Eerste Wêreldoorlog: Desember 1916, Rusland gee oor

Eerste Wêreldoorlog: Desember 1916, Rusland gee oor



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Eerste Wêreldoorlog: Kaart van Europa in Desember 1917

Kaart van Europa in Desember 1917. Met die oorgawe van Rusland na die Bolsjewistiese rewolusie kon die Sentrale Magte hul pogings konsentreer op die westelike front, waar hulle in die eerste maande van 1918 baie naby aan die oorwinning sou kom. Dit was die laagtepunt vir die Geallieerdes, en tog was die uiteindelike geallieerde oorwinning minder as 'n jaar weg.

Terug te keer na:
Eerste Wêreldoorlog artikel
Onderwerpindeks van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog


Het die Duitsers in 1916 probeer vrede maak?

Is dit waar? In 1916 het die Duitsers probeer om met die Geallieerdes oor vrede te onderhandel en hulself as die wenners aangewys. Die bondgenote het geweier.

Reeds op 8 Februarie 1916 beskryf koerante 'n poging van die Duitse kanselier Theobald von Bethmann-Holweg om 'n vredesvoorstel deur pous Benedictus XV te doen. Sy voorstel en die bepalings daarvan is in April verder verduidelik deur graaf Julius Andrassy in Boedapest, maar die Geallieerdes het dit uit die hand gewys omdat dit in wese 'n beroep op die terugkeer na vooroorlogse grense gemaak het, wat slegs die lot van Duitsland en rsquos oorse besittings in geskil gelaat het. In November het Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5de markies van Lansdowne, 'n brief versprei waarin 'n onderhandelde vrede gevra word in die naam van die besparing van die beskawing, maar dit is ten gronde veroordeel deur die meeste Britse staatsmanne. In dieselfde maand het Herbert H. Asquith bedank as premier en sy opvolger, David Lloyd-George, het die Britse en Franse besluit herbevestig dat 'n aanvaarbare vrede slegs kan kom met die volslae nederlaag van Duitsland. 'N Ander voorstel volg op die dood van die Oostenrykse keiser Franz Josef op 16 November 1916, toe sy opvolger, Kaiser Karl, 'n aparte vrede voorstel wat die Amerikaanse president Woodrow Wilson genoeg interesseer om die oorlog teen Oostenryk-Hongarye tot die herfs van 1917 uit te hou, toe dit duidelik word dat Oostenryk-Hongarye sy verbintenis tot Duitsland nie sal verbreek nie. Uiteindelik het alles op niks uitgeloop nie en die oorlog het voortgegaan.

Jon Guttman
Navorsingsdirekteur
Wêreldgeskiedenisgroep
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'N Tydlyn van die Russiese rewolusie van 1914 tot 1916

In 1914 het die Eerste Wêreldoorlog in Europa uitgebreek. Op 'n stadium, in die vroeë dae van hierdie proses, het die Russiese tsaar 'n besluit gehad: die weermag mobiliseer en oorlog byna onvermydelik maak, of opstaan ​​en 'n massiewe gesig verloor. Sommige adviseurs het hom meegedeel dat om weg te draai en nie te veg nie, sy troon sou ondermyn en vernietig, en deur ander dat om te veg hom sou vernietig namate die Russiese weermag misluk. Dit lyk asof hy min regte keuses het, en hy het oorlog gevoer. Albei raadgewers was moontlik reg. Sy ryk sou gevolglik tot 1917 duur.

• Junie - Julie: Algemene stakings in St. Petersburg.
• 19 Julie: Duitsland verklaar oorlog teen Rusland, wat 'n kort gevoel van patriotiese eenheid tussen die Russiese nasie veroorsaak en 'n afswaai in die staking veroorsaak.
• 30 Julie: Die All Russian Zemstvo Union for the Relief of Sick and Wounded Soldiers word saamgestel met Lvov as president.
• Augustus - November: Rusland ly swaar nederlae en 'n groot tekort aan voorrade, insluitend voedsel en ammunisie.
• 18de Augustus: Sint -Petersburg word Petrograd hernoem, aangesien 'Germaanse' name verander word om meer Rusland en dus meer patrioties te wees.
• 5 November: Bolsjewistiese lede van die Doema word gearresteer. Hulle word later verhoor en na Siberië verban.

• 19 Februarie: Groot -Brittanje en Frankryk aanvaar Rusland se aansprake op Istanbul en ander Turkse lande.
• 5 Junie: Op slagoffers geskiet in Kostromá -slagoffers.
• 9 Julie: The Great Retreat begin, terwyl Russiese magte terugtrek na Rusland.
• 9 Augustus: Die burgerlike partye van die Doema vorm die 'Progressiewe blok' om 'n beter regering aan te dring en hervorming sluit die Kadets, Octobrist -groepe en nasionaliste in.
• 10de Augustus: Op slagoffers geskiet in Ivánovo-Voznesénsk-slagoffers.
• 17-19 Augustus: Stakers in Petrograd protesteer teen die sterftes in Ivánovo-Voznesénsk.
• 23 Augustus: In reaksie op oorlogsmislukkings en 'n vyandige Doema, neem die tsaar oor as opperbevelhebber van die gewapende magte, voorskryf die Doema en gaan na die militêre hoofkwartier in Mogilev. Die sentrale regering begin beslag kry. Deur die weermag en sy mislukkings persoonlik met hom te assosieer en weg te beweeg van die sentrum van die regering, verdoem hy homself. Hy moet absoluut wen, maar nie.

• Januarie - Desember: Ten spyte van die sukses in die Brusilov -offensief, word die Russiese oorlogspoging steeds gekenmerk deur tekorte, gebrekkige bevel, dood en verlatenheid. Weg van voor veroorsaak die konflik hongersnood, inflasie en 'n stroom vlugtelinge. Sowel soldate as burgerlikes blameer die onbevoegdheid van die tsaar en sy regering.
• 6 Februarie: Duma weer byeen.
• 29 Februarie: Na 'n maand van stakings by die Putilov -fabriek, diensplig die regering die werkers en neem die produksie oor. Protesaanvalle volg.
• 20 Junie: Duma word voorgeskryf.
• Oktober: Troepe van die 181ste Regiment help stakende Russkii Renault -werkers om teen die polisie te veg.
• 1 November: Miliukov gee sy 'Is dit dom of verraad?' toespraak in die herontdekte Doema.
• 17/18 Desember: Rasputin word vermoor deur prins Yusupov, hy het chaos in die regering veroorsaak en die naam van die koninklike familie verswak.
• 30 Desember: Die tsaar word gewaarsku dat sy leër hom nie teen 'n rewolusie sal ondersteun nie.


Die abdikasie van Nikolaas II het Rusland vir die eerste keer in 300 jaar sonder 'n tsaar verlaat

'N Soewerein moet nie by die weermag wees nie, tensy hy 'n generaal is! ” het Napoleon gesê en hierdie woorde klaarblyklik as 'n direkte uitdaging vir die [Russiese] keiser uitgespreek. Hy het geweet hoe [tsaar] Alexander [I] 'n militêre bevelvoerder wou word, en#8221 – Leo Tolstoy, Oorlog en vrede

Uit hierdie storie

The Last of the Tsars: Nicholas II en die Rusland -rewolusie

Gevang in die rewolusie: Petrograd, Rusland, 1917 - 'n wêreld op die rand

Werkersstaking en broodoproer het in die Russiese Ryk, die hoofstad van Sint Petersburg, gewoed. Nicholas II, wat die militêre hoofkwartier in Mogilev besoek het, meer as 400 myl daarvandaan, het op 13 Maart 'n reis huis toe begin om die opstand te onderdruk. Slegs twee dae later, voordat hy die hoofstad kon bereik, het hy die troon afgelê en Rusland vir die eerste keer sedert 1613 sonder 'n soewerein gelaat, toe die Time of Troubles die toetreding van die stigter van die Romanov -dinastie, Michael, voorafgegaan het.

