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· Since the Russo-Japanese war, Russia's foreign policy was mainly
defensive. It joined an alliance with Britain and France to safeguard
itself against the Central Powers.
· The Central Powers were Germany and Austria-Hungary, since A-H and
Serbia were at odds this put Russia as the defender of Serbia in a
· When Serbian Nationalists assassinated Franz Ferdinand, it was
impossible for Russia to avoid going to war as it had a duty to help
Serbia once A-H declared war on them. Then they also had to worry
about Germany, A-H's ally.
· This meant the only option for Russia was to fully mobilise in
preparation for a European war. On the 30th July, Russia began to
mobilise and by August the 4th Russia was at war with the Central
Russia at War
· Although at first Nicholas had doubts about going to war, by the
time it has started he was fully behind it. It heightened his position
in the country and he became a symbol of national resistance.
· Also most of the parties pledged allegiance to the national war
struggle instead of concentrating on their policies, except for Lenin
for course who condemned "the imperialist war" but he was called a
traitor and fled to neutral Switzerland.
· If the war had gone well for Russia the Bolsheviks probably wouldn't
have survived. Lucky for the Lenin, the war went badly for Russia not
only because of the poorly organised Army and incompetent government
but also because of it weak economy.
· Going to war puts great strain on a country's economy as there is
greater demand for everything, and the longer the war lasts the
greater this strain. It is good to remember that all 6 countries
involved were facing the same kind of strain and only 2 out of the 6
empires survived the war.
· This strain proved too much for Russia and by 1917 the war proved to
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· In 1914 Russia had achieved great financial stability and 98% of it
bank note was backed by gold, but this position was destroyed by the
· The Russian national budget went up dramatically between 1913-16.
From 4 million Roubles to 30 million, with Russia spending 1.5 billion
roubles on the war between 1914-17.
· The gold standard was abandoned and the government just printed more
notes. In the short term this meant wages were paid and commerce could
continue but in the long term this made the rouble worthless.
b) Food supplies
· Due to the inflation, food prices were rise, this wasn't helped by
the fact that food supplies where diminishing.
· Military demands meant a cut in the supply of chemical fertilisers
and the commandeering of farmhouses.
· However, for the first 2 years of war the food production rate was
kept at a higher rate than before the war. It wasn't until 1916 it
began to fall.
· Inflation can again be partly blamed for this, as farmers found that
trading was unprofitable and began hoarding their stock. Also, the
military had first claim on limited food supplies and they also
controlled the transport system making transporting food to civilians
· Famine became a constant condition for many people in Russia during
the war. Of course it was the cities that were worst hit because of
refugees who increased the population and therefore increased demand
in that area.
· The transport system in Russia was a major problem during the war;
even though it was a symbol of Russia's great economic progress it was
· One held up train, stopped because of lack of coal or it had broken
down, could hold up the whole system causing massive delays which
meant food supplies going rotten and being unusable by the time they
reached their destination.
· This meant Petrograd and Moscow were only receiving a third of their
minimum requirements by February 1917.
d) The Army
· Russia's army was huge when compared to Britain or France but it
could have been bigger. With 8.8% of it total population mobilised,
their army consisted of 15.3 million people.
· It's size should have made it an efficient fighting force to be
reckoned with but despite being in charge of the transport system, the
army suffered just as much as the civilian population.
· The army's main problem was the fact that their resources weren't
reaching them. As with food supplies, for the first 2 years of the war
the army managed to keep up with the demand but by 1916 there were
· There was a major shortage of ammunition and boots, so much so that
some soldiers had to fight bare footed or with no gun.
· Of course these failures were blamed on the Tsar himself as he had
taken command of the Russian army. This move was supposed to united
his forces behind him, instead it made him liable for anything that
went seriously wrong.
· If the army had made significant successes, the famine and
disorganised transport system might have been tolerated by the
soldiers and public.
· By 1916 soldiers were deserting in increasing numbers and mutinies
were occurring. However, it must be remembered that this wasn't only
happening within the Russian army. France and Britain were also facing
· Despite all it's problems the Russian army WAS still a fighting
force and played a valuable role as France and Britain's ally. This is
contrary to the message spread by the Bolsheviks after 1917.