Russian soldiers take to the streets to protest in Petrograd in April 1917
By 1917, three years into World War I, Russia had drafted nearly 15 million men to serve in the army; a majority of them being peasants. After years of fighting, soldiers would question why they were even fighting and just wanted to return back home to their families. With Tsar Nicholas II commanding the Russian army, all the blame for their unsuccessful military campaigns would be given to him. It was soon noticed how the Russian military was falling apart.
The revolution within the Russian military played a prominent role in the abdication of the Tsar as well as the Russian Revolution. On 23 February 1917, the Cossack cavalry refused the order given to them to shoot the protesting women workers in Petrograd. Within days, strikes and demonstrations brought the city to a standstill, eventually leading to a mutiny among the troops garrisoning the city. The first regiment to rebel was the Volhynsky. They were disturbed by their ordered to shoot-to-kill, soon after other regiments would follow and joined the protests.
During the first few weeks of the revolution the Russian Army had lost between 100,000 and 150,000 soldiers to desertion. The majority of those deserting were peasants who returned to their homes expecting a division on land would occur. There were even arrests or executions taking place in the military, and they were replaced by more popular leaders.
With a revolution starting to occur and the mutiny of his soldiers, the Tsar had no one who support him or to enforce his rule. On 27 February 70,000 troops along with 400,000 strikers marched in the streets of Petrograd, leading to the arrests of the Tsar’s ministers. On 1 March the Tsar’s remaining loyal soldiers, in Petrograd, surrendered. The Russian Army High Command recommended that the Tsar abdicate in favor of a more popular member of the royal family. On 2 March the Tsar was forced to abdicate.