Teen die tyd dat Nicholas Mogliev verlaat het, het sy gesag reeds in duie gestort toe militêre regimente by die betogings aangesluit het. Dieselfde dag het die Duma, die verteenwoordigende vergadering van Rusland, gereageer op die onrus in Sint Petersburg met die aankondiging, in die lig van die ernstige situasie van interne wanorde, veroorsaak deur maatreëls deur die ou regering, die tussentydse komitee van lede van die Staatsduma bevind hom verplig om die herstel van die staat en openbare orde in eie hande te neem. ” Twee verteenwoordigers van die Doema het meer as 150 myl gereis om die keiserlike trein van Nicholas ’ in Pskov te ontmoet en die aankondiging aan hom afgelewer . Nicholas het op sy beurt min politieke kapitaal oorgehad om alles te doen, behalwe om die eise van die Doema te aanvaar en sy standpunt af te staan. homself, maar ook sy 12-jarige hemofiliese seun, Alexei. Nicholas was bang dat hy van sy sieklike seun geskei sou word en dat die kind 'n boegbeeld sou word om die nuwe regering te legitimeer. 'N Nuwe Russiese regering, wat bekend sou staan ​​as die Voorlopige Regering, het gestalte gekry.

Sedert hy in 1894 op die troon was, het Nicholas talle krisisse en uitdagings vir sy gesag verduur, waaronder 'n nederlaag in die Russies-Japannese oorlog van 1904 en die politieke omwenteling wat gevolg het op die Bloody Sunday-slagting van 1905. Telkens wanneer Nicholas in konflik met die Doema kom , wat hy herhaaldelik sou doen, sou hy die verteenwoordigers ontslaan en nuwe verkiesings uitroep. Hierdie keer kon hy egter nie die Doema ontslaan nie. Sonder die steun van die weermag, wat as deel van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog massiewe slagveldverliese vir Duitsland gely het, was die mag van Nicholas beperk. Die weermag het die betogers in Sint Petersburg ondersteun eerder as om hulle te onderdruk tydens die bevel van die tsaar.  

In Pskov het Nicholas telegramme van sy generaals ontvang om hom te abdikeer ter wille van die oorlogspoging. Adjudant -generaal Aleksei Brusilov, wat in 1916 'n opeenvolgende offensief aan die oostelike front aan die oostelike front gelei het, en op die oomblik die enigste manier om die situasie te red en die moontlikheid te skep om aan te hou veg teen die eksterne vyand om die troon te abdikeer. 8221 terwyl adjudant -generaal Aleksei Evert telegrafeer, en om op die weermag te reken, soos dit tans bestaan ​​om interne afwykings te onderdruk, is onmoontlik …

Uit Pskov het die tsaar 'n manifes uitgereik waarin sy abdikasie aangekondig is, met vermelding van die belange van die weermag. Ons lees op hierdie oomblik, 'n oomblik wat so deurslaggewend is vir die bestaan ​​van Rusland, ons gewete roep ons op om die naaste vereniging van ons onderdane en die organisasie van al hul kragte te fasiliteer vir die vinnige behaal van oorwinning. Daarom dink ons ​​dit is reg en die keiserlike Doema deel ons standpunt om die kroon van die Russiese staat af te staan ​​en die oppermag te bedank. ”

In die privaat was Nicholas verpletterd dat sy generaals nie meer vertroue in hom gehad het nie en in sy dagboek opgeteken is, “ Alles is verraad, lafhartigheid en bedrog! ”

Die tsaar het 'n ander dwingende rede gehad om op bevel van die nuwe voorlopige regering te abdikeer: die onrus in Sint Petersburg bedreig die veiligheid van sy vrou, Alexandra, en hul vyf kinders wat in die Alexander Palace, 'n keiserlike woning net buite die stad, gewoon het . Op dieselfde noodlottige 13 Maart het die voorsitter van die Doema die keiserlike gesin aangeraai om so vinnig as moontlik uit die paleis te vlug, maar Alexandra het geweier omdat haar kinders die masels gehad het met komplikasies wat tydens die reis kan vererger. Die elektrisiteit en water het te midde van die onrus by die paleis opgehou funksioneer. Alexandra skryf op 15 Maart aan Nicholas, “Die kinders lê stil in die donker …die hysbak werk nie, 'n pyp bars – Olga [een en twintig] 37.7, Tatiana [negentien] 38.9 en die oor begin pyn & #8211 Anastasia [vyftien jaar oud] 37,2 (vanweë die medisyne wat hulle haar vir haar kop gegee het) Baba [Alexei] slaap nog. ”

Alexandra en haar een gesonde dogter, die 17-jarige Maria, het die paleisbeskerming besoek om te verseker dat hulle steeds die ondersteuning van die troepe daar het. Ondanks die pogings van Czarina, het die troepe kort daarna vertrek en die paleis kwesbaar gelaat vir afdanking deur oproerige betogers. Maria het ook die masels gekry, wat ontwikkel het tot lewensbedreigende longontsteking, wat verseker het dat die gesin nie van plan was om hul huis te verlaat nie. Gerugte van 'n gewapende skare, vasbeslote om die paleis te bestorm, het onder die huishouding versprei. Die vriendin van Alexandra, Lili Dehn, wat tydens die omwenteling in die paleis gebly het, onthou in haar memoires. Die afwisselende afvuur van gewere was hoorbaar. ” Nicholas beskou 'n vinnige abdikasie as 'n manier om so vinnig as moontlik terug te keer huis toe, sodat 'n nuwe regering die ondersteuning van die weermag kan beveel en sy gesin kan beskerm teen gewelddadige revolusionêre.

Vir die rade van Arbeiders ’ en Soldate ’ afgevaardigdes, of Sowjets, wat na vore gekom het as die belangrikste teengewigte van 'n Doema wat meer gefokus was op die hoër- en middelklasse in Rusland, en die abdikasie van Nicholas was 'n geleentheid om 'n permanente einde te maak aan die tsaristiese bewind. , Het Nikolaas 'n bepaling in die abdikasiemanifes ingevoeg om die troon aan sy jonger broer, groothertog Mikhail, oor te laat, maar die Sowjets eis, “No more Romanovs! Ons wil 'n republiek! ” Mikhail was tegnies 'n dag lank tsaar voordat hy sy eie abdikasiemanifes uitgereik het, waarin hy verklaar dat hy nie die troon sou aanvaar nie, tensy dit deur 'n verteenwoordigende vergadering genooi is. Die Romanof -dinastie, wat meer as drie eeue lank in Rusland geheers het, was op 'n einde.

Na 'n kort terugkeer na die Russiese militêre hoofkwartier in Mogliev om 'n laaste afskeid van die weermag te neem, het Nicholas op 22 Maart by sy familie by die Alexander -paleis aangesluit. van die oorlog met hul koninklike familielede in die Verenigde Koninkryk trek dan terug na een van hul landgoedere in die Krim. In Sint Petersburg het 'n golf van optimisme die abdikasie begroet. Neef van Nicholas, Maria Pavlovna, is later in haar memoires opgeteken, en#8220 [Sint Petersburg] was verheug. Die staatsmanne van die voormalige regime was opgesluit in staatsgeboue of in die tronk het die koerante lofliedere gesing tot die revolusie en vryheid en die verlede met 'n verstommende woede beledig. ”

Maria Pavlovna onthou dat hierdie revolusionêre entoesiasme nie tot die instandhouding van die stad strek nie, en dat die strate sorgeloos skoongemaak is. Menigtes ledige, ontbinde soldate en matrose het voortdurend rondgedwaal, terwyl die goed geklede mense wat waens en motors besit, in hul huise weggekruip het. Die polisie was nie te sien nie. Dinge het vanself verloop, en baie sleg. ” Die ou regime was weg en die nuwe voorlopige regering het nou die formidabele take gehad om orde te herstel en 'n betroubare voedselvoorsiening aan die stede te verskaf.

