The March revolution marked the overthrow of the autocratic monarchy in Russia. In March 1917, Emperor Nicholas II renounced the throne for himself and for his son Alexei. This event was the starting point for the disintegration of the Russian Empire. There were geopolitical, social, economic, and military causes of the revolution. The main factors that led to the March Revolution were war, socio-economic problems, difficult situation on the frontline, and the crisis of legal power.
In terms of socio-economic problems, ordinary people lived in poverty. The country experienced inflation, good scarcity, transportation collapse, and inflows of refugees, declining incomes, and disruption of international trade. People could not satisfy their basic needs as food insecurity was rather common. The majority of citizens did not have access to land ownership. The wealth created from industrial production was not distributed evenly. In addition, workers were subject to harsh conditions at factories. While the majority of peasants lived in poverty, the elites were lavishly rich. The bourgeoise exploited people. Therefore, there was a problem of staggering inequality that made people angry. In addition, people were angry at autocratic political structure that failed to offer good quality of life. Moreover, public dissatisfaction only grew as people learnt more about the successes of democratic societies.
The crisis of power was an important social cause of the revolution. From January 1916 to February 1917, the Russian Empire experienced many changes in the structure of government. For example, in just a year, there were three different prime ministers, three defense ministers, and six interior ministers. In contrast to the royal environment, society was deprived of the opportunity to influence the process of electing officials. It is important to mention that the destructive activity of Gregory Rasputin led to a growing discontent with the monarchy. He was known as a “mad monk”. His public image was very mystical. However, Czar Nicolas II and his wife remained quite loyal to Rasputin and kept him as a close advisor. As a result, people who surrounded the royal family turned against Rasputin and Czar himself. Historians have differently assessed the extent of his influence on the emperor and the empress, but it is undisputed that he discredited the rule of monarchy power. Desperate to eliminate Rasputin, conservative politicians killed him, but overall this made little difference to their longing for change.
When it comes to geopolitical causes, the ongoing First World War made the Russian Empire lost part of its territories. The geopolitical causes were connected with military causes. The situation at the frontline was difficult. Soldiers of the Russian Empire were dying. In fact, the Russian Empire lost millions of people. Millions were injured. People from the broader society were drafted to fight in the war. More and more people did not want their country to participate in the war. People longed for peace because they were shocked by brutality of the war. Czar troops experienced numerous military failures. For example, the Russian Empire suffered a crushing loss to Japan 12 years before the March Revolution. During the First World War, the Russian Empire also experienced many losses. Military failures during the ongoing war made a huge blow to the country’s elevated nationalism. Czar Nicolas II tried to reverse the situation and took command of the military. However, he was not an agile commander. In addition, society now became associating war with the monarchy. On top of that, the Czar did not have time to resolve crucial social and economic problems because he was busy commanding. The war strengthened socio-economic and political problems. At the same time, the monarchy lost control over army due to the war. The collecting longing for peace was associated with the end of the czar rule.