The Cold War: The United States and the Soviet Union, 1917-1991

By Ronald E. Powaski | Go to book overview

1

The United States
and the Bolshevik
Revolution, 1917-1933

The Provisional Government

World War I was the catalyst of the Russian Revolution. Repeated mobilizations of some 15 million men during the war contributed to the disruption of industrial and agricultural production, the breakdown of the transportation network, and severe shortages of food and fuel, especially in the cities. All of these problems were aggravated by the ineptitude and corruption of Czar Nicholas II's regime, which rendered it incapable of solving them.

In early March 1917 the country finally exploded in revolution. A series of strikes and demonstrations in Petrograd (as St. Petersburg was renamed in 1914), protesting food shortages in the capital, quickly spread to Moscow and other Russian cities. On March 11 the czar responded by dissolving the parliament and ordering troops to break up the demonstrations. But when the soldiers refused to obey Nicholas' order, and then joined the demonstrators, the monarchy lost its primary support. On March 16 Nicholas abdicated, bringing the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty to an end. That day a provisional government was proclaimed under the leadership of a moderate conservative, Prince George E. Lvov. The new government promised to convene a constituent assembly to determine Russia's permanent form of government, as well as implement an ambitious program of social and economic reforms. However, in what would prove to be its death warrant, the Provisional Government also promised to keep Russia in the war.

President Woodrow Wilson hailed the March Revolution as a major step toward achieving the kind of postwar world order he hoped to build.

-5-

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