Op dieselfde dag wat Nicholas met sy gesin herenig is, het die Verenigde State die eerste buitelandse regering geword wat die voorlopige regering erken het. Die Amerikaanse ambassadeur in Rusland, David R. Francis, is pas in 1916 deur president Woodrow Wilson aangestel en het geen Russies gepraat nie, maar hy het die ontkenning van die tsaar as 'n kans beskou vir die Verenigde State, 'n ander land wat deur revolusie ontstaan ​​het, om die belangrikste bondgenoot van die nuwe regering te word en gunstiger handelskontrakte te kry. Die transformasie van Rusland van 'n outokrasie na 'n republiek het ook die potensiaal om die volksondersteuning in die Verenigde State te verhoog vir die toetreding tot die Eerste Wêreldoorlog aan die kant van die geallieerde moondhede. Francis telegraaf, minister van buitelandse sake, Robert Lansing, “ Die rewolusie is die praktiese verwesenliking van die regeringsbeginsel wat ons bepleit en bepleit het, ek bedoel die regering met die toestemming van die regeerder. ” Twee dae later, Rusland se Eerste Wêreld Oorlogs bondgenote, Groot -Brittanje, Frankryk en Italië het ook die voorlopige regering erken.

Honderde Europese en Noord-Amerikaanse joernaliste, diplomate, handelaars en mediese personeel het in Sint Petersburg gestrand geraak deur die politieke omwenteling en Duitse U-boot-blokkade in die Oossee. Vir hulle het die abdikasie van Nicholas II skielik en onnodig gelyk. Soos historikus Helen Rappaport verduidelik in haar onlangse boek oor buitelandse waarnemers in Sint -Petersburg in 1917, Gevang in die rewolusie, het die uitgewekenes die Russiese outokrasie vergelyk met hul eie politieke tradisies en bespiegel oor hoe gebeure anders kon verloop.

Die Amerikaanse fotojoernalis Donald Thompson het gedink dat as Nicholas vroeër na Sint Petersburg sou terugkeer, van die hoofweg af gery was, en hy agter in sy motor gestaan ​​het en gepraat het, soos Teddy Roosevelt sou gedoen het, hy steeds tsaar van Rusland sou wees . ”

Die honderdjarige bestaan ​​van die Russiese rewolusie het groot kennis geleer oor wat ons weet oor die gebeure van 1917, insluitend die boek Rappaport. Die historikus Robert Service verduidelik in sy nuutste boek,  Die laaste van die tsare: Nikolaas II en die Russiese rewolusie, dat Nicholas nooit persoonlike spyt uitgespreek het oor sy verlies aan mag nie, maar eerder fokus op die hoop dat die nuwe regering Rusland tot die oorwinning in die oorlog sal lei.

Nicholas het reeds sy vryheid sowel as sy troon verloor. Pierre Gilliard, die in Switserland gebore Franse leraar vir die keiserlike kinders, onthou in sy memoires dat Alexandra my die dag voor Nicholas se terugkeer ontbied en meegedeel het dat generaal Kornilov deur die voorlopige regering gestuur is om haar in kennis te stel dat die tsaar en haarself in hegtenis geneem is en dat diegene wat nie in die opsluiting wou hou nie, die paleis voor vieruur moet verlaat. ” Die arrestasie was skynbaar ter beskerming van die keiserlike egpaar teen die onrus in Sint Petersburg. Hulle kinders en tientalle lede van hul huishouding het besluit om by hulle onder toesig by die paleis te bly. Gilliard het opgemerk dat Nicholas al hierdie beperkings met buitengewone kalmte aanvaar het, 'n siening wat gedeel word deur ander lede van sy huishouding en sy wagte. Hy het tyd saam met sy gesin deurgebring, in die swaar bewaakte paleispark gaan stap en lees gelees en Tolstoy voltooi.Oorlog en vrede  vir die eerste keer in die maande na sy abdikasie.

Die val van die Romanof -dinastie in Maart 1917 het nie geweld veroorsaak of 'n teenrevolusie wat 'n paar maande later sou kom toe die Bolsjewiste die mag in November 1917 oorneem nie. Dit was 'n gulde geleentheid vir Rusland om homself te verander in 'n meer egalitêre samelewing wat aandag gee aan die bekommernisse van boere en werkers sowel as die geleerde middelklas. Die nuwe regering sou egter voor twee belangrike struikelblokke te staan ​​kom om die mag te behou: die voortdurende probleme met die behoud van Rusland se deelname aan die oorlog en die langverwagte terugkeer uit die ballingskap van Vladimir Lenin wat vrede, grond en brood beloof het.

Volgende: Die voorlopige regering en die terugkeer van Lenin


Die laaste aansienlike ineenstorting van die moraal was wat die Duitsers aan die Westelike Front gely het.

Toe die Springoffensives misluk, het hul laaste kans op oorwinning ook gedoen. Die aankoms van Amerikaanse troepe het 'n groot nuwe reservaat van Geallieerde mannekrag gebied, terwyl die Duitsers besig was om manne en voorrade op te neem. Deur die vyand teruggedruk, kon hulle sien dat hul vaderland binnegeval sou word.

In September besef Ludendorff dat die moraal heeltemal in duie stort. Hy het aan die regering gesê hulle moet dagvaar vir vrede. Die weermag het die wil om te veg verloor. As hulle nie onderhandel nie, word hulle oorval.

Met die oorgawe van Duitsland het die oorlog geëindig.

Martin Marix Evans (2002), Over the Top: Great Battles of the First World War

Richard Holmes, red. (2001), The Oxford Companion to Military History


Die Eerste Wêreldoorlog word dikwels beskou as 'n uitputtingsoorlog, 'n konflik waarin elke kant die ander probeer vermoei het deur soveel van sy mans as moontlik te vermoor. Hierdie artikel ondersoek die taktiese, strategiese en politieke realiteite van die oorlog, in watter mate die oorlog inderdaad gekenmerk is deur 'n dooiepunt in die loopgrawe en strategiese dooie punt, en waarom hierdie karakterisering in die algemene verbeelding bestaan.

Foto van 'n sloot op die voorste linie

Hoe het die dooiepunt begin?

Toe Duitsland in Augustus 1914 oorlog toe gaan, het hy daarop gemik om Frankryk binne ses weke uit die oorlog te slaan voordat hy Rusland aangespreek het om 'n uitgerekte tweeledige oorlog te vermy. Die Duitse idee, bekend as die Schlieffen -plan, na die generaal wat die eerste keer in 1905 vorendag gekom het, was om sy leërs in 'n reuse regterhaak deur neutrale België en Noord -Frankryk te lanseer om die Franse leër te omring en te vernietig en dan Parys te verower. Die Slag om die Marne (6 en 10 September 1914) het dit ontwrig en die Schlieffen -plan het misluk. 'N Verrassend veerkragtige Franse leër, wat sy spoorweë met uitstekende effek gebruik het, het sy reserwes herontplooi om 'n te uitgebreide, swak gekoördineerde en moeë Duitse mag te verslaan. By Marne is die Duitse opmars nie net gestop nie, maar hulle was verplig om ongeveer 40 kilometer noordwaarts terug te trek. Binne enkele weke het die Westelike Front versteen tot 'n doolhof van loopgrawe en doringdraad wat van Switserland tot by die see gestrek het. Die Geallieerdes het die meeste van die volgende drie jaar probeer om die Duitsers uit die besette Frankryk en België te verdryf. Hulle het aanval na aanval geloods in beroemde gevegte soos die Somme en Derde Ieper (Passchendaele), maar die enigste tasbare resultate was die verlenging van ongevalle lyste. Die voorste linies sou eers weer begin beweeg in die laaste jaar van die oorlog.

