In September 1915, Nicholas II assumed supreme command of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. This linked him to the country's military failures and during 1917 there was a strong decline support for his government. The country's incompetent and corrupt system could not supply the necessary equipment to enable the Russian Army to fight a modern war. By 1917 over 1,300,000 men had been killed in battle, 4,200,000 wounded and 2,417,000 had been captured by the enemy.
In January 1917, General Krimov, returned from the Eastern Front and sought a meeting with Michael Rodzianko, President of the Duma. Krimov told Rodzianko that the officers and men no longer had faith in Nicholas II and the army was willing to support the Duma if it took control of the government of Russia. Rodzianko was unwilling to take action but he did telegraph the Tsar warning that Russia was approaching breaking point. He also criticised the impact that his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna was having on the situation and told him that "you must find a way to remove the Empress from politics".
The First World War had a disastrous impact on the Russian econimy. Food was in short supply and this led to rising prices. By January 1917 the price of commodities in Petrograd had increased six-fold. In an attempt to increase their wages, industrial workers went on strike and in Petrograd people took to the street demanding food. On 11th February, 1917, a large crowd marched through the streets of Petrograd breaking shop windows and shouting anti-war slogans.
The situation deteoriated on 22nd February when the owners of the Putilov Iron Works locked out its workforce after they demanded higher wages. Led by Bolshevik agitators, the 20,000 workers took to the streets. The army was ordered to disperse the demonstrations but they were unwilling to do this and in some cases the soldiers joined the protestors in demanding an end to the war.
Other workers joined the demonstrations and by 27th February an estimated 200,000 workers were on strike. Nicholas II, who was at Army Headquarters in Mogilev, ordered the commander of the Petrograd garrison to suppress "all the disorders on the streets of the capital". The following day troops fired on demonstrators in different parts of the city. Others refused to obey the order and the Pavlovsk regiment mutinied. Others regiments followed and soldiers joined the striking workers in the streets.
On 26th February Nicholas II ordered the Duma to close down. Members refused and they continued to meet and discuss what they should do. Michael Rodzianko, President of the Duma, sent a telegram to the Tsar suggesting that he appoint a new government led by someone who had the confidence of the people. When the Tsar did not reply, the Duma nominated a Provisional Government headed by Prince George Lvov. Professor Pavel Milyukov, eminent historian and leader of the Cadet Party, was the Foreign Minister, Alexander Guchkov, Minister of War, Alexander Kerensky, Minister of Justice, Mikhail Tereshchenko, a beet-sugar magnate from the Ukraine, became Finance Minister, Alexander Konovalov, a munitions maker, Minister of Trade and Industry and Peter Struve, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967), has argued: "None of Russia's political leaders, conservative or revolutionary, were prepared for the event of the February Revolution of 1917, but they were quick to improvise their respective answers to it. The well-intentioned leaders of the old Duma, representing the comfortable property-owners of Russia, joined the revolution with the hope of keeping it in the orderly channel of a constitutional monarchy."
The High Command of the Russian Army now feared a violent revolution and on 28th February suggested that Nicholas II should abdicate in favour of a more popular member of the royal family. Attempts were now made to persuade Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich to accept the throne. He refused and on the 1st March, 1917, the Tsar abdicated leaving the Provisional Government in control of the country.