While the Tsar was visiting soldiers on the front, strikes and protests grew rapidly in the capital of Petrograd, and soldiers were siding with demonstrators in large numbers, even shooting at police in one incident. Nicholas had completely lost the confidence of the people, and of most officials, as well.
Here, I must inject a bit of name-dropping. A key historical figure’s great grandson took a Russian culture course from me at Ohio State over ten years ago. His ancestor, Mikhail Rodzianko, was President of the Duma, and “bugged” Nicholas to do something about the situation. On March 11, he wired the Tsar, to “nominate without delay a person possessing the confidence of the people and who would form a new Government… Any procrastination is tantamount to death.” An irritated Nicholas chose to ignore him.
As he was returning to Petrograd from army headquarters in Mogilev, his train was stopped in a small station by insurgent soldiers, and he was forced to sign his abdication. He also submitted his son’s abdication on his behalf. He named his brother successor, but he was convinced not to accept. And that was the end of the monarchy.
In closing, I’ll name two good sites for learning more. One is this post from Russia Beyond the Headlines, which is always good for in-depth info on the country. It has some good quotes by contemporary observers.
The other is the Pushkin House’s Project 1917, which has daily updates with similar quotes. Since I’ve written so favorably about Stefan Zweig before, I’m a little disappointed to learn that he considered the abdication the result of an Anglo-French plot, but then, who knew what to believe amidst all the wartime propaganda at the time?