Slag van die Somme, 'n kaart van die situasie in Desember 1916

Hierdie kaart toon die dooie punt wat tydens die Eerste Wêreldoorlog ondervind is. Tussen September en November 1916 was die vooruitgang van die Geallieerdes oor vyf maande slegs ses myl.

Kaart met nat gebiede aan die voorkant van Passchendaele

Net so tydens die Derde Slag van die Ieper, het die toestande veroorsaak deur swak weer en die verwoesting van die grond deur die intense artillerie -bombardement beteken dat geen Britse vooruitgang kon plaasvind nie.

Masjiengewere en loopgrawe was 'n kenmerkende kenmerk van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog, maar dit was nie een van die twee wat die Wesfront staties gemaak het nie. Artillerie was die grootste moordenaar op die slagvelde van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog, en dit was artillerie, nie masjiengewere nie, wat soldate loopgrawe gebou het om te vermy. Maar hierdie loopgrawe was eerder 'n simptoom as 'n oorsaak van die onbeweeglikheid van oorlogvoering. Met soveel dodelik-gewapende mans in so 'n klein ruimte, het dit te gevaarlik geword vir soldate om daglig oor die grond te beweeg. Die slote bied dekking, maar binne baie maande het albei partye uitgewerk hoe om teen 'n hoë, maar draaglike prys oor die Niemandsland aan te val en die loopgrawe van die vyand vas te vang. Effektiewe artillerie was die sleutel. Toe die gewere en infanterie goed saamwerk, kon die aanvaller dikwels die vyand se verdediging binnedring. Beide leërs het 'n reeks nuwe metodes en tegnologieë, soos die tenk en die vliegtuig, geïntegreer in hoe hulle oorlog gevoer het. Die resultaat was 'n hoogs dinamiese meet/teenmaat-wedloop. Elke keer as die aanvallers gedink het dat hulle een probleem opgelos het, het hulle ontdek dat die verdedigers 'n ander probleem aan hulle gestel het.

'Mounting a Great Gun' deur Muirhead Bone

Artillerie was die grootste moordenaar op die slagvelde van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog.

In die middeljare van die oorlog ontwyk albei leërs hoe om beperkte taktiese sukses in 'n groter oorwinning te omskep. Daar was twee onderliggende probleme. Eerstens kan enige verdediger versterkings inspan om gapings vinniger te stop as wat die aanvaller 'n inbraak in 'n deurbraak kon omskep. Terwyl die verdediger oor die algemeen op ongeskonde vervoernetwerke kon staatmaak, moes die aanvaller se voorraad en vars troepe altyd oor die slagveld vloei, wat die gewere net verwoes het. Tweedens, die kommunikasie van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog was uiters onbetroubaar. Ligte seine is maklik deurmekaar en telefoondrade is dikwels deur artillerievuur afgesny, of 'n eiesinnige tenk draadloos was nog in sy kinderskoene en semafoor was selfmoord. Sodra aanvallende troepe die botoon vaar, vorder hulle weg van hul telefoonnetwerke en word hulle teruggedwing op kommunikasietegnologieë so oud soos die oorlog self, soos duiwe en hardlopers. Albei het gereeld verdwaal of raakgery. Effektiewe bevel en beheer het dus die moeilikste geword net toe dit die nodigste was. Een van die ironieë van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog is dat die instrumente waarmee moderne industriële samelewings miljoene manleërs en tegnologieë soos die telegraaf, die telefoon en die spoorweg en die spoorweg kon benut, dit ook onmoontlik gemaak het om die leërs te gebruik. effektief in die aanval. Eers in 1918, toe die Geallieerdes hul gekombineerde wapentaktiek verbeter en die Duitse reserwes opraak, het die oorlog weer beweeglik geword.

Die walvis en die olifant

Die dooie punt was egter nie net takties nie. Dit was ook strategies. Daar was 'n wanverhouding tussen die maritieme vermoëns van die Geallieerdes en die kontinentale sterkte van die sentrale moondhede. Veral Brittanje en Frankryk, omdat hulle groot seevaartvliegtuie besit, beskik oor 'n mate van strategiese mobiliteit en wêreldwye reikwydte waarvan Duitsland, Oostenryk-Honger en die Ottomaanse Ryk net kon droom. Dit het die Geallieerdes in staat gestel om die hulpbronne van die hele wêreld te mobiliseer vir sy oorlogspoging en veldtogte in Gallipoli, Salonika, Palestina, Mesopotamië, dwarsoor Afrika, en selfs in China en die Stille Oseaan, te begin en te onderhou. By seldsame geleenthede het Duitsland hoegenaamd probeer om sy vloot te gebruik, soos tydens die Slag van Jutland (1916), en met die U-boot-veldtog van 1917 en ndash18, het dit slegs die impotensie daarvan onderstreep. Die skade wat seemag egter kon aanrig aan 'n landalliansie wat die hulpbronne van die helfte van Europa beheer, was, selfs met die strengste blokkade, beperk. Die Eerste Wêreldoorlog is deels die verhaal van die stryd om die walvis teen die olifant: elkeen opperhoog in sy eie element, maar nie in staat om die ander te verslaan nie.

As ons in die breedste terme dink, is dit miskien nie verbasend dat baie van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog in 'n dooiepunt deurgebring is nie. Agterna, vanaf die eerste dag van die oorlog, het die Geallieerdes 'n ekonomiese, industriële, finansiële en militêre voorsprong gehad, sodat die oorlog en die resultate nooit in twyfel getrek het nie, maar die Sentrale Magte was nie so ver agter nie. Enige geveg sal waarskynlik 'n lang tyd duur. Dit was veral die geval gegewe die diepte van gevoel en vasberadenheid wat beide kante toon. Van die begin af word die oorlog algemeen beskou as 'n stryd tot die dood. Die opwaartse spiraal van geweld en die steeds groter lyste van dooies en beseerdes het slegs gesindhede aan beide kante verskans en kompromie toenemend onwaarskynlik gemaak en sodoende die oorlog uitgebrei. Gegewe die kragtebalans en die intensiteit van haat wat ontwikkel het, kan 'n mens selfs beweer dat die Eerste Wêreldoorlog verbasend vinnig verby was: vier jaar lyk kort in vergelyking met die oorloë teen Nazi -Duitsland (1939 en ndash45) en die Revolusionêre en Napoleontiese Frankryk (1792 en ndash1815).

Hoe het latere uitbeeldings van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog -strategie ons indrukke daarvan gevorm?

Waarom dink ons ​​dan aan die Eerste Wêreldoorlog as so 'n lang en nuttelose slagspreuk? Ons het reeds gesien dat daar 'n kern van waarheid in hierdie oortuiging is. Maar dit is nie heeltemal so eenvoudig nie. Politici soos David Lloyd George en Winston Churchill, wat die oorlog deurgebring het en gedink het dat hulle 'n beter werk as hul generaals sou kon doen, het die oorlog in hul memoires herhaal. Hierdie herinneringe, kragtig geskryf deur twee van die eeu en die beste woordsmede van die eeu, was deurdrenk van minagting vir militêre denke wat geen idee sou vind wat meer fantasierik as uitputting was nie. Hulle weergawe van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog het die gewilde verbeelding aangegryp. Die professionele historici wat die militêre realiteite verstaan ​​het en moontlik hierdie mite kon teenstaan, was te besig om pedantiese amptelike geskiedenisse te skryf wat ontwerp is om junior offisiere op te voed. As gevolg hiervan het die idee dat daar 'n minder bloedige alternatief vir uitputting was, veld gekry, ondanks die gebrek aan bewyse om dit te ondersteun. Dit was 'n eksistensiële konflik tussen twee hoogs toegewyde en kragtige alliansieblokke, met 'n ongekende aantal van die dodelikste wapens wat nog ooit ontwerp is. Die meeste mense was bewus daarvan dat dit deur aaklige bloedvergieting opgelos sou word, maar het die behoefte gevoel om die oorlogspoging te beveg of te ondersteun. Afwyking het destyds sy kritici gehad, nie die minste nie, uit 'n hele reeks anti-oorlog of selfs pacifistiese gevoelens wat gehelp het om gewilde persepsies van die Eerste Wêreldoorlog te vorm, en dit steeds tot vandag toe doen. Michael Morpurgo en rsquos Privaat Rustig en Oorlogsperddoen byvoorbeeld kragtige en effektiewe beroepe op ons simpatie, maar doen weinig om behoorlik met die werklikhede van die oorlog in gesprek te tree, of om ons die afgeronde begrip te gee van die gebeure van 1914 en ndash18 wat ons ware empatie kan toelaat. Ons moet die oorlog, en die manne wat dit beveg het, sien, soos dit was, vratte en al.

