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January 22, 1905 became known as "Bloody Sunday" because this was the day about 100 peaceful demonstrators were massacred by troops of Tsar Nicholas II in St. Petersburg. This was not the revolution which toppled the Russian monarchy, but it was the first serious incident of the chain of events culminated in the revolution of 1917 which did overthrown the monarchy. The main outcome of the demonstrations against the monarchy in 1905 was the formation of a Russian Duma, or parliament. This body, however, proved to be ineffective in resolving the differences between Nicholas II and the Russian population looking for change.
In 1917 when the monarchy was overthrown, Russia was involved in World War I against Germany and Austria-Hungary. In addition to the other grievances significant segments of the Russian population had against the monarchy, the following were the main complaints during the Russian Revolution:
- The Government was carrying on the War poorly.
- Poorly-equipped and poorly-led Russian armies had met with catastrophic defeats from the Germans and their allies.
- On the home front, there was a shortage of food.
With the ineffectiveness of the Duma, Nicholas II's government had lost the support of even the moderates. On February 24, 1917, riots broke out in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) over the scarcity of food. Most of the military garrison on this major Russian city joined its citizens in demonstrating against the Tsar and his government. On March 2, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. When his brother Grand Duke Michael refused to take the throne, the Romanov dynasty which had ruled Russia for more than three hundred years came to an end. Monarchical rule in Russia was over.
When the disturbances in Petrograd broke out, Vladimir Lenin opportunistically returned to Russia from Switzerland where he had been living in exile to take a leading role in the demonstrations and revolts which ended Nicholas II's rule. Lenin became the leader of the Bolshevik faction in the hastily formed government following the overthrow.
A committee of the Duma appointed a Provisional Government. It, however, was opposed by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. On March 1, the Petrograd Soviet issued its notorious Order No 1 directing the Russian military to obey only orders issued by it, not orders issued by the Provisional government. The Petrograd Soviet kept from explicitly declaring itself the true government of Russia only out of fear of provoking a conservative coup.
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