In the midst of World War I, in February-March 1917, the tsarist regime which had ruled Russia since the fourteenth century collapsed with startling speed and finality. The causes of its breakdown were many and reached deep into history, but the most immediate of them was public dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war. Russian armies did not acquit themselves well in the campaigns of 1914-16, being repeatedly beaten by the Germans and forced to abandon to them vast and rich territories, including Poland. There were widespread rumors of treason in high places which alienated conservative elements. The inhabitants of cities were angered by inflation and shortages of food and fuel. The spark that ignited the revolutionary conflagration was a mutiny of the Petrograd military garrison, manned by superannuated peasant conscripts. Once the mutiny erupted, public order broke down in no time, the process being encouraged by liberal and radical politicians eager to take over power. With the abdication of Nicholas II on March 2, the entire bureaucratic machinery of the state dissolved.
- From Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime by Richard Pipes