  • Geskryf deur Jonathan Boff
  • Dr Jonathan Boff is 'n senior lektor in geskiedenis en oorlogstudies aan die Universiteit van Birmingham, waar hy kursusse oor konflik van Homerus tot Helmand aanbied. Hy spesialiseer in die Eerste Wêreldoorlog. Haig se vyand: kroonprins Rupprecht en Duitsland se oorlog aan die Westelike Front, 1914-18 is gepubliseer deur Oxford University Press in April 2018. Sy vorige boek, Wen en verloor aan die Westelike Front: die Britse Derde Leër en die nederlaag van Duitsland in 1918 (Cambridge University Press, 2012) was op die kortlys vir die Templer-medalje en vir die British Army Book of the Year-toekenning. Hy is opgelei aan die Merton College, Oxford en die Department of War Studies, King's College in Londen, en het twintig jaar in finansies gewerk voordat hy na die akademie teruggekeer het. Hy dien in die rade van die National Army Museum en Army Records Society, het as historiese konsultant by die Britse weermag en die BBC gewerk en is 'n genoot van die Royal Historical Society.

Die teks in hierdie artikel is beskikbaar onder die Creative Commons -lisensie.


Moeilike tye

Toe die gewere op 11 November stil word, het die meeste Duitsers met vertroue gedink dat die vredesooreenkoms na die wapenstilstand gebaseer sou wees op 'n letterlike interpretasie van Wilson se veertien punte.

Lloyd George, Clemenceau en Wilson arriveer in Versailles vir onderhandelinge om by 'n groter Duitsland aan te sluit en sodoende die proses van Duitse eenwording te voltooi.

Sommige het aangevoer dat hoe harder die vrede, hoe beter.

Die hardnekkige realiste in die OHL en hul medewerkers weet anders. Hulle het die drakoniese vrede van Brest-Litovsk met Rusland onderhandel op grond van die selfbeskikking van mense en die verwerping van skadeloosstellings en vergoedings, en was dus deeglik bewus daarvan dat die veertien punte so geïnterpreteer sou word dat om Duitsland wit te laat bloei.

Sommige het aangevoer dat hoe harder die vrede, hoe beter. Die odium om die oorlog te beëindig, is na die meerderheidspartye verskuif en hulle kan nou die skuld dra vir 'n harde vrede en kan dus heeltemal gediskrediteer word.


Wat u eers moet weet om die Russiese revolusie te verstaan

Noudat die weelderige en voorspoedige jare na Rusland gekom het, was die laaste ding wat sy nodig gehad het oorlog: hulle moes net 'n Requiem -mis gesê het vir die aartshertog Franz Ferdinand, waarna die drie keisers van Duitsland, Oostenryk en Rusland 'n dronk moes gedrink het 'n glas wodka in die nasleep en het die hele aangeleentheid vergeet. ”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Augustus 1914 

Die gebeure wat in die herfs van 1916 tot in die herfs van 1917 in Rusland afspeel, insluitend die ineenstorting van die tsaristiese regime en die opkoms van die bolsjewisme, het die boog van die geskiedenis op onpeilbare maniere gebuig en bly die invloed van Rusland en die verhouding met die res van die wêreld vandag. Ter herdenking van die 100ste herdenking van hierdie wêreldskuddende gebeurtenisse, begin ons vandag met 'n reeks rubrieke wat sal beklemtoon hoe die Russiese Ryk, wat meer as 300 jaar lank deur die Romanof-dinastie regeer is, in die Kommunistiese Sowjetunie verander het.

By the fall of 1916, Russia had been at war with the Central Powers—Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey)—for more than two years. In the 20 years he had been on the throne prior to World War I, Nicholas II had faced pressure to reform the absolute monarchy that he inherited from his father, Alexander III, in 1894. At the time of his accession, the 26 -year-old czar appeared to embrace progress and modernity. He granted permission for the Paris Pathé company to film his 1896 coronation procession and his subsequent state visits to European leaders with his wife, Empress Alexandra and baby daughter, Olga, became the first royal tour documented by newsreel cameras. Throughout his reign, Nicholas showed a concern for his image at home in leveraging the emergent mass media of the early 20th century. When the Romanov dynasty celebrated its 300th anniversary in 1913, Nicholas commissioned an authorized biography of himself and photographs of his family appeared on postcards.   

His domestic policy, however, betrayed Nicholas’ governing principle of maintaining autocratic rule. In an 1895 speech to representatives of the nobility and municipal officials, the czar declared “there have arisen the voices of people carried away by senseless dreams of taking part in the business of government. Let everyone know that I will retain the principles of autocracy as firmly and unbendingly as my unforgettable late father.” The speech shattered the hopes of elected municipal officials who hoped for a gradual transition to a system closer to a constitutional monarchy.

Nicholas was forced to adopt new reforms, including the creation of the representative assembly called the Duma, after defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and the massacre of workers demonstrating outside Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace the following year. Despite the Duma’s creation, Nicholas still retained the title of autocrat, the ability to appoint his ministers and the right to veto motions proposed by the assembly. Nevertheless, reforms occurred gradually during that first decade of the 20th century. The Russian peasantry, which had been freed from serfdom by Nicholas’s grandfather, Alexander II, in 1861, began to receive individual landholdings, releasing them from the traditional peasant communes. These land reforms were designed to foster a conservative, monarchist peasantry than would serve as a counterweight to urban workers, who repeatedly demonstrated for better working conditions and compensation and were more likely to be drawn to Bolshevism.

The term Bolshevism came from the Russian word bolshinstvo, meaning majority. Adopted by a splinter faction of Russian revolutionaries advocating for a Marxist-inspired uprising of the working class, the Bolsheviks had their ideological roots in the 1848 pamphlet The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The group’s leader, Vladimir Lenin, found in his supporters a smaller, more disciplined party that was determined to transform the First World War --“an imperialist war”—into a broader class war with the workers fighting the “bourgeoisie” and aristocracy.

The Russian empire’s involvement in World War I began when Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum that threatened Serbian sovereignty in the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne. Russia, as the traditional protector of other Slavic peoples, including the Serbs, mobilized its armies. The conflict in the Balkans expanded to encompass most of Europe as Russia’s allies in the Triple Entente—France and Great Britain—also went to war with the Central Powers.

The outbreak of the war prompted a burst of patriotism that initially reinforced the czar’s rule. Sixteen million soldiers were mobilized on the Eastern Front over the course of the conflict including 40 percent of all men between the ages of 20 and 50. Despite the enthusiasm and rapid mobilization, the Russian war effort was beset with problems from the start. The wages for workers in the munitions factories did not keep up with the increased cost of living, exacerbating the discontent that existed prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Industrial and transportation infrastructure was inadequate to the task of providing the necessary supplies for the troops.

