WORLD WAR ONE AND THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
The authors identified four causes of the Russian Revolution:
War-weariness brought about by military defeat and starvation,
which fostered strikes in the factories and desertion from, and mutiny in,
Cracking morale in the army.
Scandals involving the autocracy.
A collapse of the old order as much as an insurrection by a new
Then they wrote:
I want now to expand upon, and in some instances qualify, these causes. I have little to add on the subject of (3) above, however – the principal scandal was that of Rasputin; there were also rumours and suggestions that the Tzarina, who was German by birth, was in league with the enemy.
On the home front, life in general, and the economy in particular, had been seriously disrupted by mobilization. By the end of 1916 over 14 million men had been mobilized in the empire. The heaviest burden fell on the peasantry: almost half of the male rural labour force had been called up by the end of 1916, and the census of 1917 revealed that in most of the Russian provinces anything from one-third to two-thirds of the peasant households had lost their male workers. The demands of war drastically reduced the number of draft animals on the land; most plants responsible for producing agricultural machinery were turned over to war production, while those that were left were last in line for fuel and metal supplies.
Urban workers were hit by mobilization to a much lesser extent; those working directly for the war effort were generally exempt from military service, and in trades where skills and demands for their product were at a premium, workers used the strike weapon to push up wages. Wartime inflation, however, tended increasingly to cancel out wage increases. In October 1916 the Petrograd Security Police reported that 'While the wages of the masses have risen 50 per cent, and only in certain categories 100 to 200 per cent (metal workers, machinists, electricians), the prices on all products have increased 100 to 500 per cent.' The report went on to give data based on one plant to demonstrate how wages were affected by wartime inflation…
|In the towns|
production demands led to an overall increase in the number of factory
workers in the big cities: there were 242,600 workers in
military losses were enormous. While
the statistics are unreliable because of the haphazard way in which they
were collected, it seems generally accepted that by the end of October
1916 the Russian army had lost between 1.6 and
1.8 million killed, with another two million as prisoners of war and over
one million more 'missing'. Early
in 1916 there had been reports of troops fraternizing with the enemy.
General Brusilov briefly improved discipline and morale, and his
summer offensive met with early success, but some troops disappeared from
the front and there were occasional mutinies.
The military postal censors reported that letters from the home
front were increasingly expressing the desire for peace and that they were
having a depressive effect on the troops; the soldiers' letters home were
full of complaints. Yet
while senior officers at the front expressed alarm about morale and about
replacements (some of whom were political exiles or exiled strikers) they
also spoke of 'excellent' discipline.
In part this may have been bravado and a reluctance to admit
discipline problems; nevertheless it must be remembered that the crucial
breakdown of military discipline occurred not at the front but in
precise number of troops in the
addition to soldiers there were large numbers of sailors in the immediate
the advice of many advisers who feared that military disaster which could
be attributed to the Tzar would compromise the monarchy, Nicholas II had
taken personal command of the army in
at his military headquarters, he received regular reports on the situation
Clive Emsley and David Englander, in Henry Cowper et al., War Peace and Social Change: