World War I and Russia Posted by Jenya 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 pbs.org, 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.
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