Minister of War Vladimir Suklominov was accused of corruption and Nicholas ultimately removed him from office for failure to provide necessary munitions, sentencing him to prison for two years. (Suklominov’s actual culpability remains a matter of historical debate.) Russia suffered a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Tannenberg in the first weeks of the war, resulting in 78,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded and 92,000 captured by the Germans. The next year, Nicholas assumed direct control of the army as Commander in Chief, placing himself personally responsible for subsequent defeats.

A chance to end the stalemate on the Eastern Front came in the summer of 1916. Representatives from Britain, France, Russia and Italy (which joined the war on the side of the Triple Entente in 1915) agreed at the Chantilly conferences of 1915 to undertake coordinated action against the Central Powers. Under the command of General Alexei Brusilov, units of Russian shock troops broke through Austria-Hungarian lines in what is now western Ukraine and prompted Germany to divert forces from Verdun on the Western front. The victories achieved by the Brusilov offensive came at a cost of a million Russian soldiers and ultimately came to an end in September 1916 because of persistent supply shortages in the Carpathian Mountains.

Just as Nicholas was experiencing military setbacks on the Eastern front, his wife, Alexandra, was overwhelmed by challenges on the home front. The importance of the railways for transporting military supplies to the front disrupted the transportation of food to the cities and, outside of sugar, no other goods were subject to a regimented rationing system. Alexandra and her two eldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana, trained as nurses, endowed hospital trains and established committees to address the needs of war widows and orphans, and refugees. (In Boris Pasternak’s epic, Dokter Zhivago, Lara travels to the front in search of her husband as a nurse aboard a Tatiana hospital train). The philanthropy of the Imperial women, however, could not compensate for the absence of a coordinated government response to the needs of thousands of wounded soldiers, military families and displaced persons.

Nicholas and Alexandra also struggled with family challenges their most urgent concern was Alexei’s health. The heir to the throne suffered from hemophilia, a disease prevalent among the descendants of his great-grandmother, Britain’s Queen Victoria, which prevented his blood from clotting normally. In their 1916 correspondence, the royal couple expressed relief that Alexei had recovered from a life-threatening nosebleed. The czarina turned to faith healers, including a wandering holy man from Siberia named Grigori Rasputin, who became known as “the Mad Monk” though he never entered a holy order and was in fact married with three children. Before the war, Rasputin provided spiritual counsel for the Imperial couple and prayed for the recovery of the heir to the throne. During the war, however, Rasputin provided Nicholas and Alexandra with political advice. When Suklominov was released from prison after only six months, the Russian public blamed Rasputin’s influence.

Because Alexei’s hemophilia was kept secret, little could be done to quash the rumors swirling about Rasputin, who had a disreputable reputation because of his drunkenness and womanizing. Alexandra, in turn, became a deeply unpopular figure because of her familial relationship with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (they were first cousins) and her perceived reliance on Rasputin.

In these conditions, the Duma assumed the role of critiquing the policies of the czarist regime and demanded even further reform. In November 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, a reactionary deputy known for his militant anti-Bolshevism gave a speech in the Duma denouncing what he described as the “ministerial leapfrog” in which Nicholas, under the influence of Alexandra who was in turn influenced by Rasputin, removed competent ministers from office and replacde them with unqualified figures endorsed by Rasputin. Purishkevich concluded his speech with the words, “While Rasputin is alive, we cannot win.” Prince Felix Yusupov, the wealthiest man in Russia and the husband of Nicholas’s niece Irina was impressed by the speech and began plotting the murder of Rasputin.

(Editor’s Note: For purposes of these columns, we will use the Gregorian calendar dates, which we use today, but Russia only started using in February 1918. Hence, the Bolsheviks took power on November 7, 1917, even though it was called the October Revolution.)


Voices of the First World War: Winter 1916

After the close of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916, the men on the Western Front dug in for the coming winter. That year, it proved to be exceptionally cold. All those who lived through the winter of 1916-17 had memories of the bitterly freezing conditions. Basil Rackham served with the Royal Naval Division during the Battle of the Ancre.

Well of course, after that battle we had to go back behind the reserves and we got reinforcements and so on. Then we came back into the line again at the same place, at just above Beaucourt and this was in February, early February 1917. And the conditions there were the coldest winter we’d ever had – terrible. The conditions in the… well, there wasn’t really a front line, there wasn’t a continuous trench but these little holes that we had. You just couldn’t dig any more it was all hard as bricks.

The severe cold tested the troops’ morale, as Victor Fagence, a private in the Royal West Surrey Regiment, discovered.

The winter of 1916-17 was notoriously a very, very cold winter. And for my part, I think I almost in my own mind then tasted the depths of misery really, what with the cold and all that sort of thing, you see. We were forbidden to take our footwear off in the front line. Although, I myself disobeyed that on one occasion. I was so cold when I came off sentry go, and we had a bit of a dugout to shelter in, when I went in there – this was before leather jerkins were issued – there was an issue of sheepskin coats. And I took my gumboots off and wrapped my feet in the sheepskin coat to get a bit of extra, you know, to warm them up a bit.

The icy weather made life during the day miserable – but the drop in temperature at night was even worse. Near 40th Division’s forward Headquarters, British artillery officer Murray Rymer-Jones found an unusual way to cope with it.

Now, for our own comfort, to be in a tent with snow on the ground and the appalling cold was nobody’s business. You couldn’t have heating in the tents, you see. So the only thing I could do then was, we had a double loo heavily sandbagged all round in the entrance, you see, it was like little rooms. And although there was no connection between the two, you could talk to the chap next door! So Hammond, from another battery who came and joined us for a bit then, he and I used to sit in the loo most of the night – because it was so heavily sandbagged it kept it reasonably warm – and talked!

For the men who faced the winter in kilts, exposure to the bitter weather was unbearable. NCO J Reid served with the Gordon Highlanders.

We went up with these casuals and joined the battalion the 6th battalion again, joined the battalion at a place called… I can’t remember the name of the place now. The battalion was made up to strength, anyway. And a couple of days after, we was on the march. It was the month of January, dead cold. Oh, God it was cold. We were going up to Arras which was about 30 km – 30, 40 km – from this place. We marched and I always remember that. Our knees were even frozen up, you know, with the usual field bandages to wrap up our knees and all up our legs to keep the frost from biting into our legs, our bare legs.

It wasn’t just the cold that made winter on the Western Front so difficult to endure. Flooded trenches were also a feature of life there, something which Harold Moore of the Essex Regiment found out to his cost.

The communications trenches were half full of water and they had to have these duckboards on the side of the trench to walk up to the front line. You had to come up, file up in single line, single file. And as we was going up to the line there was a fellow in front of me, he was a machine-gunner and he’d got two buckets of these circular ammunition what he used for his Lewis gun. He stopped for a moment, you know, cos they were heavy! I said, ‘I want to get by cos I’ve got to get up to the front line.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you must wait I can’t go any further for the moment.’ Well then I tried to get round the side of him and, as I did so, he just gave a heave of this bucket and it knocked me in the shell holes full of water.

The waterlogged ground meant the men soon found themselves in extremely muddy conditions. Andrew Bain of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders described the dangers of such an environment.

Mud and cold. Oh, for weeks we were up to the thighs in mud. And if we were moving forward to the trenches, many of the shell holes were filled up with muddy clay. And if a man fell into that he couldn’t get out. And they were simply drowned in mud. There was nothing could be done about it.

Because of the abnormally cold conditions that swept the Western Front that winter, the ground froze solid. This turned out to be lucky for officer George Jameson, who was based near Aubers Ridge.

