RUSSIA 1914 - 1924

The Effect of World War I on Russia

The Effect of World War I on Russia

Initially, it looked like World War I would help Nicholas II. People were outraged at Germany, and the war helped to bring out their patriotic side. It seemed the war would unite people behind the Tsar and his failing autocratic system.

But then it all quickly started to go wrong.

Russian Troops fleeing from German Troops - History GCSE Revision* Millions of Russians were killed at the front, partly due to the incompetence of military leaders and the soldiers’ lack of equipment and training. Up to 10 million had been killed by 1917. Nicholas scored a massive own goal by being personally involved in leading the army through these disasters – this made it look like the slaughter was his fault!

* The War caused huge economic problems, including starvation and a lack of fuel – this made people back in Russia incredibly angry and encouraged them to start protesting against the regime. Starving people who had nothing to lose by complaining were very dangerous to regimes such as Nicholas II’s. The lack of food was partly a result of the fact that millions of peasants had been sent to fight in the war, meaning there was a shortage of people to produce food. It was also caused by the fact that the railway network was used mainly for transporting troops and military equipment instead of food and fuel.

Rasputin - History GCSE Revision* Middle class people started to question the system of government because a man named Rasputin appeared to be controlling the government – Rasputin was a religious mystic who the Tsar’s wife developed a bit of a crush on, partly because he claimed to have powers to cure her sick children. Nicholas was off at the front, and Rasputin saw fit to step into his shoes while he was away. Sensible people questioned how a nutjob like Rasputin could possibly have reached such as position of power, and saw it as demonstrating the failure of Russia’s political system.

The result of these problems was a wave of protests that began in early 1917 in towns across Russia. People began to riot after protests to demand bread got out of control. Nicholas’s wife – who many people hated anyway because she was a German, and therefore seen as being one of the enemy – demanded that soldiers shoot the protestors. Instead, the soldiers joined in with the protestors – they were also sick of how badly the country was being run! Together the workers and the soldiers formed Soviets – assemblies of people that democratically made decisions.

By this point Nicholas Romanov and his wife were by some distance the most unpopular people in Russia. Without soldiers to attack its opponents, Tsar Nicholas’s regime was finished. Nicholas couldn’t even get back to St. Petersburg for a last attempt at clinging to his throne.

A revolution (the February Revolution, in fact) had begun.