A Hooligan Movement

“This is a hooligan movement, young people run and shout that there is no bread, simply to create excitement, along with workers who prevent others from working. If the weather were very cold they would probably all stay at home.”

-Czarina Alexandra to Czar Nicholas II, March 10, 1917

By: Michael Fouts

The message above, written from Czarina Alexandra to her husband Czar Nicholas II, gave a description of the events happening in early March 1917 in the Russian capital of Petrograd as being nothing more than irritating groups of lazy workers and mischievous youth. The Romanov family, dynastic rules of Imperial Russia since A.D. 1613, had little understanding of how badly the Russian working-class were suffering, and how precarious of a position their authority was in. The protests that the Czarina had written off as a “hooligan movement” quickly turned into a revolution that would, in a very short period of time, lead to the abrupt end of the centuries old Romanov dynasty

The protests in Petrograd (known today as St. Petersburg) began in early March 1917 with demonstrators taking to the streets demanding bread. Today, this may seem like an irrational demand to protest over, but in 1917 the availability of bread, a staple of the Russian diet, was scarce. This scarcity was partly due to Russia’s costly failures in the First World War, in which it was still engaged in 1917. To further complicate the situation, World War I had not only affected Russia’s ability to produce and distribute food, but it  also compounded already existing social and economic problems within the state, causing even more tension between the people and the Czar’s regime.

By March 11, 1917, the situation in Petrograd had reached a boiling point. The demonstrator’s numbers swelled from the workers in the city who had joined the movement.  The army garrison in Petrograd was called up to suppress the demonstrators, and, in some encounters, the soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators resulting in casualties. It was not until the frustrated soldiers of the garrison defending Petrograd began to switch their allegiance to the side of the demonstrators did the end finally come. Under the pressure from both the people and the army, the Imperial government was forced to relinquish its power and a provincial government was then established. The humiliated Czar Nicholas II abdicated his throne on March 15, 1917, ending the reign of the Romanovs.

Note: This event is commonly known as the “February Revolution,” based on the Julian calendar that was used in Russia during this time.  

Learn more about the February Revolution and the fall of the Romanov dynasty:

World War I was not the sole cause of the Russian Revolution. Learn more at:

Research Question (9th-12th Grades):
In the same year as the February Revolution and the abdication of the Czar, the October Revolution broke out in Russia. What were the causes of this second revolution? Who were the opposing sides of the October Revolution and what were the results of this event?

Research Question (9th-12th Grades):
What were the social and economic problems that existed in Imperial Russia during the reign of Czar Nicholas II?

Posted March 23, 2017

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