What Were the Main Causes of the Russian Revolution?

The main causes of the Russian Revolution of 1917 were the poverty of the peasant class, the rise of the urban industrial class, the antiquated and oppressed military, a growing intellectual movement, and the inefficiency and autocracy of the Tsarist regime. The revolution was catalyzed by Russia’s catastrophic participation in World War I, during which massive casualties and expenditures brought famine and unrest.

Although in theory Russian peasants in the early 20th century owned their own land, they were deeply in debt and barely surviving with antiquated, subsistence-level agricultural techniques and equipment. Many moved to the cities to find work in the burgeoning factories, but they were met with poor living conditions, low wages and no rights as workers. The Tsar, trying to govern a huge country alone, ignored the Duma, the Russian parliament, as well as the pleas of the peasants and the proletariat, choosing to crush their opposition rather than consider their grievances. This left the poor open to the propaganda of the Bolsheviks and other dissidents who encouraged revolution against the Tsarist regime.

At first World War I inspired patriotism, but it soon became apparent that the Russian army was hopelessly ill-equipped and poorly led, as it began to suffer heavy losses and major defeats. The Tsar had alienated himself from the officers, and desertions became commonplace. When the revolution began, the Tsar called upon the army to restore order, but many of the troops mutinied and joined the demonstrators.