The February Revolution started with simple street demonstrations in Petrograd. The protest was over food shortages, caused mostly by World War I. On February 23, 1917 (International Women’s Day) a group of women chose to specifically protest the food shortages and high bread prices. This protest coincided with other protests, resulting in crowds of protesters taking to the streets and leaving Petrograd “virtually paralyzed by a general strike” (Freeze 274).
With virtually no government left and the city in chaos, Nicholas II still attempted to maintain power. He formally dissolved the State Duma and tried to get back to the city to regain control. It was when he realized that he could not get back to the city that he made the choice to abdicate the throne. On March 15, 1917 he issued a document stating the reasons why he was resigning his position as tsar. In this document, he also states that not only is he abdicating his throne, but giving up his son’s claim to it as well. This violated the 1797 Law of Succession, making his last act in power an illegal one. To make problems worse for Russia, the heir that Nicholas appointed, his brother Grand Duke Micheal Alexandrovich, refused the crown, leading Russia to deal with issues of legitimacy and ending the monarchy.
http://www.lib.byu.edu/ (Abdication of Nicholas II)
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia A History. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, 2009. 199-233. Print.
S.J. Duncan-Clark, History’s Greatest War: A Pictorial Narrative (U.S.: E.T. Townshend, 1919), 177.