At the end of 1916, Russia's domestic situation was extremely difficult. The prolonged war made the imperfections of the political system and state apparatus, along with the inadequacy of the arms industry and the lack of infrastructure completely apparent. The situation was further complicated by the breakdown of society and an increasing anti-war sentiment among the soldiers.
According to the British historian Christopher Hill, the revolution broke out mainly because of the disconnect between the autocratic Tsarist system and the needs of modern Russian society, which had been fighting a war for more than two years that accelerated the revolutionary crisis. The situation deteriorated further due to the harsh winter of 1916-1917, which paralyzed the rail system, preventing provisions from reaching the cities in northern Russia. At the beginning of 1917, in many cities, particularly in Petrograd, there was a shortage of food and fuel, and some industries (including the largest armaments factory Putilov) were forced to stop production and lay off tens of thousands of workers.
Consequently strikes and food riots became more intense. The first major battle took place in Petrograd on 23 February (10 March according to the Gregorian calendar) during the parade held for International Women's Day. On 24 February, there was a general strike with 350,000 hungry workers in attendance, demanding the end of the war, better living conditions and the end of the autocracy. The next day the protesters were joined by soldiers, mostly reservists. In the absence of a firm reaction by the authorities, the crowd became more and more aggressive, though their demands were initially financial in nature.
Tsar Nicholas II, who had gone to the front on 22 February, did not realize the seriousness of the situation in the capital and, on 25 February he ordered the military commissioner of the city to restore order by force. In the end it was this order by the Tsar that led to the outbreak of the revolution. On 26 February, when soldiers of the Pavlovski Replacement Regiment opened fire on the crowd of demonstrators killing 140 civilians, the Petrograd garrison joined the protesters. But the crucial day was that of 27 February. Given the lack of reaction from the soldiers, who refused to fire on the crowd, the crowd took possession of the Peter and Paul Fortress: plundering the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior and Security, destroying official documents and taking possession of arsenals, there was also looting of shops, restaurants and private residences. At sunset on 27 February, Petrograd was in the hands of the revolutionaries, and a red flag was waving over the Winter Palace. The military leadership had been unable to restore order, with only 2,000 loyal soldiers, 3,500 police and Cossacks on horseback. In this situation the Tsar ordered an elite battalion, composed of decorated veterans, under the command of General Nikolay Ivanov, to go to Petrograd, and also ordered his commanders to send eight regiments, supported by artillery groups, to the outskirts of the capital. On the morning of 28 February, the Tsar left Mogilev for Tsarskoye Selo, but because of revolutionary soldiers who were blocking the railway line the train he was travelling in was diverted to Pskov, where the headquarters of the Northern Front was located.
Under pressure from his generals, on 2 March, Nicholas II abdicated in favour of his youngest son Alexei, and sent the Crown Prince Michael to Tsarskoye Selo, where he and his family were interned. At the same time, on 27 February the Duma leaders formed the Provisional Committee of the State Duma to restore order in the capital and relations between institutions and people. The same day, The Petrograd Soviet, which had been convened at the initiative of the Mensheviks, together with the Workers' Group decreed that a competition for central power was taking place. The Committee, however, held all of the most important elements of real power, like the military, railways, post and telegraph, in its hands. The decision-making power soon passed into the hands of the Executive Committee Исполком [Ispolkom], which included both Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary delegates. During the night of 28 and 29 February 1917, the Provisional Committee of the Duma and the Petrograd Soviet established the Provisional Government of the liberal Prince Georgy Lvov, who had assumed full power after the abdication of the Tsar. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was entrusted to Pavel Milyukov, while the Minister of Justice, and later on the Ministry of War, was given to Alexander Kerensky, vice president of the Petrograd Soviet and a member of its executive committee (Исполком).
As a result, Russia created a particular government system known as dual authority (двоевластием), which lasted until October 1917. According to the American historian Richard Pipes, the executive committee (Исполком), which served as both the legislative and executive authority, was an organ of a democratic bourgeoisie government, a sort of supreme court, the conscience of the revolution. The government was nothing without its consent, and it seemed to act in all areas of life.
Thus, under the command of the executive committee (Исполком), on 1 March the armed forces came under the control of the Provisional Committee and the government lost all power over them: the Commissars appointed by the Ministry of War, the chief of staff and the personnel at the front and in the fleets. Similarly, orders of the military commanders at the front would have no effect without the prior approval of the Исполком and its commissars. On 3 March, the Исполком ordered the arrest of the members of the royal family, including the Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolayevich.
The next day, the government agreed with the Исполком for the dissolution of the Police Department, and police bodies and police functions were entrusted to civilian militias. Governors were removed from the territories and responsibility for them passed to heads of the provincial offices. An 8-hour workday was introduced in all factories, including the defence industry. Reactionary newspapers were shut down and editors were forbidden to publish newspapers and magazines without the approval of the Committee. The February Revolution, which led to the collapse of the Tsarist regime and the emergence of a democratic republic in Russia was a relatively bloodless coup. The total number of victims is estimated at between 1300-1400 people. The outbreak of the Russian Revolution did not lead to the suspension of hostilities. The provisional government continued the war against the Central Powers, and in June 1917 opened a new offensive in Galicia.