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Effects of the War

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Russia had entered the war unprepared militarily. A large-scale rearmament program, designed to modernize Russian army and navy and upgrade their weaponry to the technological level of leading industrial nations, had been started shortly before the Great War broke out. According to the governmentís estimates, the modernization of the armed forces was to be completed in 1917. When starting the war, the Germans knew about the Russian rearmament program and understood that in 1917 the Russians would have a much more formidable army than in 1914. The outbreak of hostilities prevented the Russian government from implementing its ambitious plans of rearming the armed forces. In the test of war Russian weapons turned out to be inferior to those of its enemies and Russian ammunition was in short supply.  

Bread Line, 1914. By I. Vladimirov

The economic effects of the war were devastating. The mass mobilization of 15 million conscript troops between 1914 and 1917 had serious repercussions on both agriculture and industry. Conscription of peasants from the large private estates which produced mainly for the market resulted in reduced output of agricultural production. Labor productivity in industry also declined as skilled workers were replaced with inexperienced laborers, women, children and prisoners-of-war. With more and more enterprises converting to military production, output of consumer goods plummeted adding more hardships for the civilian population. Moreover, these difficulties were compounded by problems of transportation. Most railway rolling-stock was commandeered to carry men and munitions to the front, leaving little to deliver much-needed foodstuffs from the grain-growing regions to the towns. In big cities, and first of all in Petrograd and Moscow, there were shortages of bread, meat, sugar, and other basic commodities. 

The war also caused an acute financial crisis. Poland and large areas of western Russia were occupied by enemy troops, with consequent loss not only of industrial resources, but also of tax-paying population.  Naval blockades of the Baltic Sea by Germany and the Black Sea by Turkey effectively cut off Russiaís foreign trade and deprived the government of customs revenues. Even more disastrous was Nicholasís high-minded decision, in August 1914, to prohibit the production and sale of alcoholic drinks during the war. The ban on alcohol deprived the governmentís treasury of 30 percent of its revenue that came from its monopoly over liquor sales. Thus, at the time when the government was faced with the exceptional expenses of the war, its revenues took a precipitous fall. Starved of cash, it had to resort to printing money, inaugurating the twentieth centuryís first great inflation.

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Between Revolutions


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
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Alexander I
Nicholas I
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Interpretations of 1917
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