I had gone over to a position on the ridge where I could observe one day and, as I say, the ground was iron hard. I was walking back and a gun started to fire. I suddenly heard this swish and I could tell by the very sound of it I could tell it was coming fairly near to me. Suddenly, there was a burst away to my right and I thought, ‘Well thank goodness for that, plod on chaps.’ I kept going on and suddenly the gun fired again, another one it had changed its angle a bit and I heard this thing. It sounded as though it was coming extremely close. I hadn’t time to do anything. Just suddenly quite by my side there was this [noise] and, about 150 yards beyond me, the shell burst. What had happened, the ground was so hard that the shell had just glisséed on the surface, you see. It struck within about a yard to the right-hand side of me as I was walking and then went on and in the air, about 150 yards beyond, it burst. Now, if that had been soft I’d have had that. That’s the kind of thing that happened. Not me this time chaps, on, on!

The weather also affected the vehicles used along the Western Front. Antonia Gamwell worked as an ambulance driver with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.

Of course in the winter it was bitter and we couldn’t keep the cars mobile, I mean they just froze of course if they were left to freeze. But we had to keep winding them up. We tried every other way, we tried putting hot bottles in the engines and under the bonnet and heavy bonnet covers and every device we could possibly imagine, but it was no use. We had to simply stay up, there were details. So many of us – six I think it was – used to be on duty and every twenty minutes we went up and wound up the whole lot.

The bitter cold also froze clothing, blankets, food and drink. For men serving in the front line, a warming cup of tea would have been very welcome – but, as NCO Clifford Lane explained, this wasn’t always forthcoming.

The coldest winter was 1916-17. The winter was so cold that I felt like crying. In fact the only time… I didn’t actually cry but I’d never felt like it before, not even under shell fire. We were in the Ypres Salient and, in the front line, I can remember we weren’t allowed to have a brazier because it weren’t far away from the enemy and therefore we couldn’t brew up tea. But we used to have tea sent up to us, up the communication trench. Well a communication trench can be as much as three quarters of a mile long. It used to start off in a huge dixie, two men would carry it with like a stretcher. It would start off boiling hot by the time it got to us in the front line, there was ice on the top it was so cold.

Serving with the Honourable Artillery Company in the Ancre sector, Bill Haine had similar problems with frozen water.

We were on a show there at a place called Baillescourt Farm. And we took this farm and we had to hold on to it. Nobody could get up to us and if they did get up to us with water it was no good because it was completely frozen stiff our water bottles were frozen stiff. And all we’d had for about three days was to suck ice, cut your water bottles and suck the ice out of it. The River Ancre was just on our right at that time and we went down to the Ancre every night with pick-axes to try and get through to the water, but we never succeeded.

For British sapper George Clayton, the simple task of shaving was made almost impossible by the sub-zero temperatures.

You could get a handful of snow and put it into one of them empty Capstan tins, you know we used to get tins of Capstan, had 60 cigarettes, it was just about like a milk thing. And you could warm your snow in there to get water underneath a candle then you had some warm water when the snow melted. Have a shave and by the time you were shaved – they issued us with cut throat razors there wasn’t any safeties in them days – but by the time you were shaved the water was frozen again to ice. And you had to melt the water that you’d left your lather brush in before you could get it out! It was a block of ice again! I know me I’ve had to do that more than once! Oh, aye.


Russian Revolution

The effects of World War I gave rise to the Russian Revolution. In February and March 1917, a popular revolution forced the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the rise of a provisional government. This government, which kept Russia in the war, was itself overthrown by radical socialists just eight months later.

Effects of war

By the end of 1916, two years of total war had placed enormous strain on all combatant nations. None felt this more severely than Russia, which had entered the war confident but in a precarious political, economic and social state.

The Russian economy had made great industrial advances in the two decades prior to 1914 – but it was still under-developed and ill-equipped to supply a prolonged war.

Russia’s government was still dominated by the tsarist autocracy, which claimed political authority that was divine rather than popular.

‘Unstable pillars’

The Russian people were already fractious, dissatisfied and eager for change. The Russian empire rested on what historian Orlando Figes called ‘unstable pillars’, and they were unable to sustain its involvement in one of the most intense wars in history.

At the epicentre of this turmoil was Nicholas II, Tsar of all the Russias. Most historians agree that Nicholas was not equipped for governing Russia through difficult times. He was the son of an overbearing autocrat and the grandson of a reformer – but was himself incapable of being either.

Nicholas was determined to cling to autocratic power but he was blind to the problems this created and the threats it posed to his throne. The Tsar professed to love the Russian people but he turned the other way when hungry workers were shot in St Petersburg (1905) or striking miners were machine-gunned in Siberia (1912).

The 1905 Revolution

Nicholas’ throne had already been challenged by a premature Russian revolution, a decade before the outbreak of World War I. A disastrous defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), coupled with a flagging economy, poor living conditions and the shooting of protestors in St Petersburg, led to a spontaneous but intense challenge to the tsarist rule.

The Tsar responded as he normally did and blamed Russia’s troubles on anarchists, universities and on Jews. Ultimately, however, he was forced to relent, agreeing to authorise a written constitution and allow the formation of an elected legislature (the Duma).

Nicholas failed to honour these promises, however, simply using them to buy time. The constitution was passed but it changed little. The Duma was elected but it was given little power. The Tsar, it seemed, was determined to continue his autocratic rule as before.

A war between cousins

The rapid descent into war in 1914 had caught the Tsar unaware. Nicholas knew the German Kaiser was ambitious and prone to rash decisions – but he did not think Wilhelm so treacherous that he would declare war on the empire of his own cousin.

Nicholas made the first of several blunders in July 1914 when he cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, as commander-in-chief of the army. Nikolaevich had military training as a cavalry officer but had never commanded an army in battle. He now found himself in charge of one of the world’s largest armies in the largest war in history.

The Prussian campaign

In August 1914, Nikolaevich and his generals – aware that most German forces would be occupied with the Schlieffen Plan in the west – planned an invasion of East Prussia.

It was a bold campaign that might have succeeded if not for poor planning and leadership. The two Russian field commanders, Alexander Samsonov and Pavel von Rennenkampf, were competent officers but were both over-confident and vainglorious. They were also bitter rivals who could barely stand the sight of one another.

Their inept decision-making and constant squabbling contributed to a disastrous Russian defeat at the Battle of Tannenberg in late August 1914. Unable to face reporting the loss of 150,000 troops to the tsar, Samsonov took his own life.

Nicholas takes charge

In September 1915, after a year of fighting and several costly defeats, the exasperated Nicholas II decided to personally take command of the army. Against the advice of his ministers, he dismissed Nikolaevich and proceeded to the frontline.

The decision proved telling for two reasons. Nicholas’ distance from the Eastern Front in 1914 and early 1915 had buffered him from criticism. Instead, his generals had footed the blame for military disasters. Now, the tsar would be responsible for every defeat, shattering the divine infallibility that many superstitious Russians believed he had.

Secondly, Nicholas left the reins of domestic government with his wife rather than his prime minister. Tsarina Alexandra was utterly devoted to her husband but was even more politically naive than he. Worse, she was of German birth and now had de facto political power during a bitter war with Germany.

Rasputin the ‘mad monk’

There was also another sinister figure lingering on the periphery in 1916. Grigori Rasputin was a Siberian itinerant who had trekked his way to Saint Petersburg several years before. Once in the capital, he began to attract attention as an occultist, a fortune-teller and a faith-healer.

Despite his appalling manners and personal hygiene, the mysterious Rasputin found his way into the parlours – and in many cases, the bedrooms – of Saint Petersburg’s aristocratic and burgerlik ladies. He eventually received an invitation to the Winter Palace, where the deeply religious tsarina sought divine assistance for her young son Alexei, who was cursed with the genetic blood disorder haemophilia.

Rasputin’s ministrations comforted the boy – and his mother – and the Siberian mystic became a regular in the royal court. He prayed with the Romanovs and treated Alexei during the day, then at night crawled the seedier parts of the city, boozing and cavorting with gipsy prostitutes.

