Russian Language Blog

World War I and Russia Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in History, Soviet Union


We are nearing the 96th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War One – the Great War. World War I began after Arch Duke, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated on 28 June, 1914, in Sarajevo by Yugoslav nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. Prior to the beginning of the war, Russia had the largest standing army on the planet, though they could not arm them all. The Russian contribution to the war often goes unnoticed or it is misunderstood.

At the war’s onset, the Russian Empire, led by Tsar Nicholas II, joined the Allies which began as the United Kingdom and France; during the war the Allies would grow and change to include different nations, so would the Central Powers that began with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Russia rallied around Nicholas II with much patriotism and he was all too eager to lead them into battle. Unfortunately, early military disasters at Tannenburg and the Masurian Lakes did much to damage morale and numbers. It cannot be overstated though that what Russia successfully did was to force the Germans to fight a war on two fronts – this would also help to cause their defeat in WWII. The Russian Army forced Germany to send many troops to the eastern front to fight. Germany had some success fighting the poorly equipped Russians but Russia could fight a war of attrition because it had so many troops. It could also afford to lose ground due to the vast size of its territory. You could argue these points, but Russia helped to bring about Germany’s demise sooner because they had to devote too many resources to wrestle the Russian army.

Meanwhile back at home, things were getting ugly and interesting. Ultimately, the Tsar and his family would be assassinated, a revolution would take place, and a new form of government would be instilled. People you may have heard of such as Rasputin, the Romanovs, including Anastasia, Lenin, and the Bolsheviks were creating history. Before WWI ended, Russia had its own problems that caused it to exit the war; you could argue that they were suffering more damage than they were inflicting anyway. According to, Russia began the war with a total mobilized force of nearly 12 million; though they were not all armed or well lead. At the end of Russia’s part in the war, 76 percent of those forces would either be killed, captured, or wounded, making their loss greater than that of any other country. Russia would also lose some of the territory that it had claimed for itself including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. They would also temporarily lose Ukraine and Belarus. Russia didn’t start the war, they didn’t win the war, and they suffered great casualties. The next seventy or more years would see Russia survive a new form of government complete with its own atrocities, a second world war, a cold war, and other conflicts; frankly, it is a miracle that we can still speak of a country called Russia in the present tense.

Tags: , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    I hope you will forgive me, but, since this was originally a “language” blog, I would like to
    respectfully make a correction in the text. This error is an extremely common error made by Americans and I guess no one is immune, native writer or ESL writer. I hope this correction will serve many of your readers and I offer it in a friendly way. This is written: ” People you may have heard of such as Rasputin, the Romanov’s, including Anastasia, . . . ” The use of the apostrophe here is to indicate possession (of something.) When referring to people in the plural there is no apostrophe. i.e. “. . . such as Rasputin, the Romaovs, including . . . “

  2. David Roberts:

    A factual correction – November 11 is the anniversary of the armistice that came into effect at 11.00 that day in 1918. The treaty of Versailles which formally ended the war was finally signed in 1919 (not sure of the exact date, but definitely not Nov11). The French Military supremo, Foch, said of this treaty “this is not a peace it is an armistice for 20 years” – a very accurate prophesy as it turned out. [Armistice – an agreement to stop fighting while terms for ending the war are negotiated]

  3. Moonyeen Albrecht:

    Jenya, where do you live in Michigan? I live in Michigan, too.

  4. Jenya:

    I live in Ann Arbor area 🙂 .

  5. Jenya:

    Thank you very much for your feedback. I will make adjustments in the post. The apostrophe was definitely an oversight 🙂 . Maybe I need to hire a proofreader 🙂 .

  6. Jenya:

    Moonyeen, this is still a language (and culture) blog, but I think I know where you are going with this 🙂 . I will go heavier on the language next week 🙂 .