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Assess the Proposition That World War I Was Responsible for the Downfall of the Tsar

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EXAM QUESTION

Asses the proposition WWI was responsible for the downfall of the Tsar.

World War I was the final spark that brought three centuries of Romanov autocracy crashing down upon Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar had made a series of political, military and economic blunders leading up to World War I. Therefore the war was not responsible for the downfall itself, it was simply the catalyst that accelerated the unavoidable demise of the Tsar.

Being born into power, the Tsar believed that God had blessed him with unlimited power in ruling Russia. This attitude led to a series of severe political mistakes. Most critical being the Tsar's failure to share his power with the formation of a Duma. There had been rising discontent in Russia in the early 1900s. On the 9th of January 1905, the Tsar's image of being the 'little father' amongst the people was shattered and replaced with the nickname 'Bloody Nicholas'. When a peaceful protest about the living conditions of some of the peasants was taken to the Winter Palace, it was met with ruthless violence. Although the Tsar was not to blame for these actions, to the people he controlled the military and therefore he was behind the massacre at the Winter Palace. After his dreadful handling of bloody Sunday, Nicholas attempted to redeem himself with some political reforms. Most important being the creation of a duma. Yet Nicholas' unwillingness to share power was evidently going to be a problem from the day he became Tsar.

"I will uphold the principle of autocracy as firmly and unflinchingly as my late, unforgettable father." - Nicholas II after the death of his father.

The Tsar's reluctance in sharing power led to the failure of the Duma three times. Nicholas' decision to enter World War I amplified his political woes. The series of political mistakes he made during the war accelerated the process of his downfall. The Tsar left his German wife in charge while he decided to lead the war effort from the front. The Tsarina was inexperienced and relied heavily on the advice from others. Most influential of all, Rasputin, a preacher and herbal healer renowned for his womanising and scandal. The Tsar trusted Rasputin because he was able to heal the Royal Prince of Haemophilia. This trust enabled Rasputin substantial influence over the Tsarina in the way she ruled Russia. The Tsar's association with Rasputin damaged the Royal family's image and reputation among the people. The Tsar was never capable of leading the war effort, as he had no experience what so ever. Similarly, his wife had little experience in ruling Russia and was suspected by many to be a German spy. It was not surprising after all the events that coincided with World War I, that the Tsarist regime ceased to exist after 1918. Clearly there were many political blunders made by the Tsar prior to WWI that increased the discomfort amongst the people. However it was the Tsar's involvement of Russia in the war and his decisions made throughout that accelerated his downfall.

From a military point of view, there were many defeats and failures that caused rising distress and anxiety amongst the people of Russia. Most prominent of all being the catastrophe of World War I.

In 1914, the discontent and concern among the people of Russia was reaching crisis point. The Tsar believed the best way to diverge this problem was to join the war against Germany. Nicholas' interior ministers advised him against getting involved in the war, saying that in the likely event of defeat there would be an inevitable and unstoppable social revolution. Not surprisingly, the Tsar did not listen. Insufficiently equipped, supplied and trained, the war was a blood bath waiting for the Russian soldiers to enter. It was a dramatic military failure and

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