Rasputin came to exert some political sway over Alexandra, passing on ‘divine advice’ about ministerial appointments, domestic policy, even military matters. Though his influence has probably been overstated, Rasputin’s baleful presence revealed the anachronistic and corruptible nature of tsarism.

The road to revolution

In December 1916, a group of aristocrats attempted to ‘save’ the monarchy from Rasputin by murdering him. They succeeded in disposing of him but it proved too little, too late. The way to a Russian revolution had been cleared.

By February 1917, the situation in Russia’s cities had become critical. Shortages of food and fuel were dire: the capital city, since re-named Petrograd, needed 60 railway cars of food a day but often received barely one-third this amount. Inflation had been so severe through 1916 that the rouble had just a quarter of its pre-war buying power.

In February, when a women’s day march through Petrograd merged with angry bread queues, the unrest spilt over into revolution. Soldiers ordered to fire on the crowd refused and shot their officers instead. The tsarina’s response was dismissive, writing off the unrest as a “hooligan movement”.

Things eventually became so dire that the tsar set out to return from the front. He was halted along the way by striking railway workers. While waiting on train sidings in Pskov, Nicholas II was met by his generals and members of the Duma. All but one demanded he sign an instrument of abdication, which Nicholas eventually did.

With the swish of a pen in a stranded railway cart, the Russian Revolution had brought more than 300 years of Romanov rule to an inglorious end.

The Provisional Government

In different times, the departure of tsarism might have paved the way for a brighter future for Russia – but the war continued and so too did the problems it created.

The Provisional Government that replaced the tsarist regime introduced some liberal reforms, like freedoms of assembly and the press, and amnesties for political prisoners. Facing international pressure, however, it refused to end Russian involvement in the war.

The defeats, military follies, casualty lists and food shortages continued, and after six months the Provisional Government’s popularity had slumped.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

In October 1917, a new political force, the socialist Bolshevik Party, emerged to seize control of the nation in October 1917. Led by Vladimir Ulyanov, or Lenin, the Bolsheviks promised ‘peace, bread and land’ – promises that resonated with Russian workers, soldiers and sailors.

Once in power, the Bolsheviks commenced peace negotiations with Germany. In March 1918, they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, formally ending Russia’s involvement in the war. It was a costly peace: Russia had to surrender large amounts of territory, people and fertile farmland.

World War I had incited the Russian Revolution, killed off one of Europe’s oldest monarchies and delivered a new political phenomenon: socialist dictatorship. This would itself come to deliver its share of death, deprivation and human suffering.

“The declaration of war did bring a powerful if brief burst of patriotic support for the tsarist government. [But] within six months, the human and economic costs of the war badly eroded whatever political capital the tsar’s government had gained by declaring war… Among the civilian population it was the peasantry who felt the pains of the war most sharply. Army mobilisations dragged away nearly a third of all the men in the villages – about one million men per month were conscripted in 1914-15. Conscription brought tragedy for hundreds of thousands of families, altered life in the villages [and] created a shortage of labour that hampered Russia’s already inefficient agrarian system.”
Michael Hickey, historian

1. At the start of the war, Russia was a vast empire with a large army – but was politically and industrially backward.

2. Its leader, Tsar Nicholas II, adhered to principles of autocracy but was not competent to govern autocratically.

3. Russia’s disastrous 1914 campaigns saw Nicholas take personal command of the army, a politically dangerous step.

4. The tsar and his wife were also discredited by their involvement with the meddling faith healer Grigori Rasputin.

5. By the start of 1917, Russia’s domestic economy had collapsed and both food and fuel were critically scarce in Russian cities. This triggered the February Revolution, an uprising that led to the abdication of the tsar and, by the end of 1917, the rise of a socialist government in Russia.


War of the (Manufacturing) Machines, 1916

The Germans called the Great War &ldquoMaterialschlachte&rdquo&mdasha battle of materials. The armed struggle between industrially advanced European powers pitted their military forces and also their economic and industrial capacity against one another. The combatant countries took years trying to fully harness production capacity to build up supplies for the kind of warfare that evolved from 1914. The issue of Wetenskaplike Amerikaner from 100 years ago today looks at the problem that the U.S.A. faced in mass-manufacturing an ever-greater quantity of artillery shells desperately needed on the battlefields of Europe:

&ldquoIn the early days of the great war the American public was dazzled and astounded by the public reports of the contracts for enormous quantities of munitions, at unheard-of prices, that were being placed with our manufacturers by the European allies, and it was regarded as quite natural and fitting that European countries, in their condition of unpreparedness and dire necessity, should turn to America, with its reputation for mechanical ingenuity and ability, and its great factories, for assistance. American manufacturing organization and ability was to be pitted against that of Germany, and the result was contemplated with complacency. American energy and efficiency was to show its superiority over the supposedly stereotyped routing of continental shops but the actual results have been a humiliating surprise, in many instances, both to the public and to many an optimistic contractor.&rdquo

Caption: A worker turns a six-inch shell on a lathe, shaving down the outside of it, in an American factory, 1916. Credit: Scientific American Supplement, December 23, 1916

&ldquoMany companies, attracted by the prospect of big profits, and relying on their shop equipment, undertook the manufacture of unfamiliar products, in the way of arms and ammunition, only to meet with failure. Of course, there are many companies whose regular work was the production of arms, and these, for the most part, have been successful in making the needed supplies of the desired quality, but even in these establishments there have been some that have been carried off their feet by the unprecedented demand, and their inability to handle the immensely increased factories that they have hurriedly erected for the purposes of these special contracts. But the actual gross results of all these loudly advertised ammunition contracts has been practically insignificant.&rdquo

Between 1914 and 1918 every country involved in the war as a participant or a supplier dramatically increased shell production. In Germany, shell production of all calibers increased from 343,000 a month in 1914 to 11,000,000 a month in 1918 (according to Salavrakos, below). In Britain in 1915, the &ldquoshell scandal&rdquo erupted after it became clear that the high rate of artillery fire on the battlefield could not be sustained by the limited production of shells back home. From 1914 to 1918, Germany and Austria-Hungary produced up to 680 million shells and the industries of the Allies France, Britain, Russia (to October 1917), Italy, the U.S. and Canada, produced up to 790 million shells (the statistics vary greatly). The U.S. produced between 30 million and 50 million of these shells.

Caption: Finished shell, six-inch caliber, painted and with nose cap in place, is carefully weighed before being packed away in a shipping crate. Krediet: Scientific American Supplement, December 23, 1916

Although the Central Powers produced&mdashmore or less&mdashas many shells as the Allies, the longer perspective from historians suggests that defects in the organization of armament industries within the context of the economic base of the country contributed to the downfall of Germany and Austria-Hungary. As the war progressed, the Central Powers countries were unable to properly harness their industrial base efficiently, leading to chronic and critical shortages in other industries and also for their civilian populations. That case is convincingly made by Alexander Watson of Goldsmiths, University of London, in his 2014 book Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I (Basic Books Watson won the prestigious Wolfson History Prize for the book). That argument is also statistically supported by Dr. Ioannis-Dionysios Salavrakos of the European Parliament, in his article &ldquo&Tauhe Defence Industry as an Explanatory Factor of the German Defeat During World War I: Lessons for Future Conflicts&rdquo in International Journal of History and Philosophical Research, Vol. 2, No. 1. pages 1&ndash34, March 2014 (www.ea-journals.org).

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Our full archive of the war, called Scientific American Chronicles: World War I, has many articles from 1914&ndash1918 on manufacturing during the First World War. It is available for purchase at www.scientificamerican.com/products/world-war-i/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Dan Schlenoff was a contributing editor at Wetenskaplike Amerikaner and edited the 50, 100 and 150 Years Ago column for one seventh of the magazine's history.


Kyk die video: Rebellie 1914 2014