Russia began 1917 taking staggering steps toward oblivion. Millions of men had been taken out of her economy to fight against the Germans and Austrians. Russia’s military had traded hundreds of thousands of dead men for little gain. Her industrial complex, which had been barely out of its infancy when the war began, creaked along to provide the bare minimums to the military, and provided little to the Russian people.
Leadership in Saint Petersburg had spent the previous few years contributing to the misery of the people it was charged to lead and protect. The cost of food and other necessities of life quickly rose four-fold or more. Hunger, never a stranger in the life of the Russian peasant, became a common problem throughout the country.
The situation exploded with food riots in Saint Petersburg in February, 1917. Units which were sent in to quell the disturbances, , most of them almost bereft of experienced soldiers, tended to either overreact to the mobs and commit atrocities against them, or they joined in alongside the rioters. Against this backdrop, Tsar Nicholas tried to return to the capitol to provide leadership and try to head off anarchy.
He never made it. His train was stopped south of Saint Petersburg, and the demands of the new Provisional Government, including his abdication, were given to him. Seeing no alternative, the Tsar bowed to the inevitable.
On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne his family had occupied for 300 years. He also abdicated for his son, the Tsarevich Alexei, due to the boy’s failing health. He named his brother, Michael, as the new leader of Russia, but Michael refused to take the throne unless his ascension was approved by the Russian people.
Nicholas Romanov and his family went into internal exile and were murdered by Communist forces during the ensuing Russian Civil War.
The Provisional Government was quickly recognized by most major nations, and began the work to form a truly representative government in a country that had no history of such things to support it. It continued to fight the war against Austria and Germany, leaving a lot of the problems that led to its formation in place. This created an opening for the Communists to stage their own revolution later that year.