committee was established to restore order in the city.
On 13 March (O.S. 28 February) Nicholas left for Petrograd but was unable to reach it as the railway stations were controlled by the revolutionaries. The train was stopped at Malaya Vishera and turned around. On 14 March (O.S. 1 March) the tsar arrived in Pskov, and the Provisional Committee declared itself the governing body of the Russian Empire. The Army chief and the deputies of the Duma came to advise the tsar, and the advise was to abdicate. Nicholas did so on behalf of himself and his son and nominated his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich to succeed. Michael declined the crown on 16 March (O.S. 3 March).
Around 1,443 people were killed during the February Revolution.