1917 saw two distinct Revolutions in Russia: the overthrow of the tsarist regime (February Revolution) and the coup by which the Bolsheviks took power (October Revolution). The causes of these two revolutions encompass Russia's political, social, and economic situation. Politically, the people of Russia resented the autocracy of Tsar Nicholas II. The losses that the Russians suffered during World War I further weakened Russia's view of Nicholas II (Lynch, 2000). Socially, tsarist Russia stood well behind the rest of Europe in its industry and farming, resulting in few opportunities for fair advancement on the part of peasants and industrial workers. Economically, widespread inflation in Russia contributed to the revolution.
Nicholas himself helped propel instability into revolution in 1905 by the disastrous foreign policy he pursued in East Asia. Determined that Russia should not be left out in the scramble for colonial possessions, Nicholas embarked on an expansionist policy in Manchuria and Korea that led to war with Japan in 1904 (see Russo-Japanese War). Russia's defeat by Japan ruined the monarchy's prestige and led to the development of an opposition movement that for a time included almost all sectors of Russian society. In January 1905, in an event that became known as Bloody Sunday, unarmed crowds demanding radical constitutional and social reforms were shot down by the army near the emperor's palace in Saint Petersburg (see Russian Revolution of 1905). In the wake of this event, riots and demonstrations broke out throughout the country. Workers went on strike, soldiers mutinied, peasants attacked landlords, and students and members of the middle class demanded constitutional government and social reform.
To appease opposition moderates and regain support for the regime, Nicholas was forced to promise a constitution in October 1905. Although he retained control over the executive branch and extensive legislative powers, wide-ranging civil rights, including freedom of speech and assembly, were promised, and an elected legislative assembly, the Duma, was created. But when the first two Dumas demanded parliamentary control over the government and the expropriation of noble land, Nicholas supported a drastic and unconstitutional limitation of the electoral law in June 1907. This allowed him to achieve a Duma with very few members of left-wing parties, which were the groups demanding the most radical reforms.
Nicholas found it much easier to collaborate with the landowner-dominated Third and Fourth Dumas. Important military, educational, social insurance and, above all, agrarian reforms were enacted. Up to this time, peasant households had been allotted strips of land, but the land was collectively owned by village communes (Lynch, 2000). Under land reforms advanced by Prime Minister Stolypin, the peasants were allowed to claim ownership of their land and leave the communes. As in the previous decade, economic growth was spectacular. Class conflict in the towns remained acute, however, and the immediate result of Stolypin's agrarian reforms was, if anything, to increase the radicalism of most of the peasantry and their determination to seize all noble land if given the chance. The