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Russia from 1914 to 1918


Grigory Rasputin
Grigory Rasputin

The Russian government did not want war in 1914 but felt that the only alternative was acceptance of German domination of Europe. Upper- and middle-class Russians rallied around the regime’s war effort. Peasants and workers were much less enthusiastic. Germany was Europe’s leading military and industrial power, and Austria and the Ottoman Empire were its allies in the war. Consequently, Russia was forced to fight on three fronts and was isolated from its French and British war partners. Under these circumstances the Russian war effort was impressive. Having won a number of major battles in 1916, the army was far from defeated when the Russian Revolution of 1917 broke out in February. The home front collapsed under the strains of war, partly for economic reasons but primarily because the already existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by tales of inefficiency, corruption, and even treason in high places.

Many of these tales were nonsense or grossly exaggerated, such as the belief that a semiliterate mystic, Grigory Rasputin, had great political influence within the government. What mattered, however, was that the rumors were believed.

In February (March in the Western, or New Style, calendar) 1917 violent strikes broke out in Petrograd (as Saint Petersburg had been renamed in 1914). The Petrograd garrison mutinied and the Duma leaders took power. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, marking the end of imperial rule, and he and his family were imprisoned and later murdered. As conservative defenders of the empire had long predicted, the monarchy’s fall was quickly followed by the empire’s disintegration.

Power passed first to the provisional government established by the Duma, and then, after the October Revolution of 1917 (November in the New Style calendar), to the Soviet government of the Bolsheviks (later known as communists). The tumultuous period was marked by extreme socialist revolution, civil war, and the destruction or emigration of much of the upper and middle classes. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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